Gunness’ hired hand, on-and-off lover, Ray Lamphere was convicted of arson in November of 1908, in connection with the fire at Gunness’ farm. Lamphere later confessed that Gunness had indeed placed advertisements in the papers only to murder and rob the men who responded and visited her farm.
In Lamphere’s confession, he stated that Gunness had asked him to burn down her farmhouse along with her children while they were still inside the farmhouse. He stated that in order to mislead the investigators, the body that was thought to be Gunness was actually a murder victim and that it had intentionally been placed there.
Lamphere explained that because of an impending visit from a brother of one of the victims arriving early, she was motivated to destroy the house, fake her death, and flee. At the time of Lamphere’s arrest he was wearing John Moe’s overcoat and Henry Gurholt’s watch.
In a speculative second Lamphere confession, given to a Reverend Schell, and eventually to Edward Bechly, Lampheres states that he had killed Gunness and her children with an ax, and then sprinkled the bodies with kerosene and set fire to them and the house. His confession gave details about the slaying and his part in the murders that had occurred at the Gunness farm. Lamphere’s task usually being that of burying the bodies in the garden. The primary fact in his confession was that Gunness was not a fugitive or alive.
Lamphere’s confession resulted in the arrest in his accomplice,Elizabeth Smith. There were inconsistencies between Lamphere’s confession and Smith’s confession, including whether or not Belle Gunness survived. These issues remain a historical issue and are not fully resolved.
Sightings of Gunness in the Chicago area continued long after she was “declared dead”. The sheriff blamed a Chicago American reporter for inventing the “escaped” story. After the crimes Gunness committed at the farm came to light, the farm became a tourist attraction.
DNA was tested in 2008 on the headless corpse against a sample letter Gunness sent to one of her victims. Due to the age of the sample of the letter, it was unable to be properly tested.
Spectators have come across the country to see the mass graves. Concessions and souvenirs were sold. The La Porte county Historical Society Museum has a permanent “Belle Gunness” exhibit.
Elizabeth Hurley stars in a 2004 film, Method, as Rebecca portraying Gunness in a film, within a film, shot in Romania.
A 2021 film starring Traci Lords, The Farm, is based on the Gunness story.
A 2021 novel by Camilla Bruce, In the Garden of Spite: A Novel of the Black Widow of Laporte, has elements of “Norwegian noir and true crime” and is based on the life of Belle Gunness.
Thank you for traveling into the past for an intriguing tale of the life of Belle Guiness.