On November 18, 1928, Glen and Bessie Hyde said goodbye to brothers Ellsworth and Emery Kolb, left the Kolb’s house near the Grand Canyon’s Bright Angel Trail and began walking down a path leading to the Colorado River. The Hydes had a boat tied up there, one in which they’d spent weeks floating down the rapids in the Green and Colorado rivers on an extended honeymoon trip they’d began the previous October.

Emery Kolb’s young daughter appeared just before the Hydes walked out of sight, and Bessie remarked on the smartly dressed little girl’s outfit. “I wonder if I shall ever wear pretty shoes again,” Bessie said aloud. Then the couple resumed their walk, boarded their boat, and shoved off into the Colorado.

And then they disappeared.

November 2018 marks the 90th anniversary of the Hydes’ floating down the river and vanishing into thin air. What happened to them remains a mystery with no clues. Guides down the Colorado River still bring up their strange case while sitting around the campfire at night, sipping beers, wondering aloud to each other and their clients what cruelty fate had in store for the Hydes.

ADVERTISEMENT

Their scow (a flat-bottomed boat capable of navigating shallow waters) was found abandoned and floating in perfect working order three weeks after they went missing. The Hydes, however, were nowhere to be seen and had left no clues as to what happened. Their boat displayed no evidence of being battered by rapids or have been turned over in rough water. The Hydes’ food and supplies were still strapped into it as if waiting patiently for the couple to return. No tracks led away from the boat. No disturbance was apparent on the riverbank. No bodies had turned up downstream. It was as if they’d simply vanished into the aether.

Glen was an expert boat builder and handcrafted the couple’s 20-foot scow himself. Years before, he’d spent time rafting down Idaho’s Salmon and Snake rivers. He wasn’t exactly a rapid-slaying pro, but he knew his way around the river. He also was hoping to set a speed record for boating through the Grand Canyon, with Bessie becoming the first woman to successfully boat all the way through. Bessie was a newbie before they began their trip, but had a few solid weeks of negotiating rapids under her belt.

The search was called off, the Hydes presumed drowned, though their boat was pristine and bodies were never found.

By the time the couple had encountered the Kolbs, they were roughly halfway through their trip, having originally put in at Green River, Utah, ultimately headed for Needles, California. Emery Kolb asked the Hydes about their life preservers, knowing the Colorado well, and Glen responded with an amused chuckle, insisting they were unnecessary. It’s been reported that Kolb felt like Bessie may have been tired of the journey, or fearful of the coming rapids that Kolb warned the couple about. But nevertheless, Glen insisted he and Bessie set out as soon as possible to maintain his schedule.

A photographer friend of Kolb’s, Adolph G. Sutro (grandson of the former mayor of San Francisco), accompanied the Hydes for the first few miles of their journey. He was the last person to see them alive.

ADVERTISEMENT

Or so it seems.

Weeks later, after nobody had heard from the Hydes, Emery Kolb began a search of the canyon. An airplane was enlisted to search the river downstream from the Kolb’s and eventually spotted the Hydes’ boat floating near Mile 237 of the Colorado on December 20. In the boat was Bessie’s diary, with a final entry on November 30, near an area called Diamond Creek. Nothing in her diary provided any other clues to the couple’s whereabouts. Glen’s father put together a search team that spent more than a month combing the canyon near Diamond Creek, the couple’s last known location, and they turned up absolutely nothing.

The search was called off, the Hydes presumed drowned, though their boat was pristine and bodies were never found.

That’s when the speculation and the strange sightings began.

Was it actually a case of murder? Bessie seemed uncomfortable with the trip, could Glen have killed her in a fit of rage? Had Bessie taken Glen’s life in order to get out of the trip? Or maybe the couple had split up, leaving the boat behind, and melted unknown back into society.

There were whispers that Georgie Clark, a respected Grand Canyon paddler who died in 1992, may have actually been Bessie Hyde. Friends of Georgie’s discovered upon her death that her real first name was actually Bessie. Stranger still was the copy of Bessie and Glen Hyde’s marriage certificate found in Georgie’s house.

On a Grand Canyon boat trip in the 1970s, a woman claimed to be Bessie Hyde and said she’d murdered Glen and then gone into hiding. Bones were eventually uncovered on the Kolb’s property that some thought may have been Glen’s remains, though no link was ever established.

Their story remains a mystery, but the Hyde’s strange tale has spawned a novel, at least two non-fiction books, an NPR “Morning Edition” report, a musical, and has been the subject of more than one television program investigating unsolved disappearances.

Not to mention eery campfire tales in the Grand Canyon.