Lady of the Dunes

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
"Lady of the Dunes"
Digital image created from CT scans of skulls to depict an estimation of the victim in life
One of the most recent reconstructions of Lady of the Dunes, created in 2010.
Born 1925 – 1954
Status Unidentified for 44 years, 2 months and 21 days
Died c. July 1974 (aged 20–49)
Cause of death Homicide by blunt force trauma
Body discovered July 26, 1974
Provincetown, Massachusetts, U.S
Resting place Saint Peters Cemetery, Provincetown, Massachusetts, U.S.[1]
Other names "Provincetown Jane Doe"
Known for Unidentified victim of homicide
Height 5 ft 6.5 in (1.69 m) - 5 ft 8 in (1.73 m)(approximate)
Weight 145 lb (66 kg) (approximate)
Website Facebook page

Lady of the Dunes (also known as Lady in the Dunes) is the nickname for an unidentified woman discovered on July 26, 1974 in the Race Point Dunes, Provincetown, Massachusetts.[2][3] Her body was exhumed in 1980, 2000, and 2013[4] in efforts to identify her and her murderer; to date, these efforts have been unsuccessful.[5][6][7] The case was featured on the television series Haunting Evidence in 2006.[8]


The body of the victim upon her discovery

A teenage girl found the woman's body July 26, 1974.[9][10][11] The remains were just yards away from a road, and had a significant amount of insect activity.[9] Two sets of footprints led to the body, and tire tracks were found 50 yards (46 m) from the scene.[11] The woman may have died two weeks before her body was found.[12]

The victim was face-down on half of a beach blanket. There was no sign of a struggle; police theorized she either knew her killer or had been asleep when she died. A blue bandanna and pair of Wrangler jeans were under her head.[13][3][14][15] She had long auburn or red hair, pulled back into a ponytail with a gold-flecked elastic band. Her toenails were painted pink.

Police determined the woman was approximately 5 feet 6 inches (168 cm) tall (initially believed to have been 5'8"[16]), weighed 145 pounds (66 kg), and had an athletic build.[17][18] She also had dental work – including crowns – worth $5,000-$10,000; dentists call it the "New York style" of dental work. Several of her teeth had been removed.[13][3][16][19] One hand and one forearm were missing. Most sources say she was between 25 and 40 years old. However, she could have been as young as 20 or as old as 49.[20][10][21]

The woman was nearly decapitated, possibly from strangulation; one side of her head had been crushed with (possibly) a military-entrenching type of tool. This skull injury was officially what killed her.[13][19][22] There were also signs of sexual assault, likely postmortem.[13][7][16]

Some investigators feel the missing teeth, hand and forearm indicate the killer wanted to hide either the victim's identity or their own.[23]

The woman was buried in October 1974 after the case went cold.[11] Currently, one of the case investigators is raising funds for a new casket because the original one has deteriorated.[9][21]


Other depictions of the victim, created between 1979 and 2006

Police pored through thousands of missing-person cases and a list of approved vehicles driven through the area; no matches were found. At the scene, the sand and beach blanket were not disturbed.[13] No other evidence was found (besides the jeans, bandanna, blanket and ponytail holder) despite extensive searches of the surrounding dunes.[11]

The first facial reconstruction of the woman was created with clay in 1979.[16] Her remains were exhumed in 1980 for examination; no new clues were uncovered (although the skull was not buried at the time).[16] The body was exhumed again in March 2000 for DNA.[23][24] In May 2010, her skull was placed through a CT scanner that generated images that were then used by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children for another reconstruction.[25]


In 1987, a Canadian woman told a friend that she saw her father strangle a woman in Massachusetts around 1972. Police attempted to locate the woman but were unsuccessful. Another woman told police the reconstruction of the victim looked like her sister, who disappeared in Boston in 1974.[16]

Investigators also followed a lead involving Rory Gene Kesinger, who would have been 25 years old at the time of the murder (she broke out of jail in 1973). Authorities saw a resemblance between Kesinger and the victim.[23] However, DNA from Kesinger's mother did not match the victim.[2][15][26]

Two other missing women, Francis Ewalt of Montana and Vicke Lamberton of Massachusetts have also been ruled out.[10]

Jaws film extra possibility[edit]

In August 2015, speculation arose that Lady of the Dunes may have been an extra in the 1975 film Jaws (filmed in Massachusetts in 1974). Joe Hill, the son of horror author Stephen King, brought this to police attention. Hill had learned of the case after reading The Skeleton Crew: How Amateur Sleuths are Solving America's Coldest Cases just weeks before. Hill told an FBI investigator that during the film's "July 4th Crowd Arrives" sequence, he saw a woman resembling reconstructions of the victim. She is wearing a blue bandana and jeans.[27]

Jaws was shot between May and October 1974. Principal photography was mainly in Menemsha on Martha's Vineyard, about 100 miles (160 km) south of Provincetown.[27]

Although a lead investigator has noted interest in this, others have described it as "far-fetched" and "wild speculation."[28][29]


Additional reconstruction, depicting the victim with and without freckles

In 1981, investigators learned a woman who resembled the victim was seen with mobster Whitey Bulger around the time the woman presumably died.[2][3][18] Bulger was known for removing his victims' teeth. A link to Bulger has not been proven.

Tony Costa, a serial killer in the area, was an initial suspect, but later eliminated.[9] Costa died on May 12, 1974.[30] The victim was found in July 1974.

