The Enigmatic Death of the Isdal Woman

– This week on BuzzFeed Unsolved we cover the case of the Isdal woman. One of the most mysterious
cold cases of all time and I know I say that a lot but not only are the culprits suspicious but the identity of the woman
itself is a factor here. – So it’s a mystery on a mystery. – It’s a layered mystery. – I like a layered mystery. – It’s like a two-layer dip that you have at a Super Bowl party and you’re like– – Like oh where’d these beans come from? – Oh what about that cheese
with a little sauce on top three layer dip, there
may be a third layer here I’m not gonna disclose everything. – I’m getting hungry for mystery! (laughing) – Okay. On November 29th 1970 in the Isdalen Valley near Bergen, Norway a family on a Sunday
hike discovered the body of a woman wedged between large rocks. One of the first people on the scene and the last one living,
police lawyer Carl Halvor Aas remembers the first thing they noticed was the very strong scent of burnt flesh. The body was severely burnt and the arms were in a
boxer position in the air common in burned bodies. While the front of the
body, including her face was burned beyond recognition the back side was bizarrely not burned. The officers were unable to tell how long she had been
there or when she’d died. The woman was believed to be about five feet and 4.5 inches tall, aged between 25 and 30 years old. – [Shane] So, the front of her is burned but the back is not? – [Ryan] Yes. She’s found on a hiking
trail, by a family. – [Shane] A family who knows what burnt flesh smells like. – [Ryan] Well, that was the description from the police lawyer. – [Shane] Oh, okay. – [Ryan] It would smell
like barbecue probably. – [Shane] Probably. – [Ryan] Yuk, gross. – [Shane] I mean, barbecue’s not gross. – [Ryan] No, no. You get what I’m getting at. – Oh that we’re so, we are but animals. – Yeah, well that’s true, we are meat. Items recovered from the body and scene included jewelry, a broken umbrella, bottles, a watch, remnants
of nylon stockings and rubber boots. However, oddly, the jewelry and watch were not found on the body but rather, beside it as if
they had been placed there. All of the identifying
labels on her clothes had been removed. Even the bottles found with the body had their labels rubbed off with no clues as to her identity. The police began looking for a witness who might be able to identify her. She is referred to as the Isdal woman. – [Shane] Stinks, man. (Ryan chuckles) Anytime anyone’s got the
labels removed on their things very fishy, very fishy. – [Ryan] I mean one thing you can infer is it does seem like
there was another person that may have been involved. It just doesn’t strike me as an accident nor does it strike me as
something that was self-inflicted. – [Shane] Why do they even why do they do that with the clothes? If I’m a body somewhere, I
don’t have I.D on me maybe but they find my pants and go Levi’s huh? This must be Shane Madej. – [Ryan] Well, I mean,
if it’s fancy clothes they could then go to
fancy department stores ask if you’ve seen this person then go to the next step
of identifying them. – [Shane] Were they fancy? – [Ryan] I don’t know. I mean, that’s just where my mind goes but then again, I do have
a superior detective mind. – [Shane] I don’t know about that. – [Ryan] I mean, I get why you couldn’t make that conclusion. – [Shane] It just seems like an unnecessary precaution. – [Ryan] Or very thorough. An autopsy of the body
discovered a large amount of fenema, a sleeping
pill, in her stomach. Around 50 to 70 pills. Her blood stream had not fully absorbed them before her death. They also found smoke
particles in her lungs which denotes that she was still alive while she burned. Petrol was also found at
the scene near her body and it was evident that it
was utilized in the burning. There was also a high level of
carbon monoxide in her system a strange bruise on the right side of her neck was also discovered. After the autopsy, the
death was determined to be a probable suicide
due to the sleeping pills and the carbon monoxide from the fire. 50 to 70 pills. – [Shane] It’s a lot. – [Ryan] Is a lot. You could see why they may have thought this may be a suicide. But they weren’t fully absorbed
by the time of burning. – [Shane] Seems odd to burn yourself – [Ryan] That’s that I’m– – [Shane] if you’re
taking 70 sleeping pills– – [Ryan] Why then go– – [Shane] Why are you burning yourself? – [Ryan] Let’s set myself on fire now. – [Shane] Yeah. If I’m gonna die and you say
well you can go to sleep. (Ryan chuckles) You’d say, that sounds like a good option. Or alternatively, we
could set you on fire. – [Ryan] Yeah we could do the thing that’s generally considered
the worst way to die. – [Shane] Yeah. I think I’d go with falling asleep. – Yeah me too, I think that
would be a 99% consensus. Just remember these odd details. – I’ve committed them to memory. – Good, good. Lock them in, throw the key out. Okay, you could swallow it too. Oh Jesus. – Woops. (laughing) – Jesus Christ. So stupid. – Good bit. – [Ryan] In fact, the
spot where she was found was the scene of many
suicides in the Middle Ages and also where some unfortunate hikers fell to their death in the 1960s thus earning the title
Death Valley from locals. The site was remote, difficult to clime and definitely not a hiking path. – [Shane] Wait, you said
this was not a hiking trail? What’s this family doing out there? – [Ryan] Yeah I considered that first. – [Shane] All right kids. Let’s go for a little
hike in Death Valley. – [Ryan] I guess maybe they wanna challenge themselves, you know? Sometimes I go off the beaten
path when it comes to hiking. – [Shane] Do you? – [Ryan] I like to challenge
myself mentally and physically. – [Shane] You’re gonna die. – [Ryan] Not something I would
take my young family with. – [Shane] You have a young family? – [Ryan] Well if I had a family I would not take them and be like hey, let’s go bouldering. – [Shane] Yeah, people do
that in Los Angeles though. They had to close one of
the mountains round here ’cause people kept falling off of it. – [Ryan] L.A people are weird. – [Shane] Yes, they are. – [Ryan] Considering the
curious state of the crime scene it’s understandable to be skeptical of the ruling that it was a suicide. But before we dig into that let’s first provide some context by attempting to answer one question. Who was this woman? The first major clue came three days after the body was discovered when two suitcases were found at the train station in Bergen. Inside the suitcases was a pair
of non-prescription glasses with a fingerprint on the lens. The fingerprint was a
match to the Isdal woman effectively linking the suitcases and all their contents to
her, which is important since the suitcases contained
several mysterious items. – [Shane] Oh! That’s fun. So she’s got some stuff in some suitcases. – [Ryan] Oh it goes beyond suitcases. Wait ’til we crack these bad boys open. The plot will thicken, as they say. – I like that. – You do appreciate a thick plot. – I love it. (Ryan chuckles) – Okay. Inside the suitcases were clothes, wigs, a comb, hair brush, make-up,
