Saturday, February 25, 2017

Martina Johnson, War Criminal - “Operation Octopus,” Liberia, 1992

Belgian police arrested Martina Johnson in Ghent on September 17, 2014. She is charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during the First Liberian Civil War (1989-1997). The arrest resulted from a 2012 complaint – which focused heavily on Operation Octopus – made against Johnson filed in Belgium by Liberian victims.

Included in these crimes specifically those which occurred on October 20 and 23 during the 120-day long “Operation Octopus”

Martina Johnson was identified as one of the leaders of Operation Octopus, launched on October 15, 1992 by the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) headed by ex-president Charles Ghankay Taylor, “a brutal battle for Liberia’s capital city, Monrovia, in 1992 that killed thousands and saw extensive rapes and looting by the NPFL’s Small Boys Unit.”

According to Barbie Latza Nadeau, of The Daily Beast, “The nuns were allegedly murdered under the sinister direction of Martina Johnson, one of Taylor’s only female artillery chiefs and a frontline commander who allegedly carried out many of his hits during Operation Octopus.”

Among the war crimes were the assassinations of five American nuns which took place October 20 and 23, 1992:

Oct. 20, 1992 – “Sister Barbara Muttra and Sister Mary Joel Kolmer were shot in their vehicles along with a Liberian colleague and two relief workers, apparently as part of the Operation’s agenda to rid Liberia of whites and those who worked with them.”

Oct. 23, 1992 – “fighters came to the convent where the remaining sisters lived and first attacked Sister Kathleen McGuire when she was summoned to unlock the gate by a killer identified as Mosquito, who shot her first and then shot the other two before mutilating their bodies with a machete.”

The bodies of the murdered nuns were only discovered a month later, after the fighting had lulled.

She is only the second person to be charged for crimes relating to the country’s two civil wars that spanned 14 years. In 2012 Charles Taylor, at the age of 64, was convicted some of the “most heinous and brutal crimes in human history” and sentenced to 50 years in prison.


EXCERPT: Massacre in Margibi – Summary Execution at Horton’s Farm, Kakata, Margibi County in October 1992: Martina Johnson, NPFL artillery commander ordered the execution of 23 persons arrested in Bong Mines as suspected fighters of ULIMO. Massacre at Firestone plantation, Margibi county on December 26, 1992: Joseph Zackor, alias “Gen. Zack”, Nixon Gayor, Francis Duanna and men assigned with them massacred 35 persons at the Firestone Plantations, division No. 31 while escaping the ULIMO incursion in Kakata. [Josephus M. Gray, “Let Justice Prevail In the Spirit of TRC Not Amnesty,” Front Page Africa, Oct. (?) 2015]


Patric Foryoh, “Belgium arrests Liberian ex-rebel commander,” The On Line Salone Report, Sep. 19, 2014.
Barbie Latza Nadeau, “Caught: Female Assassin Who Allegedly Murdered Five American Nuns,” The Daily Beast, Sep. 22, 2014.





More: Hitwomen



Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Ana María Ruíz Villeda & Rodolfo Infante Jímenez, Mexican Serial Killer Couple – 1991

Rodolfo Infante Jímenez (born 1963 in San Benito, Texas, United States) and Ana María Ruíz Villeda (born 1971 in San Luis Potosí, Mexico) beat, robbed, raped and murdered at least eight girls and young women between the ages of 15 to 23 from August through October 1991 in Matamoros area of Tamaulipas state, Mexico. They strangled the victims throwing their bodies into the Rio Grande or in irrigation ditches, and in one case was discarded close to the residence of the killers.

The couple lured their victims, who were mostly from rural areas, from downtown Matamoros with offers of a job at work at El Ebanito, a communal farm 10-20 miles from the city. Two of the girls an offer to assist with learning English and getting a U. S. work visa was offered.

The investigation was prompted when on the morning of October 16, 1991 Alma Lilia Rostro, 17, ran off from the farm after discovering the door had been left unlocked. She ran to matamoros and reported to police that her friend Marina Hernandez Lopez, 14, was missing. Josefina had seen one victim of beatings and repeated rapes, later found dead, and escaped the farm shack where she had been placed and went to the Matamoros police. The girl had been captive on the farm for ten days, always kept locked in a shack when the couple were not there to watch her, before her escape.