Hadden Clark confession[edit]

Serial killer Hadden Clark confessed to the murder, stating "I could have told the police what her name was, but after they beat the shit out of me, I wasn't going to tell them shit. ... This murder is still unsolved and what the police are looking for is in my grandfather's garden." Authorities say Clark suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, a condition which may lead someone to confess falsely to crimes.[31][23]

In 2004, Clark sent a letter to a friend stating that he had killed a woman on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.[32] He also sent two drawings: one of a handless, naked woman sprawled on her stomach, and another of a map pointing to where the body was found.[31][33]

In April 2000, Clark led police to a spot where he claimed he had buried two victims 20 years before. He also stated that he had murdered several others in various states between the 1970s and the 1990s.[31][33]


  1. ^ Boston Globe
  2. ^ a b c ""Lady in the Dunes" may be another of Whitey Bulger's victims". Cape Cod Today. March 3, 2012. Archived from the original on March 1, 2014. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  3. ^ a b c d "Lady of the Dunes". Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  4. ^ de Sturler, Alice (April 22, 2014). "Book Alert: the Skeleton Crew". Retrieved August 26, 2014.
  5. ^ Richardson, Franci (March 24, 2000). "Police exhume 'Lady of Dunes' in hopes of DNA ID". The Boston Herald. Retrieved May 15, 2014.(subscription required)
  6. ^ Allen, Ernie (February 10, 2012). "Computerized Skull Reconstructions". Retrieved March 24, 2014.
  7. ^ a b "New clues in Provincetown's Woman in the Dunes case point to Bulger connection". March 1, 2012. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  8. ^ "Haunting Evidence: Season 1, Episode 9". Retrieved March 24, 2014.
  9. ^ a b c d Lopata, James (November 14, 2014). "Whitey Bulger, gays, and the Lady Of The Dunes murder mystery". Masslive. Retrieved February 12, 2015.
  10. ^ a b c "NamUs UP # 11840". 2014. Retrieved July 27, 2014.
  11. ^ a b c d Wood, John B. (December 22, 1974). "The Baffling Case of the Body on Cape Dunes" (PDF). The Boston Globe. Retrieved July 27, 2014.
  12. ^ Halber, Deborah. The Skeleton Crew: How Amateur Sleuths Are Solving America's Coldest Cases. Simon & Schuster. p. 235. Retrieved 14 May 2017.
  13. ^ a b c d e "Lady In The Dunes". Doe Network. Doe Network. Retrieved 14 May 2017.
  14. ^ "Who is the Lady of the Dunes?". May 6, 2010. Retrieved March 24, 2014.
  15. ^ a b Lazar, Kay (March 5, 2002). "Dune slay victim a mystery once more". The Boston Herald. Retrieved May 15, 2014.(subscription required)
  16. ^ a b c d e f Hanafin, Teresa M (September 6, 1987). "Cape murder haunts police chief". The Boston Globe. Retrieved September 19, 2014.
  17. ^ "Lady in the Dunes". Provincetown Police Department. 2010. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  18. ^ a b Line, Molly (May 7, 2010). "Lady of the Dunes: New Image, Cold Case". Archived from the original on 12 March 2014. Retrieved 12 March 2014.
  19. ^ a b Ellement, John R. (May 5, 2010). "Police launch new effort to identify 'The Lady Of The Dunes'". Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  20. ^ "The Doe Network: Case File 119UFMA". 2010. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  21. ^ a b Farragher, Thomas (July 23, 2014). "The mystery of Provincetown's Lady of the Dunes, 40 years later". The Boston Globe. Retrieved August 26, 2014.
  22. ^ "Photo released in unsolved 'Lady in the Dunes' murder case in Provincetown". 6 May 2010. Retrieved March 12, 2014.
  23. ^ a b c d Arnold, David (April 2, 2000). "Police hope second exhumation will identify 'Lady of the Dunes'". Retrieved September 19, 2014.
  24. ^ Yaremko, Peter (July 27, 2013). "The Lady of the Dunes". Paradise Diaries. Retrieved September 19, 2014.
  25. ^ Saslow, Rachel (July 11, 2011). "CT scans help reconstruct faces of unidentified victims to solve cold cases". Washington Post. Retrieved November 21, 2014.
  26. ^ "Lady of the Dunes". Fox News. May 2, 2011. Retrieved April 10, 2014.
  27. ^ a b Billock, Jennifer (2 September 2015). "Is a Jaws extra the victim in an unsolved murder case?". AV Club. Retrieved 17 October 2015.
  28. ^ Curry, Colleen (18 August 2015). "A Cold Case Murder, the Movie 'Jaws,' and the Dubious Value of Internet Sleuthing". Vice News. Retrieved 17 October 2015.
  29. ^ Matthews, David (3 September 2015). "Was this Jaws extra also the mysterious victim of an infamous unsolved murder?". Fusion. Fusion Media Network. Retrieved 17 October 2015.
  30. ^ Radford University
  31. ^ a b c Havill, Adrian. "Hadden Clark". Turner Entertainment Networks. Retrieved April 9, 2014.[dead link]
  32. ^ Schechter, Harold (30 December 2003). The Serial Killer Files: The Who, What, Where, How, and Why of the World's Most Terrifying Murderers. New York City, New York: Ballantine Books. p. 221. ISBN 0345465660.
  33. ^ a b "HADDEN CLARK - set of 2 drawings - CRIME CONTENT - ( Lady in the Dunes - COLD CASE )". Retrieved March 12, 2014.[dead link]

Cited works and further reading[edit]

  • Halber, Deborah (2015). The Skeleton Crew: How Amateur Sleuths Are Solving America's Coldest Cases. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-1-451-65758-6.

External links[edit]