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Happy/Healthy Faces

   

Belle Gunness

A 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 luck.

After settling 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.

 

Photo: 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.

After disappearing, 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.

Nowhere else 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.



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