Isdal Woman

History Uncovered Episode 61:
Inside The Decades-Long Mystery Of The Isdal Woman

Published June 26, 2023

Spy, murder victim, or something else? This is the baffling story of the unidentified Isdal Woman who was found mysteriously dead in Norway's "Ice Valley" in 1970.

On November 29, 1970, a man and his two daughters set out for a hike through the Isdalen Valley in southern Norway. Though known for its frozen beauty, this so-called “Death Valley” was also known as the site of multiple macabre tragedies, including the deaths of several hikers who had gotten lost in the fog and plunged to their deaths some years earlier.

But even with the valley’s grim reputation surely swirling in the back of their minds, the man and his daughters could never have predicted what they were about to find on their outing that fateful November afternoon. As they turned into a clearing, they came across the body of a woman.

This was no hiker who had succumbed to exhaustion or the elements. This was no victim of the cold. Just the opposite, in fact. The woman’s corpse was horribly, inexplicably burned beyond recognition, her features all but scorched off, her shriveled arms curled up near her chest in what’s referred to as the “boxer” or “fencer’s” position.

To make things even more bewildering, the woman’s belongings were arranged all around her in a formation that would soon strike investigators as ceremonial or ritualistic.

Corpse Of The Isdal Woman

Bergen State ArchivesThe body of the Isdal Woman, lying in the “boxer’s position” on the cliffside where she was found.

“It is not a pretty sight,” one of the investigators later said. “The question is whether someone has set fire to her, or if there are other causes.”

From there, the story of the so-called Isdal Woman only grew stranger, and the more investigators dug into the case, the more puzzles they found.

To their shock and frustration, police discovered that the tags had been cut out of all the Isdal Woman’s clothing and that bottles found near her body had had their labels rubbed off. Even the discovery of her suitcases at a nearby train station led nowhere, as someone had removed all identifying marks from her belongings, including the prescription sticker from a jar of eczema cream.

Police then learned that she had several passports, went by several names, and habitually changed rooms whenever she checked into hotels in the weeks leading up to her death.

So who was the Isdal Woman and how and why did she die? Though the truth about her carefully-concealed identity and morbidly-captivating death continues to elude investigators more than 50 years later, a number of chilling theories have emerged throughout the decades, theories that have only made this case even more haunting.

Delve into the unsolved mystery of the Isdal Woman.

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