Friday, July 27, 2012

The Bloody Benders

Not to be outdone by a pleasant fellow Type M blogger who recently wrote about notorious Canadian serial killers, I will have you know that Kansas had some real humdingers. The Bender Family ran America's most ghastly Bed and Breakfast in the 1880s.

The Bender family was odd—no doubt about it, and folks didn’t like them much. The father, John Bender, Sr. was sullen, and his wife “Ma” Bender was so unfriendly the neighbors called her the “She-Devil”. John, Jr. was handsome, but may have been mentally handicapped. Certainly his inappropriate laughter set peoples’ teeth on edge. Ah, but the beautiful Kate was a different story. Outgoing and friendly, she attracted quite a few customers.

Their method was simple. Historians have speculated that “a guest would stay at the Benders' bed and breakfast inn, and be given a seat of honor at the table which was positioned over a trap door that led down into the cellar”. With the victim's back to a curtain Kate would distract the guest, while John Bender or his son would come from behind the curtain and strike the guest on the right side of the skull with a hammer. The victim's throat was then cut by one of the women to ensure his death. The body was then dropped through the trap door. Once in the cellar, the body would be stripped and later buried somewhere on the property, often in the orchard. More than a dozen bullet holes were found in the roof and sides of the room and the media speculated that some of the victims had attempted to fight back after being hit with the hammer.”

Eventually, they killed too many people—perhaps as many as twenty. When people connected all the deaths and disappearances to the inn and began to investigate, the family fled.

I’ve always been fascinated by the one who got away. Count Paul Mary Ponziglione, a Jesuit priest who rarely disclosed his noble background, might have seemed out of place on the prairie. He had received a classical and refined education from the University of Turin, then responded to appeals to help Jesuits in America.

Poziglione had a reputation for mysterious premonitions that saved him and others from disaster. This ability stood him well whenever he headed to the Benders for much needed rest from ministering to the Osage Indians.

Once he was prevented from going there by vicious dogs.

This spirited offering is brought to fellow Type M bloggers by a loyal Kansan who argues that her state's outstanding serial killers are every bit as grisly as your Canadian serial killers.


Frankie Y. Bailey said...

So that's the name of the family. I remember hearing this story about the murderous family and the trap door years ago. But I never knew where it happened. A mystery solved. I've have to use this one in my crime and mass media course. My undergrads are fans of gruesome stories.

Charlotte Hinger said...

Frankie, the public's fascination with serial killers is well, simply fascinating.

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