money from Germany and Norway as well as coins from Belgium,
Switzerland and the U.K. A tube of eczema cream was
also found in the suitcase but the prescription label
that would indicate the patient and prescribing doctor had been removed. The labels of the make-up
had also been removed and the efforts to
identify the brands failed. Beyond these items, there was one item that seemed particularly promising if not strange, to the police. A notepad with a code written in blue ink. A code that could not be
cracked by the police, at first. But, we’ll get to that in a bit. – [Shane] Oh, heating up! I like codes. – [Ryan] Well obviously,
one thing to glean from that is the fact that the labels
were also removed here in her personal belongings. That, to me, means the labels,
her clothes, all that stuff that was found in the
scene was maybe done by her not by a separate party. – [Shane] Yeah. – [Ryan] Which then gets you into the question of who she is. – [Shane] Right. – [Ryan] The second major clue
also came from the suitcase and was a plastic bag from a shoe store about 130 miles away in Stavanger, Norway. Rolf Rørtvedt, the store owner’s son described blue celebrity
boots he sold to a woman about three weeks prior. The boots matched the
ones found at the scene. – [Shane] Why do they
call them celebrity boots? – [Ryan] Because they
were popular at the time. Celebrities were wearing these boots therefore he described
them as celebrity boots. – [Shane] Oh, I thought
he was just sort of a sort of a dumb guy who
saw something fancy. – [Ryan] Oh no, these were
just very popular boots. – Look at you with your celebrity boots. – [Ryan] Rørtvedt gave a well-detailed account of her appearance. In summary, she was
well-dressed medium height with a round face with dark brown eyes, long dark hair and had
a strange odor to her that Rørtvedt would realize
years later was garlic. – [Shane] Why does it take him years to remember what garlic smells like? – [Ryan] Yeah that’s a bit odd. I don’t know if that’s like– – [Shane] I smell garlic. I jump up ’cause– – [Ryan] I love garlic. – [Shane] Yeah.
– [Ryan] It’s delicious. – [Shane] ‘Cause it always smells good when you smell it coming from a kitchen. When you smell it on someone
who’s just eaten garlic it’s a bit funkier. So she just, went to chow
town on some b-sticks? – [Ryan] Yeah and decided
let me go pick up some boots. – [Shane] Bread sticks,
boots, burning myself alive. (Ryan laughs) – Holy shit. Rørtvedt’s description
led police to St Svithun in Stavanger, where the Isdal woman stayed under the name Fenella Lorch. However, when police checked
hotels back in Bergen no hotel had admitted a
woman named Fenella Lorch which brings us to our third major clue. The coded writing on the notepad. It turns out Fenella Lorch
was not the woman’s real name and in fact, she had at least eight names that she used at hotel’s around Norway. This meant the woman
had multiple passports with differing names. Police were able to match up the names using handwriting analysis
on the hotel check-in forms and cross-referencing it with the code found in the suitcase. The numbers and letters in the code correspond to the woman’s stay in all the different cities. For example, 030 BN5 relates
to her stay in Bergen from October 30th to November 5th. – [Shane] But do you think
that’s her way of coding it so someone who reads it doesn’t see it? Or is just her own shorthand for ’cause you know. – [Ryan] If that was all that was found in the suitcase that was odd I would maybe think okay
it’s just shorthand. But the fact that the
suitcase also included wigs she had multiple passports,
she used eight different names. – [Shane] That is curious. Most people only have
one passport, if that. – [Ryan] Yeah I don’t
think that contributes to shorthand, all those. – [Shane] I have one passport and I’m always looking
for that darn thing. – [Ryan] After examining
all the registrations the police realized she mostly claimed to be from Belgium when she registered. All of which were confirmed
to be fake Belgium identities. They also gained insight
of the woman’s habits by speaking with various hotel staff. For instance, she often
asked to change rooms and she utilized some German and Flemish as well as English. Additionally, they also
described her as well-dressed. – [Shane] So maybe she’s just a spy. – [Ryan] You just said that like you made like a great, I mean
like that’s probably– – [Shane] No, I mean obviously it was sitting on the back burner.
– [Ryan] Yeah, yeah, yeah. – [Shane] But I’m just moving
that pot to the front now. – [Ryan] Yeah, now move that to the front stir it around a bit. – Crank it up, watch it boil. – [Ryan] Yeah. – Throw a crawfish in there. Start licking those lips. – Okay, I don’t know why
we went that direction. (Shane laughing) The fourth major clue was the Isdal woman’s teeth
and tissue samples. For this clue, let’s skip
forward to modern times when new scientific developments were applied to the investigation. A professor of dentistry named Gisle Bang. – [Shane] Well that’s a
cool name, Gisle Bang. – [Ryan] Gisle Bang. – Gisle Bang! Pew. – Yeah. – That’s like, a good spy name. – I was gonna say, you
could say you’ve been banged but that has different connotations, yeah. – Different, different. – [Ryan] Professor Bang
examined the Isdal woman’s teeth covered in fillings and gold crowns and determined the unusual dentistry may have occurred in
southern or central Europe perhaps even Asia. However, before the location
could be locked down professor Bang unfortunately
passed away in 2011 and the teeth, hilariously were rumored to have been thrown away because they smelled. (Shane yelps) – [Shane] Smelly teeth. – [Ryan] That’s an unsolved
classic right there. (Ryan laughs) Let’s take the evidence,
let’s throw it away because I don’t like it, yeah. – That’s great, I love it. – [Ryan] Yet, this toothy
tale doesn’t end here. What? – Nothing. – [Ryan] The Isdal woman’s
missing teeth were later found at Haukeland hospital in a remote warehouse. Also in that hospital were tissue samples that included the Isdal woman’s heart, lungs, spleen
and liver among others. – [Shane] They found the teeth? – [Ryan] Yeah, they found everything in a remote warehouse in a hospital. – [Shane] Next to the Ark of the Covenant? – [Ryan] Yeah, next to
the Ark of the Covenant yeah and to the cup of Christ. – [Shane] What the hell
kind of warehouse is this? – [Ryan] I don’t know. (Shane chuckles) The Isdal woman’s teeth were
subjected to an isotope test which determines where the woman grew up based, incredibly, on the water she drank. – Whoa. – That’s bad ass. Using this test, scientists
were able to pinpoint an area near the France and Germany border where the Isdal woman likely grew up. DNA testing revealed the Isdal woman was of European descent,
possibly from North America though, her poor English
would suggest otherwise. By the way, I just wanna point out. Her poor English, any accent in general if she is in fact a spy, that
