May 12, 2023 I Brent Swancer

Strange Disappearances in Canada's Mysterious Vanishing Triangle

Throughout the world there have long been areas that seem to draw to them mysterious vanishings that have never been solved. These places are in a sense hungry, with people venturing off into them to never return, and in many instances just seeming to disappear into thin air, often under rather bizarre circumstances. Many of such regions are often defined as triangles, with the most famous of these being the Bermuda Triangle, but there are numerous other triangular geographic locations that are every bit as mysterious and prone to making people cease to exist. Indeed, North America has its fair share of these, such as the Alaska Triangle, which I have written of here before, as well as the Great Lakes Triangle, among others, and among these is one that lies within British Columbia, in western Canada, a wild place where there has long been a plethora of strange and often baffling vanishings that have evaded any real answers.

What has often been called the “British Columbia Triangle” might not be as well-known as the likes of the Bermuda Triangle, but it is still every bit as mysterious. It was first postulated by the missing persons researcher David Paulides, author of numerous books on strange vanishings called the Missing 411. Paulides has located numerous regions where there have been concentrations of strange vanishings, which he calls “clusters,” and one of them is the British Columbia Triangle, which he claims holds a whopping 40% of all Canadian missing person cases. Although its exact borders are rather nebulous, it is typically said to stretch from the center of Vancouver Island, along the Sea to Sky Highway north of Vancouver, in the vicinity of Whistler, and covering an expanse that goes to near the town of Hope, at the mouth of the Fraser Canyon, and on to the South Thompson River east of Kamloops, near the town of Salmon Arm. The triangle cuts through the heart of a geographic region known as the Middle Fraser Basin, which encompasses the middle Fraser River, the Fraser Canyon, the valleys of the Lillooet and Thompson Rivers, and Harrison Lake, and this basin alone holds an extraordinary number of mysterious missing person cases.

Wilderness in British Columbia

Perhaps the earliest disappearance that can be reliably placed within the British Columbia Triangle is that of Herman Jongerhuis in 1957. On November 10 of that year, Jongerhuis went on a hunting excursion with his friend, Kees Bulk, out at a place called Monte Lake, which lies roughly 25 miles outside of the city of Kamloops. At some point they decided to split up, promising to meet back up at noon, but Jongerhuis never showed up. Bulk did a search of the area and called out to his friend but he found nothing, no trace of what had happened to him. Desperate to find his friend he fired three shots into the air, which is typically used as a sign of distress, a sort of SOS, and much to his relief he heard three shots fired in response some distance away, but he was unable to ever find where the shots had come from and further attempts to invoke a similar response were met with silence. 

An official search by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) was soon under way, with hundreds of personnel, tracker dogs, and aircraft. In the end, searchers scoured every inch of ground in the area where Jongerhuis had gone missing and found not a single trace of him, with tracker dogs unable to even pick up a scent trail. It would not be until 1960 that a party of hunters would stumble across some skeletal remains and a rusted rifle that would be identified as those of the missing man. Rather eerily, his body was discovered about 5 miles from where he had vanished in an area that had already been thoroughly searched several times over. What happened to Herman Jongerhuis? We will likely never know. 

On the afternoon of July 3, 1960, a Maurice Masters went off on a trip to Red Lake, about 35 miles (56 kilometers) northwest of Kamloops, along with his wife and 20-month-old daughter Betty Jean. That evening, they headed to the post office in the area, and while they were in there Betty Jean played with some other children right outside. When they came out just a few minutes later, Betty Jean was nowhere to be seen, and the other children claimed that they did not know where she had gone, that she had been there one moment and gone the next. The worried parents fanned out calling their kid’s name out but got no response and could find no sign of her. It was baffling that such a young child could have gotten so far so fast, and no one had seen the child be taken away by anyone. 

