It's the cold case that has haunted Provincetown for 40 years. The Lady of the Dunes' severly mutilated corpse was found at this spot on July 26, 1974. It's a secluded service road near Dunes' Edge Campground about one mile away from Race Point Beach. Buzzing insects sound like muted screams...
Her body has been exhumed twice, both in 1980 and 2001, to use modern-day forensic technology. No luck. However, new leads suggest the Lady of the Dunes was tied to notorious Winter Hill Gang leader, James "Whitey" Bulger. In fact, Bulger — who had a past as a gay-for-pay male hustler — was a regular at popular LGBT hangout The Crown & Anchor, and has been linked to a woman with a similar description to the Lady of the Dunes. There was also a size 10 shoe imprint found at the scene, the same shoe size as Bulger, and a green towel or blanket believed to be from the Crown & Anchor.
There were rumors that she was from Ireland and a friend of Whitey Bulger. Reports are that Whitey was nervous about being exposed as homosexual or bisexual. Who Knows? I'm sure Whitey won't admit to killing her.
There were also signs of sexual assault at the scene, possibly performed with a piece of wood, likely after she died.
She had extensive dental work on her teeth, worth between five and eight thousand dollars, although several teeth were removed by the killer, likely as an attempt to prevent her identification. Her hands had also been removed; one at her wrist and the other at her elbow.
Someone had paid for very expensive dental work. Several teeth were removed as were her hands. This is a procedure done by the mob for years. It prevents identification of the victim.
'Jaws' mystery: Did long unknown 'Lady of the Dunes' Cape Cod murder victim appear in movie scene?
Maria Puente, USA TODAY Published 5:51 p.m. ET Aug. 7, 2018 |
The mangled bodies left behind by the monster white shark in "Jaws" are famous even four decades after the monster-smash movie landed in 1975. But maybe you haven't heard about the real woman's body left behind on the dunes of Cape Cod.
She was murdered by a human, not chomped by a shark. In fact, she's one of New England's oldest, most famous and saddest unsolved murder mysteries: She's "The Lady of the Dunes."
Nowher frozen cold case is getting new attention because, strangely enough, this unknown woman might have appeared briefly, a face in the crowd, in "Jaws" when it was filmed on Martha's Vineyard off Cape Cod in the summer of 1974, the same summer she was killed.
That is the theory that ghost-story writer Joe Hill — the son of horror novelist Stephen King, whose pen name is a contraction of his middle name, Hillstrom — has been exploring since 2015. He thinks he's spotted the Lady of the Dunes in a split-second crowd scene about 54 minutes into the film.
"She swims at you out of the crowd, you'd hardly notice her if you watched it on a TV but it's different if all the actors are 10 feet high," Hill says in a phone interview with USA TODAY.
His theory has gone viral in recent weeks due in part to a podcast series, just ended, about the making of "Jaws" and director Steven Spielberg, “Wondery’s Inside 'Jaws,'” created and hosted by film buff Mark Ramsey.
"The idea that this cold-case murder could somehow be solved right (from) the big screen...well it's an intriguing and enticing possibility," Ramsey says in a phone interview with USA TODAY.
"How cool would that be if a movie and a podcast about the movie could lead to the reopening of a cold case and a possibility to solve that ancient case?"
This new interest could be important because the Lady of the Dunes, who was maybe in her 30s, was never identified after her body was found by a teen walking her dog in the dunes near Provincetown, Mass., in July 1974, shortly before the shooting of "Jaws" wound down.
Her death was gruesome: Her head was partly decapitated with a shovel, her hands were missing, and some of her teeth were missing. The killer's effort to disguise her identity suggests he knew her and that her identity could lead to him. It worked: No one has been identified as her killer or even as a person of interest.
Is this woman in scene from "Jaws" the Lady of the Dunes, murdered on Cape Cod the same summer the movie was filmed?(Photo: Joe Hill)
Sadly, no one has ever claimed her. How could a woman be murdered in such a way in such a close-knit community and no one know her name? Even if she was just a tourist on Cape Cod that summer, surely her family somewhere would have looked for her?
Hill would like to see her DNA submitted to a genealogical database to possibly track down her relatives who could identify her.
"That would be the most wonderful thing," Hill says. "She’s someone’s daughter. And it would matter to the people in law enforcement who have committed years to finding closure in the case."
