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By: Alex Postrado
Young Love Gone Missing
“I wonder if I’ll ever wear pretty shoes again.”
Those were the final known words of Bessie Hyde before she and her husband, Glen, left The Grand Canyon to brave the rapids of the Colorado River on the 18th of November 1928.
Back then, these words sounded nothing more than Bessie’s wistful musing.
But, as it turns out, it was some sort of hint as to what is to come soon after 一 the news of the newlywed couple’s eerie disappearance that still puzzles minds even today.
Who Were Glen and Bessie Hyde?
An “adventuring outdoorsman” at heart, Glen Rollin Hyde was born on December 9, 1898, in Idaho, United States.
He grew up experiencing and appreciating the austerity of the great wilderness. And it was a pursuit that he took a step further when he began embarking on several trips across the Salmon and Snake Rivers in Idaho, together with skilled river runner “Cap” Guleke, during his mid-20s.
On the other hand, Bessie Haley was born on December 29, 1905, in Parkersburg, West Virginia.
She was an aspiring artist and poet. And she studied at the California School of Fine Art, in hopes of making a name for herself in the creative field.
Living on the opposite sides of the country, Glen and Bessie would have never crossed paths had either of them missed a certain boat ride to Los Angeles sometime in February of 1927.
But, so the story goes, they were both on that trip. And although Bessie was still legally married at the time 一 albeit processing her divorce from her first husband 一 a connection struck instantly the moment they first spoke.
Not long, it was the altar for Glen and Bessie.
They tied the knot on April 10, 1928 一 a mere day after Bessie’s separation from her first husband was finalized.
A “happily ever after” story… if not for the honeymoon adventure trip the two of them planned later that year.
Trip to the Colorado River
Back in the early 20th century, a stunt at The Grand Canyon could right away mean fame.
Several even dub it a “hero-making run” 一 something that couple Glen and Bessie apparently took an interest in.
So, for their honeymoon trip, the two planned on braving the Colorado River for a record-breaking run they hoped would catapult them into the limelight 一 with Bessie, as the first documented woman to run the Canyon, and Glen, as the new fastest man to successfully do it.
To accomplish this, the Hydes built a boat by themselves. A “twenty-foot wooden sweep scow”, as records describe.
And on October 20, 1928, they started their journey.
On their way, they met an experienced river rafter from Utah who told them that their homemade boat was not safe for their Colorado River trip. Not to mention, the couple also lacked life vests aboard!
Despite the warning, though, Glen and Bessie Hyde carried on. And into the rapids, they went.
The Disappearance that Confused Many
The Hydes may have made it through multiple major rapids across the Colorado River since their mid-October departure, but soon their luck began to run out.
On November 18, 1928 一 almost a month into the trip 一 Glen and Bessie arrived at Grand Canyon Village to replenish their supplies. It was at this South Rim community that they met Emery and Ellsworth Kolb, the brothers who owned the now-historic Kolb Studio on the edge of The Grand Canyon.
Emery Kolb spoke with the Hydes and even took the last-known photograph of them.
Yes, last-known photograph, because, in spite of getting another warning about their boat and life jacket situation 一 this time, from Emery Kolb, himself 一 Glen and Bessie still went ahead with the journey, even declining the brothers’ offer to let them stay through the winter 一 or at least until the weather clears 一 to avoid the added risks brought by the season to the already treacherous rapids.
As a result, that day became the last day anyone ever saw Glen and Bessie Hyde.
The two never showed up at Needles, California 一 their supposed final stop.
And come December of that year, a full hunt was made to track the couple 一 an effort, launched by Glen’s father and led by Emery Kolb.
In Search of the Missing Couple
The 6th of December marked the start of the investigations on Glen and Bessie Hyde’s Grand Canyon disappearance.
Among the details officials unfolded during that time was that a man, named Adolph G. Sutro, was among the last people to see the river-running couple alive.
It is said that Sutro rode on the scow with the Hydes across the Hermit Rapids. But they parted ways soon after and nobody else has since stepped up to reveal any further information as to where the couple could have gone by the time they split up with Sutro.
On December 19, about two weeks into the search, a rescue plane finally located the Hydes’ boat.
Adrift around river Mile 237, the boat surprisingly appeared to be fully intact 一 upright, and full of supplies, basically without any sign of having been tipped over or, in any way, ransacked.