all goes out the window to me. – [Shane] Hotel room me. – [Ryan] There you go. – [Shane] Told ya. – [Ryan] You’re strangely European now. What I was getting at is the fact that the isotope test may have
pinpointed her in North America. – Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. – She could have very well been American. – Well, funny test if it says either Germany or America. (Ryan chuckles) It’s sort of. – Yeah, that’s kind of a
considerable amount of distance. – Yeah. I mean I’m still very
impressed by the test but not so much the results. – Well she’s either
from Europe, or America. – That’s, you know, she’s not from China. – [Ryan] With the Isdal
woman’s features and background starting to materialize
out of the darkness new police sketches were
drawn of her in 2016. – Yeah that’s pretty good. – She looks like someone
from the Americans. – Yeah. – [Ryan] In May 2017, a black notice is sent out through Interpol with the Isdal woman’s DNA attached in hopes to find new leads and with that we arrive at the end of the clues. Yet, the question persists. Who was this woman? As some of you might have already wondered many suspect she was a spy. Let’s see if that claim has any weight. Obviously, the case
file was quite peculiar but external factors such
as the ongoing Cold War also catalyzed speculation
that the Isdal woman was, in fact, a spy perhaps connected. Norway was revealed to
be home to Russian spies and Mossad agents from Israel a mere three years after
the Isdal woman’s death. In fact, four Mossad
agents were questioned about the Isdal woman. However, none of the agents
claimed to recognize her or any of the Isdal woman’s aliases. But also, remember, they’re spies. – [Shane] What are they gonna do? Oh yeah, I killed her. (Ryan chuckles) That lady I killed? Yeah I remember her. – [Ryan] Oh you wanna
know all the confidential details of my spying? Well why didn’t you ask
me in the beginning? – [Shane] That’s the thing about spies and I think a lot of
intelligence deaths like this. I would bet that a vast
majority of these deaths. – [Ryan] Yeah. – [Shane] Are just unreported. I mean, they’re professionals. – [Ryan] Yeah, I mean
they’re made to not exist. – [Shane] Right. So they’re ghosts. – [Ryan] You’re trying to catch ghosts which we know– – [Shane] It’s a hard thing to do. – [Ryan] It’s pretty hard. Around the time of the murder Norwegian intelligence agencies looked into the case of the Isdal woman due to the odd circumstances
surrounding it. A week after the discovery, Ornulf Tofte and Bjorn Langbakke of the
police security service began investigating the case. Ornulf Tofte says he was called by the Bergen Chief of Police to investigate whether there was anything connecting the strange case to spying. While their team ultimately decided the death was an accident Tofte remarks that it doesn’t mean the woman was not involved in espionage. He claims her false passports
point to the possibility of her being a, quote,
“illegal agent”, end quote. Here’s the Bergen police
crime commissioner’s response in an interview a few weeks
into the investigation after being asked about the
role of espionage in the case. Quote, “we have no proof of that. “No, we can safely say. “I’d go further to say “we’ve completely eliminated
that possibility,” end quote. However, the Norwegian surveillance agency denied involvement until 2002. – [Shane] No offense to this commissioner but I feel like spies methods or the way they cover their tracks. – [Ryan] Yeah. – [Shane] Or the way their organization may cover their tracks,
it’s probably gonna be a little more thorough to the point where some rinky dink police officer
isn’t gonna be able to– – [Ryan] Above his pay grade perhaps? – [Shane] Yeah. – [Ryan] Then again, they did have Norwegian intelligence
agencies look into the case. So he didn’t do the case
investigation himself. He reached out to them to have them do it. – [Shane] But what, is the
Norwegian surveillance agency gonna say, yeah we cooked a lady! – [Ryan] Knut Haavik, a crime
reporter covering the case says he was given case
files to write an article about the Isdal woman in the 1970s. In the files, he found an envelope containing a cassette tape. However, the envelope
was marked with a warning that said it should not be opened without express permission
from the supervisor. As such, the envelope was never opened and I can find no record
of what was on that tape. – [Shane] But why didn’t they open it? – [Ryan] That’s one of my questions. – [Shane] What, I’m
gonna listen to some ink? – [Ryan] Yeah I’m gonna
listen to a fucking yellow sticky when it comes
to that far in the case? – [Shane] No, come on. Crack that thing open,
bust our your Walkman. – [Ryan] Yeah, it better be padlocked because a yellow sticky ain’t
stopping the old Bergmeister. – [Shane] I’m tearing right into it. He’s doing an investigative article. – [Ryan] Yeah, he’s an
investigative crime reporter. – [Shane] And he just stops at a because someone tells him not to? – [Ryan] I gusss so. – [Shane] Oh what would make
for a real thrilling movie. (Ryan laughs) No we heard about this thing at Watergate but they told us not to look into it so. (Ryan laughs) – Sometimes you got to
play by the rules, I guess. I don’t know. (laughing) Finally, as further proof that the Isdal woman may have been a spy her habits in situation were also suspect. Just to recap, she had multiple passports and used fake names, she
had wigs, wrote in code and all identifying labels
and marks on her belongings were scratched off, either
by her or by somebody else. She also seemed to have
quite a bit of money to dress so well, travel
to each country/city and then afford all the
hotels that she stayed in. Other than that, there’s nothing concrete. It appears the Isdal woman
is as allusive after death as she was when she was living. All this considered, we now
return to the original question. How did she die? Let’s get into the theories. The first theory is that it was a suicide as originally determined. Returning to the autopsy,
50 to 70 sleeping pills were found in her stomach. Officials see this as a sign of suicide as it would be hard to force someone to consume that many
pills in multiple doses. Though, due to the odd
detail surrounding the case many including officers involved doubt that suicide is the true answer. – [Shane] You can make
somebody swallow pills you point a gun at them and you say swallow these pills. If you know someone’s either
gonna shoot you in the head or you could again, fall asleep. – [Ryan] Okay, okay, sure. But logically let’s go through that. Okay, I’m gonna have you
swallow 50 to 70 pills. – [Shane] Yeah. – [Ryan] Then I’m gonna set you on fire? – [Shane] Sure. – [Ryan] How does that make sense? – [Shane] Yeah, it’s a little fishy. – [Ryan] Also, let’s go through
it was if it was a suicide. – [Shane] Okay. – [Ryan] She goes, I’m gonna
swallow a shit load of pills. – [Shane] Lot of pills. – [Ryan] Now I’m gonna set myself on fire. That doesn’t make any sense either. – [Shane] Doesn’t make a ton of sense. Unless the pills were a back-up. Like she thought, oh maybe
if I set myself on fire it’s not gonna work. Unless she’s just not in her right mind she takes the pills, she’s
