The case of the "Lady of the Dunes," has baffled law enforcement, journalists, and the public for more than 40 years. The Lady was a name given to a young woman whose badly beaten was discovered in 1974 in a tourist town at the tip of Cape Cod. The nature of the young woman's death, as well as the many theories about her killing, have led several people - including the son of a world-renowned horror author - to ask: "Who was the Lady of the Dunes?"
Some people have theorized the unidentified woman was killed by an organized crime boss from Boston, while others say she was murdered after she successfully escaped from police custody. Another recent theory is that she might have been an extra in Jaws. Whoever she is, her true identity has eluded many people. What happened to this woman, and why?
On July 26, 1974, a teenage girl and her dog discovered the badly decomposed corpse of a young woman in the dunes of Provincetown, a coastal resort community on Cape Cod. The woman - who was eventually dubbed the "Lady of the Dunes" - was found laying facedown on a blanket, nude, with a bandana and a pair of jeans beneath her head.
After examining her lifeless body, officials determined the woman was killed by a blow to the head that crushed her skull. She was also nearly decapitated, possibly as a result of strangulation, and her hands had been cut off, making it impossible for law enforcement to get her fingerprints. The authorities also determined she was sexually assaulted with some sort of wooden object after she was murdered, and they concluded she was probably between the ages of 25 and 30 and was five-foot-eight and weighed approximately 145 pounds.
In addition to cutting of her hands, someone removed several of the woman's teeth, causing people to speculate the Lady of the Dunes may have been killed by James "Whitey" Bulger. He was a notorious mobster involved with an organized crime syndicated in nearby Boston at the time. Bulger and other members of the Winter Hill Gang reportedly removed their victims' teeth after killing them to make it more difficult for the authorities to identify them. He was also known to frequent a popular gay bar in Provincetown called The Crone & Anchor - close to where the Lady was found.
According to Sandra Lee, who wrote a novel based on the case, the Lady of the Dunes may have been a young woman who came to America from Ireland, and it's possible Bulger - an Irish American himself - was grooming her to force her into sex slavery. Lee believes Bulger or one of his cronies may have killed the young woman in Boston around the Fourth of July, and they preserved her corpse in a freezer until they dumped her body in the dunes, where it was discovered on nearly three weeks later.
While behind bars for murdering two people, Hadden Clark told a cellmate he killed the woman known as the Lady of the Dunes. The convicted murderer, a paranoid schizophrenic, told his fellow inmate that his alternate personality, a woman named Kristen, killed the Lady of the Dunes in 1974, as well as nine-year-old Sarah Pryor in 1985. Clark, who authorities believe is a serial killer, was a suspect in several other murders. He also showed investigators where he allegedly buried some of his victims.
However, officials from Massachusetts searched the places on Cape Cod where Clark indicated he hid his victims' bodies, and they didn't find any evidence to support the convicted killer's claims. While the authorities haven't ruled out Clark as the person responsible for murdering the Lady of the Dunes, the Provincetown police doubt he was involved in the unsolved killing.
Another theory is the Lady of the Dunes is Rory Gene Kesinger, a 24-year-old woman who was arrested during a drug raid in Pembroke, MA, near the beginning of 1974. A few weeks after she was apprehended, Kesinger escaped from the Plymouth County House of Correction and seemingly disappeared. Some to suspect she was murdered - possibly by one of the many criminals the young woman was known to associate with during her short life.
Kesinger ran away from home when she was just 15, and she was known to rob banks, use drugs, and went by five different aliases. So it's possible she made up a new identity to start over after she broke out of jail. Still, due to the similarities between the Lady of the Dunes and Kesinger, police compared DNA taken from the unidentified woman found in Provincetown and with a sample collected from the escaped inmate's mother. To the surprise of many officials involved in the case, experts determined Kesinger was not the Lady of the Dunes.