Belle Gunness

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Belle Gunness
Belle Gunness with children.jpg
Gunness with her children, c. 1908
BornBella Paulsdatter[1] or
Brynhild Paulsdatter Størset[2]

November 11, 1859
Selbu, Sør-Trøndelag, Norway
DiedApril 28, 1908(1908-04-28) (aged 48) (unverified)
La Porte, Indiana, United States
Other namesHell's Belle, the Black Widow, Lady Bluebeard
MotiveMoney, evading capture
Victims25–40 (unverified)
Span of crimes
State(s)Illinois, Indiana
Date apprehended
Never caught

Belle Gunness (/ˈɡʌnɪs/; November 11, 1859 – possibly April 28, 1908) was a Norwegian-American serial killer.[1] Gunness is thought to have killed at least 14 people[2] (and may have killed as many as 40) between the years 1884 and 1908.[3]


Her criminal activities came to light in April 1908, when the Gunness farmhouse in La Porte, Indiana burned to the ground. In the ruins, authorities found the headless body of an adult woman, initially identified as Belle Gunness, and her three children.[4] Further investigation unearthed the partial remains of at least 11 additional people on the Gunness property, all of them containing high doses of Strychnine and Arsenic. [5]

In November 1908, Gunness's hired hand, Ray Lamphere, was convicted of arson in connection with the fire.[5] Lamphere later confessed that Gunness had placed advertisements seeking male companionship, only to murder and rob the men who responded and subsequently visited her on the farm.[1] Lamphere stated that Gunness asked him to burn down the farmhouse with her children inside.[1] Lamphere also asserted that the body thought to be Gunness's was in fact a murder victim, chosen and planted to mislead investigators.[5]

The brother of one victim had warned Gunness that he might arrive at the farm shortly to investigate his brother's disappearance.[1] According to Lamphere, this impending visit motivated Gunness to destroy her house, fake her own death, and flee.[5]

The ninth episode of the 2003 HBO series Autopsy postulated the theory that Belle Gunness had changed her name to Esther Carlson after the blaze and moved to Los Angeles. There, in 1931 at age 72, she was brought to trial for poisoning her husband August Lindstrom. Karlsen died before she could be tried. She was allegedly identified by an acquaintance from La Porte. Pictures of Gunness' children were found in a trunk belonging to Mrs Carlson.


Belle Gunness is the subject of several American murder ballads.[6][7]

The La Porte County Historical Society Museum has a permanent “Belle Gunness“ exhibit. [8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Torre, Lillian de la (2017-06-06). The Truth about Belle Gunness: The True Story of Notorious Serial Killer Hell's Belle. Open Road Media. ISBN 9781504044578.
  2. ^ a b Schneider, Howard (2018-05-18). "'Hell's Princess' Review: A Butcher Named Belle". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2018-06-29.
  3. ^ "Belle Gunness". Biography. Retrieved 2018-06-29.
  4. ^ "The Story of Belle Gunness, One of America's Most Prolific Serial Killers". Cosmopolitan. 2017-03-02. Retrieved 2018-06-29.
  5. ^ a b c d "A nightmare at Murder Farm: The story of one of America's most prolific serial killers". Strange Remains. 2014-05-19. Retrieved 2018-06-29.
  6. ^ Cohen, Norman (2008-09-30). American Folk Songs: A Regional Encyclopedia [2 volumes]: A Regional Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 9780313088100.
  7. ^ Schechter, Harold; Everitt, David (2006-07-04). The A to Z Encyclopedia of Serial Killers. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 9781416521747.
  8. ^ "Day Trip: Step into historic LaPorte, Indiana; visit 19th century courthouse, museum, miniature horse farm". Retrieved 2018-06-29.

Further reading[edit]