sure they’re gonna work but they haven’t worked yet. She’s concerned they’re not gonna work so she goes for the fire. – [Ryan] I don’t know. When you consider the fact
that the method of death doesn’t really coincide with suicide and that she had all these
other external factors that maybe suggest she was
involved in some weirder things. Doesn’t seem to me like a
way of committing suicide. Also a spy suicide, seems like wouldn’t they have like
a fucking cyanide pill? – [Shane] You think you’d
be better at that, yeah. Cyanide pill. – [Ryan] I tell you one
thing, you don’t need 50. – [Shane] Do those really work as quick as they do in the movies? – [Ryan] I think so. – [Shane] ‘Cause, yikes. When they bite down on them in the movies they’re like, oh are you going to kill me? (Shane chokes) (Ryan chuckles) – [Ryan] Jesus Christ. – And then there’s like, foam right away. I don’t know how that stuff
works, gotta be honest. Think that’s abundantly clear. – Yeah, well we’re not gonna
do any kind of like, trials so. – Until the series finale. (Ryan laughs) – [Ryan] The second theory
is that it was an accident on the scene, officers suspected she may have been burned by flames which she might have fallen into and responded by jumping backward away from the flames and over the cliff. Police security service,
as mentioned before ultimately decided that
the death was an accident. One question there
uncovered by this service revealed that she had a
large can of hairspray which in theory, could have been dropped in a bonfire she had built. The result would be an explosion causing her burns and
ultimately, her death. Though this doesn’t seem to explain the petrol found at the scene that was utilized in her burning. Furthermore, there would also be evidence of an explosion, I’d assume. – I’m already burning! – I’m already burning. (laughing) – Let’s get this firework show going! – She takes a petrol shower amongst rocks that doesn’t make any fucking sense. – [Shane] No. – [Ryan] The third and final theory is that she was murdered. Her possible life of
espionage would undeniably lend itself to a
veritable list of enemies. So, it’s not unthinkable that
somebody would want her dead. Returning to the crime
scene, the jewelry and watch were not found on the body, but beside it as if it had been placed there. Sure, this could have been the last acts of a person committing suicide but if her true plan was to commit suicide why set herself on fire? Adding to this, is nobody
seemed to have an explanation of how the fire started other than the wild hairspray theory. Returning to the autopsy,
there was a strange bruise on the right side of her neck. The crime reporter mentioned
before, Knut Haavik also wasn’t convinced on the ruling. Quote, “Personally, I’m totally convinced “that this was a murder. “She had various identities, “she operated with codes, she wore wigs, “she traveled from town to town “and switched hotels after a few days. “This is what the police
call conspiratory behavior.” End quote. – [Shane] Yeah, she had
wigs, she had codes, she had passports. – [Ryan] She switched hotels. She wanted people not to follow her. – [Shane] Yeah. Of course she was murdered. – [Ryan] Yeah, that just makes sense. – [Shane] Idiots. – [Ryan] I know, I felt
like it was rather clear. – [Shane] Yeah. I mean the person, if
they were murdering her why not just shoot ’em? I guess, them maybe they’d
trace the bullet to your gun. I don’t know. – [Ryan] Yeah well you’re not exactly I would say, the pinnacle of espionage. – [Shane] I could be. – [Ryan] I don’t think you could be. – [Shane] Look, I’ll wear fake
mustaches, I’ll wear a wig. People won’t know it’s me. – [Ryan] So you’re gonna wear a mustache is gonna cover
up your eight-foot limbs? Is that how it’s gonna– – [Shane] No, there’s plenty
of tall people in the world. If I wear a mustache and a wig and say, hello, I’m Banjo
McClintock, nobody will know. (Ryan chuckles) They’ll think I’m a different person. – [Ryan] I don’t think so. I think I’d make a better spy. – [Shane] I don’t think you would. – [Ryan] Yeah, just for
my physical requirement. – [Shane] No. – [Ryan] Yeah. – [Shane] You’d be shaking. – [Ryan] No. – This is my real name, I promise. – Why would I be so scared at that point? – ‘Cause you’re scared of everything. – I’m scared of the
hotel check-in manager? – Yeah, sure you are. – I don’t think so. – Unless it’s that situation where like normally you’re a timid scared man but when you step into the shoes of, say Ricky Goldsworth. – Yeah. – Then suddenly, you become the most confident man in the word. – That’s the point of a disguise. – But can you overcome your the timidity that is– – Yes, yeah. – Hard-wired to your– – I think so. I think that’s more
likely than you shaving off a couple feet from your limbs. Despite the official
ruling being a suicide many officials involved seemed shaky on that prospect, to say the least. Police lawyer Carl Halvor
Aas claims that no-one in the Bergen police
department really believed that claiming the location
and nature of the death seemed too odd to be a suicide. A chemist for Kripos, the national bureau for crime investigation in Norway who attended the autopsy said, quote “Now as then I’m in doubt when it comes to “what really happened on the site “and how the fire developed. “It is difficult to be 100% sure. “All in all, I support the 1970 report. “But there is a considerable uncertainty and it is impossible to rule out that this was either a
homicide or an accident.” End quote. The police chief, Asbjorn
Bryhn ruled the case a suicide even though just days
earlier, he made it clear the case would remain unsolved until the woman’s true identity was found. Let me ask you two questions. – [Shane] Okay, two questions. – Was she a spy, yes or no? – I would say yes. – Was she murdered? Was it an accident? Or was it a suicide? – I would say she was murdered. – Okay, so we could get those two things out of this, I would say. – To me, I’d say murdered spy. What about you? – I think so too. – [Shane] Okay. – Where that takes us? Not far, we still don’t know her name. We still don’t know who murdered her, but. – Such is the nature of spies. – It’s a start. – She was a damn good spy if we don’t even know who killed her. – [Ryan] In the end, the Isdal woman was given a Catholic funeral
on February 5th 1971. As the police guessed she
may have been Catholic based on what information they had. Tulips and carnations
sat atop her zinc coffin a coffin that wouldn’t decompose in hopes that one day the coffin could be moved to a more fitting resting place if someone were to claim her. That day has yet to come. As for now, the mystery
of the Isdal woman remains unsolved. Sometimes when you’re a
spy, yeah, you gotta die. That comes with the job description. – [Shane] I guess so. – [Ryan] You don’t sign
up to be a spy thinking I’m gonna be here, I’m gonna be tenured. – Day one, you sit down in spy class. The professor says, look to
your left, look to your right. One of these people is gonna
set you on fire someday. (Ryan giggles) – Probably. That’s what spies do.

