True Crime Sunday: the Disappearance of Paula Jean Welden

This week, I came across one of those nifty internet lists that we’re never quite sure about. If we click the link, will we find good information or will the page will be full of clickbait nonsense? This list promised history’s most baffling unsolved cases. How could I possibly pass that up? I’m glad I threw caution to the wind and clicked the link. I found something fascinating for you today…

In 1946, eighteen-year-old Paula Jean Welden was a student at Bennington College in Bennington, Vermont.

*Side note, that little New England town seems to have more than its fair share of mysterious disappearances—do I sense another series coming?

Okay, back to the case.

Paula had been feeling depressed. Her friends took notice of that and the fact she didn’t go home for Thanksgiving. On December 1, 1946, Paula told her roommate that she was going to take a nice long walk. Her roommate never saw her again.

When Paula left the dorm, she was wearing a fur-lined parka, jeans, and sneakers. At that time, it was about 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius). People have observed that she wasn’t properly dressed to go out for a hike that late in that area. Sources indicate that she left after 4:00 PM. Once the sun fully set, the temperature quickly dropped to about 10 degrees Fahrenheit (-12 degrees Celsius) and it started to snow.

When she hadn’t returned for class the following Monday, Paula was officially reported missing and her family was notified. The search started with locations she mentioned wanting to visit. There was no sign she’d been there.

Since there was no sign of the woman and no information regarding where she was planning to go, searchers cast a wide net and circulated her picture throughout the state and also into New York and Massachusetts. The police soon got more involved and were assisted by search parties totaling over 500 people.

Authorities dug up areas where she might be in an effort to recover her body, if there was one to recover. They attempted another search in the spring after the snow was gone, but no luck.

So, what happened to young Paula Jean Welden? There are a number of theories out there. An early theory was her father was guilty of something. He was allegedly gone for thirty-six hours after she vanished. He proclaimed his innocence and told authorities that her bout with depression and her subsequent disappearance were related to issues in a romantic relationship. Then, as we’ve seen in so many of these cases, there were men who claimed to know where Paula’s body was buried. However, none of them were ever able to lead police to it.

As time went on, three predominant theories emerged. The first is the woman simply fell victim to harsh weather conditions. It’s a solid theory except for the fact that nothing at all could be found to indicate she’d been in the area. The second theory is she was attacked by an animal. Again, a solid theory. However, no blood—no nothing—was found.

The third theory is a little more outlandish and adds a little something extra to this case. Multiple people reported seeing UFOs in the area where Paula went missing. Could Miss Welden have been abducted by aliens? Sure, that is pretty unlikely. But there are the circumstances under which she vanished, the alleged UFO sightings, and the number of other puzzling disappearances in the area. Your willingness to entertain that theory depends entirely on your thoughts on the subject. Still, it’s an interesting element to this case.

We’ve all heard the stories about people who seem to simply vanish from the face of the planet. Did that happen in the Paula Jean Welden case or is she still somewhere waiting to be found? Who knows?

Looking for more?

Clueless in New England: The Unsolved Disappearances of Paula Welden, Connie Smith and Katherine Hull by Michael C. Dooling

Quantum Girl Theory: A Novel by Erin Kate Ryan (fiction)

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