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67 Awesome Halloween Costume Ideas

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Since way back in 2007, we've been rounding up our favorite Halloween costumes each year. If you're looking for a costume idea, here are some of the best!

1. Sputnik 2

In 2010, Flickr user vietnamted put together a costume that recreated Sputnik 2, the Soviet spaceship that took the dog Laika into space. As you can see, Laika is aboard and ready for liftoff. However, this Laika survived the mission. See the costume at a different angle at Flickr.

2. Yip Yips

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Sesame Street's popular aliens, the Yip Yips always appear in twos, so this is a costume that should be worn with a buddy. It take two people to properly fit one according to this Instructable, so you may as well help each other out and into a great costume!

3. Optimus Prime

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Instructables member dannyeurena turned cardboard, duct tape, and hot glue into a satisfyingly authentic Optimus Prime costume. According to the accompanying video, it was comfortable enough to dance in!

4. Death Becomes Her

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Evan Booth's costume for Halloween 2006 seemed to be a nondescript "dude in a wig" until you looked at the GAPING HOLE in his midsection! This was accomplished with a camera in the back of the shirt that recorded a background scene and fed it to a travel-size DVD player in the front that displayed the backdrop. In 2008, artist Nicole Magne used the idea for a costume recreating a scene from the movie Death Becomes Her where Goldie Hawn has a hole blown through her body. The creation process is detailed on her blog, and the Instructables version is available if you'd like to try this yourself.

5. Hovering Boba Fett

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Linkfilter member Reapre had considered a Rocketeer costume when he hit on the idea of Boba Fett Hovering on a Column of Flame. He used a purchased Boba Fett costume and converted it using a homemade jetpack. The column of flame below hid his legs. Reapre wore platform shoes made from roller blades to make himself several inches taller.

6. Helmet Cat

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Flickr user Alida Saxon's brother put this Helmet Cat costume together at the last minute. The helmet is a basketball painted green, and the fur was salvaged from a stuffed toy. Make your favorite internet meme into a Halloween costume and half the folks you encounter will laugh; the other half will scratch their heads and wonder.

7. The Wild Things

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A group of five friends dressed as the monsters plus Max from the Maurice Sendak's book Where The Wild Things Are for Halloween 2008. Craftster member sjeanette made papier mache heads of the monsters. The eyes glow in the dark! I can't really tell how one would see while wearing these, but I assume they made a great impression.

8. Mega Man

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Kevin made a Mega Man costume for his 3-year-old son a few Halloweens back. What made this so awesome is the Mega Buster with working lights and the authentic helmet fashioned from a bike helmet. See more pictures of the finished product.

9. Bender

Chris Miller made his own Bender costume back in 2005. The eyes moved by a servo controlled by his hands! He was a finalist in a costume contest, but I can't imagine what costume could beat this.

10. Emoticon

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The Mask of Emotion hides your face but displays emoticons instead. This helmet was created by the Digital Media Design Dept at Hongik University in Korea. What emoticon is shown is controlled by the wearer's body actions. If you want to make your own, the original website has design specifications and video. It will help if you can read Korean.

11. AT-AT

Katie Mello of LAIKA House in Portland made this AT-AT Costume for her dog Bones.
Bones has his own Facebook page, where you can see more pictures: in this costume, other clothing, and as nude as other dogs. In fact, there's a photoset that takes you through the process of building this costume.

12. Death Star

Darth Vader and the Death Star

Image by Flickr users Bob909 and Anditron.

Anditron always dresses up for Halloween, but when she was pregnant, she wanted to incorporate her bump without being too traditional. So she made a Death Star costume. Or rather, her round belly was the Death Star, with small x-wing fighters attached. The rest of her was dressed in black. The Darth Vader helmet was incidental, but worked well. Take a look at the Death Ray deployed:

The Death Star ready to destroy Alderaan

Image by Flickr user Bob909 and Anditron.

It appears to be some fiber optics and a few light sticks, but the effect is, um, not earth-shattering, but Alderaan-shattering!

13. Coppertone Girl

It's a logo everyone knows from as far back as we can remember. The little Coppertone girl's tan line is revealed when her puppy dog pulls on her swim pants. Anna at A. Party Style dressed her adorable daughter in a tan leotard and tights, then reconstructed the backside to reflect the logo, puppy dog and all!

14. Leg Lamp

You can buy a Leg Lamp Halloween costume referencing a prop from the movie A Christmas Story. But redditor mjr214 has a friend who has only one leg, which made her homemade costume so much more fitting -and awesome! You can see the comparison in this photo.

