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The Spooks and Spirits that Dig our Dunes…

Submitted by: Beth Rudnick

Old-timers will tell you that LaPorte County is one of the most haunted areas in all of Indiana. Yeah, sure, it’s home to the most prolific female serial killer in US history, Belle Gunness… but the stories are buried even deeper than her victims.

The Belle Gunness farm on McClung Road in La Porte was first home to an opulent bawdy house run by Mattie Altic in the late 1800s.  Mattie, by the way, was buried in Greenwood Cemetery, Michigan City, after one of the most lavish and expensive funerals of that time.  Altic was purportedly murdered by her sister Eva Rupert, also a madam of some repute in South Bend, as Rupert wanted to eliminate her prosperous competition… even her own sister.  

Belle Gunness and her family. Photo archived at LaPorte County Historical Society Museum.

The house went up for sale, and Gunness – with her meat cleavers and hatchets – quickly moved in. Gunness dispensed with an unknown number of suitors, most of them chopped up and buried in her pig sty, and her own adopted daughter, Jennie Olsen, murdered around 1906. Inevitably the house caught fire and burned to the ground.  The bodies of a headless woman and the remaining Gunness children (the youngest, Phillip, still an infant) were found in the charred cellar. But it is rumored that Belle murdered Lizzie Smith, an occasional servant and voodoo practitioner, lopped off her head, and put the body in the basement with the kids while Belle herself escaped.  Locals know Lizzie still walks McClung Road, still searching for her head… 

Want to get a rise out of your friends? Gravity Hill… yep, this, too, is truth. On County Line Road between LaPorte and Porter Counties, at the base of the I-80 overpass – particularly around midnight, of course, on All Hallow’s Eve (but it can happen at anytime!) – occurs a strange phenomenon that science attempts to explain as an optical illusion. Facing south, put the car in neutral, and experience yourself being pulled up the hill. By what? By whom? Rumor has it that a haunted school bus full of children push you to keep you safe from railroad tracks no longer there… I’ve tried it.  Let’s just say it moved me.

This is but a vignette of the many spirits to encounter in LaPorte County. There are many others, like the Wake Up Dead nitro at Bare Bones gastropub on Lincolnway in La Porte. Or take the chill out of your spine with a warm toast of a Belle Gunness stout at Back Road Brewery…

Or head out of haunted LaPorte County for Journeyman Distillery’s Barrel Aged Brew Fest in enchanting Three Oaks, Michigan.  Here, where the spirits are aged and much harder, you can sample whiskeys, wines, and various local spirits. Info and tickets for this October event can be found here.

Just be sure to mix your spirits carefully lest YOU go bump in the night…

Want to find out about more fun things in the dunes? Be sure to sign up for the weekly e-newsletter, right here.

Looking for a spooky tour? Consider Chaos Haunted Tours this Halloween season!

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