Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Story And Mystery Of Belle Gunness


Bloggersbase.com | She was born in Norway in 1859 and was the youngest of eight children who lived with their parents on a small farm close to Trondheim.

She grew up in great poverty and worked on a big, wealthy farm to gain money to pay for a trip across the Atlantic . She moved to the USA in 1881.

Belle Gunness got married in Chicago in 1884 and opened a confectionary story together with her husband . The business mysteriously burned down as did the couples house in Austin and on both occasions the insurance was paid out.

Belle's husband died in 1900 and he was seen by two different doctors, the family doctor claiming that the man had died from heart failure and another doctor saying there there was signs of strychnine poisoning. The day after her husband's funeral, Belle cashed the insurance money and an inquest was ordered but to this day it is unknown whether an investigation took place. It is known that Belle cashed $8500 and moved with her daughters.

It is not really clear just how many children Belle had. Some records say four, some say two. It is certain however that at least two children died in infancy due to acute colitis, the symptoms very similar to poisoning. The insurance company paid out.

The house that was bought by Belle Gunness had been a rural whore house and shortly after she moved in, both the boat and the carriage houses burned to the ground.

In 1902 Belle Gunness met a Norwegian man whom she married and shortly after the ceremony the man's infant daughter died, soon to be followed by the husband himself who - according to Belle - was working in a shed when a sausage grinding machine fell and split his skull open. A child was overheard saying that Belle had hit the man with the meat cleaver and this child was brought before the coroner's jury but Belle managed to convince them of her innocence.

She was also expecting another child and was released.

Over the years several different suitors visited Belle, some of whom disappeared mysteriously. In January 1908 a man named Helgelein arrived at Belle's farm, carrying with him a check for $2900 which was all of his savings that he had drawn from his local bank. He was intent on being Belle's husband and staying forever. A few days after the couple had deposited the check for cashing at the bank, Helgelein vanished but Belle Gunness appeared in the bank on several occasions to make withdrawals.

This was when she started having trouble with a hired hand named Ray Lamphere who was deeply in love with her and became very jealous of all the men arriving at the farm. He started making uncomfortable scenes and she therefore fired him in 1908.

Afterwords she went to the local courthouse and declared that Mr. Lamphere was out of his mind and posed a threat to her family.

In the meantime Lamphere spread rumors around town, such as statements like "Helgelein won't bother me no more. We fixed him for keeps".

Around this time Helgelein's relatives started to worry about him and when they did not believe Belle Gunness' story, Mr. Helgelein's brother threatened to go to Laporte and face her to get to the truth.

Belle Gunness went to see a lawyer in Laporte, claiming that she feared for her life and that of her children and that Ray Lamphere had threatened to burn down her house. The lawyer drew out a will for her.

She was setting the stage for an arson.

On April 28, 1908 a man named Joe Maxon smelled smoke in his room which was on the second floor of the Gunness house. He was a hired help having replaced Lamphere.

He raced downtown to get help but it was too late.

The bodies of Belle's children were found in the debris and so was the headless torso of a female. A couple of farmers and an old friend of Gunness all stated that the dead body was not Belle Gunness.

However, on May 19 a piece of bridgework was found consisting of two teeth and Belle's dentist identified them as work done for her.

A coroner's inquest found that the adult female body was that of Belle Gunness.

The hired hand Joe Maxon and another man both testified that they’d seen someone take the bridgework out of a pocket and plant it just before it was ‘discovered’.

Ray Lamphere was found guilty of arson, but cleared of murder.

On November 26, 1908, he was sentenced to 20 years in the State Prison.

Lamphere's story was that Belle had lured a woman to the farm at the pretense of needing a housekeeper, then bashed in her head and decapitated the body. She had then weighted down the head in a nearby swamp and chloroformed her children, strangled them and dragged their bodies along with the headless corpse to the basement.

Then she had dressed the corpse in her old clothing and removed her own false teeth and placed them beside the headless corpse so that it would be sure to be identified as herself.

He claimed that she had murdered a total of 42 men and taken different amounts of money from them, thus accumulating more than $250,000.

For the next several decades Belle Gunness was sighted around the country by acquaintances and amateur detectives alike.

The identity of the headless woman at Belle Gunness farm was never discovered.

In 1931, a woman known as "Esther Carlson" was arrested in LA for poisoning a man for money. Two people who had known Gunness said they recognized her from photographs, but the identification was not proved.

Belle Gunness became part of American criminal folklore.

A thriller is right now being made about the story. It is simply called Belle Gunness.

www.AstroDigi.com (Nino Guevara Ruwano)

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