Story of Belle Gunness
The mysterious woman who perpetrated the demise of over forty individuals between 1884 and 1908.
Monarch of Malevolent Females
Belle Gunness, born on November 22, 1859, in Norway, emerged from a modest and impoverished family. Similar to many others of that era, she harboured aspirations of venturing to the United States.
Deception for Profit
In 1881, the mysterious woman relocated to the United States. She found Chicago to be an opportune place for amassing wealth through the deceitful act of insurance fraud.
This wicked endeavour commenced after her marriage to Mads in 1893, with whom she bore four children. Furthermore, Belle welcomed an adopted daughter named Jenny into her family.
In collaboration with her husband Mads, Belle established a confectionery shop.
With a spouse, children, and a flourishing business, mysterious Belle skillfully orchestrated numerous schemes to secure substantial insurance payouts.
Initially, a fire engulfed her business premises, followed by the unfortunate deaths of two of her children.
Belle Insured Everything
On the very day Belle received a substantial sum in insurance, her husband Mads passed away. A doctor’s assessment attributed Mads’s demise to strychnine poisoning. Yet Belle later refuted this claim, asserting that he died of a heart attack.
Despite Mads’s family demanded for an inquiry, no charges filed. Belle evaded any investigation.
She went to Indiana accompanied by her three remaining children, bearing the weight of a substantial insurance policy.
In 1901, she acquired a sprawling 42-acre farm near McClung Road. Despite this extensive property acquisition, Belle’s insatiable desires demanded more funds. Consequently, a portion of her farm “accidentally” incinerated shortly thereafter. As anticipated, this incident yielded a significant insurance payout.
On April 1, 1902, Belle Gunness wed Peter Gunness, a local butcher and widower who had two daughters of his own. The plot thickens. Soon after the marriage, one of the girls perished under mysterious circumstances. Although Peter harboured suspicions, he was unable to reach a definitive conclusion. As a precautionary measure, he sent his second daughter (Swanhild) to live with relatives. Swanhild was the sole individual who resisted Belle’s charm.
As the years elapsed, body count of Belle increased. Peter managed to protect his daughter, but he couldn’t shield himself from Belle’s heinous onslaught. Reportedly, Peter met his demise after being struck by a meat grinder that toppled off a kitchen shelf and struck him on the head.
A few days later, Jenny (Belle’s foster daughter) confided in her school friends about her mother attacking her father with a meat-cutting tool. However, she refrained from sharing this revelation with anyone else.
Despite the exhaustive efforts of the investigating officer, no conclusive evidence discovered. Crocodile tears of Belle Gunness managed to captivate one and all. However, it is worth mentioning that these tears swiftly dried up once she received the insurance money. Six months after Peter’s demise, Belle gave birth to a child named Philip Gunness.
After the demise of her second husband, Belle Gunness devised a new and more lucrative means of amassing wealth. She published enticing advertisements in various newspapers to target affluent individuals. These alluring ads enticed numerous people to visit her farm, after which they mysteriously vanished.
Belle’s correspondences attest to her adeptness in mesmerizing and luring unsuspecting individuals to her farm with the promise of secret financial gains. It presumed that this mysterious talent was either innate or acquired through relentless practice.
People would enter into partnerships with Belle. They deposited funds into her bank account, only to meet their untimely demise.
According to Jack Rosewood, the author of Belle Gunness story, she would dismember the victims’ bodies and either feed them to her pet pig or bury them. Regardless of her chosen method, she left no trace of evidence behind.
On the morning of April 28, 1908, the farmhouse of Belle succumbed to flames. When authorities arrived at the scene, they discovered the lifeless bodies of Belle’s three children, including Philip Gunness.
Furthermore, they stumbled upon the decapitated body of a woman in the basement, presumed to be Belle’s remains.
Local authorities acknowledged Belle’s demise. But a few days after the fire, Asle Helgelien embarked on a quest to find his brother Andrew, who had fallen victim to Belle Gunness.
Asle harboured doubts due to his awareness of the correspondence exchanged between Andrew and Belle. He firmly believed that his brother was not missing but slain by Belle.
His suspicions heightened upon learning that Andrew had cashed a $3,000 cheque, an astronomical sum in 1908. He pressed the county sheriff to locate the form referenced in Andrew’s letters. Upon discovering the farm, Asle joined forces with a farmer to conduct an inspection. In their search of suspicious areas, they unearthed a sack containing two hands, two feet and a head.
The moment Asle laid eyes on the head. He recognised it as belonging to his brother. After two additional days of excavations, several sealed sacks were discovered. Each sack contained body parts like heads severed from their shoulders and legs amputated below the knees. Identifying the bodies proved challenging, but one of them was readily recognised.
The remains belonged to Jenny, Belle Gunness foster daughter, who vanished in 1906.
The newspapers seized upon this sensational topic. They previously portrayed Belle Guinness as a hero who perished in the fire alongside her children.
Soon, she gained infamy under monikers such as the “Indiana Witch” and the “Female Bluebeard.” Reporters dubbed her farm the “Death Garden.”
Meanwhile, fear and panic gripped the general public. The absence of concrete evidence linking the decapitated body to Belle Gunness fueled speculations that she might still be alive, seeking fresh prey in a new locale.
Nevertheless, investigators conducted a thorough reinvestigation. They managed to gather some evidence supporting the claim that the decapitated body did indeed belong to Belle Gunness.
Apart from Belle, attention was also directed toward Ray Lamphere, a farmer in her employ. For a time, he fell under suspicion since he admitted to witness smoke emanating from the building without alerting anyone. However, he absolved himself of responsibility in this matter.
During the trial, two conflicting perspectives emerged in the media. Some believed that Lamphere had been coerced into making incriminating statements, while others maintained that he was entirely oblivious to Belle Gunness crimes.
Lamphere remains mysterious. In his defense, he portrayed himself as leading a simple life. Although an addicted to drugs, he denied any involvement in Belle Gunness’s nefarious activities.
Ray Lamphere’s Fate
Lamphere was ultimately found guilty of negligence and mysterious, as subsequent investigations revealed traces of the same poison used by Belle in the remains of her children. He pleaded not guilty to murder, but was acquitted of arson and sentenced to 21 years in prison, an offense of grave and mysterious magnitude.
Lamphere succumbed to tuberculosis after spending a year behind bars. Prior to his demise, he confessed to a pastor that he had witnessed the murder of “Andrew.” He attempted to extort money from Belle Gunness but met with resolute refusal. When he went to retrieve his belongings from the fields, Belle accused him of rape.
However, the most intriguing claim he made was that he had brought a maid from Chicago before the building caught fire. Although only one woman’s body discovered following the inferno, it too had been decapitated.
Several DNA tests conducted in 2008 aimed to shed light on this case, but they failed to provide definitive answers. Hence, it remains uncertain whether the headless body belonged to Belle Gunness or another individual.
Numerous theories regarding Belle’s life and demise have circulated. One of them seeks to uncover her underlying motivations.
According to an Irish TV documentary, in 1877, when Belle was pregnant, she participated in a dance show. During the event, a man kicked her in the abdomen, resulting in an abortion.
The man hailed from a wealthy family and faced no consequences for his actions. Soon thereafter, he passed away. However, this traumatic incident left a profound impact on Belle. Observers noticed a significant change in her personality. A few years later, Belle Gunness relocated to the United States following the accident.