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Ghosts of Grand Canyon: the mysterious disappearance of Glen and Bessie Hyde

By Kyla Pearce
updated September 29, 2021
Getty Rf 550761543
The harrowing mystery of two newlyweds who went missing in the Grand Canyon.

On October 20, 1928, newlyweds Glen and Bessie Hyde launched down the Colorado River in a homemade 20-foot scow, embarking on a journey that would take over a month and celebrate Bessie as the first woman to boat the river in its entirety.

On November 18, one month into their trip and mere weeks from making history, they were seen for the last time. 

Glen Hyde, an Idahoan farmer and avid outdoorsman, met his wife, Bessie Haley, an artist from West Virginia, on a passenger ship to Los Angeles. The two fell in love and married in Idaho on April 12, 1928.

For their honeymoon, they decided, they would embark on a boating adventure down the Colorado River. Were they to succeed in their endeavor, they would not only make Bessie the first woman to complete the trip, but also set a record for the fastest excursion down the river. 

The Colorado River, which runs through Grand Canyon, Arizona, is known for its brutal and difficult whitewater. Glen was experienced in river rafting. Bessie was new to this type of adventure.

About halfway through their long journey, the couple stopped at the Bright Angel Trail, one of the most popular trails that run through Grand Canyon National Park. At the time, Emery and Ellsworth Kolb owned a photography business at the trailhead. The two brothers met the Hydes, who came to the rim to restock their supplies before completing the rest of their trip.

The Kolbs said that Bessie seemed apprehensive.

“I wonder if I’ll ever wear pretty shoes again,” she said wistfully, admiring a well-dressed young girl before venturing the 10 miles back down the dusty trail to the scow. 

She never wore pretty shoes again.

The couple had intended on returning to Idaho by early December of 1928. When they didn’t arrive, Glen’s father helped launch a search that discovered their scow abandoned near river mile 237, just 40 miles from the end of their journey. 

The scow was upright, held in place by its tow line caught underwater, still toting their coats and boots, a gun and Bessie’s diary, with its final entry on November 30. The shore near the boat was undisturbed. Glen and Bessie were nowhere to be found. 

Ninety-two years later, the mystery of the couple’s disappearance remains unsolved and lends itself to spooky riverside tales and a wealth of elaborate conspiracy theories.

In the early 1970s, an elderly woman on a river trip down the Colorado River announced that she was Bessie Hyde. She was about the age Bessie would have been, claiming to have killed Glen in disagreement and hiked out of the canyon. She later recanted the story, which was proven untrue.

Another conspiracy theory emerged suspecting Georgie Clark, a respected river guide, of being Bessie Hyde. Following the death of Clark, whose real name was Bessie DeRoss, in May of 1992, Hyde’s marriage license and a pistol were found in Clark’s home. However, this theory was also debunked.

In 1976, the skeletal remains of a young male were found on the Kolb brothers’ property. The skull still had a bullet in it, and there was suspicion that Emery Kolb was somehow responsible for Glen Hyde’s death. However, a forensic investigation later deduced that the remains belonged to a man much younger than Glen who had likely committed suicide no earlier than 1972.

Legal investigations into the disappearance have ended and the couple was pronounced dead by drowning, but the mystery remains unsolved. While Glen and Bessie didn’t achieve fame in the way they had hoped, their names live on in books and eerie campfire ghost stories.

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