Lady of the Dunes

Lady of the Dunes (also known as Lady in the Dunes) is the nickname for an unidentified murder victim discovered on July 26, 1974, in the Race Point Dunes in Provincetown, Massachusetts.[2][3] Her body was exhumed in 1980, 2000, and 2013[4] in efforts to identify her and her killer; to date, these efforts have been unsuccessful.[5][6][7]

"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.
Born1925 – 1954
StatusUnidentified for 47 years, 4 months and 1 day
Diedc. July 1974 (aged 20–49)
Cause of deathHomicide by blunt force trauma
Body discoveredJuly 26, 1974
Provincetown, Massachusetts, U.S.
Resting placeSaint Peters Cemetery, Provincetown, Massachusetts, U.S.[1]
Other names"Provincetown Jane Doe"
Known forUnidentified victim of homicide
Height5 ft 6.5 in (1.69 m) - 5 ft 8 in (1.73 m)(approximate)


The body of the victim upon her discovery

On July 26, 1974, a 12-year-old girl walking with her family and dog found the decomposing body of an unidentified woman in the Race Point Dunes of Provincetown, Massachusetts.[8][9][10] The dog wandered off barking and the 12 year old girl followed, and spotted what she thought was a dead deer but soon realized it was a human body. The remains were just yards away from a road, and had a significant amount of insect activity.[8] Two sets of footprints led to the body, and tire tracks were found 50 yards (46 m) from the scene.[10] The woman may have died two weeks before her body was found.[11]

The victim was laid 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.[12][3][13][14] 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 feet 8 inches (173 cm)),[15] weighed 145 pounds (66 kg), and had an athletic build.[16][17] She also had dental work – including crowns – worth $5,000-$10,000, which dentists called the "New York style" of dental work. Several of her teeth had been removed.[12][3][15][18] Both hands 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.[19][9][20]

The woman was nearly decapitated, possibly from strangulation; one side of her head had been crushed with (possibly) a military-type entrenching tool. This head injury was what killed her.[12][18][21] There were also signs of sexual assault, likely postmortem.[12][7][15]

Some investigators feel the missing teeth, hands, and forearm indicate the killer wanted to hide either the victim's identity or their own.[22]

The woman was buried in October 1974 after the case went cold.[10] In 2014, one of the case investigators raised funds for a new casket, because the original thin metal casket was rusted and deteriorated.[8][20]


Other depictions of the victim, created between 1979 and 2006

Police poured 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, suggesting that the body was possibly moved to that specific spot where her body was found.[12] No other evidence was found (besides the jeans, bandanna, blanket and ponytail holder) despite extensive searches of the surrounding dunes.[10]

The first facial reconstruction of the woman was created with clay in 1979.[15] Her remains were exhumed in 1980 for examination; no new clues were uncovered (although the skull was not buried at the time).[15] The body was exhumed again in March 2000 for DNA.[22][23] 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.[24]


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.[15]

Investigators also followed a lead involving missing criminal 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.[22] However, DNA from Kesinger's mother did not match the victim.[2][14][25]

Two other missing women, Francis Ewalt of Montana and Vicke Lamberton of Massachusetts, have also been ruled out.[9]

Jaws film extra possibilityEdit

In August 2015, speculation arose that Lady of the Dunes may have been an extra in the 1975 film Jaws, which had been shot on Martha's Vineyard (specifically the village of Menemsha), about 100 miles (160 km) south of Provincetown, between May and October 1974.[26] Joe Hill, the son of horror author Stephen King, brought this to police attention after reading The Skeleton Crew: How Amateur Sleuths are Solving America's Coldest Cases just weeks before. While watching the film's Fourth of July beach scene, Hill spotted a woman in the crowd wearing a blue bandana and jeans, similar to those found with the body.[26] Although a lead investigator has noted interest in this lead, others have described it as "far-fetched" and "wild speculation."[27][28]


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][17] Bulger was known for removing his victims' teeth. A link to Bulger has not been proven, and he was murdered in prison in 2018.

