Jaws film poster (L) and screenshot from the film via Joe Hill's tumblr page (R).
In the summer of 1974, a young girl stumbled upon the body of a woman in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, whose identity has continued to stump authorities more than 40 years later. Still known only as "the Lady of the Dunes," the woman had been left naked, head nearly severed, with her hands and several teeth removed, all in an attempt, police believe, to keep her identity a mystery.But for horror writer Joe Hill—the son of author Stephen King—the victim's identity may be wrapped up in his favorite film, which also happened to be filming on Cape Cod that same summer—Steven Spielberg's Jaws.
According to the Washington Post, Hill, like many armchair detectives, became fascinated with the story of the Lady after reading about her in The Skeleton Crew: How Amateur Sleuths Are Solving America’s Coldest Cases. After studying a reconstructed image of her face—one local authorities made after exhuming her body in 2010—Hill thought he spotted a similar-looking woman while he was watching Jaws, an extra among the rest of the beachgoers terrorized by the film's bloodthirsty shark. The quick shot of a woman, clad in a blue bandana similar to the one that was reportedly found with the Lady's body, got Hill asking himself: "Is the Lady of the Dunes in Jaws?"
Hill wrote about his theory, which he openly admits is "out there," on his blog in 2015, and it recently wound up on Wondery's Inside 'Jaws,' a podcast about the making of the film. And sure, the super blown-up images of the extra don't really solidify the theory, but there are some key details that match up between Jaws's production schedule and the few facts we do know about the Lady of the Dunes. Along with the resemblance, Hill points out that the Lady was alive in June during the filming, and her body was found in Provincetown, not too far from the film's Martha Vineyard set.“I’ve heard it said that everyone who was out on Cape Cod in the summer of 1974 appears in the movie Jaws,” Hill told the Post. "The possibility that a person would make a stop on the island and appear in the movie is not unreasonable," he added.
Hill even said that he approached an FBI friend about his theory, who told him, "There might be something in it. Odder ideas have cracked colder cases."Without records of the extras who appeared in the film, Hill has encouraged people who may have starred alongside the bandana-ed woman in Jaws to shed some light on who she could be. But until that happens, or the local authorities make a break in the case, it's nothing more than a wild theory."It IS a helluva what-if, isn't it?" Hill wrote. "What if the young murder victim no one has ever been able to identify has been seen by hundreds of millions of people in a beloved summer classic and they didn’t even know they were looking at her?"Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of VICE delivered to your inbox daily.Follow Lauren Messman on Twitter.