The Lady of the Dunes

Despite being the ‘holy grail’ of cold cases, she’s still not been identified after nearly 50 years.

Josie Klakström


Facial reconstruction of the Lady of the Dunes via Wikimedia Commons

The Lady of the Dunes case has puzzled local law enforcement and web sleuths across the globe for the past four decades. However, in 2015, the case was brought to the forefront of popular culture when author Joe Hill believed he saw the woman on screen.

The woman was found beneath long grass by a young girl walking her dog on the 26th of July 1974 in the Race Point Dunes of Provincetown, Massachusetts. She was nude and looked to have been sunbathing when she was killed, police would later find out, between one to three weeks earlier.

Laid face down on a green blanket, the woman could only be described as aged between twenty-five and 35 years old and had long red hair pulled back in a ponytail. Her minimal clothing — Wrangler jeans and a blue bandana — was propped under her head, being used as a pillow.

The body via Provincetown Police Department

Though there were no signs of a struggle, her hands had been cut off, and her head had almost been removed from her body. During her autopsy, it was revealed that much of her expensive ‘New York style’ dental work had been eradicated, leaving shards of teeth behind, and her head had been crushed on one side. She also had a burger and fries in her stomach, alluding to a visit into the nearby town.

However, the most disturbing realisation was that the woman had been attacked by someone lying next to her due to the angle of the blow to her head, and she had likely been raped after her murder.

An extensive search began, and police poured over the area alongside volunteers. Two sets of footprints had been found at the scene, alongside a set of tyre tracks around 50 yards from the woman’s body. The area was a park, so the licence plates of everyone who’d visited at the time were recorded. However, there was no sign of the woman arriving at the park, nor could they work out how she got to such a remote site.

Investigators looked through hundreds of books containing missing women and questioned the vehicle owners…



Josie Klakström

Josie is a freelance journo who writes about writing, true crime, culture and marketing.