deadly gold digger, Belle lured wealthy Chicago men to her house
with classified adds. There she would rob and kill them with the
help of Ray Lamphere. The original Lady Bluebeard, Belle's criminal
career started with the accidental deaths of her first two husbands
and two of her children. Coincidentally, with each death she collected
insurance money which kept her afloat until her next rash of bad
in LaPorte, Indiana, she started her deadly "lonely-hearts" venture.
On April 28, 1908, her house was leveled by fire. Ray, her farm
hand and presumed lover, was arrested and accused of arson and
the murder of Belle and her children. Ray said that the female
body found in the embers was not Belle.
Ray Lamphere (La Porte County Historical Society Museum)
The body was
missing a skull but next to it they found Belle's dentures. Apparently
she had faked her own death and escaped with a bag full of money.
As investigators started digging up the ranch they found plenty
of human bones and dismembered bodies wrapped in gunny sacks and
doused with lye.
Many of Belle's
suitors had been fed to the pigs accounting for the numerous bone
fragments found in and around the pig pen. Estimates of her murderous
habits put her at fifty to a hundred hits.
Belle was spotted many times throughout the country. Authorities
believe that she was last seen in a bordello in Ohio in 1935. Wherever
she was, Lamphere was but one of many who went to their graves
convinced that Belle Gunness lived on.
is her presence felt stronger than in La Porte. Residents say that
old McClung Road reeks with her aura; one expects her to materialize
from behind one of the old houses that still face the same cornfields
just outside of town.
Some of the same
families still live in La Porte, although the main-players are
gone. A newer house, built in the 1950s, stands on the old foundation
of the Gunness farmhouse.