Are you related to this woman?

If that’s the case, you will have something “big” to add to your family history. Many have probably already recognised her as Belle Gunnes from Norway who emigrated to the United States and ended up as a world notorious mass murderer.

May have killed up to 40 people

How many who died due to Belle Gunnes are unknown, but the estimate is about 40 persons. This includes two husbands, several of her children and an unknown number of her suitors.

Her original name was Brynhild Paulsdatter Størset, but she has subsequently become known as “Lady Bluebeard”. She was born on the 11th of November, 1859 in Selbu, South Trøndelag county in Norway. At 22 years of age she emigrated from Trondheim on the boat “Tasso” to America and settled in Chicago where she married Mads Ditlev Anton Sørensen from Drammen in Norway. He died 17 years later.

The death was reportedly due to a meatgrinder which had fallen from a shelf and hit the poor Mads on the head. Afterwards the truth would turn out to be different.

Mads would not be the only victim of Belle Gunnes. She earned good money from her killings as she received insurance benefits from the deaths of her two husbands. Obviously, this was not to be enough.

Through personal advertisements, she managed to receive many suitors at her farm. At Belle’s request they brought a lot of their own cash and Belle obviously kept this when she was “done” with the men.

Staged her own death

So, what do you do to avoid the consequences of so many killings? Yes, you stage your own death!

On April 28, 1908, her farm was burned down to the ground. In the burnt-out buildings the charred remains of three children and a headless female were found laying neatly in a row. The children were Belles own, but the woman could hardly be her. Belle was 173 cm tall and about 90 kg. The headless woman was shorter and weighted less than this. Belle probably escaped her misdeeds this way.

Did she get help from the local sheriff?

The author Anne Berit Vestby, who researched Belle Gunnes and her history, believes that she actually got help from the local sheriff.

Even if they never found a corpse on the farm that had a likeness to her body, Belle was declared dead by Sheriff Smutzer on April 28, 1908. Several people claimed to have seen her alive after this date, but no observations were ever proven.

Tried clarifying using DNA

A DNA sample of the bones of the headless woman was examined in 2008. Unfortunately, the result of this test was not good enough to prove that the woman who was found with the charred remnants of the children was Belle Gunnes.

New movie about Belle Gunnes

Both Hollywood and the Norwegian film maker Linda Sætre from Gurskebotn want to make a film about the Norwegian mass murderer. However, this is not the first time she is been on the big screen. Already in 1908 there was a silent movie about the Norwegian emigrant who ended up as one of America’s most infamous female mass murderers. The film had the macabre title “Gunnes Murder Farm”.

The planning of these new films have already gone on for a number of years, so it remains to be seen if Belle Gunnes really is to be re-filmed.