Glen and Bessie Hyde’s doomed honeymoon in the Grand Canyon – Mentalfloss | Ad On Picture

Two weeks after the failed rescue operation, a search plane flying over the Grand Canyon made a promising discovery. Down on the Colorado River a little boat was floating About 140 miles from where Glen and Bessie Hyde had last been seen 32 days earlier on November 18, 1928. Fueled by hope, rescuers on the ground scrambled down the rocky riverbank to the crime scene.

They found the newlyweds’ tow truck in perfect condition: standing upright and securely packed with supplies, including Bessie’s diary. The only thing wrong was that the couple was nowhere to be seen, as if they’d been enjoying their honeymoon adventure one moment and gone the next.

The condition of the boat made an already strange story even stranger. People have disappeared into national parks since the system was introduced, but the Hydes were not typical tourists. Glen, 29, was an experienced river runner who had traversed the Salmon River and Snake River in Idaho. His 22-year-old wife shared his love of adventure and they planned to make their first trip as a married couple a historic achievement. Glen wanted to be the fastest person to circumnavigate the Grand Canyon by boat. Bessie, meanwhile, would be the first woman to complete the journey.

But as the discovery of their boat confirmed, the pair never made it to their destination. Accidental drowning would be the obvious culprit, but without bodies there was no way to prove their cause of death — or if they had died in the first place. In the decades that followed, a skeleton, a gun, and a birth certificate added further fuel to rumors that the couple’s disappearance was no accident.

When Glen and Bessie met on a boat bound for Los Angeles in 1927, they were traveling as passengers rather than navigators. A native of Idaho, Glen had recently sailed from the Salmon River to the Pacific Ocean in a boat he hand-built. Bessie was a bohemian artist who had dabbled in theater and poetry as a student. Although she was technically married when she met Glen, the two felt an instant bond. They married in 1928 – the day after Bessie’s divorce was finalized.

Your honeymoon in the Grand Canyon should be more than a romantic adventure. If things had gone the way they planned, it would have prepared them for life. At this point, only 45 people had made the entire journey, and as the first woman, Bessie would have become an overnight celebrity. The Hydes hoped to return from their river tour to lucrative book deals and speaking engagements.

The couple embarked in Glen’s homebuilt boat from Green River, Utah on October 20, with a goal of reaching Needles, California by early December. The first leg of the journey went smoothly. They had packed more than enough provisions, and Glen’s skills as a river driver and boat builder withstood the foaming waters of the Colorado River.

The Colorado River flows through the Grand Canyon.

The Colorado River flows through the Grand Canyon. /Matteo Colombo/Royalty Free/iStock via Getty Images

The Hydes came into contact with several people on their travels, including Emery Kolb, a renowned photographer who owned a studio on the south rim of the canyon. Kolb was also an experienced boater familiar with the river’s temperamental nature, and he noted the couple’s lack of life jackets. Glen brushed it off with a laugh. They were already halfway through their journey and so far it hadn’t been a problem for them.

According to later reports, Kolb also noticed Bessie’s behavior. She seemed reluctant to return to the water, either from exhaustion from the journey to this point or fear of the rapids that awaited her. Her new husband may have pushed her to move on. After all, they had come this far, and no one wanted to hear about a couple who finished their Grand Canyon boat ride before reaching the finish line.

Bessie agreed to go ahead, but she made an eerily prescient remark before boarding the boat. Of the outfit Kolb’s little daughter wore, she commented, “I wonder if I’ll ever wear nice shoes again.”

Kolb’s photographer friend Adolph G. Sutro joined the newlyweds several miles before they parted ways at Hermit Rapid. The tumultuous site was the last place the Hydes were seen alive.

The diary recovered from the boat contained entries up to November 30 revealing the Hydes had spent at least another 12 days on the water. According to Bessie’s account, they had indeed been ahead of schedule and had made it as far as Diamond Creek, a dozen miles from where the abandoned boat was eventually found. Nothing in her diary indicated that the trip would be cut short.

A thorough search of their last known whereabouts turned up nothing, and the Cold Case would yield no new developments for decades. Then, in 1971, a woman named Elizabeth Cutler made the story relevant again during a river tour of the Grand Canyon. While sitting around the campfire, she announced to her tour group that she was Bessie Hyde. She is said to have stabbed and killed her husband during an argument and has been living in hiding ever since.

Some speculate that Cutler lied and spun the story as a prank or for attention. She later denied ever claiming to be Bessie – when tracked down by a reporter she said she had never heard of the Hydes. But the theory that Bessie had made it out of the gorge alive wasn’t going to die. When legendary Grand Canyon river guide Georgie Clarke passed away in 1992, some of the marks she left caused some people to question their true identity. Her possessions included a pistol, the Hydes’ marriage certificate, and a birth certificate that listed her real name as Bessie DeRoss. The coincidences were strange, but since Clarke’s early life was well documented, they weren’t strong enough to reopen the case.

Emery Kolb's studio on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

The idea that Glen was murdered also lingered – although theorists didn’t always agree on who the killer was. In 1977, six years after the first fake Bessie appeared, a skeleton was discovered in Emery Kolb’s garage in his studio on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. It had belonged to a man in his twenties who matched Glen’s height and build. But unlike Glen, the unnamed victim’s cause of death was no mystery – he was found with a bullet hole in his skull.

Kolb had died last December, so he was unable to defend himself against allegations that he murdered Glen Hyde and held onto his body for 50 years. His name was officially cleared in 2008 thanks to a black-and-white photo collection donated to the Grand Canyon Museum by the son of a former park ranger. Several photos showed a skeleton resembling bones found on Emery Kolb’s property, and a museum technician linked the remains to accounts of an unidentified man who died in 1933 from an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Retired Grand Canyon National Park detective Joe Sumner heard about the photos and after comparing them to the Kolb skeleton confirmed they matched.

How the bones ended up in the photographer’s garage was a bigger mystery. Sumner noted that Kolb had served as the district coroner’s representative for the Grand Canyon, and he likely acquired the remains after the death inquest. It’s still unclear why he kept them in his garage until his death, but whatever the reason, the Hydes weren’t involved.

Now, nearly a century since the Hydes were last seen, the reason for their disappearance remains a mystery. But the most likely explanation for their disappearance is neither murder nor secret identities.

The pair braved notorious waters without life jackets — a rapid large enough could have easily swept them overboard while leaving their tethered supplies intact. The floor of the Grand Canyon was also much less traveled and developed in the 1920’s than it is today. That, combined with the powerful waters of the Colorado River, would have made it easy for two bodies to disappear without a trace.

While not as dramatic as the legends, this scenario is still unsettling. The National Park Service has registered dozens of unsolved missing person cases from the 1950s, and some suspect there are hundreds more that are unregistered. This shows how easy it is to get lost in the 84 million acres of protected wilderness that make up the park system. Beyond the manicured trails and camps of a national park, vacationing with loved ones can quickly become a struggle for survival.

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