Isdal Woman Day is observed on November 29 of every calendar year. It’s named after the Isdal Woman, an unidentified woman whose lifeless body was found in 1970, in Norway, close to Bergen. The aim of this day isn’t just to raise awareness of this unsolved mystery, but more importantly, to pay tribute to and remember all those who have died in mysterious or disputed ways, especially so if their remains weren’t able to be identified. It’s also a day to reflect on their families and loved ones. It’s hard enough to deal with grief, but it’s even worse if you don’t know what exactly happened.
History of Isdal Woman Day
On the afternoon of November 29, 1970, a man and his two young daughters were hiking in the foothills of the north face of Ulriken, Norway, in an area known as Isdalen (“Ice Valley”). It’s also called “Death Valley” due to the area’s history of suicides in the Middle Ages, and the more recent string of hiking accidents. They noticed an unusual burning smell and one of the daughters found the charred body of a woman located among some rocks. The family returned to Bergen and notified the police.
Examining the body, the police discovered that the front of her body and her clothes had been severely burned and she was unrecognizable. Near the body, there was no campfire, but there were several items affected by the fire, including a plastic passport container, an empty bottle of St. Hallvard liqueur, traces of burned paper, and beneath the body was a fur hat which was later found to have traces of petrol. All identifying marks and labels had been removed or rubbed off. An autopsy revealed that she had died from a combination of incapacitation by phenobarbital and poisoning by carbon monoxide. She had consumed between 50 and 70 Fenemal brand sleeping pills, and 12 more were found next to her body. Soot was also found in her lungs, indicating she was alive as she burned, and her neck was bruised.
The last time she had been seen alive was on November 23 when she checked out of Room 407 of the Hotel Hordaheimen. Based on handwritten check-in forms, police were able to determine that she had traveled around Norway and Europe with at least eight fake passports and aliases, she had previously stayed at several other hotels in Bergen and was known to change rooms after checking in. For these reasons, many believe that she was a spy and some authorities think there is evidence she was murdered. On February 5, 1971, she was given a Catholic burial, based on her use of saint’s names on check-in forms, in an unmarked grave within the Møllendal graveyard in Bergen. The case was reopened in 2016, and new information came to light since, but she remains unidentified to this day.
Isdal Woman Day timeline
The woman checks out of Room 407 of the Hotel Hordaheimen, where she is staying.
A man and his two daughters are hiking in the foothills of the north face of Ulriken, Norway, come across the woman’s charred remains, and notify the police.
The Isdal Woman is buried in an unmarked grave within the Møllendal graveyard in Bergen, and only the police attend.
A lot of new information comes to light since but her identity remains a mystery to this day.
Isdal Woman Day FAQs
What did the Isdal woman look like?
The hotel staff said she was good-looking and roughly five feet four inches tall, with dark brown hair and small brown eyes.
How many unsolved murders are there in Australia?
There’s not a complete list, but just in South Australia, there are over 113 unsolved murders, dating back to the 1950s.
Why do cases go cold?
Sometimes a seemingly closed case is reopened due to the discovery of new evidence pointing away from the original suspects, other times the crime is discovered well after the fact.
How to Observe Isdal Woman Day
Listen to the “Death in Ice Valley” podcast
This is a true-crime podcast produced by N.R.K. and the B.B.C., following a two-year investigation into the Isdal Woman case. It instigated a crowd-sourcing campaign for new leads in the investigation and uncovered where she was likely born.
Spread the word for recent unsolved deaths
Unfortunately, this kind of thing happens very often. Look into recent unsolved cases of deaths near you, especially ones where the victim couldn’t be identified, and let friends, family, and followers on social media know about it. It may not be too late yet.
Donate to charities dedicated to these cases
While looking for cases like these, you may find charity organizations dedicated to these sorts of deaths, like the Cold Case Foundation, or fundraising pages for individual cases set up by family members of the victims. Donating to them and letting others know is another good thing you can do on this day.
5 Disturbing Facts About Cold Cases
In 1996, a writer named Eugene Izzi’s body was found hanged and swaying 14 floors up a building in Chicago.
The Original Night Stalker
This unidentified man was responsible for 120 burglaries, 45 rapes, and 12 deaths in Sacramento and Orange County, California, from 1976 to 1986; the case is still ongoing to this day.
The Wax Head Woman
In 1981, the police department of North Yorkshire, England, received an anonymous tip that the body of a dead woman was in the woods, and they had enough of her body to reconstruct a wax head of what she would have looked like, but to this day nobody knows who she was or how she died.
In 1976 in Ottumwa, Iowa, this man was shot at a laundromat, and hundreds of dollars were stolen out of his pocket; the killer wrote the words “BLACK” and “OLDER” with the blood, but the police never figured out who killed him or what the words meant.
In 1996, a nine-year-old called Amber Hagerman went missing and her body was found five days later, floating in a creek
Why Isdal Woman Day is Important
People must know about these cases
The more people hear about these things, the more likely it is that they come with new leads. Spreading the word is the most we can do as normal citizens to get closure on these cases.
It’s a day to think about the victim’s families and loved ones
As we’ve said, it’s hard to deal with grief, it’s harder to deal with a homicide, but it’s even worse when you don’t know what happened. On this day, we should reflect on how these people feel.
It reminds us to try to stay safe
When you go out or leave a friend’s house to go back home, let others know, let them know you arrived safely. You don’t need to be paranoid about something happening to you, but it’s important to at least reassure others that you’re safe out there.
Isdal Woman Day dates