The Family that Slays together Stays together
Except, the Bloody Benders might not have been entirely related by blood, or even who they said they were. Clairvoyants were not unheard of in the 1800’s, in fact it was a growing fascination for many people. So when one moved into the local town and claimed she could speak to your recently departed you’d definitely consider it. After all, how else will you find out where Uncle Bertie’s Gold stash was hidden?
Ma: With unproven suspicions of husband murdering Elvira Bender had been married twice before and claimed to have had twelve children – Kate was thought to have been her fifth child by her first husband.
Pa: John Bender Sr was said to be in his sixties and originally from Germany or the Netherlands. Speaking very little English he left the talking to his children/son and daughter in law/younger adults who may or may not be related.
Kate: Originally named Sarah, Kate had also married previous to the Bender families life together. Some said she was John Jr’s Sister, whilst neighbors claimed they were married. She was the star attraction of the general store with her healing and clairvoyant abilities, and clear spoken English. With her mother, she planted an orchard where they could grow fruit and vegetables to sell or bake with.
John Jr: Said to be a handsome man with auburn hair. Aged 25 he spoke English well but with a German accent. And was prone to bouts of laughter for no obvious reason.
Bloody Benders Butchery
With the eye witness accounts of some lucky to survive visitors, and the recovery of the bodies, just how they committed the murders was revealed. The deaths appeared to begin in 1871 when a body was found with his head smashed in and his throat slit. But no one linked the murder to the Bloody Benders. The head smashing and throat slitting would become their MO. Along with the ritual of Kate and John Jr being all friendly like and welcoming. Settling them in for some food and talk before committing their final act of violence.
Positioning was everything though, and the guest had to sit in one particular chair. The one in front of the canvas screen and over the trap door. It’s only those that refused who managed to survive. When the guest was happily eating, or I imagine receiving their reading, Pa would step out from behind the cloth and whack the guest with a large hammer. Then another of the benders would slit their throats to make sure they died. I’ll give you two guesses where they buried the bodies – I bet you figure it out quicker than the local law did.
‘Have you seen my brother? He’s gone missing!’
Unfortunately for the Bloody Benders one of their victims had rather influential brothers who noticed when he went missing. That’s when their troubles began.
A town meeting called by Colonel York (Brother of the missing victim and leader of the investigation), which Johns Jr & Sr attended, agreed that a search warrant to allow them to search every homestead in the area would be obtained. And the Bloody Benders men went home to pack.
It was days later when their disappearance was noticed. But it wasn’t for several more days that the property could be investigated. The Bloody Benders had left the homestead and all the animals behind but taken almost all of their belongings.
Follow your Nose…
A bad odor was noticed and upon investigating further they found a trap door under one of the beds. Naturally they couldn’t leave it closed and descended into the room below – high enough for a man to stand in, 7ft wide at the top and only 3ft at the bottom. But they found no remains and determined that the smell was from blood soaked soil.
Not being satisfied that the bodies weren’t buried under the homestead they did the most bizarrely amazing thing I think I’ve heard, and moved the whole building.
Did you guess yet?
Yup, the bodies were found in the orchard, where Ma and Kate grew their fruit and veg. The first body found, not far beneath the top soil was Colonel York’s missing brother.
As the story goes, the family hitched their horses to the wagon and drove them until, it would appear, one went lame. Ditching them outside of the town Thayer, to starve. They then bought train tickets for Humboldt. It’s thought that at Chanute John Jr and Kate separated from Ma and Pa to make their way to Mexico. Into an area where outlaws gathered and from which lawmen never returned. Ma and Pa went on to Missouri. The stories of their escape and demise don’t end there, but with little evidence to prove or disprove what happened next -and why, if they were killed, the reward was never claimed- we can only speculate.