The authorities were soon notified and they launched a massive search involving dogs, aircraft, and nearly a hundred experienced trackers, searchers, and volunteer outdoorsmen. Oddly, the tracker dogs brought in allegedly acted in a confused and disoriented manner, unable to catch a trail and meandering about in circles, and no tracks from the little girl could be found. The search went on for well over a week, scouring every possible place she could have gone but they turned up nothing. It was as if little Betty Jean had just evaporated into thin air. It was seen as incredibly weird, because the surrounding area was so thick with brush and the terrain so rugged that even experienced hikers had trouble with it, so it was seen as peculiar that such a small child could have gotten far and evaded the massive search. Theories included that she had been kidnapped or carried off by a wild animal, but there was no evidence for either of these, and a bear and cougar that were killed in the coming days showed no human remains in their stomachs. In the end, Betty Jean has never been found and her fate remains a mystery.

Also from 1960 is the strange vanishing of a 24-year-old Hungarian immigrant by the name of Geza Peczeli. In June of that year he got a job as a sheep shepherd on the slopes of Mount Baldy, located on the Thompson Plateau, north of Kamloops. He was staying there alone at a cabin owned by rancher David Anderson, who had left Peczeli there fully stocked with food, water, and a rifle. When Anderson dropped by on September 20 to see how Peczelui was faring and to bring fresh supplies, but the man was nowhere to be seen. The cabin was supposedly totally in order, with even a meal set out and seeming as if someone would return at any minute by no one ever did. Rather oddly, the sheep were found nearby all huddled together in snow in a camp about two miles from the cabin, but there was no trace of Peczelui. The RCMP was notified and a search commenced, but the missing man was never found.

Moving along to 1962 we have the disappearance of 30-year-old Wallace John Marr, who on November 19th, 1962 embarked on a hunting trip along with his friend Fred Bascoe near the small town of Yale, located near the southern end of the Fraser Canyon. They decided to go along a logging road and built a fire by the side of the road around 5 miles from town, after which Bascoe went off to follow some deer tracks for a short distance before heading back to camp. When he got back, Marr was inexplicably nowhere to be seen. His rifle and supplies were there by the fire, and at first Bascoe assumed that he had just gone off to relieve himself in the woods, but as evening approached the man never did show up. When authorities arrived at the scene, they were able to find tracks leading off into the woods believed to be Marr’s, but the trail was lost, and a subsequent search turned up nothing. It was surmised that Marr had likely died after falling over one of the many cliffs in the area, but no body was ever found and his ultimate fate remains unknown. Interestingly, like with the Jongerhuis case this vanishing happened when the two men were separated for a fairly short time, and Paulides has made a chilling and rather eerie observation when talking about such cases, saying:

It’s amazing how many times hikers and hunters separate, and something happens, and the individual vanishes. I have had several readers tell me that it appears that someone or something is watching these people, waits for the appropriate time, moves in when nobody is watching, and takes these victims, leaving behind nothing.

Is that what is going on here? Who knows? A few years after that, on the afternoon of August 20th,1966, 9-year-old Clancy O’Brien was out with his family for a gathering at his grandfather’s house at Green Lake, in Cariboo Country. While the adults chatted, Clancy went off with his six-year-old brother, Tommy, and two of their cousins, 15-year-old Johnny Livingston and 7-year-old Alan Devitt Jr. to a nearby hill called Olson’s Butte. At some point, Clancy headed back towards his grandfather’s house, which was very close and could be seen through the trees. No one thought anything of it at the time, but when the other boys went back they learned that Clancy had never arrived. The family went out looking for him on horseback, recruiting various neighbors to help, but there was no sign of where Clancy had gone off to and he didn’t answer any calls out to him. When the RCMP was notified, they too found no trace of the boy, despite using aircraft and tracker dogs. Where had he gone in such a short frame of time over such a short distance? No one had a clue.

