Who is the Lady of the Dunes

Updated: Aug 28, 2021





And what happened to her? This is a question that the Provincetown Police Department has been asking since July of 1974. This week’s episode is a Kelsie Unsolved, and we’re keeping it local by sticking around Massachusetts.


Twelve year-old Leslie Metcalf was staying in a Dune shack with her family and friends in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Leslie and her family had gone out for the day to explore the town, neighboring beaches and do some hiking. They were walking through the dunes back to their shack, when one their dogs, a beagle, headed towards the entrance of the woods and became agitated, excited and began aggressively barking at something. Leslie followed the dog and what she thought was a deer lying in the woods, was actually a naked women lying face down with her skull completely crushed in. Her hands had been sawed off, one at the wrist and one at the end of her forearm. They lay down by her side, making her look like she was doing push-ups, as they were covered in brush and pine needles. The unidentified woman lay on a green beach towel and head resting on a folded pair of wrangler jeans and a blue bandana. Almost all of her teeth had been ripped out, leaving only those that had been worked on by a dentist. Her skull, so severely crushed in, and her throat so severely severed that she was almost

decapitated, which police believe is due to multiple attempts of strangulation.


It became clear that whoever had done this did not want her to be identified. No fingerprints, no teeth for dental records, and it is believed that she had a tattoo on her forearm, which is the reasoning for removing that arm. Police were quickly called to the scene, but Park Ranger James Hankins was the first responder to the crime scene. Once police arrived, they immediately knew and determined that this woman had been gruesomely murdered. There were no signs of struggle, no disturbance of her

blanket, no blood splatter and it almost seemed as if whoever attacked her, did it unexpectedly while she was sunbathing. It is assumed that the attacker snuck up on her and struck her over the head with a blunt force object. What police also found strange was that this woman was more on one side of the towel, leaving enough room for someone else to lay on the right side of her. Police did not find a murder

weapon at the scene, but what they believe is that the killer used an entrenching tool. This is carried by people in the military as well as anyone who drives a Dune Buggy on the beach to patrol.


The woman had an elastic in her reddish-auburn hair, and her toenails were painted sparkly pink. There were no drugs or alcohol found in her system and police believed that the woman’s body had been there for between ten days and three weeks. Investigators and police on the Province Police Force said that this had been the most disturbing crime scene that they’d ever seen. There were also signs that this woman had been sexually assaulted postmortem with a wooden object.


In the weeks and months following the discovery of this woman, there were over thirty police detectives who were searching through the murder scene trying to find anything to identify who this person was, or what really happened. However, they couldn’t find a single clue. As it came time to share with the world who this person was in the hopes of identifying her, police really didn’t have much to go

off of.


The description they gave of this woman was described as: between the ages of 20 and 40 years old, roughly 5’6” and weighing 145 pounds. She had long auburn or reddish blonde hair and had an athletic build. Her waist was 34” and aside from these physical features, police had nothing else to go off of. They did run her description against thousands of nationwide missing person reports, but there were and still aren’t any matches. Police also took a look at every abandoned vehicle and bicycle in the area to see if any of them belonged to her, but they were able to identify each owner. They had also contacted each driver of every known vehicle that had driven out onto the dunes in the few weeks prior to the body being found, but they found nothing.


On October 19, 1974, the unidentified woman was buried at St. Peter’s Cemetery in

Provincetown, MA with a marker that read: “Unidentified Woman Female Body Round Race Point

Dunes: July 19, 1974”.


James Mead, the Police Chief, was assigned to the case and he was so intended on solving this case that he kept a model of the skull of this woman on his deck at all times as a reminder that this girl basically had no one looking for her. Since then, every police chief of Province has pledged to work to solve this case, so there has never been a Province Police Force that has not worked on this case since

the day that this body was found. They are continuously working to determine who she is and what happened to her.


Over the next few months and years, police came up with quite a few suspects that they felt could be capable of committing this murder, but each lead came up cold and one ever came forward with any additional information. There were no friends and no family who came forward identifying and claiming the corpse. The first facial reconstruction of the woman’s face was made out of clay in 1979

and in 1980 her body was exhumed (dug up to re-examine) to see if there was any evidence that was missed. However, nothing new was found and she was reburied. In 2000, she was exhumed again, but again, there was no new evidence that was discovered and this is when it truly became a cold case.


There are many people who have tried to prove the theory that it is truly believed that this woman was murdered elsewhere, frozen and then moved to this location where she was found. Basically saying that the crime scene was staged and positioned. This is widely believed because there was absolutely no blood splatter found at the scene, and again, it was a very messy crime scene where her head was bashed in. The ground and towel that she laid on were also completely undisturbed. There

was no rustling or movement, which is strange because your body’s natural reaction is to jerk or move when hit with something, but there was no sign of that here.


