The Lady of the Dunes, a life-size horror film

Carl Yastrzemski is still patrolling left field for the Boston Red Sox.

And – signal the disturbing music – there is danger in the dunes.

“I was a commercial fisherman then,” said Ralph Andrews. “It’s always been a mystery. A person found in the dunes with no hands and no ID. And here we are today, trying to uncover a few more details.

Her companion nods, then Halcyon Tasha adds, “It was the 1970s. Revolutions were breaking out all over the country. It was a very volatile time for everyone.

“I know a lot of people passed away from Provincetown who thought this would be solved.”

But the case of the Lady of the Dunes, whose body was found at Race Point in July 1974, has never been elucidated. It remains one of the most enduring murder mysteries in modern Cape Cod history.

The details of the case – and they are gruesome – are well known and part of local lore. And now water for a new documentary film by Frank Durant.

A small local filmmaker, Frank Durant, presented his film to a small crowd at the Cape Cinema in Dennis on Friday afternoon.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

The victim’s hands were severed at the wrist, taken to thwart identification. She had long reddish brown hair.

Her naked body was found face down on a green beach towel, Wrangler jeans and a blue bandana neatly folded into a coarse pillow under her head.

There were seven expensive golden crowns in his mouth. She was between 25 and 35, maybe older. She weighed 140 to 150 pounds and was 5 feet 6 inches to 5 feet 8 inches tall.

A three-dimensional plaster reconstruction of the face of “Lady in the Dunes” (left) and a composite sketch (right). Handout

“I turned 18 that summer,” Brewster’s Don Bradgon said before taking a seat for the film. “And I came from Virginia, where I lived with my family, to see my grandmother. And we went to Provincetown. And we were probably there the day after the incident.

“And it was just a sensational story at the time.”

The film takes us back there, painting a picture of old Provincetown that was – as a book was titled – “Always a Place to Crash”.

“The case is very fascinating,” said Mark Forest, 65 and a Yarmouth coach who teaches US government at Cape Cod Community College. “Local residents, especially in Provincetown, have always been driven to get to the bottom of things.

“It’s just one of those unsolved cases that fascinates people. I too am fascinated by it. And I know there are a lot of people who would have liked this to be resolved long before they died. I am here for many reasons. Not only am I interested in seeing this problem solved, but I know that in Provincetown there are city officials who also want this solved.

The film details local efforts to identify the victim. Dentists across the country have been contacted about the fillings in his mouth. Some of his teeth bore expensive gold inlays.

Was there a clue? Was she a wanderer? Was she a prostitute? who been she?

Moviegoers listen to Frank Durant speak.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

“I want his name on his stone,” an interviewee told the filmmaker. “Put his name on his stone. She deserves it.

When I spoke to filmmaker Durant after the film, he noted that some patrons were sitting in the dark taking notes.

“The story is really part of an unsolved murder mystery,” he said. “In general, every [TV] the show ends in 45 minutes. That’s not the case here. »

He said there was reluctance among some Outer Cape residents to discuss the case and its gruesome details.

“But people want a conclusion,” he said. “They want to know the girl’s name. They want to know who did it. And then the big question: Why?

That been the question that was on the lips of most moviegoers here the other day. Who could have done such a thing? And why?

And this: Who was that lady in the dunes?

“It’s part of Cape Cod history,” said Seth Parr, 42, a Mashpee builder. “Everyone loves coming to Cape Town, and they think it’s just beaches and family time. But there are dark corners here.

Dark corners that were explored in a dark movie theater the other day as spring took hold outside.

Later, after the final credits and the lights returned, Brewster’s Janet Barricman, retired from her job with the National Park Service, stood in the theater lobby and talked about the film and the chilling affair that happened. is produced when she was in high school.

“I think hope is the take-home message here,” she said.

“For the family. For the family that we don’t even know exists. For the DNA. It will be the hope of at least putting a name to this woman.

This woman.

Today still known as La Dame des Dunes.


Thomas Farragher is a columnist for The Globe. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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