100 thoughts on “The Enigmatic Death of the Isdal Woman

  1. Maybe it was suicide. This lady seemed very secretive like she didn't want to be known (just like a spy). What if the fire was to hide her identity? She set herself alight in hopes that the sleeping pills would lull her to sleep so she wouldn't feel the pains of burning. Considering she didn't have anyone else to help set her on fire after she was asleep. This would also tie in with labels of everything being rubbed off and etc. The only thing I gotta really say about that is that if she really didn't want to be found, it would have been smarter to bury yourself and your belongings with you when you died. Just a theory, but it would sorta make more sense if it were a suicide.

  2. The boys should investigate this one again, since the police are doing it again!

  3. apparently they didn't have garlic in Norway at that time. she must have brought it with her OR it's speculated that the cream she used produced the smell

    and you forgot the call a retired police officer received who had been working on the case before his retirement. the caller said that he "had been together with this woman". the police officer told him that he was retired and that the guy should call the police. but he never did.

  4. Weird coincidence that 25 years after this another unidentified possible spy was found dead under mysterious circumstances in norway. You should do jennifer Fergate next.

  5. I'm still just confused how it could be suicide if she left her bags one place and then ended up on a non-hiking hill-ish place. Would seem highly illogical. This case is sooo strange. I'm sooo curious!

  6. It's hard to rule this out as suicide. Because thats a lot of pills to inject just so (she was proly thinking that) she wont feel the burn.

    I strongly believe she's a spy (or covert spy) or a con artist. And if she was murdered, everything checks out. The jewelry was left out so whoever knows her (agency or what not), can confirm that it's her who actually died when it blows out on the news.