Let’s take it back to her teeth for a hot minute. Majority of her teeth were removed, but only her virgin teeth. Any and all teeth with dental work done, cavities, crowns, were all intact. It was also estimated that this woman had between $5,000 - $10,000 worth of dental work done, which for 1974 is an absurd amount of money to have work done in your mouth. This was known as a New York Style Dental Procedure. This obviously meant that this woman had money and was taken care of. Police did attempt to track down the dentist who had performed this work, but could never find any Dentist to

admit to it.


Lastly, it is believed that she was in town earlier the day she died as her stomach had contents

of a burger and fries. Her eye color could also not be determined due to decomposition.


So, let’s jump into the theories. These are not my theories, but theories of those in the surrounding areas and our true crime junkies on the internet.


Hadden Irving Clark is an American murder and suspected serial killer who is currently serving two 30-year sentences in Eastern Correctional Institute in Westover, Maryland. He is also schizophrenic and he admitted to the murder of the unidentified woman on the Cape, but police could not find any ties between him and Provincetown.

Police believe that this confession was strongly due to mental illness and the popularity that this case was getting on the media. He was ultimately ruled out as a

suspect.

Police had their own theory, believing that this woman could be a possible escapee. Rory Kessinger, who was a woman who’d escaped from Plymouth County Correctional Facility in 1973 and was thought to had fled to the Cape. However, DNA later proved that this woman was not in fact Rory and police to this day still have no idea what happened to Rory and it is believed that she vanished after escaping from jail.


In 1987, Province Police received a phone call from Canada that a woman had told Canadian authorities that she had witnessed her father strangle a woman when vacationing in Provincetown. However, by the time Canadian authorities were able to contact the Provincetown PD, the woman had moved and left no trace or no forwarding address. To this day, she has no been found nor identified. This is also concerning because who is the woman that your dad strangled and has anyone addressed

that situation?


Shortly after the first phone call, police received another phone call where a woman from Maryland claimed that the composite sketch resembled her sister who had recently located to Boston. However, attempts to get in contact with this caller were extremely difficult, and it was not in fact her sister as DNA later proved this.


One of the most believed theories is that this is a product of Boston’s own Whitey Bulger. One of Whitey’s biggest trademarks was masking the identity of his victim’s after murdering them. He has also murdered an enormous amount of people, some even that we still do not know about. It was also noted that in the early 70’s, Whitey was known to frequently visit the Crown and Anchor Bar which was a popular bar in Provincetown and it was later discovered that Whitey was in Provincetown during the

time that the body was found and believed to be murdered. In my own thoughts, Whitey isn’t someone who would be around while the murder was happening, and he was known to not get his own hands dirty.


However, there is a witness that came forward shortly after Whitey was arrested in California, who states that they saw Whitey with a woman who resembles the composite sketch of the woman but does not know her name. Police have still been unable to confirm this.


Whitey Bulger has since passed so we will never know for certain if this is fact or a theory in itself. Which also, let’s not ignore the fact that Whitey’s death is a conspiracy theory in itself.


There is also a newer theory that’s come into light. In 2015, the son of Stephen King (the most spooky man in probably the entire world) was watching Jaws when he noticed a young woman. She was standing in a crowd wearing a pair of wrangler jeans, a blue bandana and had long auburn hair. When compared to the composite sketch, it’s almost identical. This is at the 54 minute mark, so if you’re interested check it out!


Jaws, a local Massachusetts movie itself, was filmed in Martha’s Vineyard, Provincetown and Chatham throughout 1974, so this could very well be a possibility. When contacted, the producers stated that they do not keep the names of the extras in the films, so again she could not be identified.


So here we are, forty-three and a half years later and this woman has still not been claimed or identified. The Provincetown Police Department is still investigating this case and welcome any and all information that anyone could have.


You can contact them at:

508-487-1212

Mlobur@provincetown-ma.gov


Lastly, we’ll try to end off this case with a lighter note. American horror story releases this week (Wednesday!!) and it is believed that this season is based off of this case. The teasers for the show have been photos of: teeth on a beach with dental instruments lying around them, and severed hands on a beach covered in pine needles. This season was also filmed in….take a guess… Provincetown, Cape Cod! I will definitely be watching and I’ll hop on to write a follow up of the season and share any and all

comparison’s of this case to the show.


Thank you guys for listening and as always, see you next Monday!


Kelsie



Sources:


https://www.capecod.com/lifestyle/10-movies-filmed-on-cape-cod/ 


https://www.capecod.com/lifestyle/a-shocking-crime-on-cape-cod-is-this-the-lady-of-the-

dunes/


https://allthatsinteresting.com/lady-of-the-dunes


https://www.provincetown-ma.gov/618/Lady-in-the-Dunes


https://medium.com/the-writers-bookcase/true-crime-the-lady-of-the-dunes-65e3b2a1a0f8


https://murderpedia.org/male.C/c/clark-hadden.htm

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