Oddly enough, the only ‘clues’ about Glen and Bessie’s plausible final situation were retrieved from two things:
- A camera, recovered by the brothers Kolb from the scene, which contained a photo 一 taken sometime around November 27 一 of the Hydes believed to be by river Mile 165;
- And Bessie’s journal, wherein she wrote that they had already “cleared 231 Mile Rapid”.
Despite this, no trace of the Hydes, themselves, was found anywhere near their boat or the Colorado River. So, understandably, those who learned about these details were more or less confused.
Perhaps, it would have been easier to grasp the possible fate of the Hydes if the discovery made was that of a wrecked scow. But the intact boat, along with the traces found inside it, only left people desperate for more answers.
Because, obviously, if the boat was safe and undamaged, then what on earth could have happened to Glen and Bessie Hyde?
Speculation and Theories of the Disappearance
With the lack of solid proof as to what ultimately become of the Hydes, many theories have cropped up over the years in an effort to throw light on it.
Among the best-known rumors was about the survival of Bessie Hyde.
In 1971, attendees of a commercial Grand Canyon rafting trip were caught off guard by a certain elderly participant’s ‘confession’ that she was, in fact, the long-missing half of the Hyde couple, Bessie.
According to her, Glen Hyde was an abusive man. She revealed that one day, during their run down the Colorado River, Glen beat her. And that was when she got tired of it all and finally snapped.
She allegedly stabbed her cruel husband to death, disposed of his remains, and escaped the Canyon all by herself.
How she was able to do that last part 一 considering that she was alone and “miles away from civilization in the middle of winter” 一 is a question best left unanswered. Because, while the elderly woman fits the supposed age of Bessie 一 had she survived till the early 70s 一 she later renounced having confessed anything when the police got involved.
Conspiracy with Emery Kolb?
Another proposed possibility has the photographer, Emery Kolb, at the center of it. After all, he was among the last people known to have seen the Hydes before the Colorado River disappearance went down.
Some believe that Kolb was infatuated with Bessie Hyde. And in an attempt to have her all by himself, he murdered Glen.
This theory was 一 in some ways 一 strengthened by the 1976 discovery of a male skeleton at Emery Kolb’s property 一 more specifically, his boathouse. Records say that “a complete skeleton of a human man” was found lying in a canoe in Kolb’s old boathouse.
The particulars were:
- It was of a Caucasian man;
- It had light brown hair;
- It was around 6 feet tall;
- And died of a single .32 projectile, shot straight to the head.
To others, this finding was already enough proof to deduce that Emery Kolb was indeed guilty of committing the crime. However, when the skeleton was sent to forensic anthropologist Dr. Walter Birkby, he ruled out that it was not the remains of Glen Hyde.
It was found that “the skeleton belonged to a man, no older than 22” and who “had died no earlier than 1972.” But, as we know, Glen went missing in 1928 and he was years older than 22 when it happened.
Georgie White Clark was Bessie?
This brings us to another speculation about the Hydes’ fate, which, interestingly, names Bessie as the lone survivor once more.
In May 1992, famous river-running guide Georgie White Clark passed away. And the unearthing of “some documents and a pistol” in her personal belongings led some people to theorize that she was actually the missing Bessie Hyde.
Although, how she ended up living the rest of her life as Clark was never explained 一 especially because investigators were quick to note that Clark’s early life was well-documented and the ‘suspicious stuff’ found in her effects were nothing more than souvenirs.
A Simple Explanation?
But, perhaps, the most likely answer to Glen and Bessie Hyde’s disappearance was the theory put forward by historian Otis R. Marston.
He claimed that “the couple was most likely swept out of the boat when their scow hit submerged rocks in the heavy rapids near river Mile 232.”
This was somewhat further supported by author and river guide Brad Dimock, who 一 with his wife, Jeri Ledbetter 一 researched the Hydes’ case and even attempted to replicate their Colorado River trip to hopefully find out what truly happened.
Dimock built a scow, modeled after Glen’s original homemade boat, for their own trip. And in the end, their experience was “harrowing”, to say the least.
They noted that the boat that the Hydes used was, indeed, “not ideal for handling heavy rapids.”
They were able to dock safely to conclude their research, but it was with the help of some life jackets, a rescue boat following behind them, and their extensive knowledge of the terrain 一 all of which the Hydes did not have during their fateful trip.
Still, as people tend to believe in what they want to believe in, the disappearance of Glen and Bessie Hyde remains a mystery that is open to interpretation.
Was it nothing more than a tragic accident, a murder for love, a last-straw killing, or something else entirely? It is up to every person. But, as to which of them is the real answer 一 I’m afraid, we would likely never know.
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