Thriller and comic-book writer Joe Hill says he has an idea about the identity of the Lady of the Dunes, the unidentified murder victim whose body was found about a mile east of Provincetown’s Race Point Beach in 1974.
Hill, son of Maine mystery writer Stephen King, thinks it could be an extra from the film “Jaws,’’ which was being filmed in the area that same year.
“My subconscious kind of spun up this possibility,” Hill said in an interview last week with Esquire. “If nothing else, it’s a pretty good little ghost story.”
Hill, who lives in New Hampshire, first unveiled his theory in a post on Tumblr about three years ago, but interest has heated up this summer after it was discussed on the podcast network Wondery’s “Inside Jaws” series.
Hill developed a fascination with the famous cold case after reading Massachusetts writer Deborah Halber’s “The Skeleton Crew: How Amateur Sleuths Are Solving America’s Coldest Cases.”
Halber’s book looks at how online communities have formed to share information and solve crimes. It features the Lady of the Dunes case, since the killing has cultivated such a large following over time, owing to the shocking details.
In July 1974 a teenager walking her dog came upon the nude body of a young woman. The victim’s skull had been bashed and her hands cut off, presumably to “thwart identification,” according to a Globe article from 2014. Wrangler jeans and a blue bandana had been folded into a pillow beneath her head. She was tall and had reddish-brown hair.
Hill researched a composite sketch of the woman’s face after reading the book, but it wasn’t until a few weeks later, while at a special 40-year-anniversary showing of “Jaws,” that everything came together.
“I was watching in my usual tranced out state of dreamy pleasure . . . and then, suddenly, found myself half-lunging out of my seat, prickling with gooseflesh,” Hill wrote in his blog post. “And now, suddenly, impossibly, there she was . . . life-size and looking over her shoulder at me. There for a moment in a busy crowd scene, and then gone.”
Hill did more research and noticed the similarities in clothing between the woman on screen and the murder victim, as well as the proximity of “Jaws” filming location Martha’s Vineyard to Provincetown. Hill finally took to the Internet, posting all of his information on his “Joe Hill’s Thrills” blog.
The writer says that about three years ago an Entertainment Weekly reporter tried to hunt down the extra’s identity but was told that a Universal Studios archivist couldn’t find the name and that the casting director for “Jaws” had died in 2009, per Esquire.
Hill told Esquire that “there’s probably nothing” to his theory and that he never went directly to the police with it but hopes that if nothing else it might uncover some information that could help finally solve the case.Lillian Brown can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on twitter @lilliangbrown.