15. Walk the Dinosaur

Alison at Mod Mischief put together a dinosaur illusion costume a few years ago. She even wore stilts! The dino she is riding is an allosaurus made of papier-mâché. See some of the construction pictures in this post. Allison set the bar pretty high for herself after the kidnapped mermaid costume she posted at Instructables from the previous year.

See also: 12 Wordplay Halloween Costumes

16. Flying Genie

Allison also posted an Instructables guide to recreating this Genie on a Flying Carpet costume one of her friends pulled off. The secret to carrying this around all night is a walker on wheels that supports the carpet!

17. Zombie Cat

Cyriak Harris and Sarah Brown made an animation featuring zombie cats called Meow. Dawn Weast and Suzy Gruber were inspired by the video and made a Zombie Cat costume for Weast's 5-year-old daughter Bell. The handmade costume is a dead ringer for one of the cartoon cats that gets turned into a zombie.

18. Shark Attack

Redditor notsohipster has a young cousin who has no legs. He and his little sister trick-or-treated in these clever costumes portraying a shark and her surfboarding victim.

19. Pregnant Zombie

Pregnant Zombie

Image (cc) by Flickr user ian aberle

Amanda Fite was the pregnant zombie that stood out from the crowd at the 2009 Texas Frightmare Zombie Walk. Be assured, it was totally fake. A series of photos give you some idea of the work that went into this costume. See more photos from the 2009 Texas Frightmare Weekend Zombie Walk in Flickr user Ian Aberle's photo set.

20. Port-a-Potty

Sam's brother had a homemade illusion costume that set him in a Port-a-Potty in 2010. Seven-year-old Ben could walk around and "sit" at the same time! The brand name in their area is Honey Bucket, so Ben's door was labeled the same.

21. Chomping Pacman

Matthew Varas built a Pacman costume a few years ago, and this decided to improve upon the idea by building a Pacman with a Chomping Mouth! The project took six weeks, but as you can see, the results are awesome. See the building process at Make.

22. Robot Couple

Instructables member onebrokenneck made a robot couple for a costume competition. These classic Hollywood-style robots are made of aluminum, but according to the build process at Instructables, you can probably use cardboard instead if you don't have a metal shop. The arms and legs are dryer ducts, and various LED gizmos were used to give them an electric personality.

23. Halo

Shawn Thorsson has made a bunch of fantastic costumes. He planned a Halo-themed build for Halloween 2008, but then was deployed to Afghanistan. The project was finally completed the next year. Thorsson fabricated armor from the video game world of Halo, painted them in different colors, and dressed his friends as the characters from the Red vs. Blue series. He posted lots of pictures to show you the process.

24. The Birds

A few years ago, redditor CampingIsInTents posted a picture of her Tippi Hedren costume and got a rousing response. The idea references a popular movie, but you won't see other people wearing it at the same party. She bought the birds, but had to alter the wings to make them just right. The idea has been used by creative costume-makers a couple of times before, even on TV.

25. Krang

Melissa Dunphy made her husband a Krang costume for Halloween 2010. Krang is a cartoon villain who vexes the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The costume required a lot of foam rubber, repurposed electronics, and duct tape. See some still photos at Flickr.

See also: 12 Halloween Ideas From 1884's Hottest Costume Guide

26. Headless Marie Antoinette

Nicole Magne, who wore a gaping abdominal hole in the Death Becomes Her costume above, made this awesome Marie Antoinette getup a few years ago. Of course, it wouldn't be so awesome if she hadn't been decapitated! See the process of building this costume at Etsy.

27. 8-bit Gary

Kiel Johnson and Klai Brown created this 8-bit costume out of foam cubes glued onto a cardboard suit for a Toshiba ad in which the "real" Gary was pixelated into a low-res version of himself. The process is documented in photographs.

28. LEGO Minifig

Instructables member Kaged Konbat made himself into a LEGO Minifig. The head is made from a tube sold as a form for concrete -strong but still lightweight. The wearer sees through the facial features, which are covered with mesh speaker fabric. Your buddy could accompany you as a LEGO brick.

29. Darth Vader TIE Fighter

(Image by Flickr user Kevin Tostado)

I was blown away by this Darth Vader costume spotted at Downtown Disney in Anaheim for Halloween 2007. Someone took a lot of care in constructing a TIE fighter around a wheelchair. See more Halloween costume ideas for children in wheelchairs.

30. Steampunk Iron Man

Image by Judy Stephens)

Steampunk Iron Man won the Marvel costume contest at Comic Con in 2010.

31. Double Rainbow

This costume was inspired by the double rainbow meme from Paul Vasquez's awe at seeing a double rainbow at Yosemite.

