She’s known as “The Woman in Black,” and her solitary travels have captivated an online community of observers dedicated to tracking her quest.
On the Facebook page "Where is the Mysterious Woman in Black," users share stories of their brushes with the woman and offer advice to those who encounter her.
As one fan wrote in a post: “If you meet this woman, please, offer her a drink, a meal, whatever it may be you feel she needs. Be hospitable. Be kind.”
In an interview with Reuters, a man named Raymond Poles said the woman was his sister Elizabeth, a military veteran from North Carolina who had been shaken by the death of her husband in 2008, as well as the passing of her father a year later.
To deal with her grief, Poles sought help from Veterans Affairs hospitals, and she moved to Alabama to be closer to her brother.
“She then started just popping up at my house,” Raymond Poles told Reuters. “And then one night she came over and just started cursing.”
Since then, her brother said, Elizabeth began disappearing for long stretches of time.
According to police who encountered her on her journey, Poles claimed to hail from "an Islamic nation" and told officers she worked at the Pentagon. Neither of these claims appear to be true.
Whatever her motivations, on Wednesday the woman in black appeared to finally complete her quest.
Police in Winchester, Virginia, near where Poles was last spotted, sent out a press release saying she’d come to the end of her journey, and they asked fans to respect her privacy.
“The Winchester Police Department wants local residents to know that she will be part of the community and to respect her privacy if you see her in the area,” the department said. “She has expressed to officers that she wants to be left alone and is asking that the public respect her wishes.”
A post on the Facebook page echoed these sentiments, tellings fans not to “follow her, wait for her, try to question her, or [do] anything to stress her.”
“She has had a very long journey,” the author wrote. “Please [don’t] let the excitement of seeing her reach where she said she was going interfere with what has been the goal of this page from the beginning.”
Based on photos of Poles’s journey, her Facebook fans have produced this incomplete map of her travels. If it’s accurate, she traveled over 500 miles.