Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Belle Gunness

Legendary Belle

"It is certain because it is impossible."

— Tertullian

Ray Lamphere was removed to the state penitentiary in Michigan City, not far from La Porte. But, his stay was brief. He contracted disease not long after he arrived and died a little more than a year later, on December 30, 1909. He passed away, jaundiced and weak, obsessed with Belle Gunness. All told, he was another one of her victims.

During his incarceration, he would often mention Belle to his cellmate, Harry Myers, a convicted thief. Lamphere, said Myers, would repeat her name daily, sometimes looking out the barred window of their cell towards the barren stretch of Indiana prairie and mutter, "She's out there, Harry."

When released, Myers told of a strange incident. One evening, while chatting, both men were eyeing some visitors leaving the prison. A woman passed below their window, buxom, blonde and earthy looking. "She's about the size of my old gal," said Lamphere. "People think she's dead. She's not dead. Harry, she had a large scar on her left thigh — but that body that was burned, it had no scar. Besides —"

He paused, measured his words, still staring out the window, watching that woman. "I know where Belle is. And she's not far from here. Believe me."

Wherever she was, Lamphere was but one of many who went to their graves convinced that Belle Gunness lived on. Well into the 1930s, almost a quarter of a century after the trial, she popped up everywhere, from Indiana to the East Coast. Perhaps, says the La Porte Public Library, "she murdered again".

"There were numerous sightings of the murderess across the country," the La Porte County Historical Society tells us. She was a reputed whore in a brothel down South and a madam on the Atlantic Coast. Some believed she escaped to Norway.

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