Belle Gunness was a Norwegian-American woman who lived during the Victorian Era. This stuffy, proper era however did not stop Belle from becoming at the very least a controversial figure. She relocated children for unmarried woman. She conducted illegal abortions. This nasty woman killed most of her suitors and her 2 daughters (sounds like Nannie Doss – maybe they should pair up some time). Shy may have killed both of her husbands and all of her children although this has never been proven. Belle’s motive was none other than life insurance benefits. She profited well: she killed at least 40 people over several decades. Watch the story of serial killer Belle Gunness
Belle’s childhood is shrouded in mystery. She was the youngest of 8 children. One rumour states that at the age of 18 Belle attended a dance with a suitor who kicked her in the abdomen, causing her to miscarry his child. Witnesses who knew Belle claim the incident changed her personality markedly. Not long after this same man died of stomach cancer, or at least that was the diagnosis. In 1864 Belle married Mads Ditlev Anton Sorenson and 2 years later they opened a confectionary store. A year later the shop mysteriously burn down and the couple collected insurance money. Oddly some historians assert that Belle and Mads had no children whereas others insist they had 4 together: Caroline, Axel, Myrtle and Lucy. Caroline and Axe diedl in infancy, supposedly of colitis. Both babies’ lives were insured. Two children and Belle’s husband Mads were interred in Belle’s plot. However a U.S. Census record indicates that Belle, Myrtle and Lucy lived at her residence. Not long after Belle adopted a 10-year-old girl named Jennie Olson. No autopsy was performed on Mads since a doctor claimed he was treating Mads for an enlarged heart. Mads was buried right away and the day after his burial Belle collect on his life insurance. Mads’ surviving family demanded he be exhumed and an autopsy performed but this request was never granted. Watch the Belle of them all.
In 1901 Belle met Peter Gunness and they were married in 1902. One week after they wed Peter’s infant daughter died while alone in the house with Belle. A few months later Peter died in what Belle called a tragic accident, claiming he was working in the shed, fell off a high shelf and split his head open. Belle collected on Peter’s insurance and his brother Gust arrived to remove Peter’s older daughter Swanhilde to Wisconsin before anything “tragic” happened to her. By then Jennie Olson was 14 and told a classmate Belle “hit him with a meat cleaver and he died. Don’t tell a soul.” By 1906 Jennie had disappeared and Belle told neighbours Jennie had left to attend a Luteran Church in Los Angeles. Years later Jennie’s body would be found on Belle’s adoptive property. In 1906 Belle entered this personal ad in the Chicago daily newspaper:
Personal – comely widow who owns a large farm in one of the finest districts in La Porte County, Indiana, desires to make the acquaintance of a gentleman equally well provided, with view of joining fortunes. No replies by letter considered unless sender is willing to follow answer with personal visit. Triflers need not apply
A series of would-be swains appeared and disappeared from Belle’s life and property for several weeks. Belle ordered huge trunks to be delivered to her farm. She kept her shutters closed day and night. Farmers passing by at night saw her digging in the hog pen. Her handyman Lamphere also spent a good deal of time digging in the hog pen. Lamphere was deeply in love with the heavy, plain-faced Belle (there’s no accounting for tastes) and he was jealous of her suitors. Belle promptly fired him but Lamphere stubbornly returned time and again. Belle used Lamphere’s numerous appearances at the farm to commit an arson. A headless woman and Belle’s 4 children were found after the blaze was put out. It wasn’t believed that Belle was the dead woman and investigators discovered the dead woman was hired by Belle as a housekeeper, who promptly bashed in her head, severed it and thrown it into a swamp. Belle’s disappearance from her farm was never solved. She was deemed a fugitive and purportedly moved around America for several years evading capture.