Provincetown detectives and the local district attorney's office did not return messages seeking comment on the case, but they are still plodding away at it 44 years later. The most recent facial reconstruction was in 2010 when a new composite was created using state-of-the-art technology and computer analyses; it's been widely distributed in the region.
Hill, 47, (his latest, "Strange Weather," is a book of four short thriller novels), is a New Englander who grew up in Maine and lives in New Hampshire. He fervently loves "Jaws" and has watched it every summer since he was 9. "Especially in New England, it's to cinema what "Moby Dick" is to American literature," he says.
He also knew the reconstructed face of the murdered Lady. "It's the Holy Grail of unsolved American crimes," he says.
So, in the summer of 2015 when "Jaws" was re-released to celebrate its 40th anniversary, he went to see it with his three teen sons, for the first time in a big-screen theater. That's when he saw the woman in the scene at the Vineyard ferry dock. She's wearing a blue bandana, similar to one found with the body of the Lady.
"You see her on that big screen and she leaps out at you in that one moment," he says. Later, when he told the story, "It was almost like telling a ghost story, and I was seeing the ghost of this murder victim superimposed on this movie."
If she is the Lady, could the movie really help identify her? Strictly speaking, the woman in the movie wasn't really an extra in "Jaws" — she was captured in a crowd scene and probably didn't even know it at the time. Besides, back then records on extras for films were sketchy at best.
Still, "everybody who was an extra (or appeared) in "Jaws" will tell you about it, it's an experience one does not forget," Ramsey says. "One easy way to identify (the woman in the movie scene) if she's alive is for her to (come forward) to say, 'that was me, I’m not dead, hello!' "
But in that case, the Lady of the Dunes would remain unidentified. Hill once told an FBI agent friend about his theory, expecting to be teased. Instead, he was told there might be something to it.
In the summer of 1974, the vibrant Cape Cod community of Provincetown, MA, was shocked by the discovery of a woman's body near one of its famous beaches. Since her remains had lain undiscovered for more than a week at the time of her discovery, and the culprit purposefully obscured her identity,...
Disturbing And Fascinating Facts About The Lady Of The Dunes
The case of the "Lady of the Dunes," has baffled law enforcement, journalists, and the public for more than 40 years. The Lady was a name given to a young woman whose badly beaten was discovered in 1974 in a tourist town at the tip of Cape Cod. The nature of the young woman's death, as well as the many theories about her killing, have led several people - including the son of a world-renowned horror author - to ask: "Who was the Lady of the Dunes?"
Some people have theorized the unidentified woman was killed by an organized crime boss from Boston, while others say she was murdered after she successfully escaped from police custody. Another recent theory is that she might have been an extra in Jaws. Whoever she is, her true identity has eluded many people. What happened to this woman, and why?
She Was Brutally Murdered And Mutilated
Photo: National Center for Missing and Exploited Children/Wikimedia Commons
On July 26, 1974, a teenage girl and her dog discovered the badly decomposed corpse of a young woman in the dunes of Provincetown, a coastal resort community on Cape Cod. The woman - who was eventually dubbed the "Lady of the Dunes" - was found laying facedown on a blanket, nude, with a bandana and a pair of jeans beneath her head.
After examining her lifeless body, officials determined the woman was killed by a blow to the head that crushed her skull. She was also nearly decapitated, possibly as a result of strangulation, and her hands had been cut off, making it impossible for law enforcement to get her fingerprints. The authorities also determined she was sexually assaulted with some sort of wooden object after she was murdered, and they concluded she was probably between the ages of 25 and 30 and was five-foot-eight and weighed approximately 145 pounds.
She May Have Been Killed By A Famous Mobster
Photo: United States Marshals Service/Wikipedia
In addition to cutting of her hands, someone removed several of the woman's teeth, causing people to speculate the Lady of the Dunes may have been killed by James "Whitey" Bulger. He was a notorious mobster involved with an organized crime syndicated in nearby Boston at the time. Bulger and other members of the Winter Hill Gang reportedly removed their victims' teeth after killing them to make it more difficult for the authorities to identify them. He was also known to frequent a popular gay bar in Provincetown called The Crone & Anchor - close to where the Lady was found.
According to Sandra Lee, who wrote a novel based on the case, the Lady of the Dunes may have been a young woman who came to America from Ireland, and it's possible Bulger - an Irish American himself - was grooming her to force her into sex slavery. Lee believes Bulger or one of his cronies may have killed the young woman in Boston around the Fourth of July, and they preserved her corpse in a freezer until they dumped her body in the dunes, where it was discovered on nearly three weeks later.