The killer couple was arrested on October 16, 1991. The pair confessed to all eight killings, but later they changed their story, each blaming the other. Ana depicted herself as a passive victim of a bullying boyfriend. Yet Alma Lilia described how, before she had the slightest suspecion about the couple, Anna had wrapped a sheet around her neck and started tightening it. At the time the girl wrote off this behavior as merely a peculiar sense of humor.

Each faced to 30-40 years in prison, the maximum allowable sentence in the state of Tamaulipas. At present, no news reports on the actual sentencing have been located.

It must be noted that there are various inconsistencies in the various available sources. The following detailed article with interviews with relatives seems to be the most reliable: Maggie Rivas, “Border nightmare: Couple held in 8 Matamoroas slayings blame each other,” The Arizona Daily Star (Phoenix, Az.), Oct. 20, 1991, p. C-2.

[Robert St. Estephe; Sep. 22, 2017]


Guillerimina Sanchez Galacia (or, Guillerimina Sanchez Morales),
Marina Hernandez Lopez,  14.
Cecilia Obispo
Orfelinda Juarez Castillo
Isabel Ventura
Rita Hernandez
Enriqueta Vega Rocha (cousin of survivor Alma Lilia Rostro)
Aug. 1991 – first body found, near El Sabibo; raped, beaten, strangled.
Aug. – 3 days later, 2nd body found, Rio Grande; raped, strangled.
Sep. – 3rd body found.
Oct. 12, 1991 – 4th body found; Orefelinda Castillo, robbed of equivalent of $13.30.
Oct. 16, 1991 – morning; Alma Lilia Rostro, 17, discovers discarded shoes, escapes, notifies Matamoros police.
Oct. 16, 1991 – body of Enriqueta Vega Rocha, cousin of Alma Lilia Rostro found; raped.
Oct. 16, 1991 – couple arrested; confess to eight murders (later retracted, and the couple then accuse one another).
Oct. 19, 1991 – Guillerimina Sanchez Galacia (or, Guillerimina Sanchez Morales), body found.
Oct. 19, 1991 – Infante confesses to three of the murders.
Oct. 1991 – maximum possible sentence: 40 years in prison, for 8 counts of kidnapping plus 8 murders. Prosecutor Luis Ernesto Gracia Ramirez stated that the couple faced at least 30 years in prison if convicted of the homicides.

[Maggie Rivas (Knight-Ritter writer), “Couple charged with 8 murders,” Herald & Review (Decatur, Il.), Oct. 19, 1991, p. D-6]
[Maggie Rivas, “Border nightmare: Couple held in 8 Matamoroas slayings blame each other,” The Arizona Daily Star (Phoenix, Az.), Oct. 20, 1991, p. C-2]
 [Eduardo Montes, “Police: Couple Killed Girls Lured to Farm,” Associated Press, Oct. 17, 1991]
[“Matamoros Couple held in connection with 8 slayings,” The Galveston News Tx.), AP, Oct. 18, 1991, p. 3-A]
Newton, Michael (1993). Bad Girls Do It!: An Encyclopedia of Female Murderers. USA: Loompanics Unlimited, p. 174.

English spellings: Rodolfo Infante Jimenez, Ana Maria Ruiz Villeda.




Links to more Serial Killer Couples

[5284-1/8/21; 5789-10/21/21]

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Lyudmila Spesivtseva, Cannibal Serial Killer Mom – Siberia, Russia 1996

Novokuznetsk, Siberia – Lyudmila Spesivtseva, an employee of a Soviet government school, was sentenced to life in prison (or 13 years according to some accounts) for luring teenage girls for the pleasure of her son, so that he could rape, torture and dismember them. Mom and son lived together. Lyudmila took the body parts of the girls she procured for her boy and in her kitchen whipped up some creative meals for the little household. Lyudmila was convicted for her part in four murders. The some was sentenced to death, but was found insane (and presumably is not to be executed).

Police discovered an apartment with walls covered with blood and in the kitchen bowls containing human body parts. In the bathtub they found a mutilated, headless body. One victim, Olga Galtseva, was still alive, though severely mutilated. Before she died in hospital 17 hours later, the girl gave her account of the tortures she to which was subjected to a prosecutor. Of the other three victims whose remains could be identified in the blood-drenched apartment of horrors, it was learned that the son had killed one girl and forced the other two girls to cut her into pieces in the bathtub. Another girl had been killed by the family pet, a Doberman. A diary was found that documented the murders of 19 girls. The pair were suspected in a total of at least 32 murders.

There is abundant information as well as many photos available for the son, Alexander "Sasha" Spesivtsev, 26 when arrested, but no photos of mom have been found by this reporter to date.

