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  • The year is 1871 and a lonesome traveler is making  his way on horseback through the state of Kansas,  

  • hoping to head West where he's  heard there's money to be made

  • As he's passing through the Great Osage Traildrained after days navigating wind-swept plains,  

  • he comes across what looks like a quiet homesteadThere he meets the Bender family, an odd-looking  

  • group of people if ever there was one. Unbeknownst to our weary traveler,  

  • old man Bender has quite the reputation among  the few families that live in this remote area.  

  • What do people say about him? They  call him a hideous brute, ill-tempered,  

  • repulsive. As for Mrs. Bender, she is called  a “midnight hagwithmurderous ambition.” 

  • Indeed, after his belly was full of  stew and his head had hit the pillow,  

  • the traveler's life came to an abrupt end. He  was found some days later dumped near a creek  

  • with his throat slashed and his skull crushed. This is the story of the Bloody Benders,  

  • America's First Serial Killer Family. Ok, so let's go back to the beginning

  • This was a time in U.S history when European  settlers were trying to make a go of it  

  • in sometimes quite remote and  unforgiving parts of America

  • The Bender family was no exception. They arrived in Osage in northwestern Labette  

  • County in the year 1870, along with a handful  of other families. The locals didn't exactly  

  • welcome them with open arms, but neither did they  turn their backs to them. They were just another  

  • bunch of folks that were going to see just how  hard it was settling in such a harsh environment

  • It was just too much for some of the new  families and they packed up and left quickly,  

  • but the Benders, the Benders were made of  tough stuff. They weren't going anywhere

  • John Bender, Sr. made a claim on some land  adjacent to the Great Osage Trail, which  

  • would later become known as the Santa Fe Trail. It  was Native Americans who forged the trail, but it  

  • was Europeans who would name it the Osage Trail. If a person back then wanted to move West along  

  • an open road, then they had to pass through  this trail, and at some point come close to  

  • the warped homestead of the Bender family. The Benders soon got their hands dirty and  

  • built a barn, a corral, and a cabin. That cabin  had two rooms, only separated by the cloth of  

  • a wagon cover. They made a kitchen, and they  converted part of their cabin into a general store  

  • and a place a traveler could have a bite  to eat. On top of that, they made a small  

  • compartment where someone could rest their  head for the night. You could call it a bed,  

  • but it deserved to be called a butcher's block. So, who were the Benders exactly

  • Well, we know that John Bender Sr., aka, “Pa”,  could barely speak a word of English. We know  

  • that he grunted a lot and to those who met  him he was seen as something of a brute

  • They were right. Mrs. Bender, Elvira, aka,  

  • Ma”, was said to be equally unfriendly, and  while better than her husband, her English  

  • wasn't perfect. Both her and John communicated  most of the time in German. She was sometimes  

  • called a “she-devil”, but not because of her  appearance, but because along with her daughter  

  • she told anyone in the area that she had psychic  powers and could even communicate with the dead

  • That daughter, Kate Bender, was the only  family member who was fluent in English,  

  • and so she was very useful when it came  to writing and distributing flyers that  

  • explained that she and her mother were  advocates of spiritualism and could  

  • heal the sick with their supernatural powers. As for the son, John Jr., word on the street,  

  • or should we say the trail, was that he washalfwit, a young man prone to sudden outbreaks  

  • of laughter for no apparent reason. Some  sources state that the brother and sister  

  • were not actually related, but a married couple. This is the problem with the story of the Benders,  

  • the family was something of a mystery. There  has never been any documentation stating that  

  • they were German immigrants, this was just taken  for granted. It may or may not have been true,  

  • just as the rumor that Mrs. Bender had actually  come from the Adirondack Mountains in New York  

  • state and that she'd killed previous  husbands, might not have been true

  • They were a weird bunch, a family that promoted  free love and who claimed they could talk to dead  

  • spirits. For that reason they were gossiped  about a lot. It didn't help their reputation  

  • when Kate Bender gave lectures on spiritualism  and during those lectures she would sometimes  

  • say that murder might not be such a bad thingand might actually be a brave and noble act

  • She also advocated free love, saying that  staying with one partner alone was just  

  • themiserable requirements of self-constituted  society.” Notably, she also once said in one of  

  • her lectures, “Shall we confine ourselves tosingle love, and deny our natures their proper  

  • sway?...Even though it be a brother's passion for  his own sister, I say it should not be smothered.” 

