The West Files: Part 1

The first of a multi-part series on Arizona legends,
unsolved mysteries and ghost towns by Michela Wilson

 

Photo courtesy NAU

At the end of their honeymoon, Glen and Bessie were to emerge as celebrities. Instead, they didn’t emerge at all.

Glen Hyde was 29, a tall and thin Idaho potato farmer. Bessie Haley was a petite 22-year-old, a San Francisco art-school student from West Virginia. He was an aspiring river-runner. She was a poet, who had already been married once.

The two met on a ferry ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 1927. In April 1928, Bessie finally was able to get a divorce from her first husband and married Glen the following day.

The newlyweds made plans for an unusual honeymoon—a dangerous record-setting journey through the Grand Canyon. Their plans to raft the Colorado River in record time, and with Bessie as the first woman to do so, attracted some attention from the news. The story goes that the young couple hoped to gain some fame with their trip, publish a book and tour the country.

The couple launched into the Green River in Utah in October. Their boat was a 2-ton sweep scow—a rectangular-shaped wooden vessel that Glen had built himself. No life jackets were on board.

The first part of their trip went smoothly. In mid-November, they tied up their boat and hiked to the rim via the South Kaibab Trail. They were making good time, and the end was in sight. Glen wrote his father to expect a telegram on Dec. 9, which would be the last day of their trip.

While at the rim, the Hydes commissioned Grand Canyon photographer Emery Kolb to take their portrait, planning to pick it up on their way back through. They also met traveler Adolph Sutro, who joined them in their scow for a few miles.

Sutro, the last person to ever see the Hydes, wasn’t interviewed until 20 years later. At that point, he told a reporter that Glen “kept talking about the money they’d make” and that Bessie “would never have run the river.”

When Dec. 9 came and went, the elder Mr. Hyde called for a search party. The boat was spotted by an airplane, but wasn’t able to be reached until Dec. 25. It was found ashore, with no damage to it, along with their food, supplies, camera and film, but no sign of the young couple.

Was Glen a domineering and relentless spouse who pushed Bessie too far? Perhaps she murdered him and hiked out of the canyon, assuming a new identity. Or maybe it was Glen who, after 42 days alone in the wilderness, had tired of Bessie.

Adding intrigue to this mystery, there has been a number of potential Glens and Bessies who have popped up over the years. During a guided trip down the Colorado in 1971, an older woman on the trip claimed she was Bessie. She said Glen had been an abusive husband, and when she couldn’t take it anymore, killed him and hiked out to start a new life.

Then there was Georgie White, the first woman to row, swim and operate a river-guiding business through the Grand Canyon. When she died in 1992, no one had ever been invited into her house. Found in the back of White’s underwear drawer was a pistol and the official marriage certificate of Glen and Bessie Hyde. In addition, it was discovered that Georgie’s birth name was in fact Bessie DeRoss.

Yet another mystery is when Kolb died in 1976, the skeleton of a tall, young man similar to Glen’s frame and with a bullet hole in his head, was found in Kolb’s garage, leading some to believe the body was that of Hyde.

All of these suspicions have been discredited, but Glen and Bessie’s disappearance continues to be a mystery. In over 150 cases of recorded drownings, murders and suicides at the Grand Canyon, almost all of the bodies have been found. Even after years of searching, no evidence of Glen and Bessie has ever been uncovered.

 

Interested in reading more about the Hydes?

“Grand Ambition” by Lisa Michaels is a fictionalized account of the Hyde’s story.

“Sunk Without a Sound” by Brad Dimock explores all possible explanations, and Dimock even reenacts the Hyde’s journey in a replica of their boat.


SOURCES

All information for this article was found in “Sunk Without a Sound” by Brad Dimock or “Arizona Myths and Legends” by Sam Lowe.

 

Filed Under: Arts/EntertainmentMy Tucson

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