[Robert St. Estephe]


Lyudmila Spesivtseva (Russian: Людмила Спесивцева) – Novosibirsk, Siberia, Russia.

Oct. 27, 1996 – Lyudmila Spesivtseva arrested.
2008 – Lyudmila released from prison.
Jun. 22, 2013 – tried to return to her apartment on Pioneer 53, where she was with her daughter, Nadezhda, who knew what her had been brother was doing.
Jun. 2016 – A social network group “Lynch Lyudmila Yakovlevna Spesivtseva,” is gaining popularity; founded beginning of June 2016. The creators of the community are closely watching the mother of a serial killer from Novokuznetsk, maniac cannibal Alexander Spesivtseva. The group members believe she did not pay adequately for her unspeakable crimes. Now she lives in one of the villages near the town of Osinniki, the lynch group reported.






For more cases see: Cannibal Murderesses


For similar cases, see Murder-Coaching Moms


Links to more cases: Female Serial Killers Who Like to Murder Women

[3/19/14, updated 2/14/17; 18,200-3/12/18; 24,372-1/8/18; 29,295-10/12/22]

Thursday, February 9, 2017

“Maria” (Filipino Hitwoman), Covert Government Executioner – Philippines, 2016

In August 2016 a married mother called by the pseudonym Maria by the press came forth and admitted to a BBC journalist on videotape that she was a contract assassin who had murdered six persons in Manila as a covert agent for President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drug cartels. She said she received orders and payments of £330 from a police officer. She was recruited into the killer-for-hire business by her husband, who is also a hired killer. She said she belonged to a team of three hitwomen.

Maria explained that female killers were especially “valued because they were able to get close to targets that men could not.” She confessed to a reporter that “If it was up to me, I really don't want to do it any longer. But my boss told us that if one of us tries to leave, we would be killed.”

On September 3rd Senior Supt. Dionardo Carlos of the Philippine National Police issued an official statement that the story was unverified. “PNP Chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa said during Thursday’s Senate hearing on the spate of “drug killings” that as of Aug. 31, the PNP has officially tallied 929 suspects killed in police antinarcotics operations since July 1. But the tally for drugs suspects killed by unidentified gunmen usually marked by cardboard signages identifying them as drugs personalities tend to be more indeterminate, precisely because the perpetrators and their motives are officially unknown.” [PDI, Sep. 3, 2016]

During Duterte’s campaign for president he promised to kill 100,000 criminals in his first six months in office.


“Female Assassin: Meet the ruthless hitwoman hired to execute drug dealers for the Filipino president at £330 a time in his bloody crime crackdown,” The Sun (London), Aug. 26, 2016]
[Jonathan Head, “Philippines drugs war: The woman who kills dealers for a living,” BBC, 26 Aug. 26, 2016]
[Jaymee T. Gamil, PNP dismisses BBC story on female assassin,” Phillipine Daily Inquirer (Manila), Sep. 3, 2016]



More: Hitwomen


Monday, February 6, 2017

Yuri Patricia Sanchez, Colombian Hitwoman - 2016

“The Devil Woman” (La Diabla), regarded as the most dangerous woman in Columbia, is suspected of 14 murders, half of the victims being police officers. Yuri Patricia Sánchez, 22, was arrested Monteria, in Cordoba province on June 5, 2016 and accused of carrying out contract killings, collecting and providing information to extort victims, and hiding weapons used in crimes. She is believed to have been working for the powerful Usuga Clan (also known as Los Urabenos), a gang with 3,000 members and tentacles in neighboring countries. Sanchez attracted the cartel’s attention by participating in street fights, a form of entertainment for cartel bosses. She was recruited for the Two Cobras gang, part of Usuga Clan. [Robert St. Estephe]


[Chris Summers, “'Devil Woman' arrested in Colombia: Cops detain 22-year-old assassin who they believe carried out 14 contract killings,” Mailonline, Jun. 11, 2016]
[Video: Cayó ‘la Diabla’ del Clan Úsuga en Córdoba,” 5 de Junio de 2016 (1:10 PM),]




