Created on: March 05, 2010
The Bender family was a group of killers that settled in Labette County, Kansas in the late 1800's. Witnesses say that they were from Germany or Holland, but that is uncertain. There were four of them all together. John, “Pa” or William Bender was the father; Ma Bender (real name unknown), was the mother, John Jr. or John Bender, the adult son and Kate Bender, the adult daughter. At least, it assumed that this was the family dynamic and those were their names, but even that is unknown. Some sources claim that the only two who were actually related were Ma and Kate and that the last name Bender was taken from Ma’s first husband. Whether “Pa” Bender was really her husband and who John Jr. was, is a matter of speculation.
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“Pa” and John Bender placed a claim in Labette County in the early 1870's and subsequently built a house there, which was one story and consisted of a single large room. The women soon followed and the house was crudely split into two portions by hanging a piece of canvas. The foremost portion of the house served as a general store and inn for travelers. The rear portion of the house was for the Bender family’s private use. It has been suggested that Kate (who was reportedly attractive) sometimes worked as a prostitute and lured in wealthy guests this way. It is known that she earned a reputation conducting seances and such.
It is presumed that wealthy guests of the inn, and of Kate, were tricked into believing they were safe, before one of the Bender men bashed their skull in with a hammer. There was also evidence that some of them had their throats slashed. That may have been done postmortem, however. After the victim was killed, their body was relieved of all its possessions and pushed into the basement via a small trapdoor. The bodies were later buried on the property. The Benders were able to do this unimpeded for roughly two years.
The story about how the Benders were found out differs, depending on who is telling it. One story goes that a man, who was looking for his brother, alerted the authorities and they got there to find that the Benders were gone. The man’s brother’s corpse was buried on the property. Another story goes that a local meeting had been called to discuss the missing people and that the Bender men had attended this meeting. It was decided by the locals that every home in the area was to be searched. A few days later, a neighbor noticed that the Bender family home had been deserted. Upon further investigation, roughly ten bodies, some of them dismembered, were found buried in the area. At least one was a young child.
Rumors flew about the Bender family’s whereabouts for some time after their disappearance. There were several claims that vigilante justice had been carried out on the murderers. There were other claims that the women had been found, but that turned out to be false. The Benders were never officially found and punished for their alleged crimes.
Taylor, Troy, The Bloody Benders, retrieved 2/28/10, prairieghosts.com/bender.html
Hallowell, Wayne, Bloody Bender Family, retrieved 2/28/10, leatherockhotel.com/BloodyBenders.htm
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