Skip to content

By Laura Moncur in The Disappearance of Glen and Bessie Hyde

Ken Burns: National Parks - America's Best Idea at Amazon.comI first heard about Glen and Bessie Hyde while watching the Ken Burns PBS Special, “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.” I loved that series so much that I bought it at Amazon: Ken Burns: National Parks – America’s Best Idea at Amazon.com.

I didn’t like the unfinished ending to the story, so I decided that I would rewrite the ending to my own liking.

What Is Truth?

Glen and Bessie Hyde did go missing along the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park in 1928. You can read about their story here:

Georgie White Clark was a real river pioneer and came to the Grand Canyon in 1945 after the death of her daughter. You can read about her story here:

Here is a video of Georgie White:

Georgie appeared on The Tonight Show and was featured in the August 4, 1961 Life Magazine. You can see the Life Magazine that Bessie talks about here:

The University of Nevada, Reno was healthy and strong in 1928 and had just received its first radio license. You can find out more info here:

Copper was mined in Orphan Mine at the edge of the Grand Canyon from 1906 to 1953. In the mid-Fifties, uranium was discovered and it was mined until 1972. You can read more about it here:

Ralph H. Cameron might have been a claim squatter, but he wasn’t nearly as vicious as portrayed in my story. You can read all about him here:

What Is Fiction?

Bessie’s penance in Reno to gain residence and the right to divorce her first husband is only partially true. Bessie did marry Glen the day after her divorce to her first husband became final, but as far as we know, she didn’t have to gain residence in Reno to do it. Nevada’s lax divorce laws provided women with a way to get a divorce, but those laws weren’t passed until 1931. I took a little liberties in order to give Bessie some time being bored enough to invent the Wondrous Water Breathers. Here is more information about Reno and its status as a divorce city.

The real Glen Hyde was an expert boat builder, but Bessie’s Wondrous Water Breathers were pure fiction. Surface supplied diving was around LONG before Glen and Bessie Hyde went on their trip, but SCUBA diving wasn’t invented until 1943.

The actual inventor of the aqua-lung was Jacques Cousteau, of “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau” fame.

Jacques gets a brief mention in this story as the mysterious French buyer for Bessie’s invention, but that is pure fiction.

Glen and Bessie Hyde’s wedding certificate was found in Georgie White’s personal effects, but it has never been verified that she and Bessie are the same person.

I fudged quite a bit with the dates of things. Georgie’s daughter died in a hit and run accident in 1945, but Ralph Cameron didn’t die until 1953. I inferred in my story that Cameron died first in order to show how happy and comfortable Bessie had become living Georgie’s life.

Writing The Story

I fully intended The Disappearance of Glen and Bessie Hyde to be a quick story with as few as five or six parts. In fact, I had written it that short, but that version of the story was more telling the story instead of SHOWING the story unfold. I went back and fleshed out the murder of Rupert, the bonding of Bessie and Rosie and even the fateful trip down the Colorado River got an extra entry.

I feel a little like a evil historian writing a fiction about true people, but the legend of Bessie Hyde and Georgie White has been floating down the Colorado for years. I decided to write the legend anyway and even gave my heroine the spunk and strength of my grandmother when she raised three boys all on her own during the same time as Georgie would have raised Rosie.

In the movie, The Blue Bird, Shirley Temple wanders all over the past and the future and even comes across her dead grandparents. We learn that the dead are only truly dead when they are forgotten. When people remember them, they come alive again in this strange afterlife. Sometimes I like to pretend that is true. When I write stories about Bessie Hyde and Georgie White, people remember them and they can live on in that Kodachrome afterlife. Glen, Rosie and even Frank McDonough Jr. may find themselves springing to life because of my stories, even if I told some tall tales about them.

Maybe when I die, I’ll see them there and they’ll be grateful for the extra life I gave them, despite my lies and fantasies. Maybe I’ll even live on because of my own words. It’s the only chance at immortality I’ve got.