Female Serial Killer: Belle Gunness
Unlike most female serial killers, Belle didn’t poison her victims. Instead she slaughtered them.
Belle was a 42 year old Norwegian immigrant. She purchased her Indiana property in 1902 with an insurance settlement from her first husbands death. He had died suddenly in convulsive agony, as did her first two born. The symptoms were signs of strychnine poisoning but the doctors who examined the bodies found nothing suspicious.
After moving to La Porte, she married a young widower, Peter Gunness. Only nine months after they wed, he was killed when a cast iron grinder fell from the stove and stuck him between the eyes. That’s what Belle said anyway. The neighbors didn’t really buy into the story and often claimed that Belle had murdered her knew husband. As with her previous husband, Belle collected another insurance payment.
Over the next six years, a number of men found their way to Belle’s country home. Some were hired hands and others were well off bachelors. One thing all the men had in common was they all vanished without a trace.
In the early morning of April 27, 1908, the Gunness farm house caught fire and burned to the grown. When the blaze was finally put out, the firemen were shocked to discover the remains of four people, three children and one adult woman, stacked in the cellar. Though badly burned, the children were identified as the three youngest of Belle’s children. They assumed the fourth corpse was Belle herself but positive identification was impossible. The body had been decapitated and the head was nowhere to be found.
Suspicion fell on a disgruntled farm hand named Ray Lamphere who was charged with murder. Searchers kept looking for the missing head but it was never found. What they did find though shocked the nation and earned Belle Gunness everlasting infamy.
A dozen butchered bodies lay buried around the property. Some where found in a chicken yard, a privy fault and in a rubbish pit. Each body was carved similar to a turkey. The heads had been cut off, the arms removed from the sockets, legs were sawed off at mid-thigh.
Naturally the discovery of such a nature drew curious onlookers. The Sunday after the discovery, 10,000 people made their way to the property, some came from as far away as Chicago. Families wandered around the farm as if they were on vacation. Vendors had set up stands selling drinks and food.
People have their doubts though that the headless body found was in fact Belle’s. One difference was that the body only weighed 73 pounds. Lamphere himself claimed that Belle had faked her own death and ran away with $100,000 in tainted money. Officially though Belle Gunness was declared dead. Like Elvis though, many “sightings” were reported over the years.