We often think of serial killers as lone wolves, single individuals who are satiating some kind of sick and undeniable urge. Though this might be true often, the Bender family has proven to us that serial killing can be a family affair.
The Bender family immigrated from Germany to America in the late 1800s. Ma Bender, Pa Bender, John Bender Jr., and Kate Bender made up the family, and they migrated to America to take advantage of the American Homestead Act which allowed citizens to claim empty land and start a fresh life.
Times were hard for everyone during this era, but the Bender family persevered. Ma and Pa’s entrepreneurial spirit helped them to make money by opening up a friendly local store that served their area and travelers that came through. The local store positioned on the well-traveled Osage trail and the Bender's had a steady stream of travelers weary from thier travels and the summer heat.
Stores like these were common, and even though the Bender family had their's tucked away from prying eyes, nothing stuck out to anyone as sinister in anyway. Most families aren't in the murder business so why would anyone think twice about stopping by?
Most people seemed to like Pa Bender enough, but found Ma Bender to be an angry and malicious woman. Many travelers considered John Bender Jr. as a simple youthful man, but later theories suggest he may have been acting to build the trust of travelers in the area.
Many male travelers wooed over the enchanting Kate Bender and her remarkable beauty, making her a black widow of sorts that could easily prey on men in the area.
Though the family focused on the store, Kate was also an established spiritualist medium who supposedly told fortunes and communing with the dead. Historians today believe this to be one of the many ways she lured unsuspecting victims to the home.
The number of victims claimed by the ‘Bloody Benders’ is unknown, but it seems possible, if not likely, that there were murdering during their travels, and continued to kill without being caught. Police found ten bodies on the Bender property. The family would bludgeon each victim with a hammer, and many also had their throats cut.
The only exception was a baby girl with several injuries, but none that could cause death. The townsfolk believed that they had buried her alive, and she died from suffocation or other related causes.
What is most remarkable about this family is that they were never actually caught. One day, after people had questioned the disappearance of travelers in the area, and meetings were being held amongst the local men to address it, the family vanished. When their neighbors went looking for them, all that they found was an abandoned house. Further investigation would later reveal a hidden basement chamber that filled with human blood.
Upon this discovery, the locals immediately began their searches, tearing up the property to locate the ten bodies buried there. They found most of them in the family’s vegetable garden and orchard, some barely covered by the soil. Inevitably, it was the greed of the Bloody Benders that forced them to flee. They killed too many people too quickly and their neighbors noticed.
Authorities pursued the family across the country, following a trail that eventually saw the kids splitting from their parents, but they never brought the Bender family to justice. Their killings likely carried on until their eventual deaths.
"The Bloody Benders story." 8 July 2016, www.leatherockhotel.com/BloodyBenders.htm is an excellent source for all things Bloody Benders. The website (which is information on the bed-and-breakfast hotel) is smack-dab in Cherryville and the authors add a considerable amount of photos and documenting history on their website.