Joe Hill and the Lady of the Dunes

On July 26, 1974, the remains of a woman were found in the Race Point Dunes in Provincetown, Massachusetts.  Her name is still unknown today, despite many efforts to identify her, efforts that included multiple exhumations of her remains.  She was found with her jeans and a green towel folded under her head.  Her hands had been removed, as well as some of her teeth, and she was nearly decapitated.  She had long auburn or red hair, and was probably between 25-40 years of age.  For true crime hounds, hers is a story we’ve all heard but for me her case gets lost among all the missing women found throughout the United States, all the more recent Does and unknown victims clamoring for attention, but for many online sleuths, the case of the Lady of the Dunes is still very compelling.

Though cases colder than the Lady of the Dunes murder have been solved, as time passed it seemed more and more unlikely the Lady of the Dunes would ever be identified and her killed brought to justice.  Serial killer Hadden Clark confessed to her murder but that confession didn’t hold water (and Hadden is a paranoid schizophrenic who has a history of pathological lying).  There has also been speculation that Whitey Bulger  may have been responsible for her murder – details of the damage done to her body corresponds to some of Bulger’s methods of rendering bodies unidentifiable – but it seems very difficult for me to see how it is anyone would ever be able to prove that theory now short of Bulger confessing.

Horror writer Joe Hill (I adored his short story collection 20th Century Ghosts) recently finished reading The Skeleton Crew, a book discussing cold cases, and the Lady of the Dunes is the centerpiece of that book.  Hill also was able to see his favorite film of all time, Jaws, on the big screen when it was re-released into theaters to celebrate the film’s 40th anniversary, and the wheels began turning in his head.  He wondered if the film could in any way help him identify the Lady of the Dunes, and he wrote a fascinating blog entry about his efforts. Have a look – it’s a quick read.

As unlikely as it seems that this could be the first steps to identifying the Lady of the Dunes, there have been recent cases wherein amateur sleuths have solved decades-long missing persons/murder cases by seeing clues that were in front of everyone but were overlooked, the most notable being the possible identification of the young man known as “Grateful Doe.”  Life is sometimes stranger than fiction, no?