  7. If she wanted to keep her identity hidden she could’ve just went back to her spy place and had them kill her and no one would’ve known.

  8. What if she tried to kill her self with pills but didn’t want anyone to know who she was so she burned herself

  9. Can somebody explain buzzfeed multiplayer to me ?
    And why is unsolved on it ?

  10. Just want to point out- it she was a spy and committed suicide (not unheard of, it's a hard life), then I don't think her handlers would want her to be recognized. Then anyone she had spotted on would know they gave up secrets. Better to make a suspicious death than confirm someone died under a false name, with much worse questions.

  11. Here’s a theory

    Suppose she’s a spy or part of some organization. Maybe the two men reportedly seen following her could have before hand gotten the pills in her system to slow her down or did at at the place she died, then they set her on fire and rubbed the labels off the cans and things with her and then took her jewelry as a taunt or maybe a gesture of some kind that said “we got the job done” because if they forcefully made her take pills or did something forceful that would explain the bruise on her neck. Maybe she was a traitor to the organization or was disclosing information to people and couldnt be trusted. That could’ve been why they burnt her face beyond recognition so she couldn’t be traced back to them.

    That’s what I think happened.

    (Again just a loose theory 😅)

  12. Based on my knowledge of the case which is limited to this video it is possible she was running from someone (other spies or someone in her personal life) and with that person closing in on her she decided to swallow the pills before or mid way through her hike. So when the person caught up with her she was already dying and she couldn’t be taken with them or interrogated. Then the person who was chasing her burned her so she couldn’t be recognized or to finish her off themselves. This would explain the odd location of the body. And that her suitcases were left behind, as she probably had to be mobile and knew she was running out of time.

  13. Maybe I missed something but why did nobody suggest that maybe she didn’t light herself on fire, but was severely sunburnt? That would explain why her back wasn’t burnt at all.

  14. Maybe if it was suicide. She no longer wanted to spy, maybe for reasons of stress. And so she decided to swallow a lot of pills, then realized that she should also burn herself in an effort to remove any trace of herself. She then died, and maybe something like the wind put out the fire before it could complete the job.

  15. Those are sheep boots! You put the sheep back legs in them so they can't run away from you. Bbaaaahhh 🐑

  16. Hi, I recently found this channel and I think it's great. I have a question. Have you heard about a creepy story called the stones of Kerrigan's Keep? Is it a story your channel could cover or not? Thanks and keep up the good work.

  17. I’ll see you guys later; I’m going to Death Valley to get myself a ghost spy girlfriend. 🥰

  18. What is she tried to kill her self and someone took her body and burned it so she couldn't be recognized or someone forced the pills on her and then burned her so again she was unrecognizable. 😶

  19. Most people I’ve seen who died a violent death have their arms in a “boxer” or “fight” position. I’ve hardly ever seen someone who was didn’t die of natural causes with their arms straight at their side.

  20. She might have been running from someone (Police, someone abusive, spy people, an enemy she'd somehow made?) and living undercover for years, then been close to being caught or just gave up, and burnt her body in a way that would remove any obvious identifying features, and swallowed the pills either to create some kind of chemical reaction with the fire, or so that they couldn't track her by seeing recent meals in her stomach, or the pills made her go a bit crazy and light the fire.

  21. OH MY GOD pronouncing Gisle as Giselle!! 😂😂 cries and laughs in norwegian

  22. I have two passports one is my American passport and the other is my Brazilian passport. Soooo no sus stuff here… definitely noootttt….

  23. tbh id take all the labels off of my clothes. like just as a nervous habit thing, i can see that being not suspicious

  24. Hold on I haven't even seen the whole vid yet but I'm laughing hysterically at the intro. And im getting hungry too btw

  25. I feel like the bruise on her neck was because of the umbrella thus leading to it being broken, so someone hit her and tried to hide her body by burning it

  26. The murder would make the most sense, force someone to take the pills, they don't die fast enough so you burn them

  27. But what if she were a mob wife or some other sort of thing? No one is considering the substantial wealth of organizations like the mafia. She may have been on the run.

  28. Fun fact: cyanide kills you in about 2 seconds after biting on it.
    Also, I've read that passports are made as needed by spy organisations are they are deemed "too precious", if that's true I doubt she was a spy.

  29. What if she was knocked out by the neck then was stuffed with pills for confusion and then set to fire. Idk, just a thought.

  30. Pretty sure she was murdered, you don't put your arms in a boxer position if you're trying to kill yourself. Surprised nobody brought that up when determining it was a suicide.

    The fact that they killed her in a way that nobody could figure out wtf happened may mean the killer was an enemy spy; of course they wouldn't leave anything that would be traced back to them.

  31. what if this was a planned suicide where she took the 70 pills in hopes that by the time she got caught on fire she would've already been passed out and would not feel a thing

  32. My theory: she was running away or following someone, that was why she changed hotels so frequently (thats too suspcious behavior even for a spy).
    And I cant understand why she would take notes on the days she left the hotels, why she would need to save that information?

    For me it was about someone else (who she was following) or the person who followed her writed about her. I can understand why a spy would need to register her own trail. Probably who killed her was the one following her or followed by her, and they burnt her face on purpose, thats why they tried to kill her with pills and after burnt her. Oh and probably the killer had some personal feelings envolved that made him try to save the necklaces before killing her.

