Lessons from a Middle School Bermuda Triangle Q&A

February 22, 2016

Last week a class at a middle school in Connecticut asked me for an interview about the Bermuda Triangle. I agreed to a short (15 minute) Skype session where I’d answer questions for the class.

It all went fairly well, I covered all the basics and explained the “mystery” as best I could in a short period of time. I also mentioned that Charles Berlitz’s books on the paranormal–and on the Bermuda Triangle specifically–were riddled with errors, mistakes, and unscientific crank theories. In a way, the Bermuda Triangle is largely a creation of Charles Berlitz’s mystery mongering and mistakes. (Kusche would later note that Berlitz’s research was so sloppy that “If Berlitz were to report that a boat were red, the chance of it being some other color is almost a certainty.”)

In his definitive book The Bermuda Triangle Mystery-Solved, Kusche notes that few writers on the topic bothered to do any real investigation-they mostly collected and repeated other, earlier writers who did the same. In some cases there’s no record of the ships and planes claimed to have been lost in the aquatic triangular graveyard; they never existed outside of a writer’s imagination. In other cases the ships and planes were real enough–but Berlitz and others neglected to mention that they “mysteriously disappeared” during bad weather and storms. Other times the vessels were lost far outside the Bermuda Triangle, and the list of the doomed included ships in the North Atlantic.

As we ended the brief interview I gave the example of the Malaysian Airlines flight 370 which remains missing to this day, noting that even in 2016 finding a plane in a vast ocean can be very difficult. Its disappearance is mysterious, but hardly paranormal or unexplainable-it’s just not found yet. My main interviewer asked what my theory was about that flight and I explained that I suspected it was indeed a suicidal pilot or co-pilot, as was widely speculated.

Her response surprised me: “I heard recently on CNN that they found the pilot.”

I replied, “You mean his body? They found the pilot’s body? I hadn’t heard that…”

“No,” she clarified. “He was alive and living in Thailand or Taiwan. How do you explain that?”

I replied that I honestly hadn’t heard that news, and frankly I doubted it since if the pilot were alive that would suggest that the rest of the passengers were alive as well. I urged that she double-check the story just to be sure.

She thanked me for my time and helping her class, and signed off. Curious, I immediately researched her claim and within a few seconds found this headline: “Fake report on MH370 pilot in Taiwan fools some people.” It was about a satirical news story that was taken as real, and widely shared on social media.

I e-mailed her back, thanked her for getting ahold of me, and sent her the link gently reminding her that the Bermuda Triangle “mystery” was created by people who neglected to double-check their information. It was a suitable coda for the interview, and with that I returned to work.