A Fascinating Wilderness Mystery To Ponder: Bessie And Glen Go Down A River

A fascination with the unexplained disappearances of people in the wilds of the USA has become a bit of a side topic of this website. As a result of my research into unsolved murders I come across tales from America often. None is more thought provoking than the story of  Glen Rollin Hyde and Bessie Louise Haley.

18th November 1928

28 year old Glen Rollin Hyde in his boat.

 

This was the last day the couple were seen together. They were in a boat that Mr Hyde had built for a speed record attempt on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. The idea was to take the boat and as a honeymoon experience, chance the rapids and emerge faster than anyone had before. In addition, completion of the journey from Green River, Utah ( that is a city) all the way through the Grand Canyon would make Bessie the first woman to have completed the route.

On that day they were seen on the river heading downstream from a place called Hermit Rapid.

The Colorado River flows mainly west and south on its over 1400 mile course.

A spotter plane located their empty boat drifting at river mile 237. The boat had plenty of supplies and seemed fine. Investigations suggested that the couple may have made it to near Diamond Creek when the dangerous granite of the river had thrown them out. They have never been located.

 

The red mark in the east is Hermit Rapid. The end of the white line is where they think the couple got to. I have very roughly traced the winding river and the distance is about 110 mile.

The information that has guided theorists since comes from Bessie’s journal and a few sightings. The search for them was instigated by Glen Hyde’s father when they became overdue at the final destination in California. After it began, on the 6th December, the effort to trace the couple found nothing for almost two weeks until the boat was sighted on the 19th.

The Theories

The most likely explanation is the one that emerged at the time. It was a case of the mighty Colorado River claiming adventurers as it had always done.

Complications came in the same way as they did with the Flannan Isle case. It has been people who threw up a mystery where there may well have been none. Of course the issue is always ‘Maybe’. We humans do love a good ‘Maybe’.

In 1971 there was a group of raft tourists sat at a camp sight. One of the group was a lady in her mid sixties . As the guide told the story of Bessie and Glen on their ill fated trip in 1928 she said she was Bessie. She claimed she had killed her brand new husband because he was abusive. She was tracked down later and denied saying any such thing. Then again if, as she said, she had stabbed Glen Hyde she may well have panicked about the off hand remark whether she was Bessie or not.

One of the last people to see the couple was a well known river adventurer and photographer called Emery Kolb. He and his brother had settled high above the Grand Canyon on the south rim. This was very near where Glen and Bessie Hyde last gathered supplies before setting off and running Hermit Rapid.

Glen and 23 year old Bessie Hyde

Mr Kolb began photographing visitors and scenery in the early years of the 20th century with his brother. By the time the Hydes called and asked for a photograph to be taken Mr Kolb was living there with his family. In one account it is suggested that he pleaded with the couple not to go on as the danger was great. There are also a few details that suggest that Mr Kolb became close to Bessie and this started an argument with Glen Hyde. As I recall the emphasis had been on Mr Hyde going on and leaving Bessie with Mr Kolb for her safety.

This story was bolstered in the documentary I watched because a body was found on the Kolb property years later. It had a bullet hole in the skull. So the idea was Mr Kolb had shot Glen Hyde. Later it was determined that the body was that of a 22 year old man and in all probability it had been a suicide. I don’t believe the story about the photographer and Bessie to be honest, though I would be interested in any evidence you may have about it.

Another tale is that Georgie White Clark was Bessie Hyde. Georgie Clark was a female adventurer  on the Colorado River. In one version she was the woman who had claimed to be Bessie Hyde around the campfire in 1971. Ms Clark accomplished many firsts on the Colorado. She had a split following. Some saw her as reckless and negligent. She ran a business as a rafting guide and critics point to the injuries and deaths that she oversaw.

Others see her as a brave pioneer of the tourist trade on the river. Certainly she was a character of her own making and incredibly brave. Although accounts vary it seems agreed that after she died a copy of the Hyde’s marriage certificate was found among her belongings. Several friend’s say she openly claimed to be Bessie Hyde. To put a spoke in the wheel of this interesting twist biographers roundly say she was not Bessie Hyde. Her early life was too well documented as Georgie White Clark and young photographs show she looked nothing like the missing woman.

So there you have it. If the account of Georgie White Clark standing at that camp fire and saying she was Bessie Hyde is true then one element of mystery bites the dust. She was not Bessie Hyde no matter what she said. If the woman was some other person who became sorry she had admitted her identity then who knows?

When the boat was found all the supplies and equipment the couple needed on their journey was there. Bessie Hyde was the inexperienced rafter of the two. Glen Hyde was the adventurer with hard won knowledge. Those that say Mrs Hyde must have perished point out the improbability of this 23 year old hiking out of the Grand Canyon with no equipment or food. I think that is a fair point.

Some say that the ‘suicide’ that took place on the Kolb property shows that Mr Kolb was a dodgy character. I have just read that the skeleton was found in his boat house in one of his canoes. This was after his death in the mid 1970s. If that were true then he certainly would be a suspect in any mysterious disappearance. However, why would a man so experienced on the Colorado River bother keeping a skeleton when the nearby waters provided a marvellous disposal method?

Like the three lighthouse men who faded into history and left a near supernatural story behind them I think there was no complex explanation needed for the demise of Bessie and Glen Hyde. I believe that the waters off the Scottish coast claimed those men from the Flannan Light and the Colorado River took the newlyweds on their journey.

Then again there is always that attractive ‘Maybe’ to ponder.

Take Care

Tim

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