The Tragic Discovery Of Jessica Widner, Whose Hand Was Seen Sticking Out Of The Ground

In October 2017, a California woman discovered a grisly site near a cave in Crestline, CA: a zombie-like hand sticking out of the ground. She anonymously contacted the authorities, who eventually removed and identified the body. This story of a woman mysteriously buried alive left many unanswered questions, though. Who was she and what was she doing near an unstable cliff? 

As the story continues to unfold, authorities remain unsure about the woman's motivations. Was this tragedy preventable? The cliff is a popular attraction due to the many antique bottles buried under the soil, but it's also an unsafe area where cave-ins are likely. Hopefully, the city can prevent future tragedies with the addition of warning signs in the area.

  • An Anonymous Call Lead To A Grim Discovery
    Photo: jcookfisher / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

    An Anonymous Call Lead To A Grim Discovery

    On October 19, 2017, a woman made a gruesome discovery outside a cave in Crestline, CA, near a dumping ground for glass bottles. A single, decaying hand was sticking out of the ground, like something from a horror movie. The woman promptly reported the incident to the authorities.

  • The Police Found A Woman Beneath The Dirt

    After receiving the anonymous tip, police arrived at the scene to investigate. They discovered a small cave about 8 feet into the hillside near the cliff where the hand was reported. After examining the cave, they found a buried body, later identified as Jessica Widner from Lake Arrowhead, CA.

  • The Woman Was Likely Buried Alive

    It appears Jessica Widner was buried alive. If she dug into the side of the cave, it could have loosened the heavy soil, causing the roof to dislodge and collapse. Such a cave-in could have easily pinned down Widner, leaving her to suffocate slowly under the rubble.

  • It Took A Day To Remove The Body
    Photo: Mitch from Costa Mesa, CA, USA / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 2.0

    It Took A Day To Remove The Body

    Jessica Widner’s body was not removed from the cave until a day after its discovery. Given the unstable nature of the area, authorities had concerns about causing another collapse. A specialized team came in to remove the body, meaning the police and the public needed to wait a day for details regarding the corpse.

  • Locals Think Jessica Widner Was Living With The Woman Who Found Her Body

    A few online commenters posit theories about Jessica Widner and her relationship to the woman who discovered her body. Locals claimed Widner was homeless and living with the woman near the cave. One commenter alleged Widner’s companion likely went into town, and after returning to find her friend buried alive, contacted the police. 

  • Jessica Widner May Have Been Searching For Antique Bottles
    Photo: breton stripe / flickr / CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

    Jessica Widner May Have Been Searching For Antique Bottles

    The bottle dumping ground is a subject of local curiosity due to its contents. Certain bottles date back to the 1920s, possibly beer bottles disposed of by bootleggers during Prohibition.

    What Jessica Widner was doing near the cliff remains unclear, but many believe she was hunting for those antique bottles. Alongside her body, police found various tools which could potentially be used to excavate the area. It's possible Widner was scouring the cave in hopes of finding valuable bottles to sell for extra money. She may have also been a collector of antiques, hoping to find something unique to add to her stash.