Jane Doe (Olwen Kelly) lays on a coroner's table in preparation for an autopsy in 'The Autopsy of Jane Doe'
(IFC Films)

Breaking Down the Mysteries Presented in ‘The Autopsy Of Jane Doe’

Who is Jane Doe? That’s the question every coroner, cop, and criminologist wants to figure out. This particular Jane Doe in The Autopsy of Jane Doe? That question is better left unanswered. But like splitting up in a horror movie, it’s a bad idea we’re gonna do anyway!

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Who is Jane Doe?

Jane Doe is an unidentified corpse inexplicably found at the crime scene of a multiple homicide. She’s got no driver’s license, no ID, seemingly no identity whatsoever. The weirdest part of all? There were no signs of forced entry in the home she and the other corpses were found in. From the looks of it, the victims died trying to get out. Spoooooooky.

Small-town coroner Tommy and his son Austin begin to look for a cause of death for the unfortunate Jane Doe—sheriff told them to figure it out by morning, after all. But something’s sus here. Jane Doe has no signs of trauma on her body. No stab wounds, bullet holes, not even a bruise… on the outside at least. When they dissect her corpse, they begin to find evidence of internal injuries. Strange scarring, charring on her lungs, missing teeth, a cut-out tongue, and even a few weird and unexplainable objects inside of her. Oddest of all, Tommy discovers traces of Jimsonweed in her system, a paralyzing agent that is not native to where they live. It’s a plant that grows in the Northeast… New England, to be specific.

Upon examination of a strange cloth covered in Roman numerals they find inside her, they discover that the sigils were used to banish “unclean spirits” in centuries past. What century? The 17th! The cloth is dated 1693, a date which just so happens to coincide with a gruesome moment in American history: The Salem Witch Trials. By the end of the movie, we figure out that Jane Doe’s curious scars and injuries come from the torment she endured at the hands of New England Puritans who were trying to execute her as a witch.

And as it turns out, she was a witch. Or rather, became a witch.

Tommy realizes that while Jane Doe and the other women who fell victim to the Salem Witch Trials were not actually witches, Jane Doe was transformed into a witch’s vengeful spirit through her torture. Her Puritan killers ended up turning her into the very thing they feared the most! And now Jane Doe’s vengeful corpse is attempting to hunt and destroy anything that attempts to destroy her body even further, including an unlucky coroner and his son.

What are Jane Doe’s powers?

One of the first abilities we see Jane Doe manifest is her ability to cause hallucinations, and effect radio static (like ghostly presences are wont to do). After the radio in the morgue inexplicably changes stations, Austin imagines that he sees spectral presences in the hallway. What he finds is his poor sweet cat, mortally wounded by Jane Doe. How did Jane Doe do this? The same way that she locked the doors to the autopsy room and caused a tree to fall in front of the exit to the morgue. Telekinetic powers, I suppose.

Or are they?

It’s possible that Jane Doe has no other abilities except her ability to cause hallucinations. When Tommy swings an axe at a morgue corpse that he believes Jane Doe reanimated, he and Austin discover that Tommy actually buried the axe into Austin’s girlfriend Emma, killing her. It’s possible that the doors were never locked, that a tree never fell in front of the exit sign, that all of these things were simply hallucinations caused by the witch. Austin and Tommy’s cat may have been fine, and Jane Doe only made them hallucinate that she had wounded it. Austin broke the poor thing’s neck to put that cat out of its misery, but what if it was never hurt to begin with? Ugh, horrible. How does Jane Doe use her powers? Upon examination, Tommy and Austin discover that her brain tissue is still active. Her consciousness is trapped in a corpse body that never rots. Even more horrible.

At the end of the movie, we see Jane Doe’s big toe twitch as her body is taken away in an ambulance. It’s possible that she is now able to move due to the fact that Tommy attempted to sacrifice himself to her in order to appease her vengeful spirit. Many of her wounds healed while they manifested on his body instead. While the ritual was never completed due to Austin’s interference, it seems that Jane Doe is now able to move, even if just a little. Perhaps if she were to consume another person, she could walk around.

Perhaps even come back to life.

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Jack Doyle
Jack Doyle (they/them) is actually nine choirs of biblically accurate angels crammed into one pair of $10 overalls. They have been writing articles for nerds on the internet for less than a year now. They really like anime. Like... REALLY like it. Like you know those annoying little kids that will only eat hotdogs and chicken fingers? They're like that... but with anime. It's starting to get sad.