More: Hitwomen


Sunday, February 5, 2017

Hitwomen: Female Serial Killer Assassins

1974 Jeanette van Neesen – Hoorn, Netherlands
1978 – Patricia Gregg – DeKalb County, Georgia, USA
Unconfirmed self-claim.
1980 – Blanche Wright – New York, New York, USA
Organized crime related.
1982 – Brigitte Mohnhaupt – Germany
Terrorism. Red Army Faction (AKA Baader-Meinhof gang).
1986 – Idoia López Riaño (Idoia Lopez Riano) – Guipúzcoa, Spain
Terrorism. ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna; Basque Country and Freedom) 
1992 – Martina Johnson – Monrovia, Liberia 
Military; Crimes against humanity; assassinations. 
2007 – Margarita García Méndez – Valle Hermoso, Tamaulipas, Mexico 
Gulf cartel.
2011 – Nancy Manriquez Quintanar – Ecatepec, Mexico
“La Flaca” (#1). Drug cartel related. Los Zetas. 25 when arrested. 9 (at least) murders. Accomplice of shooter.
2011 – Verónica Mireya Moreno Carreon – San Nicolás de los Garza, Nuevo León, Mexico
“La Flaca” (#2). Drug cartel related. Los Zetas. Multiple murders.
2011 – Carolina Rueda Martinez – Tula, Hidalgo, Mexico
"La Pantera." Cartel
2012 – Maria Guadalupe Jimenez Lopez – Mexico
“La Tosca.” Drug cartel related. Los Zetas. 26 when arrested.
2013 – Samantha Lewthwaite – Kenya & England
Islamic terror related.
2014 – Gakirah Barnes – Chicago, Illinois, USA
Gang; St. Lawrence Boys or the Fly Boy Gang.
2014 – Claudia Ochoa Felix – Culiacán, Sinaloa, Mexico
“La Emperatriz de Los Ántrax” Drug cartel related. Los Ántrax, enforcer branch of Sinaloa Cartel. Still at large.
2014 – Marixa Lemus – Pasaco, Jutiapa, Guatemala
Assassination Squad.
2014 – Yesenia Pacheco Ramirez – Navolato, Sinaloa, Mexico
Gulf Cartel. “La Güera Loca” (The Crazy Witch).
2015 – Joselyn Alejandra Nino (Niño) – Lauro Villar, Matamoros, Mexico
“La Flaca” (#3). Drug cartel related. Los Ciclones. Murdered by rival gang.
2015 – Melissa Margarita Calderón Ojeda – Bellavista, Baja California Sur, Mexico
“La China.” Drug cartel related. Los Ántrax, enforcer branch of Sinaloa Cartel. 30 when arrested.
2016 – Juana “La Peque Sicaria” – Baja California, Mexico
“La Peque Sicaria.” Drug cartel related. Los Zetas. 28 when arrested.
2016 – “Maria” (Filipino Hitwoman) – Philippines
Government covert activities related.
2016 – Yuri Patricia Sanchez Monteria, Cordoba province, Colombia
“La Diabla.” Drug cartel related. Usuga Clan (also known as Los Urabenos). 22 when arrested.
2018 – Mariam Abiola – Ilasamaja, Lagos, Nigeria
Gang/cult. Eiye cult.
2019 – "La Diabla of Medillin" – Medellin, Colombia
2019 – Jennifer Perez "La Chata"– Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico
Northeast Cartel. Cártel del Noreste.
2019 – Jackeline Lopez – Poniente, Mexico
"La Jaki del Poniente." Cartel. Las Panteras, associated with Los Zetas in Tamaulipas and Chihuahua.
2019 – Jasiane Silva Teixeira – Biritban Mirim, Sao Paulo, Brazil
Drug dealer.
2020 – Maria Guadalupe Lopez Esquivel – Aguililla, State of Michoachan, Mexico 
Cartel; ”La Catrina,” La Guadaña (Scythe)
2020 – Monica Yadira Ruiz – Tijuana, Mexico 
Sinala Cartel. “La Moni.”
2020 – Brisa del Mar – Palma Sola, Veracruz, Mexico
Cartel; Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación.


Count: 29 (July 28, 2022)


3 Mexican cartel Hitwoman with the nickname “La Flaka”:

2014 – Claudia Ochoa Felix
2015 – Joselyn Alejandra Niño
2015 – Melissa Margarita Calderón Ojeda


[5166-3/13/21; 6246-9/1/22]

Joselyn Alejandra Niño, Cartel Assassin – Mexico, 2015

There have been three female Mexican cartel assassins (sicarias) nicknamed La Flaca (or La Flaka), a moniker associated with the Santeria figure, Santa Muerte, a female spirit of death popular with cartels.

Joselyn Alejandra Niño is the third sicaria (assassin) to be known by the nickname La Flaca (The Skinny One), the others being Veronica Mireya Moreno Carreon of San Nicolas de los Garza and Nancy Manriquez Quintanar of Ecatepec.

