Locals trying to make film about La Porte serial killer

LA PORTE, Ind. – Local filmmakers and historians are teaming up to try and make a feature film about one of La Porte’s most infamous residents, a serial killer who may have murdered over 40 men in the early 1900s.

Stephen Ruminski is a La Porte native and prospective filmmaker who has already made a documentary about the serial killer Belle Gunness.  Gunness was a Norwegian immigrant who moved to La Porte at the turn of the century.  She would come to be known by many names such as “Lady Bluebeard” and “Hell’s Belle” when it was discovered that she had been tricking men into moving in with her at her McClung Road farm and then murdering them.

“It’s something to put La Porte on the map and in the long run it will probably help the community,” Ruminski said of the movie.  “The story itself is stranger than fiction to be honest.”

The story goes that Gunness would write personal ads in newspapers across the country seeking men to move in with her.  In one case she wrote over 80 letters to one of her victims before he came to her farm.

Estimates say over 40 men from across the country (including Mishawaka and New Carlisle) agreed to bring all of their belongings with them to live with Gunness on her farm and were never seen again.  Later, it would be revealed she was poisoning them and burying them on her property.

“No one really had a clue,” Ruminski explained.  “They only knew because one of her victim’s brothers decided to follow up on where his brother had gone to.”

Gunness was presumed to have died (some believe she faked her death) when her house caught fire in 1908.  But, the brother of one of her victims dug through the rubble and made a shocking discovery.  In the coming days workers discovered body after body buried under what was left of Gunness’s house.  The story quickly spread across the country and the world and put La Porte on the map.

“There’s articles from all kinds of papers,” Ruminski described.  “I think the New York Times had a daily brief about the ‘murder farm’ in Indiana, the body count for the day.”

According to Ruminski, around 15,000 people flooded into La Porte to see the scene for themselves.  But, over a century later many people outside of La Porte don’t even remember the case now.  For over a year he’s been working with local historians trying to make a feature film about Gunness that would include filming at some historic sites in the city.

An attempt at online fund raising for the film came up short on Monday.  Ruminski said he hoped to continue efforts in the future.  He said he and his group would need to raise over $8,000 to fund the making of a short film that would be shown to potential investors and hopefully spark interest in the project.

More information about Gunness and Ruminski’s plan for a film can be found at www.bellegunnessthemovie.com/

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