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The Lake Michigan Triangle

The Lake Michigan Triangle

Hi true crime lovers! It’s that time of the month, if you’ve been here since the studio days, you remember the short case episodes. There are cases that we want to discuss, but they aren’t long enough for a full episode, so we go back and forth with these short cases to make one full episode. We decided to stick to a “theme” for these short case episodes from now on. In the midst of my research over the past couple of weeks, I found something interesting I’ve never heard of and thought it would be perfect for a short case episode for the two of us. You’ve heard of the Bermuda Triangle, but have you ever heard of the Lake Michigan Triangle? The Michigan Triangle spans from Manitowoc, Wisconsin, to Ludington, Michigan, and south to Benton Harbor. Numerous mysterious events took place in the triangle, beginning in 1891. This week we will go back and forth and tell the mysterious stories.

The Thomas Hume

The first mishap took place on May 21, 1891. The three-masted schooner Thomas Hume was built in 1870 as the H. C. Albrecht by Joseph Hanson in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. The boat was named for her first owner, Captain Harry C. Albrecht who sailed the boat in the early 1870s. The Albrecht was 132 feet in length with a 26 foot beam. In 1876 she was sold to Captain Welch of Chicago, who sold her to Thomas Hume and Charles Hackley in Muskegon, Michigan a year later. In 1883 she was renamed Thomas Hume. Elizabeth Sherman, great-granddaughter of the schooner’s namesake Thomas Hume, is the author of “Beyond the Windswept Dunes: The Story of Maritime Muskegon.” In the book, she explained the final trip of the Hume: The empty vessel left Chicago to return to Muskegon, along with one of the company’s other schooners, the Rouse Simmons. The boats ran into a storm that made the captain of the Rouse Simmons nervous enough to turn back to Chicago. The Thomas Hume decided to keep going towards Muskegon and disappeared.

Two days later the Rouse Simmons sailed from Chicago for Muskegon where they expected to see the Thomas Hume at the dock on Muskegon Lake. That was the first time anyone realized the Thomas Hume had disappeared. Owners Hackley and Hume sent for searchers to check other ports and Lake Michigan, but there was no sign of the Thomas Hume. Captain Harry Albrightson and his crew of 5 men were gone. Another search for the Hume was sent out in 2010, where the boat was found at the bottom of the lake.

Among many of the wild theories concocted about the wreck was that her captain sailed to another port, re-painted the Thomas Hume and then sailed away. Another theory was that a much larger steamer ran down the schooner and the steamer’s captain swore his crew to secrecy.

The Mystery of the Rosa Belle Ship

The Rosa Belle ship was a wooden, 2 masted schooner built for $4,500 back in 1863. In 1919, it was a vessel used to bring supplies to High Island for the House of David. The Rosa Belle had a career of 58 years and had many mishaps. One incident in August of 1875, the captain was badly injured by falling spars and rigging. He received injuries that he could never recover from.

On October 30, 1921 the ship made its last voyage. The ship was loaded with lumber and left for High Island to Benton Harbor. From what the coast guard could conclude, the ship was capsized in a gale of Lake Michigan. When the ship was found 42 miles from Milwaukee, it was upside down and the yawl was missing. There was a crew of 11 men but they were nowhere to be found. It was like they were never there. The damage looked like it could be from a collision with another ship but no ship reported a collision neither could they find another ship with damages that would match this.

The Rosa Belle was then beached and salvaged for the lumber and to this day, nobody knows what really happened to the crew or the ship.

Disappearance of Captain Donner

On the evening of April 28, 1937, Captain George R. Donner safely guided his ship, the O.S. McFarland, through the icy waters of Lake Michigan before heading to his cabin for the night. The McFarland picked up 9,800 tons of coal in Erie, Pennsylvania, and was headed west to Port Washington. Captain Donner told his first mate to wake him as they got close to the port. Three hours later, the crewman went to wake the captain to let him know they were approaching the port. He found that the cabin had been locked from the inside but the captain was not inside. There was no sign of Captain Donner anywhere on the ship and no evidence that he left his cabin after going to bed. The mate broke down the cabin cabin, only to find it was empty. A search turned up no clues, and Donner's disappearance remains unsolved.