Police believe Joselyn Alejandra Niño belonged to a faction of the Gulf Cartel called Los Ciclones.

In April 2015 her dismembered remains were found in a beer cooler stowed in an abandoned truck left in a parking lot in Lauro Villar, Matamoros. Two other bodies were in the truck. The killers posted a photo of the corpses on Twitter with the warning: "It will happen to all the filthy who want to support Cyclones.”

Andrew Chesnut, professor of religious studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, and author of a book on the cult of Santa Muerte and its link to drug cartels, has stated that:

“Since 2007, when former president Felipe Calderón escalated the drug war, there has been a phenomenal growth in female assassins or ‘sicarias’, who can often operate more stealthily than their male counterparts. Many, like Joselyn, are recruited by the cartels for their girlish good looks. The idea being that rival syndicates and law enforcement wouldn't imagine that a waifish 'skinny girl' would be a contract killer.

[Robert St. Estephe]


[Ludovica Iaccino, “Mexico's drug cartels: Female assassin 'La Flaca' killed and stuffed in beer cooler by rival gang,” International Business Times (UK), Apr. 20, 2015]


More: Hitwomen 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The World’s First Serial Killer Movie: The Story of Belle Gunness, 1908

The case of Belle Gunness (The Female Bluebeard,” “Hell’s Belle”) is at the same time one of the most horrible criminal cases in US history as well as one of the nation’s greatest crime mysteries. It is still unresolved whether she died in the fire of April 28, 1908 or made an escape. Mrs. Gunness had been investigated as a probable murderess by private detectives hired by families of missing men for some time preceding the fire that drew attention to what was soon called her murder farm. She lured prospective husbands with personal ads in newspapers. Although the remains of only 13 victims were located on the murder farm, the murder death toll is often estimated to be more than 40. In earlier years she was a baby farmer and it is quite likely that she, like so many other baby farmers, committed a large number of murders of children while conducting that enterprise.


Not only is “Mrs. Gunness, the Female Bluebeard” (1908) the first movie about a serial killer, but it is problably the first move in the contemporary true crime genre.

For the separate post on the Belle Gunness case, see: Belle Gunness, Champion Black Widow & Homicidal Child Care Provider - 1908


Mrs. Gunness in Moving Pictures – Crowds in St. Louis See Film That Shows Laporte Widow “Operating Her Farm” –  Meeting Suitors at Station, Giving Them Poison and Burying Bodies Thrillingly Depicted –  Then a Hired Man Sets Fire to the House and the Audience Cheers


FULL TEXT: THE enterprise with which manufacturers of moving picture films ransack the four corners of the earth with which to amuse the insatiable public, is shown by the portrayal of the adventures of Mrs. Belle Gunness, the female Bluebeard of LaPorte, Ind., at a St. Louis dimeodeon, this week. Her career is exhibited on a half-mile of celluloid film, containing upwards of 35,000 separate photographs.

As the succeeding episodes of the story were flashed on the screen at the new Gem Theater (which is said to be one of the largest and most pretentious moving pictures showhouse in the world) an audience of 2000 persons applauded with all the enthusiasm with which the public has devoured the history of the crimes of the arch-murderess of the world.

The first scene represents Andrew H. Hegelein, Mrs. Gunness’ most conspicuous victim, reading a matrimonial advertisement, inserted in a newspaper by Mrs. Gunness. The advertisement read as follows:

“Personal – Engaging widow, two children, wishes to join fortunes with middle-aged man of repute. State financial standing, if can, come at once. I have beautiful 60-acre farm. Mrs. Belle Gunness, Laporte, Ind.”

Hegelein’s mimic is made up in close imitation of his published photographs, even to the features and bald head. Enamored by the advertisement, he draws all his money from the bank, against the protests of his relatives and friends, who warn him that there is a design against his fortune, and perhaps his life.

In the next scene, Mrs. Gunness, represented as a prepossessing woman of middle age, is shown gloating over the answer which the luckless South Dakota farmer has written to her advertisement. She follows the lines with her finger, pausing exultingly on the statement of Helgelein’s fortune, and the prophecy of his fate written on her grimacing face, causes the audience to shudder.

Immediately Mrs. Gunness, attractively gowned in the black befitting a widow, is shown pacing the platform of the railway station at LaPorte, impatiently awaiting the arrival of her suitor. When the train puffs in and he dismounts, she hastens to meet him and grasps his hand in effusive welcome. She leads him to a handsome rig, with a spirited horse. They enter, and Helgelein drives off, laughing, to his doom.

