"Belle Gunness was a lady fair In Indiana State, She weighed about 300 pounds, And that is quite some weight." "Her favorite occupation Was a-butchering of men." "Now some say Belle killed only ten, And some say 42." At last she vanishes with the cash
This is one of those stories that apparently had quite a local vogue, but little long-term notoriety; I checked four biographical dictionaries of various ages without finding a mention of Belle Gunness. So all my information comes from Burt.
It appears that her story really begins with the fire at her home. Four bodies were found in the house: Gunness's three children and a woman. Whether the woman was Belle was never finally established. After that, the grounds were searched, and a number of male bodies were discovered -- apparently husbands and male friends Belle had murdered.
Folklore has it that Belle murdered the men for their money and then made off with the booty. There is apparently no evidence either way. - RBW