32. Mad Max

Karol Bartoszynski has been many of the characters from the Mad Max movies. He became a fan as a teenager, and over the next twenty years turned his enthusiasm for Mad Max into a career as a costume designer, and now organizes Mad Max fan gatherings and re-enactments. Bartoszynski runs the fan site Mad Max Costumes, where you can draw plenty of inspiration.  Imagine showing up looking like this at your local Halloween party!

33. Reverse Trick-or-Treat

The greatest Halloween costume idea ever was one related in this story from Mefite np312. Apparently no pictures were posted from that Halloween long ago, but Doc Pop took the idea and illustrated it in a comic. You can see the whole thing at Flickr. I hope someone picks this up and runs with it this year.

34. Umbrella Bat

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Have you ever looked at a broken umbrella and thought about how it resembles a flailing bat? Lenore at Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories made this Umbrella Bat costume out of one umbrella and a hoodie, and posted instructions so you can do the same.

35. Trash Can

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This Trash Can costume is also a prank!

When I was a kid there was a guy in our neighborhood that used to jump out of the bushes in a gorilla suit and scare the bejeezus out of us. It was one of my fondest memories of halloween. One year I decided to be that guy.

Unfortunately, I don't have any bushes. An alternative would be to build a trash barrel disguise. I built the disguise below and then sat in it right on the front lawn. Not one single kid realized that It wasn't a trash can and I scared so many of them that I lost count.

See also: 15 Halloween Costumes From the 1970s

36. Caterpillar Power Loader J-5000

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You might not recognize the name Caterpillar Power Loader J-5000, but surely you remember the mechanical power suit Sigourney Weaver used to fight the alien queen in Aliens. Ben Hallert built this one for Halloween in 2006. Read his story with links to photos and a video. Hallert previously made an APU costume from The Matrix, and a Mech Warrior costume.

37. Rubik's Cube

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Flickr user mcredis built a Rubik's Cube costume and posted the process in photographs. He wore it to a costume parade in New York, and heard "Can I solve you?" all night long.

38. Flaming Carrot

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The Flaming Carrot is one of the more bizarre comic book characters you'll ever encounter, but it's the look that makes a great costume, rather than the backstory. RoG posted details on how he contructed this one.

39. Tron Guy

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Jay Maynard, the Tron Guy, shows you step-by-step how he made the costume that made him an internet legend.

40. Ghostbusters

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Honus at Instructables posted instructions for making your own, complete with goggles and weapons. The backpack really makes this; I hope it isn't as heavy as it looks!

41. Big Daddy

Graphic designer Harrison Krix made a costume of the character Big Daddy from the video game Bioshock. This is a work of a serious propmaster. It took seven weeks of sculpting with foam, cardboard, and fiberglass. The finished product, complete with a working drill arm, is a work of art. The post includes many more pictures and a couple of videos of the drill arm in action.

Every year, people amaze me not only with their ideas, but with their talent and dedication at bringing the best costumes to life for Halloween (and other occasions). I hope you enjoy these as much as I do!

42. Plastic Army Man

Rebekah Tennis made this costume for her son in 2011. He wanted to be an Army guy, but with a little work and a lot of green paint, he's a soldier straight out of Toy Story! She then posted the process of creating this costume.

43. Cherry Darling

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Photograph by Flickr user Cameron Yee.

The character Cherry Darling from the movie Planet Terror startled folks when they saw that one of her legs was a machine gun. Then it inspired some women to recreate the scene. Now, if you are a beautiful amputee like Lacey Henderson, who gained note as a college cheerleader a few years ago, you can make hay by cosplaying the character at fan events. Henderson has a webpage with instructions for those who aren't amputees on how to recreate the Cherry Darling look, and an annual competition is held for the best machine-gun-leg costume.

44. Jack Skellington

DeviantART member Mnemousyne created this super-tall Jack Skellington costume by making a suit that fits over stilts. The head is built over a helmet, making it more stable, but still a bit hard to see from. Her sister is modeling the costume here; Mnemousyne is in the Sally costume.

45. Weeping Angel

The Weeping Angel is a scary character from the Doctor Who episode "Blink." Livejournal user penwiper337 made this costume of the Weeping Angel to wear at DragonCon. You can follow the process of building it at her blog.

See also: 10 Last-Minute Ideas for Brilliant Halloween Costumes

46. The Ginger Bread Man

The costume was created for a career day fair, but would work for Halloween for any redheads out there.

47. Dorian Gray and his Picture

Heather and David as Dorian Gray and his Picture

The party was literary-themed, so Heather and David came up with a couple's costume right out of the novel The Picture of Dorian Grey. Heather is Dorian, of course, and David is aged up and framed to be …his picture! Photograph by Flickr user Jason Adams.