Soon afterwards, they are seen together on the lawn of Mrs. Gunness’ home, with the solid comfort of which the farmer seems deeply impressed. She coyly resists the love making of the infatuated Helgelein, until he draws a bag full of gold and silver from his pocket and shows it to her. Behind his back, she casts rapacious glances at the money and menacing ones at its possessor. Then she gives himm the kiss of Judas.

Offering him some refreshments, she hands him a poisoned cup, which he drains and instantly falls dead at her feet. She stands a minute in triumph over her victim.

The film tactfully omits the scene in which the murderess dismembers the body of Helglein in her “Chamber of Horrors,” and passes to a night scene in which Mrs. Gunness appears laboring across a moonlight field with a sack of ominous shape and size in her arms. This she casts into a grave, and with ruthless toil, buries it under big shovelfuls of earth.

Then another suitor visits her, and receives her treacherous welcome. He, too, goes the way of Helgelein. Now, for the first time, enters her hired man.

Mrs. Gunness and her employe are shown staggering across the farm to a plot where two sinister holes yawn. The man and woman each carry a bulk in sacks. There are thrown into the graves, and the two should begin shoveling the earth.


Then, suddenly, a quarrel starts. The hired man shakes his big clenched first in his mistress’s face, and he retorts with high words. He threatens to betray her. She weakens and appeals to him, laying her hand imploringly on his shoulder. He will not relent, and tramps across the field in a rage, she slowly following.

She reaches home and enters, and immediately reappears at the window of her room, wringing her hands in dread of her employe. She has scarcely retired before the furtive figure of a man, armed with a blazing faggot, sneaks up to the house. He steals to the window, looks in and turns with a grimace of satisfaction as he sees the woman sleeping.

Then, leaping about, he touches the torch to as heap of rubbish in the corner and to the vines trailing up the weatherboarding, and darting down into the cellar, soon bursts out, followed by a cloud of smoke, streaked with flames. The fire envelopes the house, and the murderess is consumed in the flames.

As one scene succeeds another the audience sit spellbound. Only when the career of the female monster was brought to a fiery end did cheers break forth.

The films had told graphically a story abbreviated from that published in the newspapers. It brought home the monstrous life of Mrs. Gunness and the terrible reparation she paid, far more vividly than writing could do.

The manager of the Wagner Film Amusement Co. of St. Louis, by whom the Gunness film is rented, was asked as to the means by which it was produced.

“In the first place, some expert,” he said, “similar to a newspaper’s city editor, picked from the newspapers the story of Mrs. Gunness as one susceptible of vitascope exposition. Another man, a sort of playwright, chose the most important and most thrilling incidents of the female Bluebeard’s life, and developed them into a pantomimic drama.


“Dialogue was provided for the use of the actors, who perform their parts more vividly if they speak as they act, and for those theaters whose moving pictures are accompanied by speeches on phonographs or from the lips of living speakers behind the scenes.

“Next, the pictures of Mrs. Gunness, Hegelein and a servant were studied, so that the actors in these parts might ‘make up’ in as close an imitation of the original as possible.

“Then actors and actresses were drilled in the parts rehearsed until they were perfect. A mistake on the part of one of the actors performing before the lens of the moving picture camera might spoil a mile of film.

“Finally, the playlet was acted before the camera, and the long string of photographs reproduced on films for distribution throughout the civilized world.”

The popularity of the Gunness story is shown by the fact that Joseph Maxson, once an employe of Mrs. Gunness and an eyewitness of the fire in which the authorities claim the murderess perished, has recently been lecturing throughout Central Gunness Mystery,” with large financial profit to himself. In country schoolhouses, at fairs and in the cities he has been describing to thrilled audiences the character of the fiendish woman as she appeared to one who knew her closely, and the conflagration which destroyed her “murder fence.” He is said to have reaped a harvest.


The moving pictures pf persons plaing the parts of Mrs. Gunness and Lamphere are thrilling, it is true, but imagine how the portrayal of the actual scenes in the Gunness house of murder and mystery would stir the feelings if they could be reproduced!

Lamphere, the hired man at the Gunness home, told that the night Helgelein was murdered he was watching through an auger hole he had secretly bored in the door casing of his room.

