November 29th, 1970. Bergen, Norway. A man and his daughters are hiking through the foothills of the north face of the mountain Ulriken. This area is commonly known as Isdalen, or Ice Valley. Locals also call it Death Valley, for its reputation as a spot with many hiking injuries and accidents. There was a smell of something burning in the air. One of the man’s daughters went off in search of the source. What she found, would kick off one of the biggest cold war mysteries in Norway’s history.
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A woman’s body, badly burnt, was laying in the underbrush. The man and his daughters quickly left to contact the police. The police arrived on the scene and noted a few observations. The front of the body was burned so badly it was not recognizable. Near the body, there was: An empty bottle of St. Hallvard licquer, two plastic water bottles, a plastic passport holder, rubber boots, a wool jumper, a scarf, stockings, an umbrella, a purse, a matchbox, a watch, two earrings, and a ring. Underneath her body was a fur hat. This hat would later test positive for traces of gasoline.
Three days later, police would find 2 suitcases belonging to the woman at the Bergen Railway Station. In the lining of one of the suitcases, 100 deutsche marks were found. The mystery only deepened when they also found Norwegian kroner, along with Belgian, British, and Swiss coins, along with various maps and numerous notepads, filled with locations.
An autopsy revealed that the woman had died due to incapacitation caused by an overdose of sleeping pills, along with carbon monoxide poisoning. Soot found in her lungs would suggest she had been alive while on fire. The back of her neck was bruised, indicating that she was struck there. Her stomach was pumped, and the remains of 50-70 sleeping pills were found.
So with all of this information, why haven’t I given you the woman’s name? Authorities to this day don’t know what it really is. After holding a press conference to get more information about the woman, a hotel in Bergen contacted police to let them know the woman described had stayed there. They said she had been very private, and rarely left her room.
Police checked through the notepads found in her belongings. She had meticulously written down every place she had visited. A search of hotels in those areas brought the police to a strange conclusion. The woman had been using at least 8 different identities. She had provided passports at all of these locations, each different. The only consistent thing that she had provided was that she was Belgian, although the forms she filled out were in either German or French.
People who had seen her at hotels around Bergen said they had heard her speaking to someone in German. Witnesses also noted her propensity for wearing wigs. The police had a composite sketch drawn, and it was sent to Interpol. After having no luck identifying her, the case was closed. The police had ruled that the woman, now being called “The Isdal Woman”, had committed suicide. She was buried in Mollendal cemetery.
Obviously, something wasn’t right. The multiple identities, the list of locations, the wigs? Well, this was during the height of the Cold War. Spying was never out of the question. Years later, when Norwegian Armed Forces documents became declassified, they were checked against the Isdal woman’s notes. Her movements seem to line up suspiciously well to areas where top-secret trials were being conducted on Norway’s Penguin missile.
In 1991, a taxi driver who asked to remain anonymous, came forward to tell authorities that he had picked up the woman from the Bergen hotel where she had last been seen. He stated that she had been accompanied by an unidentified man on the way to Bergen Train Station.
In 2005, a man came forward who claimed to have seen the Isdal woman hiking roughly 5 days before her body was found. He stated that she was being flanked by 2 men. He also said she appeared like she wanted to say something, but didn’t. He would go on to say that her attitude seemed resigned. Who were these men? Were they taking her out to the foothills to get rid of her? In 2016, the case was reopened. It remains open to this day. In 2017, a stable isotope analysis of the woman’s teeth would indicate that she had most likely been born in Germany. Today, nearly 51 years after her death, we are still no closer to knowing who she really was.
What do you think? Was she an unfortunate suicide? Or possibly a spy on the run? As always, you can give me your theories in the comments, on Instagram and Twitter @TheUnsolved, or on Facebook at Dread The Unsolved. If you have a theory you think I need to see immediately, you can send me your tip to TheUnsolved@DreadCentral.com