|Glen and Bessie Hyde|
For most, one of the happiest times of their lives is their wedding day and subsequent honeymoon.
But that’s not true for everybody.
Take, for example, Glen and Bessie Hyde.
Glen Hyde was born in 1898 and worked as a farmer in Idaho. He enjoyed the outdoors, but February 1927 found him on board a passenger ship sailing from San Francisco to Los Angeles.
As fate would have it, Bessie Louise Haley Helmick was on the same ship. She’d enrolled in art school in San Francisco after leaving her husband whom she lived with for only two months following their marriage. Why Glen Hyde, a farm boy from the Midwest, was on the west coast, we don’t know. Perhaps he wanted to see more of the country.
Perhaps he was looking to sweep a rich woman off her feet.
While we don’t know much about Bessie, the fact she met Helmick while she was attending college speaks volumes about her family’s ability and desire to educate their daughter. After she moved back to her parents’ home when her first marriage broke down, they then financed her trip to California to attend art school.
However, Helmick wouldn’t give her a divorce, so after Bessie and Glen met on the ship and fell in love, Bessie moved to Nevada to get a divorce. The day after it was final, she and Glen married.
Seven months later, Bessie and Glen decided on a honeymoon trip. Glen loved rafting, canoeing, and everything outdoors, and the trip was his idea of a great way to kill three birds with one stone: introduce Bessie to activities he loved, set a new speed record for the fastest trip through the Grand Canyon, and get her in the record books as the first documented woman to successfully navigate the Grand Canyon by boat. Ever the adventurer, he built his own flat-bottomed boat, refusing to carry life jackets.
|Glen Hyde in his boat in the Grand Canyon in 1928|
No mystery would be complete without a few suspects and some red herrings. A prime person of interest at the time was a photographer named Emery Kolb who had a studio near the Grand Canyon. The couple stopped in to visit, and he was one of the last people to see the couple alive. When questioned later, Kolb said he thought Bessie was ready to quit the trip, but Glen and Bessie headed out the next day, around November 15th. At the time, there was speculation that perhaps Kolb was attracted to Bessie, and that Glen and Kolb argued, and Kolb killed the newly-wed, then was forced to kill Bessie when she didn’t return his affections. This theory was reinforced by the fact Kolb said he invited the two to stay with him through the winter and wait until weather improved. When they refused his offer, he suggested they take life vests, but Glen refused all help.
However, a second and final eyewitness came forward. Adolph Sutro traveled down the river with the couple for several miles, waving them goodbye on November 18th.
This was the last verified sighting of the two.
And then there’s Glen’s father Rollin Hyde. Even before the couple were considered overdue at Needles, California, he was contacting officials and voicing his concerns. Whether or not the authorities at the time thought this suspicious isn’t evident. As mystery lovers know, the perpetrator is often the first to raise the alarm. However, no good reason to kill either his son or new daughter-in-law has been put forward.
Whatever the reason, a search was launched, but it wasn’t until 13 days later, on December 19th, that a search plane spotted their scow around river mile 237. While that may seem like a long time to find one boat, we must remember that weather wasn’t good, and planes had less flying time than they do today. At any rate, searchers arrived at the boat on December 24th or 25th. The boat was intact, fully stocked with supplies, with the towrope caught on something underwater.
Based on unexposed film in a camera in the boat, the couple made it to mile 226. Bessie noted in her journal that they had cleared the 231 mile rapid. Forty-two notches were cut in the gunwhale of the scow, one for each day of the trip, putting their last day as about November 30th. The boat had traveled about 600 miles, and was found just 46 miles from the mouth of the Grand Canyon. According to the journal, they were actually ahead of schedule.
A search failed to turn up their bodies, and no remains have ever been found. But there are red herrings: In 1971, Elizabeth Cutler claimed to be Bessie. She said Glen and she fought, and she stabbed him to death, then walked out of the woods and began a new life with a new name.
There was only one problem: she was four inches taller than Bessie. A subsequent search of birth records proved she was actually born when Bessie was three years old.
Then, in 1976, the skeleton of a man was discovered on Kolb’s property, leading investigators to think they might have found Glen’s body. The victim of a bullet wound to the head was proven not to be Glen Hyde through testing done in 1985, even though the caliber of the bullet indicated it was fired from a gun manufactured in the 1920s.
Georgie Clark was thought to be Bessie when documents and items belonging to Bessie were found among her effects after her death in 1992, but no conclusive evidence was ever found. Besides which, Georgie Clark’s life was well-documented.
The final suspect was Helmick, the man with a violent temper who didn’t want a divorce. It’s been suggested that she left him because of physical abuse, and that perhaps he was involved in Glen and Bessie’s disappearance, but no evidence has been found to support the theory. He remarried in 1930, and refused to discuss Bessie until the day he died.
To date, no conclusions have been reached about the disappearance. Did one fall in the river, and the other drowned trying to save them? Did one kill the other then get lost and perish in the woods trying to escape? Perhaps wild animals killed both while they were on shore. Maybe the boat swamped, throwing them overboard, then righted itself and continued on without them. Was there a love triangle? Or a murderous ex-husband? Perhaps they were killed by person or persons unknown.
Or maybe they simply wanted to start a new life together, setting their boat adrift and walking out of the canyon, adopting new names and new lives.
While we likely won’t ever know the truth, the possibilities are great fodder for a mystery writer or a romance writer. And one thing is guaranteed: whatever the facts, your story can have its own unique combination of truth, fiction, and surprise endings.
Question to be entered into a random drawing to win a free print copy (US only) or ebook of Christmas Under the Stars: If you were writing the ending of this story, what would it be? Share with us and good luck in the drawing!
Donna lives in Denver with husband Patrick. As a hybrid author, she writes historical suspense under her own name, and contemporary suspense under her alter ego of Leeann Betts, and has been published more than 30 times in novellas and full-length novels. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Writers on the Rock, Sisters In Crime, and Christian Authors Network; facilitates a critique group; and teaches writing classes. Donna also ghostwrites, edits, and judges in writing contests. She loves history and research, and travels extensively for both. Donna is represented by Terrie Wolf of AKA Literary Management.
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Resources for this article:
Unsolved Mysteries Wiki
Disappearance of Glen and Bessie Hyde – Wikipedia