Belle GunnessBack before Vogue was so in vogue and thin wasn't really in, there was a fat old lady from Norway whose talent with the pen won her many a Norse heart. Her name was Brynhilde Poulsatter Storset, but most everyone who knew her called her Belle.
Belle was no real prize in the fuck-worthy department. She was 9 when she came to the US in 1881 and changed her name to make herself sound more attractive. But back in those heady days, men wanted workers, not dancers, and Belle was a stocky and strong young woman. She grew into a thick, tree-like stature: 5'7" tall, and 200 pounds of mostly muscle.
In 1893, at the age of 24, she married Mads Sorenson, a farmer who was also from Norway. They moved to Chicago and opened a candy store, squeezing out four children along the way. Belle poisoned her daughter Caroline in 1896, then her son Axel in 1898. Then, for shits and giggles, she burnt down the candy shop that same year. Belle and Mads took the insurance money and moved to the other side of Chicago.
Mads was impressively long lasted for one of Belle's relations, but in 1900, after 17 years of faithful marriage, Belle poisoned Mads too. Insurance companies around this period were laughably incompetent. Belle garnered money from Mads' death, as well as from the sudden fire that took her house away shortly after Mads was buried.
Using the $13,000 insurance pay-off she received, Belle moved herself and three children to a 40 acre farm in La Porte, Indiana. Yes, that's three children. Lord knows why, but one of Belle's neighbors decided to dump their daughter, Jennie Olsen, on Belle and skip town. The actual method of killing is lost to history, but in 1903, Jennie was never seen around the farm any more. Belle said she'd gone off to finishing school, but more likely she was sent to the backyard in a gunny sack instead.
Always a strong and resourceful woman, Belle raised and slaughtered pigs and cows, earning just enough to keep herself afloat. She didn't really need a man around the house, but eventually her vagina got to tingling, and she began the hunt for a new lover.
In 1902, she found Peter Gunness, a gentle old Norseman who evidently got a big boner when he saw how adept Belle was at gutting a pig. Belle proposed, and the pair were wed in the spring. Just before the marriage, Belle begged her betrothed to take out a large life insurance policy and to sign her as the beneficiary. Typically, this is a big alarm trigger for most folks, but Gunness was something of a dolt. By the winter, he was dead from a blow to the head. Belle told authorities that a sausage grinder had fallen on him. Belle's children knew otherwise. She did keep his last name, though. Touching. Interestingly, Belle kept the child she gave birth to a month after Gunness' death. Well, kept her for a little while.
Belle placed an ad in numerous matrimonial journals, a sort of combination mail-order-bride catalog and personals periodical. Because of these journals two score men eventually went to their graves. the luring of prey to a killer via epistles is nothing new. The age of email and irc has only exacerbated matters. Had Belle Gunness owned a computer... well, she didn't have any electricity anyway.
Belle netted herself husband after husband thanks to Norwegian journals. And they always seemed to leave her a large life insurance policy after their deaths. Most of these men lost their personal wealth, as well. Belle's ad specifically asked for any visiting suitor to bring large sums of cash to prove their worth and sincerity. The money was the only thing that didn't end up in the backyard wrapped in a gunny sack.
After only seven murders, Belle met George Anderson. She immediately proposed marriage, and he accepted. But then, the night after she proposed, George awakened with a start and saw Belle standing over him, staring down at him with a candle in her hand. George was majorly creeped out. He screamed. She screamed. They had themselves a jolly old round of primal scream therapy. In the morning, Georgie boy left town and related the story to friends and relatives. He was the only man ever to survive Belle Gunness.
In 1908, after killing off horny and lonely old men for eight years straight, Belle decided to retire. She took out a life insurance policy on herself, always a bad sign. By this time, the local insurance man had Belle's address on speed-file. On the way out of town, Belle stopped into a local saloon for a drink. There, she met a 5' 3", 150 pound middle aged woman. After buying the woman a few drinks, belle invited her out to the farm, promising a job and good pay. When they got there, Belle cut her head off. She dressed the body in her clothes and laid her in the basement. Belle was flattering herself. The body was a lot more attractive and shapely than her own.
But the size difference never really hurt her. On April 28, after herding her remaining 3 children into the basement, she locked the door, set fire to the house, and was never seen again.
Belle Gunness got away with 42 murders in all. After the fire, local authorities came round the house and started digging. There were corpses everywhere. Some were in gunny sacks, some were naked. Others were scattered across the fields. There were countless bones and fragments left unaccounted for. Some reports cite as many as 20 unexplained right arms.
For years after the killings, Belle was reportedly seen around La Porte by locals and neighbors. One nosey neighbor claimed to have seen Belle on April 30, at Almetta Hay's house. Eight years later, after Hay had gone the way of the Dodo, snooping locals found a rotted skull behind the bed. It was the head of the dead woman from the bar.
Not that finding a head did Belle any harm. She was never found. In 1917, a nurse called the cops when he thought Belle was checking into his hospital, but the lady in question vanished before he got back from the phone. in 1931, Esther Carlson was tried in L.A. for poisoning her 81-year-old husband, but La Porte couldn't afford to send anyone to L.A. to look at the picture found in Esther's purse: a photo of three daughters. Esther died in jail before the trial.