Friday, May 26, 2017

The Bloody Benders

In a recent post I mentioned "The Bloody Benders." Readers were quite interested in the Benders who are known as one of the six most terrifying serial killer families in American history. So by popular request here's what happened:

The Benders lived in Southeast Kansas in Labette County which is southeast of Wichita.

Their little wood-sided house on the prairie served a dual purpose as an inn and living quarters for a family of four. Weary travelers--hungry, exhausted--were delighted when they came across this oasis. They were welcomed by the beautiful articulate Kate Bender, along with her brother, John, Jr., her father, John and her mother, Elvira.

Kate had a reputation as a healer and a spiritualist who conducted séances. She claimed to be able to heal blindness, fits, deafness, and drunkenness. She spoke excellent English, as did her brother, but the parents only spoke German.

Visitors were seated at a table with their backs toward a canvas curtain which divided the store from the living quarters. The chair was on top of a trap door. Distracted by Kate's charms, the hapless victims were unaware of the man in back of the curtain. Either the father or the son crushed the man's skull, the women immediately fell upon him and insured his death by slashing his throat, and then the trapdoor was released and their mark fell into the cellar six feet below.

More than a dozen bullet holes were found in the roof and sides of the room, possibly indicating that some of the victims had attempted to fight back after being hit with the hammer.

After men were stripped of their valuables, they were buried either in the cellar or outside on the prairie. Twenty-one victims--including an eight-year-old girl--have been verified, but there is some speculation that not all of the bodies were recovered

There were tales and whisperings of mysterious disappearances. And people became uneasy about the Benders. Nothing certain. Nothing they could put their finger on. The son seemed touched in the head. His laugh was crazy. The mother was mean as a snake. They were not the kind of family to invite for a cup of tea.

The Benders were outed through a series of events. In 1873, a widower, George Loncher and his eighteen month daughter set off to visit a friend, Dr. William York. Loncher never arrived. Concerned, Dr. York began to search for his friend and followed his trail to Labette County. Dr. York went missing too.

Alarmed by his brother William's disappearance, Colonel Ed York, a Civil War veteran, hunted for his brother and the trail led to the Benders. The family tried to switch suspicion regarding William's disappearance to the Osage Indians, but Ed didn't buy it. He told the Benders he would continue west, but would be back if there wasn't a trail.

Ed didn't like the feel of this family and obtained permission to search the place. He returned with a posse of fifty men. In the meantime, the Benders had fled. The searchers discovered Dr. York's body and many others. Some in the cellar, some thrown down the well, some buried on the prairie.

The Benders were never apprehended.


Sybil Johnson said...

Thanks for giving us the story of the Bloody Benders. Very interesting and quite frightening.

Rick Blechta said...

I second Sybil's words. Do you know if a movie was ever made of this story. Bet you Alfred Hitchcock could have made a lot of it.

And many thanks for giving us "The rest of the story..."

Charlotte Hinger said...

Sybil and Rick. I'm don't think there was a movie but I'll check. The museum in Cherryvale has some artifacts but I haven't visited it.

Sybil Johnson said...

Apparently, their story is featured on an episode of "Evil Kin", a show on the ID channel. I shall have to look for it.

Irene Bennett Brown said...

Good job telling the story, Charlotte. Kansans of the time must have been pretty nervous when the Benders were never apprehended. Glad it was long before my time in Kansas!

Charlotte Hinger said...

Irene, in some old newspaper when I researching something else, I came across a reference to the Benders that would make for a great article, but I didn't have the sense to clip it at the time.

Donis Casey said...

That's quite a tale! Does anyone know what happened to the baby?