Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Belle Gunness

So Many Disappeared

The names, the faces... where had they gone, the oh-so-many personalities, these farmhands who worked for Belle and courted her — otherwise but to their mistress's personal execution chamber?

"Where was Ole Budsberg?" asked the town. He had been another of Belle's potentials. Writes de la Torre, "Mr. Budsberg had drawn $1,800 on April 26, 1907. He was escorted by Mrs. Gunness (and) had not been seen since. His sons had written to ask what had become of him, and the bank cashier called on Mrs. Gunness to inquire. She said Ole Budsberg had gone to Oregon."

Swan Nicholson, a La Porte resident, was asking particularly about a fellow he had come to know and like. "Where is Olaf Lindbloe? He was fresh from Norway, about thirty years old, and a fine-looking young fellow..." Chris Christofferson, who lived off McClung Road near Belle, replied: "The last I saw of Olaf was in the spring of 1904. He was moving the old privy (on Belle's property) off its hole. Next time I visited the farm, there was Mrs. Gunness... complaining that had left her in the lurch and gone off to St. Louis to see the fair."

Another name that left people guessing was that of Henry Gurholt. The merchants in town recalled his pleasant disposition and his courteous way of handling Belle's affairs on market day. Christofferson remembered the spring-like day that day Gurholt arrived in 1905 — "I helped him carry his trunk upstairs" — and he remembered the week he washed into oblivion.  "In August, Belle came to me to help stack oats, because Henry had left her flat in the middle of oat-cutting to go off with a horse trader."

Certain farmhands were on the farm so briefly that the townspeople never had a chance to know their names. For instance, said butcher Emil Palm, "There was a young boy at the farm last summer who came into La Porte several times with Mrs. Gunness, but then stopped coming. One time I asked her what had become of the boy, and she looked up at a piece of meat and remarked what a lovely cut it would make."

There were others, many others. "The next farm hand," de la Torre pens, "disappeared suddenly, too, so suddenly that he left his horse and buggy behind him. What became of all these men?"

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