The search soon swelled to nearly 300 people, meticulously searching every nook and cranny of the area, and although some promising footprints were found, the trails were lost and tracker dogs were unable to pick up a scent. In the end, authorities would carry out what was deemed to be one of the most thorough and extensive manhunts ever conducted in British Columbia, only to find not one shred of evidence as to the boy’s ultimate fate. It is seen as completely baffling that he could have so thoroughly vanished so close to his home in such a short span of time, and the case remains one of the more perplexing in Canadian history. 

Such disappearances in the British Columbia Triangle have continued right up into very recent years. In 2002, Brian Douglas Faughnan vanished near the resort town of Whistler, British Columbia after taking a bus tour there and embarking on a short hike from which he never returned. He has not been seen since. In 2010, two experienced hikers by the names of Rachael Bagnall and Jonathan Jette went out on an easy hike in the Cayoosh Mountains northwest of the village of Pemberton along with a plentitude of gear and three days’ worth of food only to vanish into thin air, leaving their car parked along a service road with many of their belongings left behind. No trace of them has ever been found. In 2011, 55-year old Darcy Brian Turner stepped off the face of the earth while taking a hike at a wilderness retreat he attended every year, and like in many of these cases tracker dogs were unable to follow his scent despite some of his tracks being found. In March of 2012, 27-year-old David Christian walked off into oblivion after having some drinks with some friends and leaving a bar at the resort town of Whistler. He would eventually be found dead in a creek at a nearby golf course, but no cause of death could be determined and oddly he was missing his shoes. 

Even more recently is a case from 2015, in which 20-year-old Sakhjeet Saggu went off on a leisurely day hike at the Lindeman-Greendrop Trail in Chilliwack Lake Provincial Park. Saggu would go off ahead to check out the trail conditions but when his friends followed after him he was nowhere to be seen. He never would be found, and it has never been explained how he could have so thoroughly disappeared within minutes on a well-worn trail full of other hikers. At the time it was deemed highly unusual, with one of the authorities saying:

All of this was really, really strange. Typically when we get called into this area, within an hour or two we’ve located the missing hiker… It’s just really difficult to get lost in the area. It’s such a well-marked, well-worn trail with lots of hikers on it, so it’s very strange that nobody had seen this individual.

His body would eventually be found way off the trail at an elevated location that it would have been difficult to get to. How did he get there? Who knows? The list goes on and on. In 2016, 46-year-old Deanna Wertz went on a walk in the woods behind her house on a rural backroad south of the city of Salmon Arm and was never seen again. That same year, a man named Gurdeep ‘Gordon’ Sagoo went out on a hike in the Cheam Range, just east of Chilliwack, along with his friend, Sherril Budai, and another hiker. At some point he went off ahead and promised to meet up with them at a prearranged point but he never showed up and was never seen again. Then there is the 2017 vanishing of 25-year-old Alison Leanne Raspa, who disappeared after leaving a bar in the resort area of Whistler. Her clothes would later be found methodically strewn about, as if she removed them one by one as she walked. Weeks later, her frozen body would be found floating in the water at the northern edge of Alpha Lake, which had been thoroughly and extensively searched. No cause of death could be found and her disappearance and death remain a mystery. Paulides has commented on the oddity of bodies being found in areas that have been searched, saying:

One of the critical profile points I have documented hundreds of times is bodies being found in a location that has been previously searched. I have never alleged that SAR teams had not done a thorough job, quite the contrary. All indicators are that the body was never in the location when searchers were looking. In my other books, bodies have been found in places that were searched dozens of times.

What are we to make of such cases? What happened to these people? It is curious to note that the areas outside of this "British Columbia Triangle" see far fewer such vanishings in them, to the point that it seems to be beyond coincidence, despite the fact that the region is mostly all the same sort of geography and topography. Why should this be so? Whay should this place swallow so many people up under such mysterious circumstances? It is hard to say, and it remains another of those hungry places of our world. 

Brent Swancer

Brent Swancer is an author and crypto expert living in Japan. Biology, nature, and cryptozoology still remain Brent Swancer’s first intellectual loves. He's written articles for MU and Daily Grail and has been a guest on Coast to Coast AM and Binnal of America.

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