The Disappearance of Barbara Follet

Hey, Readers. Welcome to this week’s Mystery Monday. Today’s story is about another mysterious vanishing that occurred eighty-three years ago.

Barbara Newhall Follet was an American child-prodigy novelist. She was born on March 4, 1914, in Hanover, New Hampshire. Her first novel, The House Without Windows was published in January 1927. Barbara was twelve years old at the time. Her second novel, The Voyage of the Norman D, was published in 1928 and received critical acclaim.

Barbara Follet (Fair Use)

Barbara grew up in a literary family. Her father was an editor, critic, and university lecturer. Her mother, Helen Thomas Follet, was a children’s writer. Barbara began writing The Adventures of Eepersip when she was eight years old using a portable typewriter. This was later retitled The House Without Windows.

The original manuscript later burned in a housefire, and she completely rewrote it. (I can’t imagine doing that.)

In 1928, the same year her second novel was published, Follet’s father left her mother for another woman. This was devasting to her, as she was deeply attached to him. At age fourteen, she had reached the apex of her life and career.

She was quoted as saying, “My dreams are going through their death flurries. They are dying before the steel javelins and arrows of a world of Time and Money.”

The family fell on hard times as the Great Depression loomed. When she was sixteen, Barbara worked as a secretary in New York City. She wrote several more manuscripts during this time. In 1931, she met Nickerson Rogers. The couple spent the summer of 1932 walking the Appalachian Trail, then sailed to Spain to continue their walking excursions in Mallorca and through the Swiss Alps.

They settled in Brookline, Massachusetts, and married in July 1934. Barbara still wrote but had fallen out of favor with publishers.

Initially happy, by 1937 Barbara expressed dissatisfaction with married life in letters to close friends. By 1938, the marriage was strained. Follet believed Rogers was unfaithful to her and became depressed.

According to her husband, Barbara left their apartment after a quarrel on December 7, 1939. She had only $30 (the equivalent of $642 in 2022) in her pocket. This was the last time anyone saw her. Strangely, Rogers didn’t report the disappearance for two weeks. He claimed he was waiting for her to return.

Four months later, he requested the issuance of a missing person bulletin. It was issued under her married name Rogers, so her disappearance went unnoticed by the media which did not learn of it until 1966.

Thirteen years later after Barbara disappeared, her mother insisted the Brookline Police investigate the matter more thoroughly. Helen Follet became suspicious of her son-in-law after she learned he made little effort to find his wife.

She wrote in a letter to him, “All of this silence on your part looks as if you had something to hide concerning Barbara’s disappearance … You cannot believe that I shall sit idle during my last few years and not make whatever effort I can to find out whether Bar is alive or dead, whether, perhaps, she is in some institution suffering from amnesia or nervous breakdown.

Follet’s body was never found, and there was never any evidence indicating or excluding foul play. The date and circumstance of her death have never been determined. Her story is one of many unexplained disappearances.

The Disappearance of Paula Jean Welden

Hey, Readers. Welcome to the first Mystery Monday post of 2023. I have a lot of topics already lined up for the year. Instead of having one Mystery Monday each month and another Legends and Lore post, I’m combining the two and making it a weekly feature. Now for this week’s story.

In the United States, 423 national parks and sites encompass 85,000,000 acres. Around 300 million people visit these sites each year. Of those visitors, there are an average of 330 deaths per year. More than half are accidental—drownings, falls, and car accidents. Some deaths are purposeful suicides.

Still, there are a number of unexplained disappearances and many of those often go unsolved. Such is the case of Paul Jean Welden who disappeared while hiking Vermont’s Long Trail hiking route in 1946.

Paula Jean Welden (Public Domain)

Paula was an eighteen-year-old sophomore at Bennington College in North Bennington, Vermont. On the afternoon of December 1, 1946, she set out to hike the Long Trail. She wore adequate clothing for daytime temperatures but not for the anticipated nighttime drop. She took no extra clothing or money. It appeared she didn’t anticipate being gone for more than a few hours.

Welden hitched a ride from State Route 67A near the college to a point on State Route 9 near the Furnace Bridge between downtown Bennington and Woodford Hollow. From this point, Welden either hitchhiked or walked to the start of the trail in Woodford Hollow.

A group of hikers passed her as they ascended the trail. She asked them a few questions, then continued walking in a northerly direction. She was still on the trail in the late afternoon as darkness approached. It’s presumed she continued her walk along the Bolles Brook Valley, although the last confirmed sighting was at a place called Fay Fuller Camp.

When she didn’t return to campus, her roommate notified school officials, and a search began. Classes were suspended so that fellow students could help. Paula’s father enlisted the aid of the Connecticut State Police. (At that time there wasn’t a state police force in Vermont.) Despite an extensive search, Paula was never located. She was later declared dead in absentia.

There are several theories as to what happened. Authorities believe she ran away to begin a new life. Some believe she was depressed and committed suicide, while others speculate she was kidnapped or murdered. There was one person of interest, a lumberjack named Fred Gadette, but with insufficient evidence, no corpse, and no forensic evidence, authorities closed this avenue of the investigation.

The area where Paula disappeared came to be known as the Bennington Triangle, a reference to unexplained disappearances in the Bermuda Triangle. In addition to Paula, there were at least four other mysterious disappearances in this area between 1945 and 1950. There are rumors Long Trail is home to a sasquatch-like animal known as the Bennington Monster. Some believe this creature is responsible for Paula’s disappearance.

If there is anything good that came from this event, it’s the creation of the Vermont State Police. They are now responsible for all wilderness search and rescue missions in the state.

This year, I’ll feature more unexplained disappearances in national parks. One of the most mysterious was the story of Glen and Bessie Hyde in the Grand Canyon. In 1928, the Hydes attempted to raft the Colorado River. Their story was one of my first Mystery Monday posts.