Alice Marble Gray was born in 1881 to a cultured, well-to-do Chicago family. At sixteen years old, she enrolled at the University of Chicago, studying math. She graduated in 1903 and studied in Germany. After some time, she returned to Chicago and worked as a editorial secretary for a well-known magazine. These were no small feats for women in the early 1900s, but Alice worked hard to overcome the traditional gender roles of the times.
Despite her accomplishments, Alice started to lose her vision in her twenties. Her poor eyesight made it impossible for her to work and made her the shame of her successful family. When she could take it no longer, Alice chose to live the life of a recluse, moving into an abandoned fisherman’s cottage. She spent her time reading and making household furniture out of driftwood. Alice chose the beautiful Indiana Dunes as her home. The dunes, located in Indiana, boast more than fourteen miles of gorgeous shore between Gary and Michigan City.
Stories quickly spread about the mysterious woman living as a hermit on the dunes. The stories spread even faster when fisherman started reporting Alice’s love of swimming naked in the lake. Lucky beachgoers could catch Alice sunbathing and swimming the days away, much to the dislike of local women. Her skinny dipping and naked beach roaming made for quite the spectacle. She quickly caught the attention of Paul Wilson.
Paul Wilson was an unemployed drifter who previously worked as a boat builder. The two fell in love and moved in together in 1920. Paul was an ex-con and was always getting into fights with the locals. Just two years after the couple moved in together, a body washed up on shore that was burned and severely beaten. Due to his past history of run-ins with the law, Paul was a prime suspect. After months of investigation and interrogations, Paul was released and never convicted of the crime.
The couple decided to attempt a fresh start by moving to Michigan City, Indiana. To support themselves, they sold furniture. The couple had two daughters. Unfortunately, Paul treated Alice poorly, often beating her and mentally abusing her. She died in the couple’s home in 1925, shortly after giving birth to their second daughter. Reports showed she died of kidney poisoning, likely exacerbated by the frequent beatings and blows to her back and stomach. After Alice’s death, Paul disappeared and was never heard from again.
Alice’s story doesn’t stop there, however. Locals still report seeing Alice walking naked along the beach. The locals explain that Alice returned to the beach after her death to spend eternity in the one place that made her truly happy. She loved the area so much that frequent visitors report seeing her running along the sand or disappearing into the water.
Her story was so popular and her sightings were so frequent that locals celebrate a festival in her honor every year. Called the “Diana of the Dunes Festival”, music, booths, crafts, and food are used to honor her memory. There is also a pageant held to crown a reigning queen and provide scholarships to local young women. They compete in interview, essay competitions, current event discussions and modeling. Diana, the virgin goddess of hunt and moon represents Alice’s courageous spirit and beautiful soul. The festival celebrates the life of one of Indiana’s most prominent residents, even into her death.