The Bermuda Triangle is a modern myth par excellence.
There are thousands of groups, both amateur enthusiasts and professional scientists, dedicated to solving the question. Films, fanbases, merchandise, music and even restaurant menus have listed “Bermuda Triangle” in one way or the other.
The fear of its unexplained horror has not gone stale. This is partly due to the fact that for about seven decades, theories ranging from the empirical to the spiritual have been propounded to explain the mystery.
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There are those who do not believe it is a mystery at all yet scientific explanations seem inadequate perhaps, due to the pervasiveness of its awe.
One such theory that upholds the myth of the Bermuda Triangle is that the loss of people, ships and planes is caused by vengeful spirits of African slaves who died in the waters hundreds of years ago.
These spirits, it is said, are exacting retribution for the evil that was done to them.
The leading proponent of the theory, Kenneth McAll, was a psychiatrist who practised for over four decades. He carved a niche for his emphasis on spiritual causations of physical defects, ailments and estrangements.
A Christian church website, Christianhealingmin.org, noted that the medical doctor turned psychiatrist “advocates taking seriously the effects of sin and brokenness from those who have gone before so that their living relatives can get on with their lives”.
Faithful to this logic, McAll advocated in Healing the Haunted the appeasement of African slaves who died in the western part of the Atlantic Ocean that is the Bermuda Triangle.
It is not known how many slaves were taken to the North and Central America as well as the Caribbean. Some estimates put the number beyond two million.
Historian and cultural critic, Henry Louis Gates, also writes that: “Between 1525 and 1866, in the entire history of the slave trade to the New World, according to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, 12.5 million Africans were shipped to the New World. 10.7 million survived the dreaded Middle Passage, disembarking in North America, the Caribbean and South America.”
If the numbers are anything to go by, what it means for McAll’s theory is that the souls of about two million slaves who could not survive the Middle Passage are responsible for the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle.
In Healing the Haunted, McAll wrote of his own journey in those waters: “As we drifted gentle in the now warm and steamy atmosphere, I became aware of a continuous sound like mournful singing. I thought it must be a record player in the crew’s quarters and as it continued through a second night, I finally, in exasperation, went below to ask if it could be stopped. However, the sound down there was the same as it was everywhere else and the crew were equally mystified.”
McAll explains that the sound was coming from the spirit of a drowned slave.
He theorises that the loss of ships and airplanes, as well as people, is the consequence of a curse put on the area by the African slaves. McAll acknowledged that while some slaves died and were thrown overboard, some of British sea captains threw living slaves overboard to defraud insurance companies.
For him, both the sin of slavery and the extra mile of callousness exhibited by sea captains amount to sins that need addressing, especially if we want to overcome the mystery of the Triangle.
In fairness, McAll’s theory of dead African slaves and the haunting of the living is not very different from what continental and diasporic African traditional believers say about their ancestors.
The idea that dead relatives have the power to cause effects among the living is also not uniquely African.
But McAll’s theory is the first, for lack of a better word, hypothesisation, that connects the misery of African slaves and the mystery of today’s pilots and ship captains.
It is not scientific. The theory’s efficacy is its appeal to the awe of the Triangle and the belief in the other-worldly.
The area which is also known as the Devil’s Triangle, has earned its place in folklore. We might not have seen the last of theories about the place, even in connection to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.