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Heartland Serial Killers: Belle Gunness, Johann Hoch, and Murder for Profit in Gaslight Era Chicago Hardcover – April 25, 2011
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“Heartland Serial Killers contains three elements that contribute to the success of a true crime work: a fresh take on a legendary tragedy (Gunness), reintroduction to a shocking and salacious yet forgotten one (Hoch) and entertaining prose underscored by evidence of ser ious research. By combining a popular approach with evidence of careful research, he has created a work that should appeal to both the general reader and the serious true crime aficionado.”—Rose Keefe, author of The Starker: Big Jack Zelig, the Becker-Rosenthal Case, and the Advent of the Jewish Gangster
“Gunness and Hoch’s stories are inherently interesting and Lindberg’s focus on how they found and manipulated their victims, rather than on gruesome bloody details, makes this an engaging work of history. The author’s extensive research in period newspapers, court documents and other material is evident in the rich detail in the text, notes and bibliography. This is a story you won’t soon forget.” —Elizabeth A. De Wolfe, author of The Murder of Mary Bean and Other Stories
Lindberg, an accomplished local historian and true crime writer, presents a fascinating story of two contemporaneous serial killers, both weaving marriage and murder in and around Chicago during the 1890s and 1900s. Johann Hoch was a debonair bigamist and wife killer who boasted of having perfected a “scientific technique” to romance and seduction. Belle Gunness was a nesting “Black Widow” whose sprawling farm in Northwest Indiana was a fatal lure for lonely bachelors seeking the comforts of middle-age security by answering matrimonial advertisements placed by Gunness.
Notorious in his own day, Hoch had faded into the dark background of Chicago crime history. But, in Heartland Serial Killers, Lindberg brings back vividly the horrors of one of Chicago’s first celebrity criminals and uncovers new evidence of a close connection between Hoch and H.H. Holmes, the “Devil in the White City.”
Unlike Hoch, Belle Gunness, likely the most prolific and infamous female serial killer of the 20th century, has remained fascinating to the public. Here, Lindberg presents the most comprehensive and compelling study of the Gunness case to date, including new information regarding ongoing DNA testing of remains found at the site of Gunness’s farm in LaPorte, Indiana, which may serve to resolve once and for all the mystery surrounding Gunness’s death.
Told in alternating chapters and rapidly paced, this book is true crime at its best—gripping, pulpy, and full of sharp historical tidbits. True crime fans, history buffs, and those interested in local lore will delight in this chilling tale of two ruthless killers.
Top Customer Reviews
Regards Hoch and Gunness, their stories are decently enough told, and as far as I know this is the only modern full-length book about the undeservedly obscure Hoch. It's got value for that all by itself. But I wish Lindberg had put in more about the "is the burned decapitated corpse really Belle Gunness" controversy, and perhaps his own opinion.
Belle Gunness was a homely middle-aged widow whose Northwest Indiana farm included an unmarked graveyard for all her slain suitors. From 1900-1908 she lured well-to-do men to her home, promising love and material comfort and delivering a horrific death instead. She is arguably the most prolific female serial killer of her era, and Lindberg enlivens her story with details about recent DNA testing of human remains found on the old Gunness farm site in LaPorte. When a fire destroyed the place in 1908, apparently killing the murderess along with her children, some investigators were convinced that the adult female skeleton found was not Belle's. The authorities had been closing in on her, alerted by the suspicious relatives of her victims, and many believed that she'd murdered a homeless woman to aid in her escape. The mystery isn't solved yet, but this modern postscript suggests that one day it may be.
Johann Hoch's legend is not as well remembered, but no less intriguing. A squat, balding man who somehow appealed to women, Hoch spent some time as an apprentice to serial killer H.H. Holmes (a fact that Lindberg's masterful research has brought to light), whose Englewood "murder castle" claimed dozens of lives. Hoch married thirty-five women for their money and assets and killed at least ten of them.Read more ›