Note: this is a continuation of my previous post
I've been thinking about the scope of Everett Ruess's wanderlust adventures and the many possibilities of danger that they presented. It's almost inconceivable that someone so young (and inexperienced) would even attempt such an epic journey, let alone do it with surprising expertise and undeterred enthusiasm.
The places where he traveled are the most desolate and perilous areas in the country - formidable to access even now, with the aid of modern technology and conveniences. I can only imagine the complete isolation and extreme vulnerability of a boy alone, armed with little more than stoic determination.
Ruess with his dog Curly
I've been to many of the places where he traveled (this is not a boast, merely a fact): the Mohave Desert, the Painted Desert, the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park in Utah, the Colorado and New Mexico mountains. Anyone who has experienced these overwhelming wonders of nature firsthand can fully understand how they inspired such an obsessive rapture and enchantment in Ruess.
The great tragedy of his disappearance at age twenty almost seems an appropriate end to his short saga. It enhances the allure and intensifies the romance. In a hauntingly unnerving way, it almost seems that this is how he would have envisioned his final exit: immortalized in eternal youth and perpetual mystery.
This was a very roundabout way of getting to my point - - the grim reality of what really happened to Everett Ruess. My amature armchair deductions have completely ruled out suicide. He loved life far too much. An accident would be a much more plausible assumption, despite the fact that he was extremely competent and self-reliant. I have always tended to believe that perhaps something much more sinister was involved, and the other night I stumbled upon some startlingly reasonable proof.
The theory of murder has always been a possibility, and information uncovered by novelist C. Joseph Greaves (also known as Chuck Greaves) makes the theory very probable. In 2012, Greaves published an historical novel entitled Hard Twisted.(click title for link). It is a fictionalized account of the real-life psychopathic murderer James Clinton Palmer, who happened to be living in the area of southern Utah where Everett Ruess disappeared. Author Greaves' research yields reasonable evidence that Ruess and murderer Palmer might have crossed paths.
In 1934, shortly after being released from Leavensworth Penitentiary in Kansas, James Clinton Palmer went to Oklahoma. There he befriended a man named Dillard Garrett and his thirteen-year-old daughter Lucile. Palmer killed and decapitated Garrett and kidnapped Lucile, forcing her to be his child bride. He took the girl to Utah and they settled in a very remote area called John's Canyon. Palmer found work as a sheep herder and eventually murdered (and decapitated) two more people - a retired sheriff and his grandson.
The site at John's Canyon where murderer James Clinton Palmer lived with his kidnapped child bride Lucile Lottie Garrett
Everett Ruess was last seen in Escalante, Utah, before he disappeared in November, 1934. Escalante is about 40 miles away from John's Canyon, where murderer James Clinton Palmer was. Recently discovered evidence indicates that Ruess traveled east after leaving Escalante and was in the vicinity of John's Canyon.
Everett Ruess often referred to himself as"Nemo" (Latin for "no man"). One of his trademarks during his travels was to carve the name Nemo into stone at various locations where he had been. He carved the graffito "Nemo 1934" at an Anasazi ruin near Escalante, Utah, shortly before he disappeared.
Near Escalante, Utah
In 1984, a previously unknown "Nemo 1934" etching by Reuss was discovered in Grand Gulch, north of the San Juan River - which was less than ten miles from where murderer Palmer was living with his kidnapped child bride.
Recent studies have confirmed that the "Nemo" etching at Grand Gulch is authentic, and definitely written by Everett Ruess. Due to this discovery Reuss was assumed to have been headed towards John's Canyon, where he would have almost certainly encountered the dugout homestead of Palmer.
It's only a theory that Everett Ruess was murdered, but this newly-uncovered information is strong enough evidence to be seriously considered.
by Jon V.
James Clinton Palmer was eventually apprehended and sentenced to 99 years. He died in prison in 1969. Lucile Garrett was prosecuted for "associating with a known criminal" and sent to a girl's reform school until she was 21. She died in 1991.
Excerpts from writings by Everett Ruess:
At evening I would go out into the glade and climb high above the river to the base of the cliff. I would gather scarlet flowers and come down when the stars gleamed softly. Sighing winds would eddy down the canyon, swaying the tree tops. Then the leaves would cease their trembling; only the sound of rippling water would continue, and the spirit of peace and somnolence would pervade and the red embers of my fire one by one turned black and shadows deepened into a gently surging slumber.
Always I shall be one who loves the wilderness:
Swaggers and softly creeps between the mountain peaks;
I shall listen long to the sea’s brave music;
I shall sing my song above the shriek of desert winds.
When I go I leave no trace.
The beauty of the country is becoming a part of me.
Now the aspen trunks are tall and white in the moonlight.
A wind croons in the pines, The mountain sleeps.
Alone, I shoulder the sky,
And hurl my defiance
And shout the song of
To the four winds,
Earth, sea, sun, moon, and stars.