Ghosts of the Prairie
History & Hauntings of America


the ghosts of the grand canyon

The magnificent Grand Canyon of northern Arizona is one of the last places where one might expect to find a ghost, but it has been a place of mystery since the Spanish explorers first looked down from the rim at the Colorado River far below. Conquered first by explorer John Wesley Powell in the 1860’s, the canyon has been the scene of both triumph and tragedy ever since.

Emory and Ellsworth Kolb were the foremost photographers of the Grand Canyon in their time. Between 1901 and 1941, they captured the magnificence of the canyon in a way that no one has done, before or since. The Kolb’s literally moved onto the rim of the canyon to photograph and film the area, constructing a combination of a home and a studio into the side of the cliff. They posted a sign outside and that read “Bright Angel Toll Road. Riding Animals, Pack Animals, Loose Animals.. $1.00 each”. By 1928, a steady stream of tourists were handing dollar bills to the Kolb’s for the privilege of straddling a burro from a nearby stable and heading down into the canyon.

Ellsworth & Emory Kolb on one of their many journeys through the Grand Canyon

  They were surprised one day in November 1928 by a young couple named Glen and Bessie Hyde who came knocking at the studio door, having hiked up the canyon from down below. The introduced themselves to the Kolb’s and explained that they were honeymooners who had spent the past 26 days rafting on the treacherous Colorado River. They asked the Kolb’s to take their photograph standing on the rim of the canyon. They would come back to get the photo after their trip.

After doing so, Emory Kolb asked them about their boat and they explained that they had built it themselves in Idaho and they planned to navigate the canyon with it. Despite the rapids, they did not have life preservers. Kolb was shocked and warned against such foolhardiness. Glen Hyde laughed off the warnings but Kolb could see that Bessie was nervous about the journey ahead. He told himself that the girl did not want to go back on the river.

As the couple prepared to depart, Kolb’s daughter Emily came out of the studio to greet the young couple. Emily was very neatly dressed and Bessie Hyde took one look at her own weary clothing and then spoke aloud. “I wonder if I shall ever wear pretty shoes again,” she said. Then, she turned and followed her husband down Bright Angel Trail.

The night was November 16 and none of the Kolb’s slept well that night, worried about the haunted young woman named Bessie Hyde. Both Emory and Emily kept thinking about the girl’s parting words. By early December, there was still no sign of the Hyde’s. Finally, Kolb initiated a search of the area which included a small plane that flew down through the inner gorge of the canyon. This was the first time that such a flight had been attempted. The pilot spotted the Hyde’s boat snagged in the rocks of the river.

Emory Kolb joined the rescue party and hiked down from the rim. When they reached the boat, they found everything packed and secure. The food, clothing and even the couple’s books were neatly put into place. All that was missing were the Hyde’s! The search party combed the area, but they were nowhere to be found. If they had made it down the river, Bessie would have been the first woman to successfully navigate the canyon. As it was, she had disappeared... vanished without a trace.

Even after all of these years, no trace of the Hyde’s have ever been found. While this has nothing to do with ghosts, this haunting mystery has remained unsolved for more than seven decades. Sadly, Bessie would never have the chance to wear pretty shoes again.

A photo from my own collection of Emory Kolb (age 91)at a book signing at the Grand Canyon in 1970 The copy of the book that he is holding in his hands is a book that is now in my own personal collection.
In 1893, the Grand Canyon was declared a national forest preserve and in 1908, a National Monument. It finally became a National Park in 1919 and today is visited by more than 3 million visitors each year. How many of them would be surprised to learn that their vacations are being shared by a ghost?

In a remote area along the north rim of the canyon, a ghost that has been dubbed “the Wandering Woman” still roams. It is said that her spirit wanders here, searching for a family that was lost to her many years ago. According to legend, she committed suicide in the lodge that was located along the north rim in the 1920’s after learning that her husband and son were killed in a hiking accident. The lodge burned down in 1926 but has since been rebuilt.

Since that time, she has been seen by staff members and visitors alike. She has been seen by many employees on the North Kaibab Trail and is wearing a white robe with small flowers on it. She always has a scarf over her head. One startled forest ranger even looked up one day to see her standing in the doorway to his quarters!

And she may not be the only ghost here. Some workers believe that phantom children also haunt the park. They claim to have seen them playing on swings and merry-go-rounds before abruptly vanishing without a trace. The playground equipment has since been torn down, but the voices and happy cries of the children still go on!

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© Copyright 2001 by Troy Taylor. All Rights Reserved.

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