Belle Gunness lived on a farm near La Porte, Indiana. In 1908 her farmhouse burned down and her children’s bodies were discovered burned in the fire along with a female’s body that was missing its head. It was believed to be the remains of Belle Gunness. After further investigations of the property the remains of eleven other people were found buried on the property but the bodies were decomposed to the point that they were not able to be identified.
Belle was born Brynhild Paulsdatter Størseth in Norway and came to the United States when she was a teenager and changed her name to Belle. She married Mads Sørensen and they owned a candy store in Chicago. The store burned down and shortly after thier house was destroyed by fire as well. The received and insurance payout for both properties. Two of Gunness’ children died from inflammation of the large intestine, which can result from poisoning. But she did receive life insurance payouts. Mads came home from work one day with a terrible headache. Belle gave him some medicine for the pain and when she checked in on him later he had died. Interestingly it was when two life insurance policies on her husband overlapped and she collected on both of them.
Belle moved to a farm in La Porte that she had purchased with her husband’s life insurance. In 1902 she married Peter Gunness and eight months later he was dead. She said a meat grinder had fallen on him when he was trying to reach something on a high shelf. And once again she collected on another insurance policy. She took out advertisements in newspapers looking for a man to live on the farm with her and her children. Several men had answered her advertisements but according to her they ran off for one reason or another. That is when suspicion started to set in and then the farm house had suddenly burned down. Some believe she faked her death and moved out west but I guess we will never know for sure.
Belle Guinness is believed to have murdered about forty people and is considered one of the first female serial killers in the United States. A grave marker stands on a hill in Pine Lake Cemetery in La Porte, not in honor of a serial killer but in the memory of the victims she murdered.
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