Belle Gunness - Biography - Morbid Discovery

Morbid Discovery

Gunness' dentist, Dr. Ira P. Norton, said that if the teeth/dental work of the headless corpse had been located he could definitely ascertain if it was she. Thus Louis "Klondike" Schultz, a former miner, was hired to build a sluice and begin sifting the debris (as more bodies were unearthed, the sluice was used to isolate human remains on a larger scale). On May 19, 1908, a piece of bridgework was found consisting of two human canine teeth, their roots still attached, porcelain teeth and gold crown work in between. Norton identified them as work done for Gunness. As a result, Coroner Charles Mack officially concluded that the adult female body discovered in the ruins was Belle Gunness.

Asle Helgelien arrived in La Porte and told Sheriff Smutzer that he believed his brother had met with foul play at Gunness' hands. Then, Joe Maxson came forward with information that could not be ignored: He told the Sheriff that Gunness had ordered him to bring loads of dirt by wheelbarrow to a large area surrounded by a high wire fence where the hogs were fed. Maxon said that there were many deep depressions in the ground that had been covered by dirt. These filled-in holes, Gunness had told Maxson, contained rubbish. She wanted the ground made level, so he filled in the depressions.

Smutzer took a dozen men back to the farm and began to dig. On May 3, 1908, the diggers unearthed the body of Jennie Olson (vanished December 1906). Then they found the small bodies of two unidentified children. Subsequently the body of Andrew Helgelien was unearthed (his overcoat was found to be worn by Lamphere). As days progressed and the gruesome work continued, one body after another was discovered in Gunness' hog pen:

  • Ole B. Budsberg of Iola, Wisconsin, (vanished May 1907);
  • Thomas Lindboe, who had left Chicago and had gone to work as a hired man for Gunness three years earlier;
  • Henry Gurholdt of Scandinavia, Wisconsin, who had gone to wed her a year earlier, taking $1,500 to her; a watch corresponding to one belonging to Gurholdt was found with a body;
  • Olaf Svenherud, from Chicago;
  • John Moe of Elbow Lake, Minnesota; his watch was found in Lamphere's possession;
  • Olaf Lindbloom, age 35 from Wisconsin.

Reports of other possible victims began to come in:

  • William Mingay, a coachman of New York City, who had left that city on April 1, 1904;
  • Herman Konitzer of Chicago who disappeared in January 1906;
  • Charles Edman of New Carlisle, Indiana;
  • George Berry of Tuscola, Illinois;
  • Christie Hilkven of Dover, Wisconsin, who sold his farm and came to La Porte in 1906;
  • Chares Neiburg, a 28-year-old Scandinavian immigrant who lived in Philadelphia, told friends that he was going to visit Gunness in June 1906 and never came back — he had been working for a saloon keeper and took $500 with him;
  • John H. McJunkin of Coraopolis (near Pittsburgh) left his wife in December 1906 after corresponding with a La Porte woman;
  • Olaf Jensen, a Norwegian immigrant of Carroll, Indiana, wrote his relatives in 1906 he was going to marry a wealthy widow at La Porte;
  • Henry Bizge of La Porte who disappeared June 1906 and his hired man named Edward Canary of Pink Lake Ill who also vanished 1906;
  • Bert Chase of Mishawaka, Indiana sold his butcher shop and told friends of a wealthy widow and that he was going to look her up; his brother received a telegram supposedly from Aberdeen, South Dakota claiming Bert had been killed in a train wreck; his brother investigated and found the telegram was fictitious;
  • Tonnes Peterson Lien of Rushford, Minnesota, is alleged to have disappeared April 2, 1907;
  • A gold ring marked "S.B. May 28, 1907" was found in the ruins;
  • A hired man named George Bradley of Tuscola, Illinois, is alleged to have gone to La Porte to meet a widow and three children in October 1907;
  • T.J. Tiefland of Minneapolis is alleged to have come to see Gunness in 1907;
  • Frank Riedinger a farmer of Waukesha, Wisconsin, came to Indiana in 1907 to marry and never returned;
  • Emil Tell, a Swede from Kansas City, Missouri, is alleged to have gone in 1907 to La Porte;
  • Lee Porter of Bartonville, Oklahoma separated from his wife and told his brother he was going to marry a wealthy widow at La Porte;
  • John E. Hunter left Duquesne, Pennsylvania, on November 25, 1907 after telling his daughters he was going to marry a wealthy widow in Northern Indiana.
  • Two other Pennsylvanians — George Williams of Wapawallopen and Ludwig Stoll of Mount Yeager — also left their homes to marry in the West.
  • Abraham Phillips, a railway man of Burlington, West Virginia, left in the winter of 1907 to go to Northern Indiana and marry a rich widow — a railway watch was found in the debris of the house.
  • Benjamin Carling of Chicago, Illinois, was last seen by his wife in 1907 after telling her that he was going to La Porte to secure an investment with a rich widow; he had with him $1,000 from an insurance company and borrowed money from several investors as well; in June 1908 his widow was able to identify his remains from La Porte's Pauper's cemetery by the contour of his skull and three missing teeth;
  • Aug. Gunderson of Green Lake, Wisconsin;
  • Ole Oleson of Battle Creek, Michigan;
  • Lindner Nikkelsen of Huron, South Dakota;
  • Andrew Anderson of Lawrence, Kansas;
  • Johann Sorensen of St. Joseph, Missouri;
  • A possible victim was a man named Hinkley;

Reported unnamed victims were:

  • a daughter of Mrs. H. Whitzer of Toledo, Ohio, who had attended Indiana University near La Porte in 1902;
  • an unknown man and woman are alleged to have disappeared in September 1906, the same night Jennie Olson went missing. Gunness claimed they were a Los Angeles "professor" and his wife who had taken Jennie to California;
  • a brother of Miss Jennie Graham of Waukesha, Wisconsin, who had left her to marry a rich widow in La Porte but vanished;
  • a hired man from Ohio age 50 name unknown is alleged to have disappeared and Gunness became the "heir" to his horse and buggy;
  • an unnamed man from Montana told people at a resort he was going to sell Gunness his horse and buggy, which were found with several other horses and buggies at the farm.

Most of the remains found on the property could not be identified. Because of the crude recovery methods, the exact number of individuals unearthed on the Gunness farm is unknown, but is believed to be approximately twelve. On May 19, 1908 remains of approximately seven unknown victims were buried in two coffins in unmarked graves in the pauper's section of LaPorte's Pine Lake Cemetery. Andrew Helgelien and Jennie Olson are buried in La Porte's Patton Cemetery, near Peter Gunness.

Read more about this topic:  Belle Gunness, Biography

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