Rising from the Suburbs….Belle Gunness!

Belle Gunness, the female blue beard, has finally been dug up.

We usually think of Gunnesss as an Indiana serial killer; we have plenty of our own around here, so we don’t mind letting them have this one. Sort of throwing them a bone, if you will. It was in Indiana that Belle set up a farm where she would lure wealthy bachelors with lovelorn classified ads, then murder them and feed them to her hogs. How many men she killed isn’t known; some suspect that it was upwards of 100.

But there’s a Chicago connection – Belle was, in addition to being a killer, an insurance fraudster. One of her first major schemes involved burning down a candy store that she and her husband ran at Grand and Elizabeth in Chicago in the 1880s (right around the same time that her male counterpart, HH Holmes, was getting his start). From there she moved to the suburbs. After she died in a fire at her Indiana farm, which also killed her daughters, she was brought back to Chicago, where she lay buried in Forest Park. Until now.

The body found at the Indiana farm was headless. The head was never found – the only things to identify Belle were a couple of dentures. Most people don’t lose their heads in fires, and no one chops their own head off and hides it before dying. There has, therefore, long been speculation that Gunness’ death was faked, and now we’re going to find out for sure:

Chicago Tribune: Belle Gunness exhumed

This isn’t the first time that stories of a faked death have led to exhumation; Jesse James was dug up a year or so ago to see if it was really him (which it certainly was). I’m not much of a conspiracy theorist, but I do enjoy a good faked death story; they tend to seem much more plausible than conspiracies that require thousands of people to keep a secret. Some skeptics claim that no one has ever successfully faked their death, but there’s sort of a catch: if we knew about it, it wouldn’t have been successful! Of course, they won’t be able to say that at all if the headless corpse is someone other than Gunness!

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