The tropical waters around Bermuda may feel like the opposite of Alaska’s frigid wilderness, but both places have something in common: unexplained disappearances. Thousands of tourists, residents, hikers, and airplanes have vanished without a trace in a large area of land called the Alaskan Triangle, encompassed by Juneau, Barrow, and Anchorage. In 2007, state troopers reported about 2,833 disappearances. For a state with a population of more than 700,000 people, this suggests one in about a couple hundred people disappeared in Alaska that year.
There are many theories about this creepy phenomenon, some of which involve Alaska’s unpredictable and often unforgiving environment, as well as the sheer expanse of the landscape that can result in many lost travelers. According to the legends of the Native Tlingit people, the missing people likely fell victim to the Kushtaka, a race of shape-shifting otter people who lure humans away from civilization and transform their captives into one of them.
The Alaskan Triangle first received widespread attention when U.S. House Majority Leader Hale Boggs’ airplane vanished somewhere between Anchorage and Juneau in 1972. The disappearance triggered one of the country’s largest ever search-and-rescue operations, involving 40 military aircraft, 50 civilian planes, and 39 days of searching an area of 32,000 square miles. Yet the search yielded not a shred of results: no wreckage, no debris, no human remains. Nothing.
(The silver lining: After this incident, Congress passed a law mandating the installation of emergency locator transmitters in all U.S. civilian aircraft.)
That wasn’t the only aircraft to be lost, either: Back in 1950, a military craft with 44 passengers had disappeared without a trace; and a Cessna 340 carrying a pilot and four passengers vanished in 1990, never to be heard from again. Disappearances without a trace are strangely typical of cases in the region, and the cases aren’t rare: Since 1988, more than 16,000 people have vanished in the Alaskan Triangle. This contributes to the annual filing of roughly four missing person reports for every 1,000 people in Alaska — more than twice the national average.
My advice, stay the hell away from this place. You might not make it home if you don’t.