48. Mousetrap

Jeff from Ohio told the story of how he made this mousetrap costume for his 3-year-old daughter. Being trapped is a very good excuse for not walking house to house, but a set of wheels got her there anyway! He cut the wood and mounted it to a wagon, welded on the metal hardware, and made the back half of the mouse to work as a cushion for the child's back. Adorable!

49 & 50. Bob Ross and the Orbit Gum Lady

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Jake Meek said his Bob Ross attire was purchased in the ladies department at a local thrift store, "which I can only assume is where all men's clothing from the '70s currently resides." He's posing with the Orbit Gum Lady.

51 & 52. The Hamburgler and the Sunmaid Raisins Lady

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Here's that same pair, this time as The Hamburgler and the woman on the Sunmaid Raisins box.

53. The DC Metro

Scott-Allen

Longtime mental_floss contributor Scott Allen won season tickets to the Washington Wizards for this!

54. The Firefox Logo

You can even dress up as a browser logo. Firefox is the preferred costume, as it has recognizable features. This Firefox costume was entered in Crunchgear's contest last year.

55. Rock & Roll Witch

Or you could go as me! (Going as a rock & roll witch.)

56. Cheshire Cat

scarystitcher at Etsy

Etsy member scarystitcher made an award-winning costume for her daughter last year and posted it at reddit. She gave us the short version of how it was made. 

The gray and blue fur are two separate materials from Joanns. The gray was much longer and I had to trim all of it down, but it really was the best match for Cheshire. I used a pattern to make the body then altered it to fit her measurements. The blue stripes were cut, placed, pinned and hand-stitched one by one. The mask has a paper mâché base with upholstery foam to widen his face. The eyes are lenses from a pair of sunglasses that I painted w/ just turquoise acrylic paint. The blacks of the eyes are what she sees through. Narrow, but it works well enough. The mouth and nose are thick card-stock also painted and attached with a glue gun and the whiskers are actually twigs I spray painted and glued in under the fur. Took about a month to make but probably would've been less if I didn't have FT work + FT school

She gives more information about the costume construction at the Etsy listing. Yes, last year’s costume is for sale. Here’s another picture.

57. Darla

jarrettbraun, imgur

Darla is the bratty dentist’s niece in the movie Finding Nemo. The bag is crucial for this costume, otherwise people would assume she’s just an orthodontically-challenged kid. But with the bag, it’s perfect! Redditor jarrettbraun posted a picture of redditor neuhani’s clever Halloween costume from last year. 

58. Hannibal Lecter

Andy Pixel, Imgur

Andy Pixel made himself into Hannibal Lecter last year. You might think this costume would be difficult with cars, stairs, or the restroom, but he thought about that ahead of time. The hand cart comes apart, so he can ditch it and the extra legs when needed, and still be left with a full costume. He’s not really in a straitjacket; crossed arms just give him the look.

59. The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Alanna George made this Very Hungry Caterpillar costume for just a couple of dollars, and it looks just like the caterpillar in the book! Her then-2-year-old son was delighted to be the character from his favorite story. It's just one of many literary costumes that put kids in their favorite books that you can see in this bigger list

60. The Governor and His Daughter

TriforceKing, imgur

Fans of the TV show The Walking Dead will recognize the Governor and his undead daughter. Redditor TriforceKing and his sister wore this last Halloween. It helped that he already resembled the actor David Morrissey somewhat. A few people pointed out that the Governor didn’t lose his eye until after his daughter was gone, but who cares? It’s Halloween!

61. Baby Can't Wait

BAOUWS, imgur

It’s not really a new picture, but this photo was posted just last week showing a baby who can’t wait until he’s born to go trick-or-treating. Redditor Ghost0_ told us how he and his wife used that idea for Halloween a couple of years ago, and what went into making it. You don’t really have to be pregnant to pull this off, but it’s funnier to people who know you if you are.  

62. Man Being Carried Illusion

QuaziLogical made a classic illusion costume a couple of years ago. It cost him about $30 and took about 30 hours of work. This version of the trick looks better than most because the “dummy” is covered by a surgical mask, obscuring its fakery, and QuaziLogical wore a mask, too, to make his face look artificial. See a closer image of the legs he made.

63. Snow Globe

jpotisch via Flickr // CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Flickr user jpotisch made this snow globe costume by hand! The globe is fashioned from clear acetate, and the snow is made from bits of foam hanging by thread. He posted the building process in a Flickr album with some commentary along the way. He said it took about three days to build, but the finished product is a work of art! He also made the banana costume his son is wearing in the background—and it has a photo tutorial, too. 

