Arizona is home to the jaw-dropping Grand Canyon, crazy desert wildlife, and very hot summers.
Well, off the coast of California, on a ship heading to Los Angeles. Observers may have thought they seemed like an unusual couple. Glen was a simple farmer from Idaho, but, just before meeting Bessie, he had began to learn river running. With this new hobby, he seemed to take on the title of daring adventurer. This was quite different from Bessie, who is often described as a romantic. Originally from West Virginia, she was an art student who also wrote poetry and worked in a bookstore. Despite all odds, the couple hit it off, and they were married by 1928. That winter, they formulated a plan for an adventure that would end so mysteriously that even today, people can’t helped being intrigued by the story.
This daring idea likely came as a result of Glen’s new hobby. The pair planned out the whole adventure, certain that Glen’s rafting skills could carry them all the way through the Grand Canyon via the powerful Colorado River. Of course, Bessie would go also, and she could draw and write about the adventure as they went. Upon completion of their trip, they would become the first man and women team to have run the Colorado through the Grand Canyon. They were sure people would be captivated! They planned to write a book, chronicling their tale, and tour to speak about it.
Glen himself built the vessel that they would use — a twenty-five foot long, five foot wide, flat-bottomed scrow. Reportedly, one local, upon seeing this craft called it a “floating coffin.” They began the journey on October 20, 1928, leaving Utah via the Green River and heading towards Arizona and the Colorado River. It took nearly a month before the couple reached Lee’s Ferry, which people consider to be where the Colorado River enters the Grand Canyon. Another eighty-eight miles past this, more than 400 miles so far in total, Glen and Bessie came ashore at Phantom Ranch to restock their supplies. Luckily, for those of us who remain curious about Glen and Bessie today, famous Grand Canyon photographer Emery Kolb was also at the ranch, and had the chance to photograph the duo. Kolb, like several others before him, urged the couple to acquire life jackets, but Glen was adamantly against this idea. He clearly found the suggestion an insult to his daring endeavor, and insisted he would best the Colorado River “without life jackets, or else.”
Those who were at the ranch when the couple came ashore claimed it was clear that Bessie was not adjusting well to life on the river. On one occasion while she was visiting Kolb, she gave many of her best clothes and shoes to Kolb’s daughter, reportedly with the remark, “I wonder if I shall ever wear pretty shoes again.” Setting out again, the couple agree to take a tourist, Adolph Sutro, downstream a few miles. After dropping him off, Sutro noticed that Bessie was clearly scared. She seemed terrified to continue on, not surprisingly since both she and Glen had already been thrown from the raft on multiple occasions. Glen, however, was consumed by the fame that he was sure awaited him and continued on undeterred.
When the couple didn’t turn up in Needles, California — the end of their treacherous route — a search party was organized by Glen’s father. The couple could not be found, but their boat was located near River Mile 237, still packed with their belongings and supplies. The only other clues ever discovered were Glen’s footprints near the Mile 217 rapid, and an Idaho food jar near mile 212. Notch marks on the boat, combined with info from Bessie’s rudimentary diary suggests that the couple was on their scrow through November 30th. Had the couple become a victim of the hungry rapids and drowned? Perhaps they had come ashore and their boat had somehow escaped them. It has even been hypothesized that Bessie might have tried to escape, deciding that she could endure the river no more. Even to this day, no one has been able to figure out what happened to this ill-fated couple.
When Kolb, the Grand Canyon photographer, died in 1976, the men cleaning out his studio discovered a man’s skeleton in a small boat, along with some clothes, circa 1920’s. The skull displayed a clear bullet hole, and forensics agreed that the angle likely reflected a murder rather than a suicide. Many people immediately put two and two together and insisted that the body must be Glen’s, but forensics didn’t seem to support this. But another death soon revealed even more information. Georgie White was an incredible woman who had spent over forty years establishing a reputation as a well-known daredevil white-water rafter. Upon her death, though, it was discovered that, according to her birth certificate, her first name was Bessie. Not only this, but among her belongings was a pistol and a marriage certificate for Bessie Haley and Glen R. Hyde. To top it all off, it was well known that Georgie absolutely despised Kolb. Had Kolb come to reason with Glen and ended up killing him? Or perhaps Bessie had simply had enough of Glen, killed him herself, and assumed a new identity. Most likely, we will never know, but if there are enough clues to keep people wondering about the mysterious disappearance of Glen and Bessie Hyde for this many years, we doubt people will stop asking questions anytime soon.