Glen and Bessie Hyde - Strange disappearances in U.S. National Parks

Glen and Bessie Hyde, Nov. 17, 1928.

Glen and Bessie Hyde, Nov. 17, 1928.

Glen and Bessie Hyde, last seen, November 18th, 1928, (Last Diary Entry November 30th, 1928),Colorado River, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona.

Bessie Hyde and her husband, Glen, set off on a honeymoon trip on the Green and Colorado Rivers in October 1928. In those days, the Grand Canyon had no commercial river trips and the rapids were for seasoned explorers and professional expeditions only. They had no life jackets or specialist wet weather gear. Certainly not a trip for a pair of honeymooners in a homemade scow called Rain in the Face. Confirming the dangers, early in the trip, Glen fell out of the boat on a rapid.

The Hydes met on a passenger ship travelling to Los Angeles in 1927. They were married on April 12, 1928. 

Glen was an expert boat builder who built the 20-foot-long wooden sweep scow and had rafting experience on the Salmon and Snake rivers in Idaho a couple years earlier. In contrast, Bessie was a novice to rivers and rapids. 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.

Bessie Hyde, 22, was an aspiring poet, artist and bohemian. According to the late Otis "Dock" Marston's library,  the Hyde's plan was that they would run the canyon, then go on the lecture circuit and make money retelling their adventure. 

The couple were last seen on November. 18th, 1928 and their scow was found in early December, around three weeks later. It was found floating upright around River Mile 237, and filled with belongings and the supplies were fully strapped in. But Glen and Bessie were nowhere to be seen. There is evidence they made it as far as River Mile 225 where they may have made camp. A huge search turned up no trace of the couple.

Glen and Bessie Hyde scow

Starting on October 20th, 1928, the Hydes started their adventure in the city of Green River in Utah and made a successful run through many major rapids of the Green and Colorado rivers. They estimated it would take them no more than a month and a half to complete their journey. Almost a month into the trip, they spent a few days restocking at Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim on November 16th. At this time they talked with a reporter from the Denver Post assuming that their final destination, Needles, in California was just a few weeks away.

They hiked along the Bright Angel Trail, where they met brothers Ellsworth and Emery Kolb, famous photographers who ran a cliffside studio. Glen and Bessie went to the studio and introduced themselves to the Kolbs, explaining that they were honeymooners who had been rafting on the river for 26 days. The Kolb brothers said that the couple asked to have their photo taken on the canyon rim, and they would return to retrieve it after the trip was completed.

Emery Kolb

Emery Kolb

According to Emery Kolb, Glen said that they did not have life preservers, a comment that evoked a warning from Kolb that Glen responded to with a laugh. Kolb offered the couple life preservers but they refused, saying they could swim anything. Bessie, Emery Kolb said, looked nervous about the remaining journey ahead. As Glen and Bessie prepared to depart and walk down the trail to their boat, Emery Kolb’s daughter Emily appeared, nicely dressed. Bessie remarked, “I wonder if I shall ever wear pretty shoes again.” People who encountered the couple during their layover would later claim that Bessie seemed to want to leave the trip. 

Glen and Bessie Hyde

It is said that a man named Adolph G. Sutro accompanied the couple back into the canyon, taking photographs and even riding a short distance with them in the boat. If this is true, Sutro was likely the last person to see them alive.

By early December, Glen and Bessie had not been heard from. Emory Kolb initiated a search of the area that included a small plane that flew through the inner gorge of the canyon. The pilot saw the intact Hydes’ scow caught in the rocks on the river 15 miles south of Diamond Creek on December 20th, 1928. The assumption was that somewhere in the canyon they were on a ledge waiting to be found after 21 days.

When the rescue party reached the boat, they found food, clothing, books and Bessie’s journal as well as a camera which revealed the final photo to have been shot near river mile 165 on or about November 27. The last entry in Bessie's journal was on November 30th written near Diamond Creek.

Reith Hyde

Reith Hyde

Glen’s father, Reith Hyde, aged 70, hired a group of men to search the canyon within the area where Glen and Bessie likely travelled near Diamond Creek. He even enlisted Ellsworth and Emery Kolb to help. But after 41 days of searching, they had no success. Not a trace.

Since the couple's disappearance, there have been plenty of mysterious stories. What happened out there on the river? The obvious answer was that they both died in the rapids but why was the boat found intact and upright? Perhaps Glen Hyde was a bully who forced Bessie to continue the journey when she didn't want to, and perhaps even killed her in a fit of frustrated rage.  Alternatively perhaps Bessie killed Glen and disappeared.

Some friends of Georgie Clark, a woman who gained fame for her rafting adventures in the Grand Canyon, speculate that she was Bessie Hyde. A potential link between Georgie and Bessie started when friends were looking through her personal items following her death in 1992. People who had known her for decades had never been invited into her home. Upon looking at Clark’s personal effects, her friends learned that her birth certificate indicated that her real name was Bessie DeRoss, not Georgie. Clark or Georgie White (which was another surname she sometimes used). The latter two were the last names of husbands she had divorced.

Her friends’ curiosity was raised when they found the marriage license of Glen and Bessie Hyde at her home, and a pistol in her lingerie drawer. Colorado River historian Brad Dimock – whose book, “Sunk Without a Sound – The Tragic Colorado River Honeymoon of Glen and Bessie Hyde,” investigates the couple’s story and the subsequent theories examined the items from Clark’s home and concluded from photographs that Clark and Bessie Hyde were not the same person. The two women didn't even resemble each other and it's more likely the items were souvenirs.

Liz Cuttler

Liz Cuttler

On a 1971 commercial boat trip, an elderly woman called Liz Cuttler announced over the evening campfire that she was Bessie Hyde. "What did you do with Glen?" a boatman called George Billingsley asked, half-joking."I killed him," the woman answered without looking up. The honeymooners had a fight, she added; she stabbed Glen and hiked out to Peach Springs, Arizona then caught a bus back East to start a new life. Further investigations failed to prove a link between the woman and the disappearances and she was identified as a psychology professor from Ohio who liked to play mind games.

In 1976, a male skeleton was found on the property of Emery Kolb hidden in his garage and was believed to be Glen's, but analysis of the bones showed it was too young to have been him and it was determined it was a manual labourer due to the high muscle mass exhibited by the remains. The skull's features did not match Glen.

To this day, the disappearance of Glen and Bessie Hyde on the Colorado River remains a mystery but it is likely they were lost in the area of Mile 232, 45 miles from the end of the Grand Canyon.


Further Reading and viewing

"Sunk Without a Sound: The Tragic Colorado River Honeymoon of Glen and Bessie Hyde" (Fretwater Press), by Brad Dimock

The Grand Canyon Mystery