But suppose it had been the eye of a photographic apparatus instead of the eye of Lamphere that was applied to the secret auger hole that night of untold horrors, and suppose that all the scenes enacted behind that locked and barred door had been faithful, recorded on the sensitive film and that it, the actual reproduction of the very crime itself, instead of a mimic reproduction, should be shown, enlarged to life size, upon the canvas screen.

It is more than likely that the terror of it would shock the soul of even the most morbid. But it would be an interesting study for the psychologist and the criminologist.

No actual photograph has ever been taken of a murderer in the very act of his crime. Those expressions of passion have never been caught and preserved by the camera. And so, after all, perhaps our ideals of them are wrong, and it may be that no artist has ever reproduced the real horror of it.

And so, as a contribution to science and art, the moving pictures of actual scenes in the Gunness home would be of great value could they have been taken.

One can only imagine the look on the face of this arch murderess with sleeves rolled to the elbows, a rough apron protecting her dress from blood stains, a knife clutched in her hand, she bent over her victim and after he was dead, dragged the body to the secret chamber to dismember it.

Lamphere has only hinted to intimate friends what he saw. He has never openly told of it. When asked about it he bowed his head, covered his face with his hands and his whole body shook as with an ague.

“I daren’t think of it,” he is reported to have said.


Is Mrs. Gunness alive, and if so is she somewhere in the South-west? This question, which people have been asking all through the seven months since th8is woman of mystery disappeared, has become more pertinent since the beginning of the trial in LaPorte, Ind.

Three witnesses of undoubted good repute have sworn positively at the trial that they saw Mrs. Gunness peering and prodding amid the ruins of her burned home since that house of many murders went up in smoke.

Two other witnesses have sworn that while the house was burning they saw an automobile with a woman, darkly wrapped and with muffled face, leaving the flaming house.

A woman who bore a marked resemblance to this modern bluebeard passed through St. Louis on a train bound for the Southwest shortly after her disappearance from Laporte.

In a small town in Texas a woman who looked like Mrs. Gunness was seen, but she disappeared before the belief that it was she had crystallized into a sentiment strong enough to cause her detention.

A woman thought to have been Mrs. Gunness was reported in St. Louis more than once, and in other places of the Southwest persons declare that she has been seen.

[NOTE: The rest of the article discusses film other than the Gunness one.]


The enterprise of the moving picture film manufacturers continually surprises those who are regular attendants on the pleasures of the nickelodeon. One dealer in St. Louis has now in his safe a series of pictures representing President Roosevelt hunting lions in Africa, “held for release” until the President actually arrives on the Dark Continent.

The chief actor is made up to resemble Mr. Roosevelt, and in making the film a real lion was slain after it was the last scene the “President” is shown sitting triumphantly on the body of the king of beasts, which he has just slaughtered.

When the Thaw trial was the absorbing event in the American news, the moving picture men were not behind-hand. The main incidents in the series of events which ended in the tragic end of Stanford White were produced by actors and actresses clad and “made up” resemble the originals.

A few weeks after the American fleet received its historic welcome in the ports of Australia, the moving picture men of St. Louis were showing the entrance of Uncle Sam’s battleships into Sydney’s harbor, their reception by our cousins in the antipodes, and the pranks which the jackies [sailors] played ashore.

How the film makers keep apace with the latest developments in science is shown in a playlet now being exhibited in St. Louis under the title, “Airship Thieves.” A pair of burglars in an aeroplane are shown. It glides over a wealthy home, hovers at a window while one of the riders enters and obtains his loot, and then darts away without leaving a clew as to how entrance was gained in an upper story.


Another series, called “Burglary by Motor,” shows how thieves in several large cities have recently availed themselves of the swift automobile in order to defy pursuit.

Historical scenes, highly educational, are favorites with the film manufacturers. One house is advertising the “Midnight Ride of Paul Revere,” showing the Revolutionary hero as he sees the lanterns hung in the belfry of the Boston church and gallops off along the road to Lexington to arouse the farmers.

“Patrick Henry” declaims (by means of the bloscope and phonograph) his “Give me liberty or give me death,” in another St. Louis theater. In another, George Washington threads his way through the ice of Delaware River and falls upon the carousing Hessians on the other side.

One of the most popular films ever exhibited her reproduced the life of Abraham Lincoln and required an hour to finish. The emancipator was first seen when a boy in Kentucky, fleeing with his family from the Indians. Then a gaunt, lanky actor, remarkably like the early pictures of Lincoln, strenuously splits rails, and, going home at night, forgot to eat in his zeal to devour a new book.