    *Also: in that scenario, she could actually have killed herself to not be found

  33. Random theory that is probably completely wrong. But the spy theory is completely believe and if so why isn’t the idea of torture thought of? Most definitely wrong but what if she had been caught and as a spy, was being tortured by being burnt alive (explain the burns somehow only being one side), this is a common torture techniques used when extracting information in history. Possibly the information wanted was not being told as she did not want to portray her country, and the tortures did to much and she started to die or possible they didn’t get what they wanted from her so they killed her. To stop police from believing it was a murder they forced her to swallow the pills (this being understandable as she would be so weak and in so much pain) or even them forcing it down her throat as she would be close to death/dead. It would explain why the pills had not taken effect into her blood stream yet and would force police to believe in a murder. The body was dumped and left there I believe because if her front body had been burnt so bad that she was unrecognisable, wouldn’t there be proof or ash/burnt areas near her to show that there was ever a flame? Probably way off but just an idea.

  34. I mean in the intel program they usually stray us away from committing arson on fellow domestic intel analysts


  36. There were probably 2 people there, partners, spies, she accidentally dropped the hair spray in the fire they had going to burn evidence and the explosion made her fall off the cliff. Partner used the gas to finish burning any evidence and left

  37. She was a high class prostitute and took the pills to numb the pain of burning alive?

  38. What if she was in the process of killing herself because she knew someone was after her, but they found her before it kicked in and killed her?
    And you do fall asleep when you overdose but it's painful before you do and it can take a long time.

  39. it bothers me monstrously that they don’t realize that setting herself on fire would make her unidentifiable. she’s a spy, maybe her position got compromised or something, she killed the people who knew, then she was like this better not happen again, so she takes pills to sleep so she doesn’t feel the pain, and then sets herself on fire so no one knows her identity and the people she’s working for.

  40. She took the pills to die and then poured gasoline on herself to avoid recognition – that’s harsh, but being a spy is probably harsh. And not being recognized is so crucial that she needed the time do set the fire – that’s why she didn’t just shot herself in the head. And “auto-pouring” of petrol is why her back wasn’t burned.

  41. Bears, Beets, Battlestar Galactica. More like
    Breadsticks, Boots, Burning myself alive

  42. She could have swallowed the pills so she could pass out when she would be burning her self and then she could have killed her self so no one would have known it was her

  43. Tbh this seems more like a "spy enthusiast" as opposed to a legitimate spy for an organization, who accidentally came across real spies and got in way over her head. Her spying methods seem amateurish to say the least. My amateurish guess is that she was being pursued my someone, then tried to kill herself with pills before her pursuer could kill her. She was caught and held over a fire until she died from smoke inhalation. The plan was for her to burn to ashes but either she woke up and fell down the cliff or her hairspray exploded and threw her off the cliff. When her pursuer returned to see if the job was done the person found her in the valley. Deciding to take advantage of the bizarre set of circumstances to help cover their tracks they arranged the location where her body lay with her belongings as if that's the location where she had been staying for a time. I formed this scenario to highlight that where the body of the woman lay probably wasn't the location where she was burned.

  44. Tbh this seems more like a "spy enthusiast" as opposed to a legitimate spy for an organization, who accidentally came across real spies and got in way over her head. Her spying methods seem amateurish to say the least. My amateurish guess is that she was being pursued my someone, then tried to kill herself with pills before her pursuer could kill her. She was caught and held over a fire until she died from smoke inhalation. The plan was for her to burn to ashes but either she woke up and fell down the cliff or her hairspray exploded and threw her off the cliff. When her pursuer returned to see if the job was done the person found her in the valley. Deciding to take advantage of the bizarre set of circumstances to help cover their tracks they arranged the location where her body lay with her belongings as if that's the location where she had been staying for a time. I formed this scenario to highlight that where the body of the woman lay probably wasn't the location where she was burned.

  45. Tbh this seems more like a "spy enthusiast" as opposed to a legitimate spy for an organization, who accidentally came across real spies and got in way over her head. Her spying methods seem amateurish to say the least. My amateurish guess is that she was being pursued my someone, then tried to kill herself with pills before her pursuer could kill her. She was caught and held over a fire until she died from smoke inhalation. The plan was for her to burn to ashes but either she woke up and fell down the cliff or her hairspray exploded and threw her off the cliff. When her pursuer returned to see if the job was done the person found her in the valley. Deciding to take advantage of the bizarre set of circumstances to help cover their tracks they arranged the location where her body lay with her belongings as if that's the location where she had been staying for a time. I formed this scenario to highlight that where the body of the woman lay probably wasn't the location where she was burned.

  46. Tbh this seems more like a "spy enthusiast" as opposed to a legitimate spy for an organization, who accidentally came across real spies and got in way over her head. Her spying methods seem amateurish to say the least. My amateurish guess is that she was being pursued my someone, then tried to kill herself with pills before her pursuer could kill her. She was caught and held over a fire until she died from smoke inhalation. The plan was for her to burn to ashes but either she woke up and fell down the cliff or her hairspray exploded and threw her off the cliff. When her pursuer returned to see if the job was done the person found her in the valley. Deciding to take advantage of the bizarre set of circumstances to help cover their tracks they arranged the location where her body lay with her belongings as if that's the location where she had been staying for a time. I formed this scenario to highlight that where the body of the woman lay probably wasn't the location where she was burned.

  47. 13:45–14:30… Typical Americans… North America must mean America, because apparently Canada doesn’t exist….

  48. Do me a favour and listen to English actor Laurence Rickard. The guy on the striped shirt and him have really similar voices. When he's not onscreen I could almost swear I'm hearing to Larry.

  49. Maybe this woman had OCD to where she had to remove all of her labels. It's a quite common thing in some OCD sufferers.

  50. Taking a bunch of pills DOES NOT cause anyone to peacefully drift off to sleep. Ask anyone who works in medicine – it will be excruciatingly painful, it can take hours, days or even weeks before you die, and it's almost impossible to reverse the effects!