A Suspected Serial Killer Confessed To Murdering Her
While behind bars for murdering two people, Hadden Clark told a cellmate he killed the woman known as the Lady of the Dunes. The convicted murderer, a paranoid schizophrenic, told his fellow inmate that his alternate personality, a woman named Kristen, killed the Lady of the Dunes in 1974, as well as nine-year-old Sarah Pryor in 1985. Clark, who authorities believe is a serial killer, was a suspect in several other murders. He also showed investigators where he allegedly buried some of his victims.
However, officials from Massachusetts searched the places on Cape Cod where Clark indicated he hid his victims' bodies, and they didn't find any evidence to support the convicted killer's claims. While the authorities haven't ruled out Clark as the person responsible for murdering the Lady of the Dunes, the Provincetown police doubt he was involved in the unsolved killing.
Police Thought She Might Have Been An Escaped Inmate
Another theory is the Lady of the Dunes is Rory Gene Kesinger, a 24-year-old woman who was arrested during a drug raid in Pembroke, MA, near the beginning of 1974. A few weeks after she was apprehended, Kesinger escaped from the Plymouth County House of Correction and seemingly disappeared. Some to suspect she was murdered - possibly by one of the many criminals the young woman was known to associate with during her short life.
Kesinger ran away from home when she was just 15, and she was known to rob banks, use drugs, and went by five different aliases. So it's possible she made up a new identity to start over after she broke out of jail. Still, due to the similarities between the Lady of the Dunes and Kesinger, police compared DNA taken from the unidentified woman found in Provincetown and with a sample collected from the escaped inmate's mother. To the surprise of many officials involved in the case, experts determined Kesinger was not the Lady of the Dunes.
She May Have Been In A Blockbuster Film
In 2015, author Joe Hill, son of writer Stephen King, proposed another theory about the Lady of the Dunes after watching Steven Spielberg's classic film Jaws. In the movie's Fourth of July scene, a woman - who is similar in appearance to the Lady of the Dunes - is clearly visible for a few seconds of the film, wearing jeans and a blue bandana like the ones discovered under the murder victim's head.
Much of Jaws was filmed in the summer of 1974 in Martha's Vineyard, which is approximately 100 miles from where the Lady of the Dunes was discovered. Hill theorized the two women might be one and the same, which the writer himself admits is "a pretty wild bit of speculation." While some people - including Hill - find it highly unlikely the Lady of the Dunes was an extra in a summer blockbuster, the information collected by the writer was passed on to law enforcement officials.
A Woman Said She Might Have Witnessed Her Murder
In 1987, more than a decade after the Lady of the Dunes was murdered, a young woman in her early 20s claimed that while she was visiting Provincetown, MA, approximately 15 years earlier, she saw her father strangle a woman. Because the young woman lived in Canada at the time, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police passed the information on to the Provincetown police chief and the Massachusetts State Police.
However, by the time authorities in the United States learned about the woman's disturbing allegations, she had moved to Montreal. In 1987, the investigators made efforts to locate this woman, but were never able to find her. They also couldn't corroborate the information she provided.
Another Woman Thought She Might Have Been Her Missing Sister
In 1987, law enforcement received a call from a Maryland woman who thought the Lady in the Dunes might be her sister who went missing in 1974. According to the woman, she lost touch with her sister after she relocated to Boston the same year the Lady of the Dunes was discovered in Provincetown.
The woman said she hadn't spoken to her sister since 1974, and her missing sibling - like the Lady of the Dunes - had auburn hair. According to the Provincetown police chief who received the tip, he told the woman to send him her sister's dental records for comparison, although it's unclear if she complied with his request.
They Are Still Trying To Recreate Her Face To See If Anyone Knows Her
Using her skull, experts have produced images of what the Lady of the Dunes may have looked like before her death. In 1979 - five years after the authorities think she was murdered - the first facial reconstruction of the Lady of the Dunes was created using clay. Over the next few decades, other people offered their depictions of the unidentified woman, with most of them bearing little resemblance to one another.
In May 2010, officials used a CT scanner to produce an image of her skull, which was in turn used to create yet another reconstruction of the Lady of the Dunes. Sadly, this latest image has failed to reveal the woman's identity.
