May 18, 2017 I Paul Seaburn

Mysterious Identity of Norway’s Isdal Woman May Be Solved

In 2017, we talk about stolen identities and mistaken identities. In 1970, the buzz all over Norway was about a missing identity. On November 29th of that year, the badly burned body of a woman was found by hikers in Isdalen Valley near Bergen. An intensive investigation involving police in many countries to determine her identity was hampered by roadblocks like the labels being removed from her clothing and the gruesome discovery that her fingerprints had been sanded off. Adding to the mystery was a coded notebook. Forty-seven years later, she is still known as the Isdal Woman … but that may not be for much longer. Norsk Rikskringkasting (NRK), the Norwegian government-owned radio and television public broadcasting company, is sponsoring DNA tests on long-forgotten tissue samples found last year. Will this finally identify the mysterious Isdal Woman? Will it determine if she committed suicide or was murdered? If it was murder, why and by whom?

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The location where the body was found

According to extensive reports from the investigations, the corpse of the 30-to-40-year-old woman was found in an area known as Death Valley because it was a grimly popular spot for suicides since medieval times. The cause of death was burns and carbon monoxide poisoning and an autopsy found traces of up to 50 sleeping pills. The nude body and her clothing were described as being arranged in what could have been a ceremonial manner. Witnesses were found who had seen her alive but none could identify her. Two suitcases traced to her contained clothing and pill bottles with all labels and identifying marks removed. Only partial fingerprints were found but she was eventually linked to 13 names, all fake, and appeared to have traveled Europe extensively. The coded diary and burned passport suggested to some she was spy, possibly for the Soviet Union or Israel. She was given a Catholic burial in an unmarked grave in a zinc coffin to preserve her remains. (More details are available in this story by Brent Swancer of Mysterious Universe.)

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Suitcases and prescription medicine with all identifications removed

Last year, her jaw and tissue samples from her lungs, heart, adrenal gland and ovaries were found in storage at the Haukeland University Hospital. Early analysis of the jaw shows 14 fillings and gold crowns, which were unusual in Norway. Isotopic examinations – like DNA tests, not available in 1970 – may pinpoint her country of birth. Researchers have determined that she had genes with European characteristics. Once the testing is done, the results will be compared to international DNA databases in hopes of finding a match to close relatives. As more data is determined, Interpol will be releasing it, along with past and possibly future sketches, to police departments and investigators worldwide.

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The code was eventually broken to show places that she traveled

The final results will be released in a documentary by NRK, which is highly anticipated by Norwegians, says journalist Ståle Hansen.

In Norway, this case is a big enigma for people… there's a lot of people who want some sort of closure in the case.

After hearing the details, we all do.

Paul Seaburn
Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.

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