Tony Costa, a serial killer in the area, was an initial suspect, but later eliminated.[8] Costa died on May 12, 1974.[29] The victim was found in July 1974.

Hadden Clark confessionEdit

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.[30][22]

In 2004, Clark sent a letter to a friend stating that he had killed a woman on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.[31] 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.[30][32]

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.[30][32]

See alsoEdit


  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 12 March 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. Archived from the original on June 29, 2014. 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. ^ a b c d Lopata, James (14 November 2014). "Whitey Bulger, gays, and the Lady Of The Dunes murder mystery". Masslive. Retrieved 12 February 2015.
  9. ^ a b c "NamUs UP # 11840". 2014. Retrieved 27 July 2014.
  10. ^ a b c d Wood, John B. (22 December 1974). "The Baffling Case of the Body on Cape Dunes" (PDF). The Boston Globe. Retrieved 27 July 2014.
  11. ^ Halber, Deborah (28 July 2015). The Skeleton Crew: How Amateur Sleuths Are Solving America's Coldest Cases. Simon & Schuster. p. 235. ISBN 9781451657593. Retrieved 14 May 2017.
  12. ^ a b c d e "Lady In The Dunes". Doe Network. Doe Network. Retrieved 14 May 2017.
  13. ^ "Who is the Lady of the Dunes?". 6 May 2010. Retrieved 24 March 2014.
  14. ^ a b Lazar, Kay (5 March 2002). "Dune slay victim a mystery once more". The Boston Herald. Archived from the original on 29 June 2014. Retrieved 15 May 2014.(subscription required)
  15. ^ a b c d e f Hanafin, Teresa M (September 6, 1987). "Cape murder haunts police chief". The Boston Globe. Retrieved September 19, 2014.
  16. ^ "Lady in the Dunes". Provincetown Police Department. 2010. Retrieved 12 March 2014.
  17. ^ a b Line, Molly (7 May 2010). "Lady of the Dunes: New Image, Cold Case". Archived from the original on 12 March 2014. Retrieved 12 March 2014.
  18. ^ a b Ellement, John R. (5 May 2010). "Police launch new effort to identify 'The Lady Of The Dunes'". Retrieved 12 March 2014.
  19. ^ "The Doe Network: Case File 119UFMA". 2010. Retrieved 12 March 2014.
  20. ^ a b Farragher, Thomas (23 July 2014). "The mystery of Provincetown's Lady of the Dunes, 40 years later". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 26 August 2014.
  21. ^ "Photo released in unsolved 'Lady in the Dunes' murder case in Provincetown". 6 May 2010. Retrieved 12 March 2014.
  22. ^ a b c d Arnold, David (April 2, 2000). "Police hope second exhumation will identify 'Lady of the Dunes'". Retrieved September 19, 2014.
  23. ^ Yaremko, Peter (July 27, 2013). "The Lady of the Dunes". Paradise Diaries. Retrieved September 19, 2014.
  24. ^ Saslow, Rachel (July 11, 2011). "CT scans help reconstruct faces of unidentified victims to solve cold cases". Washington Post. Retrieved November 21, 2014.
  25. ^ "Lady of the Dunes". Fox News. May 2, 2011. Retrieved April 10, 2014.
  26. ^ a b Billock, Jennifer (2 September 2015). "Is a Jaws extra the victim in an unsolved murder case?". AV Club. Retrieved 17 October 2015.
  27. ^ 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.
  28. ^ 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.
  29. ^ Radford University
  30. ^ a b c Havill, Adrian. "Hadden Clark". Turner Entertainment Networks. Archived from the original on February 2, 2003. Retrieved April 9, 2014.
  31. ^ 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.
  32. ^ a b "HADDEN CLARK - set of 2 drawings - CRIME CONTENT - ( Lady in the Dunes - COLD CASE )". Archived from the original on October 5, 2015. Retrieved March 12, 2014.

Cited works and further readingEdit

  • 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.
  • Lee, Sandra (12 December 2012). The Shanty : Provincetown's Lady in the Dunes. Frederick County, Maryland: America Star Books. ISBN 978-1630000608.

External linksEdit