The Roaring 20s were roaring and adventurers like Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart made the headlines around the world for their exploits. In 1928, Glen and Bessie Hyde were newlyweds who wanted to make a claim to fame themselves by attempting to run the rapids of the Colorado River through Grand Canyon, Arizona. Somewhere during that trip they both disappeared and the mystery has never been explained as to what happened to them.
Glen Rollin Hyde, born December 9, 1898, was a farmer from Twin Falls, Idaho. He was an expert boat builder and had rafting experience on the Salmon and Snake rivers in Idaho.
Bessie Louise Haley, born December 29, 1905, was an aspiring poet, artist and bohemian originally from Parkersburg, West Virginia. She married Earl Helmick on June 5, 1926, and lived with him only two months before returning to her parent's home. She went off to San Francisco to study art.
Glen and Bessie first met in 1927 on a passenger ship traveling to Los Angeles. They became romantically involved, but Bessie was a married woman and Helmick refused to agree to a divorce. Bessie moved to Elko, Nevada to meet residency requirements for a decree in that state. Bessie and Glen married on April 12, 1928 the day after her divorce was finalized.
Glen was determined to set a new speed record for travelling through the Grand Canyon, and he wanted Bessie to make history as the first documented woman to run the canyon. Their plan was that they would run the canyon, then go on the lecture circuit and make money retelling their adventure.
In those days, the Grand Canyon had no commercial river trips and the rapids were for seasoned explorers and professional expeditions. They had no life jackets or specialist wet weather gear. Only Glen had any experience rafting and he built their 20-foot scow called Rain in the Face. Bessie was a novice. Confirming the dangers, early in the trip, Glen fell out of the boat on a rapid.
The trip started in Green River, Utah on October 20, 1928, and they estimated they would reach their destination, Needles, California in about a month and a half.
On November 16 they stopped at Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim to restock their supplies and spoke to a reporter from the Denver Post who was covering their trip. Planning into the future when they would be famous and would need photographs of themselves while on the trip they hiked along Bright Angel Trail to where Ellsworth and Emery Kolb, brothers who were famous photographers ran a cliffside studio. The brothers said they asked to have their photo taken on the canyon rim, and planned to pick up the photographs once they finished their trip.
Emery Kolb who seemed more realistic about the dangers of their trip offered the couple life preservers which Glen refused, laughing that they could swim for it if they went overboard. After their disappearance several people commented that Bessie seemed nervous about the trip and seemed ready to leave.
The last person believed to have seen them was man named Adolph G. Sutro who took photographs of them and even rode a short distance with them on the boat. They were last seen on November 18, 1928.
The estimated date of their arrival in Needles came and went, and by early December Emory Kolb initiated a search, using a small plane that could cover the inner gorge of the canyon. On December 20, the pilot spotted their scow caught in the rocks around River Mile 237, which is 15 miles south of Diamond Creek. Inspection of the boat proved that all their supplies and belongings were still strapped in. This included their hiking boots and coats. Forty-two notches were carved in the gunwale of the scow, one for each day of the trip.
The belief was that the couple would be found alive somewhere in the canyon, camping out on a ledge as they waited for a rescue party. Evidence was found that they had made camp at Mile 225.
When further searches did not find the Hydes, Glen's father Reith Hyde, age 70, came to the area and hired men to help search the area that had already been canvassed, even seeking the help of Ellsworth and Emery Kolb. No trace was found even after 41 days of searching.
The theories abound as to what became of Glen and Bessie Hyde, but all of them seem to have one thing in common, something abrupt and unexpected happened on that trip. Their belongings and supplies were untouched, and they both seem to have fallen off the face of the earth. If they drowned no evidence was ever found of clothing or skeletal remains. Did they drown? Did an argument escalate into a fit of rage where one did the other in? Did one of them go into the water, and the other dive in an effort to save their spouse?
An extensive search of the area produced no clues as to Glen and Bessie's whereabouts. Investigators presumed the couple died in some type of accident in the river. Glen's father believed they had difficulties with their craft and attempted to hike out of the Grand Canyon, but became lost and died in the woods. No evidence has been located to support that theory.
Like most long time mysteries, they beget other mysteries, and one of them is the belief that Bessie Hyde survived the trip and went on to live another life assuming a different identity, possibly after murdering her husband.
A woman who was for a time thought to be Bessie was Georgie Clark, a river-running guide in the Grand Canyon. Georgie died in 1992, Friends that she had known for decades all realized she had never invited any of them to her home, and as they went through her belongings they found her birth certificate with her real name which was Bessie DeRoss. White and Clark were surnames that belonged to husbands she had divorced. Another strange discovery was a copy of Glen and Bessie Hyde's marriage license. Further investigation found that they were not the same person, and did not even resemble one another.
Elizabeth Arnold Cutler, a woman who traveled down the Grand Canyon on a rafting excursion in 1971, claimed she was actually Bessie. She announced this over the evening campfire. When asked by a boatman named George Billingsley what had happened to Glen, she claimed that she stabbed him after a disagreement during the trip, then walked out of the woods to Peach Springs, Arizona then moved back east to start a new life for herself.
Almost immediately afterwards she recanted the story, and most disturbing of all it turned out she was a psychology professor from Ohio, who was obviously familiar with the story of the Hyde's disappearance. She died in 1998, after it was found that there were actually no link between the two women, starting with the fact that she was four inches taller than Bessie.
In 1976 after Emery Kolb's death, a male skeleton was found hidden in his garage. Dr. Walter Birkby a forensic anthropologist examined the remains and concluded he was Caucasian, measured 6 feet tall, was in his early twenties and had died from a .32 bullet embedded in the skull. It most likely came from a revolver manufactured in 1902. This information along with clothing fragments attached to the skeleton suggested that the death occurred in the 1920s.
A theory immediately emerged that Kolb had killed Glen in order to be with Bessie, however further examination of the skull proved that the remains were not Glen's. In 2008, investigators determined that the remains belong to an unidentified man that had committed suicide at Shoshone Point in the Grand Canyon in 1933 after finding a photo of the victim. However, he has never been positively identified
After their disappearance, Bessie's family was interviewed and her brother said that Helmick had a violent temper and mentioned that some people believed he was involved in Bessie and Glen's disappearances. No evidence has been located to support the theory. Helmick remarried in 1930 and to the end of his life he refused to discuss Bessie.
Bessie and Glen's disappearances are no longer being investigated by law enforcement, but fascination with their cases continues.
Stranger Than Fiction Stories by M.P. Pellicer