  51. i think she was a spy and commited suicide through the pills, then burned herself to conceal her identity

  52. You know the part in the movie where someone is ordered to kill someone, and they give the person the option of how. Guaranteed someone else was there. All I can think of is Angelina Jolie in Salt

  53. theory: It was a suicide-homicide.

    Let me explain:
    I think she somehow fucked up, or someone was after her, and she needed out. There could be someone with her (maybe a fellow spy?) She took the sleeping pills herself, then had somebody else burn her to cover the evidence.

  54. If you think about it a spy won’t want to be identified if they were living or dead. I believe she was a spy and constructed the suicide so she won’t be recognizable after death, thereby protecting her identity and the identity of the organization she may have worked for.

  55. What if she didn’t die on the site? What if she were kidnapped and tortured by a spy organization? Dude force fed her the pills then tried to burn her to dispose of the body but then someone walked in and was like “we can’t burn her! Just dump the body!” And so they took her to Death Valley and just staged the whole scene. I don’t recall there being any evidence of a fire on the actual site, which makes it even weirder that the canister of chemicals was found on the site. Correct me if I’m wrong on that though.

  56. As an engineer, Ryan and his "spirit box" kill me 😂 the world needs people like this.

  57. I think she was a spy but maybe her time or mission was done so they semt someone to help her plan her death, and to make sure she kills her self and helps her kill her self. She drinks the pills and then the secound party sets her on fire to make sure she dies and then the secound party leaves without a strace.

  58. My theory: Got lost, didn’t know where she was probably hit her neck on a rock so she wanted to end the pain and took a gas can and started spilling it over her and then maybe put it away neatly somewhere lauded in the place she spilled it in took 70 pills by getting a full bottle and throwing it in her mouth, swallowed it got a lighter lighted the fire and threw the lighter away however she died from the pills before she burnt and then the fire went out as it was maybe bad weather that stopped the fire.

  59. You know why spys never present themselves as natives in countries they spy in (except for instances when they are in fact natives)? Because after you get older than five you can't learn another language without having an accent. Its just impossible.

  60. I believe that she was being followed by someone and in a desperate attempt to not be caught she took some pills she had in her pocket and was caught before they kicked in and was burned by someone else

  61. She was a spy. (Not necessarily a government spy…could be a mob spy)
    Her cover was blown.
    She was captured.
    She was taken to Death Valley to be killed.
    She attempted to kill herself with pills to prevent interrogation or maybe her captors offered/forced her as a way minimizing her pain.
    She did not die fast enough and her captors freaked out.
    They burned her alive.

  62. Maybe she committed suicide rather than be caught over something, and then because her body had some evidence, someone else burned her body.

  63. Cyanide takes several minutes to kill.
    It inhibits your protein Cytochrome C in the Electron Transport Chain during Cellular Respiration.
    Basically makes it impossible to use the Oxygen in your body and you stop producing ATP.
    Your cells break down as they no longer have the energy necessary.
    Cause of death is hypoxia and generally a terrible way to die.

  64. East German / Soviet spy of some sort. Removed all labels so she could not be traced. May have had to commit suicide for whatever reason- her life may have been in danger and someone may have wanted her dead. She took many sleeping pills before burning her distinguishing features, face, etc. Masked her scent with garlic, so she was harder to track.

  65. From what I've read killing yourself with sleeping pills is extremely painful and survivors have said it's the most painful thing they've ever experienced.
    So maybe she was in that phase and decided to set herself on fire because it would be quicker and less painful.

  66. Ryan won’t be a good spy, because switching hotels means he might end up in a haunted room. Then he’ll crack, like a cry baby.

  67. If she was a spy, she was hiding her identity and for that she tried to destroy her identity by setting herself on fire…IDK MAY BE… #BUZZFEEDTRUECRIME

  68. So they think that she is a Spy but where is her gun. And Did the cop check all of the Hotel to see that she have a note/ Journal or a gun/Weapon in the Hotel's. And see the new on tv about a killing at the hotel's or not. (This is my ideal)

  69. Just watched this episode, and the whole time I was screaming inside because they never considered a theory of ‘yes’ to BOTH suicide and murder. She was suicidal given her profession, but was caught trying to commit suicide by a known person to her, also in espionage. That person set her on fire before the pills would take their full effect as as a cover up. Hence the smoke in the lungs. Perhaps that person felt a sense of care and remorse for her body, which is why she was found by a family hiking versus her lying dead out there for an indefinite amount of time. If it wasn’t just luck, then it may be that family was prompted to hike or was in espionage themselves.

  70. So here's my theory on why she set herself on fire, or if someone else set herself on fire. Think about it. She went through so much trouble to hide her identity in life. She really didn't want to be found. But what if for some reason it was important to her (or someone else) that her she couldn't be identified in when dead? Let's say she was a spy. What if whatever her ultimate goal depended on no one finding out that she existed. I'm going to assume that she did kill herself, but then did all she could to get rid of Identifying marks and fingerprints

  71. I think it was a suicide and the reason she burned herself being to help cover her identity.

  72. Sleeping pills makes it hard to move if you take too many, super easy to blaze someone up after they’re a little dopey

  73. Ryan: scared of getting shot in forests
    Also Ryan: hikes off the path like a madman

  74. She was clearly someone trying to keep her identity a secret, she probably wanted to commit suicide for some reason, but protect whatever group she was linked to also. She she probably took the pills to kill herself, and then cover herself in flammable liquid, then right before she goes unconscious, she burns herself beyond recognition so no one finds out who she is.

  75. I mean what if she was burned or burned herself because they didn't want her to be identified?

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