"Come Prepared to Stay Forever..."
Signed "With love, Bella Gunness."
From 1901-1908 Belle Gunness lured the hearts of lonely men to her farm in LaPorte, Indiana, where she laid them to rest beneath three feet of mud. She invited men from all over to come live at her farm, promising them good food and a warm bed to share with a "well off woman." They brought their entire savings with- at Belle's request
After arrival, the men were poisoned in their sleep, dismembered, and buried by dawn. For seven years, murder was Belle's largest cash crop.
Here Enters Our Mystery
The brother of the Andrew Helgelien, one of Belle's last victims, grew tired of Belle's insistent letters. She claimed Andrew had just ran away in the night. He doubted her and feared the worst for his brother. Without haste, he decided to visit the farm. But before he could arrive, her house burned to the ground. At the base of the rubble four bodies were uncovered. They were presumed to be of Belle and her children. Andrew's brother arrived on site and began poking around the hog pen, where his worst suspicions proved true.
What Andrew found was the most shocking and horrendous discovery in Indiana's history. The first body found was Andrew, dismembered and stuffed in a canvas sack with a mattress over him. The next body discovered was of Jennie Olson, Belle's adopted daughter. As more and more corpses were recovered, an estimated forty missing men were suspected to be buried under the farm. Most of victims were never identified.
A closer look at "Belle's charred corpse" reveals another detail. Belle was a hulking woman and weighed over two-hundred pounds. The corpse recovered at the site was only seventy pounds....
Andrew Helgelien pictured above
Belle Gunness was a vile, despicable monster. She murdered an unknown number of men, women, and even her own children...And she escaped. Leaving dozens of unanswered questions behind.
These queries are over a century old. Did Belle really die in the fire? How could she kill all those men and even her own children? How many did she kill 12 or 40? How could the town not have suspected her? What kind of criminal profile could be made of her? They need to be answered and I intend to do this with my film. Efforts have already begin to solve this century old mystery. In 2008 a DNA analysis began comparing a stamp Belle licked to the corpse from the house fire.
With this film I want to-
- 1) Tell the story & update it.
- 2) Answer these presented questions.
- 3) Display LaPorte today, one hundred years later.
- 4) Give the victims the respect they deserve.
This is a very much an Indiana story but I want to branch out nation wide (or beyond that) to tell this story of how insanity, greed, and murder was allowed to exist right behind a small town's back.
Where Your Money Will Go
I'm not asking for much (...yeah, I guess I am). But even if you are considering donating right now, I thank you. Thank you for reading this little pitch. No matter how much you donate, you will have my infinite thanks and gratitude. This project has been a dream of mine since I was eight-years-old and was shown the old Belle Gunness exhibit at the LaPorte County Museum- where all of my questions to the mystery were first sparked.
The money will go to travel, research, costumes, actors, and post production work. Plus film festival submission fees. Actors and costumes are needed for the reenactments I have scripted out. The reenactments will be shot with a cinematic ambition, inspired by other period pieces like the Assassination of Jesse James, Days of Heaven, and There Will Be Blood. The cinematography, use of lenses, filters, and digital effects, will allow this film to paint a bleak portrait of rural Indiana in the early twentieth century. Other than the goal of telling the complete story, the other is to compose breath taking images and scenes that will make this documentary unforgettable.
I'm also excited for the rewards. I think I've picked out some good ones and I hope they entice you as well.
Once again, thank you!
- (40 days)