The Unexplained: Who is the Lady of the Dunes?

Is this the lady of the dunes? It is the freeze-frame image from a crowd scene in the movie Jaws where the lady could have served as an extra. Photo: Jaws / Universal Pictures

Her body was discovered lying face down on a beach towel.  Some of her body parts were missing. She had been murdered.

Most of us have seen the movie, Jaws, at least once.  In June of 1974, filming for parts of the thriller was going on near Martha’s Vineyard.  It was not far from Provincetown, Massachusetts.  The filming was causing a lot of excitement and people flooded the area.  Some were fascinated by the process.  Some hoped to be pulled in as movie extras.

There are several crowd scenes in the movie that required a lot of extras and young people were anxious to get a shot at appearing on the big screen in a movie with a big-name director.  They were perhaps not interested in even getting paid.  Moreover, many probably did not fill out any studio paperwork.

In recent years, a young man has been going over these crowd scenes with interest.  In my imagination, he is freezing frames in the film and examining them with a magnifying glass, trying to gather clues, probably straining his eyes while doing it.  He is trying to solve an unexplained mystery that has gone on for decades, and he is Joe Hill, a mystery writer.

He is also the son of Stephen King.

He has made a serious pastime of The Lady of the Dunes.

Sara Marie Hogg

The Lady of the Dunes is a real person, but no one knows her true identity.  Her body was discovered on July 26, 1974, in the sand dunes near Provincetown.  She was lying face down on a beach towel.  Some of her body parts were missing—the parts that have fingerprints and maybe a smaller part that had a tattoo.  Some of her New York-style dental work had been removed.  Some remained.

Her head was partially crushed—a theory is that the damage was done by a military trenching tool.  Over the years, at least six facial reconstructions have been made.  One set required an exhumation so that a CT scan could be made of the skull.  Some other reconstructions were made before burial.  The body was not in very good shape.

When Joe Hill ran across this awful case, it drew him in.  When he saw some of the reconstructions and looked at the approximate death date, it was a quick mental trip to see if he could spot the woman in the crowd scenes from the movie, Jaws.  Many of the extras were just island tourists for a day.  Some had taken the ferry.

He found the image of one woman who seemed to match, but no one has any idea who she is—maybe just some woman who came to town to hobnob with movie extras and possibly be one herself.

Who was she?

Where did she come from?

Why hasn’t anyone recognized her in all this time?

Who killed her, and why were they so worried about someone learning her true identity?  It seems to me it would be someone that police would put high on a person-of-interest list because of some type of association or relationship with the deceased.

In 2000, they did another exhumation to get some DNA.  There are no DNA hits.  No dentists are acknowledging doing the restorations in her mouth.

Until she is identified, she will be known by many as The Lady of the Dunes., age 20-49 at the time of death.  The best candidate for the woman may appear in scene 130 of Jaws.  She looks very much like the reconstructions.  There is no way, presently, to track her as a film extra in the crowd scene.  There are no documents relating to the extras and key people on the set have since died.


Sara Marie Hogg is the author of It Rises From The Pee Dee. Please click HERE to find the book on Amazon.

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