Kansas June 20, 2017
The Bloody Benders Mystery In Kansas Still Baffles People Today
Here in Kansas, we don’t often get a great mystery or murder spree, and we’re glad of that. In the 19th-century, however, that wasn’t always the case. In this case, a family of murderers nicknamed the “Bloody Benders” escaped capture, never to be found again. Are you creeped out yet? Strangely enough, to this day, we still don’t know where they went, or whether they’ve had children since the attacks. Eek!
Welcome to Kansas in the 1800s, when settlers were moving West and our story begins, tragic as it is.
In the early 1870s near a little Kansas town called Cherryvale, a mysterious German family committed a string of murders. They were known as the Benders, and their family was responsible for the death of at least 11 people before they completely disappeared.
In their little cottage, John Bender, his wife Elvira, and their two children, John Jr. and Kate were innkeepers, though their identities may have been changed through their travels before Cherryvale. They offered a place to stay for travelers coming through the area, and they made good money doing it. However, that wasn't enough for them. As guests came to dinner before what they thought would be a simple stay during their travels, they never suspected the oncoming assault. No doubt this would be the last dinner for many folks. Nearby, around Drum Creek, reports of bodies with their skulls smashed and throats slit started appearing, but since the area was known for horse thieves and bandits, most were written off as such.
As legend has it, behind the dining room table there was a canvas sheet separating the room, hanging directly behind one of the chairs. This chair is where the guest would sit when they had dinner with the family. (In fact, one person is said to have noticed stains, and refuse to sit there. Lucky them!)
While they were distracted by food and the young storyteller Kate, one of the two men would smash in the skull of the unlucky soul sitting in the chair and slit their throat, killing them. Next, they would loot the person for whatever valuables they carried, and then drag the body through a trap door into a well-like hole under their home. Afterward, when it was dark enough outside to not have unexpected visitors, they would then drag the body out into the orchard behind the house and bury them in a shallow grave. (Or, apparently, take them to the creek on occasion.)
At one point, Kate started referring to herself as Professor Kate Bender, spouting tales that she was psychic and could heal all illnesses, and communicate with the deceased. As creepy as that sounds, only 11 people had died before local residents noticed the Benders' suspicion. On March 28, 1873, a man arrived at the house to ask after his brother, Dr. York, who had stayed there recently. The Benders admitted to housing him, but suggested that he may have met trouble with local Indians. This sounded plausible, and the man ended up staying for dinner, with no harm coming to him. Later on, a woman who fled the house chased by knife-wielding Ma Bender prompted Mr. York to return with armed men, but they ultimately found nothing pointing to the local disappearances.
Finally, a search was planned for every home between Drum Creek and Big Hill Creek, and during the discussion that came during this announcement, no one had noticed that the Bender family had run off. Later on, a local noticed that the animals at the residence weren't being fed, and they began searching the home, starting with the floor. Under the trap door was a large hole with clotted blood underneath that smelled rotten. They actually lifted and moved the house, in order to dig underneath for any other evidence, but found none. From here on, they searched the orchard and the well. Bodies were found, and after examination, they all matched in cause of death, minus a young girl that had been suffocated.
To this day, we still don't understand what led this family to kill so mercilessly, or where they disappeared to afterwards, but every brick and board from the house was taken as souvenirs by tourists in the following years.
Above all, the murders surrounding the creepy Bender family are horrifying. Aren’t we’re glad that these days, inns are quite a bit safer for travelers? In any case, here’s
a few photos of how gorgeous our farm country is if you’ve gotten the creeps over this mystery. Why don’t you take a look?