His career as a lawyer was epitomized by a court scene in which he won a difficult case, after which he wrestled with the village bully and easily flung him to earth. The Lincoln-Douglass debates were represented, the “Little Giant” being extremely lifelike.

Lincoln’s toils as President during the war and the rapid development of his character under the strain of responsibility were cleverly presented, and human interest was introduced by a scene sentenced to death at the entreaty of his little sister.

The scene in Ford’s Theater, where Lincoln was assassinated, was one of the triumphs of the film maker’s ingenuity, who showed a playhouse thronged with fashionable people, all cheering the grave figure of the President in his box. Then Booth stole behind him, thrust a pistol against the back of his head, fired and leaped to the stage, falling and crippling himself on the folds of a flag, but making his escape while the crowd sat benumbed with horror. Many persons left the theater with moist eyes after beholding these pictures.

It is getting common for nickelodeons to present the dramas of Shakespeare, with the lines declaimed by a phonograph. “Macbeth” is a favorite, as is also “Romeo and Juliette.”

Perhaps the most popular of the moving picture man’s triumphs are his scenes of life in foreign countries. In no other way, save by travel itself, can one obtain so graphic an idea of alien customs and pursuits. With a little exertion of the imagination, one can believe himself really in India, when the throngs of brown-skinned natives parade before him and great elephants writhe their trunks and tread ponderously across the screen.

The most beautiful effect of the vitascope is its reproduction of water in action. “Niagara Falls” is a scene watching which one can almost hear the roaring of the falling torrents.

[“Mrs. Gunness In Moving Pictures,” Sunday Post-Dispatch Magazine (Mo.), Dec. 6, 1908, p. 4]










Some later cultural artifacts based on the Gunness story:

Film and TV:
2004 – movie, Method, was inspired by and loosely based on the Belle Gunness murders.
2005 – Anne Berit Vestby directed the 50-minute documentary Belle Gunness- a serial killer from Selbu.
2015 – The series True Nightmares on Investigation Discovery, which aired October 14, 2015, profiled Belle Gunness. The episode was called "Crazy Love".
2015 – The Story of Belle Gunness, Short Film, 2015, Producer/Director, Stephen Ruminski, [duration=?]

Gunness’ story was fictionalized on the radio show Nick Harris, Detective under the name, "The Female Ogre." Her character was named "Mrs. Ruth Cooper." It was first broadcast on April 7, 1940.

Damon Runyon based a 1937 short story, "Lonely Heart", on the Gunness case, including the handyman.
E. L. Doctorow based a short story, "A House on the Plains," on the Gunness case.

1938 – “The Mistress of Murder Hill,” anonymous, 1938.
2007 – “The Ballad Of Belle Gunness,” words & music by T. J. McFarland, from the album "Howlin' Wild," 2007.
2007 – “The Mistress of Murder Hill,” (1938 song, anonymous), recorded by Izzy Cox, from album: “Love Letters from the Electric Chair.”
2007 – “Belle Gunness,” Caccius, from album “I Am Jim Jones.”
2007 – "Black Widow of La Porte," (Rob Zombie/ex-Marilyn Manson) guitarist John 5,  album “The Devil Knows My Name,” 2007.
2009 – “Belle Gunness,” recorded by Yenn, from Album: “Yenn.”
2011 – “Bella The Butcher,” by Macabre, album:Grim Scary Tales,” 2011.
2012? – “Belle Gunness,” "new song"live recording at venue:  “Kingdom 4/11,” Jaidev Jaidev Jay Mangal Murti (Lyrics), 2:57.
2013 – “Belle Gunness,” recorded by Lily & The Parlour Tricks, (Liky Cato), (featured on a BMW commercial, “No Choice”).

Backroad Brewery, a microbrewery located in La Porte, Indiana produces an Irish style dry stout named after Belle Gunness.
The Steve Alten book "Meg 4: Hell's Aquarium " features a megalodon pup name Belle after Gunness.


“The Mistress of Murder Hill,” anonymous song, circa 1938

Belle Gunness was a lady fair,
In Indiana State
She weighted about three hundred pounds,
And that is quite some weight.

That she was stronger than a man
Her neighbors all did own;
She butchered hogs right easily,
And did it all alone.

But hogs were just a sideline
She indulged in now and then;
Her favorite occupation
Is the a-butchering of men.

There’s red upon the Hoosier moon
For Belle was strong and full of doom;
And think of all the Norska men
Who’ll never see St. Paul again.