Police Have Contacted Thousands Of Dentists In An Effort To Identify Her
Because someone cut of the young woman's hands, law enforcement were unable to get fingerprints from the Lady of the Dunes. As a result, the police relied heavily on dental records to help them eliminate possible matches. While someone removed many of the young woman's teeth, they left evidence of the expensive dental work the Lady of the Dunes had before she was murdered.
Experts found several gold crowns in the woman's mouth, which were worth at least $5,000 in the 1970s - a rare luxury for most people at the time. Seizing upon this unique clue to the murder victim's identity, the Provincetown police chief got the case of the Lady of the Dunes featured in dental journals. Law enforcement officials contacted thousands of dentists in an effort to learn the identity of the young woman with multiple gold crowns, and they've ruled out at least 50 possible matches.
She Was Buried In An Unmarked Grave
On October 19, 1974 - three months after the young woman's body was discovered - the Lady of the Dunes was buried in an unmarked grave in St. Peter's Cemetery in Provincetown, MA. She was laid to rest with a simple headstone which reads:
Unidentified Female Body
Found Race Point Dunes
July 26, 1974.
According to law enforcement officials, for several years after the Lady of the Dunes was buried in the Provincetown cemetery, someone - who was never identified - commemorated the day the young woman's body was found by placing flowers on her grave. In 2014, Detective Meredith K. Lobur of the Provincetown Police Department told the press she was raising money to buy a new casket for the Lady of the Dunes, as the unidentified woman's existing metal coffin was disintegrating due to rust.
Stephen King's Son Thinks 'Jaws' Could Crack an Unsolved 1974 Murder
The theory connects one of Cape Cod's oldest cold cases to one key moment of the film.
By Lauren Messman
Aug 7 2018, 7:20pm
In the summer of 1974, a young girl stumbled upon the body of a woman in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, whose identity has continued to stump authorities more than 40 years later. Still known only as "the Lady of the Dunes," the woman had been left naked, head nearly severed, with her hands and several teeth removed, all in an attempt, police believe, to keep her identity a mystery.
But for horror writer Joe Hill—the son of author Stephen King—the victim's identity may be wrapped up in his favorite film, which also happened to be filming on Cape Cod that same summer—Steven Spielberg's Jaws.
According to the Washington Post, Hill, like many armchair detectives, became fascinated with the story of the Lady after reading about her in The Skeleton Crew: How Amateur Sleuths Are Solving America’s Coldest Cases. After studying a reconstructed image of her face—one local authorities made after exhuming her body in 2010—Hill thought he spotted a similar-looking woman while he was watching Jaws, an extra among the rest of the beachgoers terrorized by the film's bloodthirsty shark. The quick shot of a woman, clad in a blue bandana similar to the one that was reportedly found with the Lady's body, got Hill asking himself: "Is the Lady of the Dunes in Jaws?"
The Lady of the Dunes composite sketch via the Town of Provincetown, and screenshot from Jaws via Joe Hill's Tumblr
Hill wrote about his theory, which he openly admits is "out there," on his blog in 2015, and it recently wound up on Wondery's Inside 'Jaws,' a podcast about the making of the film. And sure, the super blown-up images of the extra don't really solidify the theory, but there are some key details that match up between Jaws's production schedule and the few facts we do know about the Lady of the Dunes. Along with the resemblance, Hill points out that the Lady was alive in June during the filming, and her body was found in Provincetown, not too far from the film's Martha Vineyard set.
“I’ve heard it said that everyone who was out on Cape Cod in the summer of 1974 appears in the movie Jaws,” Hill told the Post. "The possibility that a person would make a stop on the island and appear in the movie is not unreasonable," he added.
Hill even said that he approached an FBI friend about his theory, who told him, "There might be something in it. Odder ideas have cracked colder cases."
Without records of the extras who appeared in the film, Hill has encouraged people who may have starred alongside the bandana-ed woman in Jaws to shed some light on who she could be. But until that happens, or the local authorities make a break in the case, it's nothing more than a wild theory.
"It IS a helluva what-if, isn't it?" Hill wrote. "What if the young murder victim no one has ever been able to identify has been seen by hundreds of millions of people in a beloved summer classic and they didn’t even know they were looking at her?"
Brenda Sue Lefler NamUs #MP22798 The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs) Age last seen: 31 Age now: 74 Race: White female Hair color: Red/Auburn Eyes Color: Hazel Height: 67.0 Weight: 130.0 Scars and Marks: Arthritis caused right index finer to be curved Clothes: Last...