Investigators have been working to solve a crime committed 47 years ago. A young woman’s body found alone in the sand. The local sheriff, Provincetown Police Chief Jimmy Meads, entertained the possibility that she and another had driven down to the dunes in a four-wheel drive sand vehicle to sunbathe. After all, the only surrounding clues were the two sets of footprints in the sand, one being size 10, and the tire tracks 50 yards away.
Half of a beach towel, blue jeans, a blue bandana, and a gold-speckled hair tie are the only clues directly from the scene, just yards from the road. This gruesome scene was discovered by a 9-year-old girl walking her dog on the Fourth of July 1974, frightened and intimidated she did not tell anyone about it. Two days later another child following her curious dog found the scene and told her parents.
Found among the sand dunes of Race Point Beach of Provincetown, Massachusetts, a woman lay face down on a beach towel with her head on a pair of folded jeans and a bandana. The location of her body is what spurred her to be call the “Lady of the Dunes.” The gruesome part of the scene was the condition of her body.
Estimated to be 5’6” tall, weigh 145 pounds, and have an athletic build, she lay with the left half of her head crushed, thought to be from the action of an entrenching tool, and almost decapitated. Both of her hands and a forearm had been severed. Small mounds of pine needles lay where her hands should have been.
During the almost half century search for the identity the young woman, her body has been exhumed four times: 1979 for a facial reconstruction with clay, 1980 for further examination with no new evidence found, 2000 for a DNA sample, and 2010 for a CT scan for an improved facial reconstruction. Police compared tire tracks from thousands of past cases with no results. Despite the lack of success, the search for her identity was not exhausted.
Irish American organized crime boss and FBI informant James “Whitey” Bulger, known for removing victim’s teeth, became a suspect when he was seen with a woman matching the description of “Lady of the Dunes.” However, investigators were not able to prove a connection between the two, and in 2018 Bulger was murdered while in prison for 32 counts of racketeering and firearms possession.
Serial killer Tony Costa also became a suspect as he was known for committing his crimes in the area. However, Costa was eliminated after investigators found he had been imprisoned since May 1970 and had killed himself in May 1974.
In August 2015 Joe Hill, son of horror story author Stephen King, uncovered what is the biggest clue to this point. Hill had just read about the ‘Lady of the Dunes’ case in Halber’s book The Skeleton Crew: How Amateur Sleuths are Solving America’s Coldest Cases. Shortly after Hill made a shocking discovery while watching the movie Jaws. About 54 minutes into the movie Hill noticed a young woman wearing blue jeans, a white t-shirt, and a blue bandana. Hill was struck by how similar this woman looked to the reconstructed images of the “Lady of the Dunes”. Considering Jaws was filmed less than 100 miles south of Provincetown, it is wholly possible that this young woman worked on the film as an extra.
Due to Hill’s discovery, the case is still being investigated by online sleuths and people using the internet to find and inspect potential clues. Nothing has yet to be been proven, but it is apparent this cold case will continue to be investigated until an answer is found. Currently the “Lady of the Dunes” lies in rest at a Provincetown cemetery. On her headstone is the phrase, “Unidentified Female Body Found Race Point Dunes, July 26, 1974.”