Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Belle Gunness

Entrepreneuse?

Nowhere else is her presence felt stronger than in La Porte. Residents say that old McClung Road reeks with her aura; one expects her to materialize from behind one of the old houses that still face the same cornfields just outside of town. Tongue in cheek, Jim Rogers, who is curator of La Porte's excellent county museum, calls Belle "our entrepreneur," for she has brought interest to the town, visitors who drive by to see where Belle once ambled. At Halloween, say others, a popular figure is Belle. Three-foot tall Belles are everywhere, carrying pumpkins full of candy.

Some of the same families still live in La Porte, although the main-players are gone. A newer house, built in the 1950s, stands on the old foundation of the Gunness farmhouse. The town has grown and appreciates its rich Indiana history, of which Belle Gunness' memory belongs on the dark side of it.

Attorney Wirt Worden remained in town after the trial and continued to practice law. He was another of the many central figures who remained interested in her whereabouts, scoffing the jury's view that "the adult body found in the ruins of the fire was that of Belle Gunness." He passed away in 1943 never doubting, said his wife, Belle's escape.

But, that night, after the trial ended, he walked out over the damp cobbles of his city, inhaled the rain-freshened evening air and looked up at the sky. Under it, he couldn't help but remembering the lines from Hamlet: "O, what a piece of work is Man!" — and realizing the true faculties of that statement. In that context, he realized that heroes and villains co-exist, sometimes shoulder to shoulder. "After the ball is over, after the break of morn,

"After the dancers' leaving, after the stars are gone..." He smiled, hearing a gramophone from inside the parlor of a house at the corner of his block. Human nature, he perceived, never changes. Mankind endures, simply because most of Mankind is as nice as those people in that house, who appreciate the lovely things in life, and are gentle, and kind, and thoughtful. He whistled along to the music as he walked home to bed. "Many a heart is broken, if you can read them all.

Many a hope that has vanished after the ball..."

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