64. Major Toht

Cameron Stewart, imgur

Few will ever forget the climactic scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark, when the Ark is opened up and Gestapo agent Arnold Toht's face is melted off. Comic book artist Cameron Stewart recreated that look for Halloween one year, at the last moment

I made the Major Toht costume in a single afternoon. I woke up that morning thinking I was going to skip Halloween (too much work in my day job as a comic artist) but all of my friends flipped out and pressured me into it. I managed to scrape all of the props together by chance. The melty face is a Captain America movie Red Skull mask with flesh-coloured paint dribbled over it.

Stewart is a master of movie costumes, as you can see in an imgur gallery featuring Toht, Jack Torrance, Patrick Bateman, and other characters.

65. Captain Hook

Rachael K, Instructables

Here’s one trick-or-treater that takes the classic pirate costume to the next level. This toddler is Captain Hook being eaten by the crocodile from Peter Pan! Instructables member Rachael K explains how she made the costume, which won the Judges Prize for Sewing in the Instructables Halloween Costume Contest last year.

66. Mad Max

bloody_ben via Instagram

Ben Carpenter is a cosplayer who uses a wheelchair. For this year’s Tampa Bay Comic Con, he and his group became the cast of Mad Max: Fury Road. Ben was Max in the scene where he was strapped to the front of a vehicle in order to supply blood to the driver. He used his wheelchair in the upright position for the vehicle, driven by a friend and accompanied by other characters from the movie. They won the award for Best Group Cosplay. Of course they did.

67. Taco Belle

AvantGeek, DeviantART

Olivia Mears is a cosplayer and costumer extraordinaire. Her Taco Belle dress decorations are made from card stock, tissue paper, felt, and Taco Bell wrappers. The inspiration came from a previous costume event, when she went for some fast food and contemplated the inadvertent pun.

See More:

11 Additional Pun-tastic Halloween Costumes

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
technology
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Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
May 21, 2017
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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Stephen Missal
crime
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New Evidence Emerges in Norway’s Most Famous Unsolved Murder Case
May 22, 2017
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A 2016 sketch by a forensic artist of the Isdal Woman
Stephen Missal

For almost 50 years, Norwegian investigators have been baffled by the case of the “Isdal Woman,” whose burned corpse was found in a valley outside the city of Bergen in 1970. Most of her face and hair had been burned off and the labels in her clothes had been removed. The police investigation eventually led to a pair of suitcases stuffed with wigs and the discovery that the woman had stayed at numerous hotels around Norway under different aliases. Still, the police eventually ruled it a suicide.

Almost five decades later, the Norwegian public broadcaster NRK has launched a new investigation into the case, working with police to help track down her identity. And it is already yielding results. The BBC reports that forensic analysis of the woman’s teeth show that she was from a region along the French-German border.

In 1970, hikers discovered the Isdal Woman’s body, burned and lying on a remote slope surrounded by an umbrella, melted plastic bottles, what may have been a passport cover, and more. Her clothes and possessions were scraped clean of any kind of identifying marks or labels. Later, the police found that she left two suitcases at the Bergen train station, containing sunglasses with her fingerprints on the lenses, a hairbrush, a prescription bottle of eczema cream, several wigs, and glasses with clear lenses. Again, all labels and other identifying marks had been removed, even from the prescription cream. A notepad found inside was filled with handwritten letters that looked like a code. A shopping bag led police to a shoe store, where, finally, an employee remembered selling rubber boots just like the ones found on the woman’s body.

Eventually, the police discovered that she had stayed in different hotels all over the country under different names, which would have required passports under several different aliases. This strongly suggests that she was a spy. Though she was both burned alive and had a stomach full of undigested sleeping pills, the police eventually ruled the death a suicide, unable to track down any evidence that they could tie to her murder.

But some of the forensic data that can help solve her case still exists. The Isdal Woman’s jaw was preserved in a forensic archive, allowing researchers from the University of Canberra in Australia to use isotopic analysis to figure out where she came from, based on the chemical traces left on her teeth while she was growing up. It’s the first time this technique has been used in a Norwegian criminal investigation.

The isotopic analysis was so effective that the researchers can tell that she probably grew up in eastern or central Europe, then moved west toward France during her adolescence, possibly just before or during World War II. Previous studies of her handwriting have indicated that she learned to write in France or in another French-speaking country.

Narrowing down the woman’s origins to such a specific region could help find someone who knew her, or reports of missing women who matched her description. The case is still a long way from solved, but the search is now much narrower than it had been in the mystery's long history.

[h/t BBC]

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