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Paula Jean Welden

Her disappearance launched the Vermont State Police in 1946

  • Last updated: April 25, 2023
  • Bennington, VT
  • December 1, 1946

Overview of Paula Jean Welden

Paula Jean was a bright young college student.

She was the eldest of four children, and the first to go to college. Paula was studying art, specifically watercolor and charcoal sketching. She enjoyed mural painting and black-and-white illustration. For money on the side, she was a waitress at the campus dining hall and stayed active by cycling, hiking, swimming, and square dancing.

However, no one understands why Paula went into the woods alone, with no supplies or coat, in the rapidly approaching Vermont winter night. On December 1st, 1946, Paula finished her shift at the Bennington College dining hall, changed into walking clothes at her dorm, and hitchhiked close to the trailhead.

When she was seen entering the trailhead, the sunset was rapidly approaching, and she had no food, water, or coat. She was last seen ascending the trail at 4:00 PM and has not been seen or heard from since.

Strange sightings of Paula cropped up across the country and Puerto Rico.

She was reported missing the next day when she didn't show up for classes as scheduled. Volunteers and the National Guard were immediately deployed to search the entire trail, but there was no sign of Paula ever recovered. Locals speculated that Paula had used the trail as an excuse to run away and start a new life with a man, or that she fell, hit her head, and wandered off the trail with amnesia. Some newspapers reported that she was seen buying bus tickets a few states away, or that she was with an older, abusive man at a diner. None of these sightings ever proved true.

Unfocused police attention and a state-wide outcry led to the formation of the Vermont State Police.

A man named Fred Gadette attracted police attention when he claimed that he had seen Paula walking in front of his cabin and that he could point to the direct spot where she was buried in the woods. Police were alerted of this information, which once again proved unfruitful; there was no forensic indication that Fred's property had been the scene of a crime, and his involvement in the case was dismissed.

For the entire investigation, Vermont needed to pull officials and troopers from surrounding states, as there was no similar agency in-state. Outraged that there was no local source of help for taxpayers, Vermonters and their elected officials rallied to form the first Vermont State Police in July 1947.

Will the Bennington Triangle strike again?

The area where Paula went missing has been rife with supernatural rumors; a total of five people have gone missing within this area. Two other people have disappeared from the vicinity of Bennington, Vermont since it was dubbed the "Bennington Triangle": James Tedford and Paul Jepsen. Three people have disappeared directly in the woods, Middie Rivers, Frieda Langer, and Paula Jean Welden.


  1. Date Missing:December 1, 1946
  2. Birthday:October 19, 1928
  3. Current Age:95
  4. Age at Incident:18
  5. Race:Caucasian / White
  6. Gender:Female
  7. Height:5'5"
  8. Weight:122 lbs
  9. Hair Color:Blonde hair worn in a long bob

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