email a friend iconprinter friendly iconThe Mystery of Everett Ruess
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Van Gerven paused. “I’d take it to court. This is Everett Ruess.”

As this issue went to press, a second DNA test, comparing yet another molar from the grave with saliva samples from Ruess’s two nieces and two nephews, was under way. If there is even a 25 percent overlap in the genetic makeup of the tooth and the saliva, Van Gerven explained, that would absolutely clinch the case.

Meanwhile, thanks to the brilliant sleuthing of Denny Bellson, a 75-year-old mystery, which hundreds of investigators have set out to untangle, seems at last to have been solved. Only a handful of lost American adventurers in the 20th century—Amelia Earhart among them—have stirred so much passion and speculation. And from beyond the grave, Aneth Nez’s haunting story, which he kept secret most of his life, stunningly confirms the veracity of Navajo oral tradition.

Yet even now, Ruess’s final days pose further mysteries. What happened after Davis Gulch? How did the vagabond, exploring through the winter, make his way to Chinle Wash? What went wrong that day, when the Utes hunted him down and took away his dream?

What was Ruess looking for? And what did he find before he died?

In the last letter he ever sent, from Escalante on November 11, 1934, Everett wrote Waldo, “As to when I shall visit civilization, it will not be soon, I think. I have not tired of the wilderness. . . .”

Pending DNA confirmation, Brian, Michele, and their two siblings have planned the final disposition of their lost uncle’s bones. They will not be returned to the crevice on Comb Ridge, for if they were, the site would inevitably become a pilgrimage shrine—like the bus rusting away in the Alaska tundra in which Chris McCandless died.

Instead, Ruess will be cremated, his ashes strewn across the waters of the Pacific Ocean near the Ruess home, just as Waldo’s were in 2007, and just as his parents’ were after their earlier deaths. In the end, Daisy Johnson’s plaintive wish for the young wanderer may come to pass. Ruess could be going back to where he came from. He’s got family there.

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  • It sure is taking National Geographic Adventure a long time to follow up on this story since the con…
  • I've read this several times. Kudos to the author who condensed a long and convoluted experience in…
  • I do not understand why dental records were not compared!?
  • Oops...looks like the horse left the barn a little early...remains were not Ruess after all. After …
  • Oops...looks like the horse left the barn a little early...remains were not Ruess after all. After …
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