The Disappearance of Northwest Flight 2501

Before we go into the story of what happened, let’s talk a little about the plane itself. The plane was capable of flying nonstop from Chicago to San Francisco. These particular planes were originally built for the US Air Force in Chicago back in 1943. After the war was over, many of these planes were bought by airlines and turned into commercial planes.

It was a nice night in New York, June 23, 1950. Flight 2501 was scheduled to fly from New York to Seattle, WA with a stopover in Minneapolis. 35 year old captain Robert C Lind was at a level so high in his career that many had faith he would know what to do in any situation. Within the last 90 days, he logged in over 100 flown hours. He was joined by co-pilot 35 year old Verne F. Wolfe was also a respectable pilot. Their stewardess, 25 year old Bonnie Ann Feldman tended to a total of 55 passengers which consisted of 27 women, 22 men, and 6 children. Before takeoff, the plane was loaded with 2,500 gallons of fuel, 80 gallons of oil, and 400 pounds of express. The plane itself after being loaded weighed 71,342 pounds, 58 pounds below the max permissible for take off.

The plane took off from LaGuardia airport at 7:30 pm under clear skies and headed West. The plane passed over Cleveland Ohio safely. By 11:51, the planes passed over Battle Creek Michigan. While flying at 3,500 feet, the pilot notified the Air Control Center in Chicago that he was estimated to pass over Milwaukee at 11:37 pm. At 12:13 am, the plane reaches Lakeshore and the pilot radios in a request clearance of 2,500 due to the storms that he knew were occurring over Lake Michigan. His request was denied supposedly due to other traffic. Supposedly, another plane was already in the area having bad turbulence because of the storms and the pilot didn’t think that he’d be able to steer clear of the troubling plane. Not too long after midnight, Northwest Radio at Milwaukee radios out that Flight 2501 was overdue for reporting in Milwaukee but they’ve heard nothing. At this point, all of the Air Control towers involved begin trying to contact the missing flight but nobody is able to get through. The plane is considered lost at 5:30 am. A hunt for the plane or surviving passengers is now on.

Around 6:30 pm, the Coast Guards find oil slick, aircraft debris such as fuel tank float, seat cushions, clothing, blankets, luggage, cabin lining, and body parts. Now it was the mystery of if the plane exploded in mid air, or did it strike the water. Due to debris being over a 4 mile area, 12 miles Northwest of Benton Harbor, Coast Guard suggest the plane may have twisted in high winds causing a spark which then ignited the fuel tanks, causing an explosion so big that it instantly disintegrated the bodies. Many said it wouldn’t be worth diving in the Lake because nothing would be there and whenever someone did dive, they found nothing big. Just some personal items that floated on top of the water. Some claimed that when the explosion occurred, from Wisconsin they saw a bright flash in the sky 2 hours after the explosion. There were at least 10 people who witnessed this. 6 months after the loss, the cause of the explosion was listed as unknown. Even years later when the Michigan Shipwreck Research Associations searched for 16 years straight and wasn’t able to recover any bodies from the flight.

The Stonehenge

A popular theory says the Lake Michigan Triangle Mystery on an ancient rock formation discovered in the lake in 2007. The 40-foot ring of rocks underneath Lake Michigan looks a lot like Stonehenge, located in Wiltshire, England. Professor Mark Holley, of underwater archeology at Northwestern Michigan College, discovered a series of stones arranged in a circle 40 feet below the surface of Lake Michigan. One of the stones outside the circle has carvings that resemble a mastodon - an elephant-like animal that went extinct about 10,000 years ago. "When you see it in the water, you're tempted to say, 'This is absolutely real’, but that's what we need the experts to come in and verify." Holley told reporters at the time.

Many have reported other strange occurrences in the triangle area, including UFO sightings. Some have even claimed the triangle was a time portal and that it could bend time, calling the cause a "metaphysical force" with a supernatural vortex of energy. Some blame the disappearances on the extreme weather often found on Lake Michigan, including strong storms and high winds.

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