  • As you can imagine, folks that lived near the  Benders were somewhat apprehensive about making  

  • friends with them. You had the brute of a fatherhis wicked wife; an idiot son and a daughter that  

  • claimed she was in contact with the dead and  didn't believe in any kind of sexual propriety

  • They were outcasts, strange-sounding  pariahs living in the middle of nowhere,  

  • and so people kept their distance. But travelers, people looking for  

  • a new life in the American West, they knew  nothing about the Bender family. They just  

  • wanted a place to rest their head for a night  or two and a good meal to restore their energy

  • The Bender homestead was like an oasis to  these travelers, and they were only too  

  • happy to have a place to stay, to be able to  fill their wagons with food, water, gunpowder,  

  • booze and tobacco. Not only that, they were  reportedly entranced by Kate's good looks  

  • and her way with words. “Come rest,” she told  them, “I will heal you with my psychic powers.” 

  • Healing was far from the truth. Traveling down that trail was not for the meek.  

  • Not only could a person or a group of people  starve out there, but they needed their strength  

  • and they needed weapons if they should come  into contact with bandits or unfriendly Native  

  • Americans. Let's not forget that many groups  were travelling with everything they owned

  • That's why when the young man we described  in the beginning of this story was found  

  • with his throat slashed and his head caved  in, it wasn't exactly a big shock to people.  

  • Everyone knew that the trail was a treacherous  place and one could easily be set upon by a  

  • gang who wanted what was in their wagon. In 1871, 72 and 73, people went missing,  

  • always close to where the Benders lived. The  locals at the time grew quite worried. People  

  • were told not to go out on the trail alone or at  night, but no one suspected that it was the Bender  

  • family that was behind the strange disappearances. In fact, mobs at times would accuse some man down  

  • on his luck, and proceed to chase him  out of town. They would soon discover  

  • they'd been chasing away the wrong people. In March, 1873, a physician from Independence,  

  • Kansas, named Dr. William York, alighted a train  in Cherryvale, a town not too far from the Osage  

  • Trail. This guy was a person of standingso when he went missing it was big news

  • What was he doing in the middle  of nowhere you might ask

  • York had made the journey because he was  looking for two people that had gone missing.  

  • Those two folks had been acquainted with  York, and he was determined to find them

  • The friend was George Newton Longcor, and  he was accompanied by his young daughter,  

  • Mary Ann. They'd left Independence  with the hope of resettling in Iowa,  

  • except they didn't get very far. They'd  found the Osage trail and later disappeared

  • We know that on his quest to find his friend  and his friend's daughter that York arrived  

  • at a place called Fort Scott in Kansas. We know  that on March 9 he left that place, and we also  

  • know that he never made it home from there. What the Bender family didn't know is that  

  • they had now bitten off more than they could chew. You see, Mr. York wasn't just a man of standing;  

  • his two brothers were also extremely powerful  people. One was a colonel in the military and the  

  • other was a member of the Kansas State Senate. Those two guys were obviously upset that their  

  • brother had vanished into thin air, a brother  that had been looking for other people that  

  • had vanished. While the brothers at first  thought that the disappearances might have  

  • been down to attacks by Native Americansthey also wondered if some of those  

  • homesteads contained something quite insidious. What they were about to discover was something way  

  • more evil than they had bargained for, something  that would shock America for many years to come

  • They got fifty guys together and  went out to visit those homesteads,  

  • arriving along the tracks like a small army. At one point the group, led by the brother who was  

  • a Colonel in the US Army, arrived at the Bender's  place. He spoke to the family, well, as best he  

  • could do since the older Benders were terrible  with English, and he was told that his brother  

  • had stayed the night with them, but he'd left the  next day. The Benders told the Colonel that the  

  • trail was fraught with danger and his brother  may have come across some dangerous natives

  • There was just something wrong about  this family, and Colonel York grew more  

  • suspicious when he learned that Mrs. Bender  had recently threatened someone with a knife.  

  • We know that did indeed happen because  the newspaper clipping still exists today

  • The Colonel went back, and again  asked, do you know where my brother is.  

  • He was rather less friendly this time. Mrs. Bender was enraged that the men were back,  

  • while Kate Bender told them she'd use her  clairvoyant skills to find the missing man.  

  • At that point, the Colonel and his men were pretty  sure that this family were not what they claimed  

  • to be. In fact, some of the men in the group  said that they were guilty and should be hanged

  • But the Colonel needed more evidence before he  sent a family to the gallows, and they went to  

  • talk to more people in nearby communities. Weeks passed, and then one local noticed  

  • something strange. He passed the Bender house and  realized that the place seemed to be abandoned.  

  • It looked like the Benders had just taken  off, leaving some of their animals behind

  • That man reported what he'd seen to members of  the township, and soon the Colonel heard about the  

  • missing family. Due to terrible weather, it took  some days to go out and search for the Benders,  

  • but in the end a search party of  several hundred people was formed

  • When they got to the Bender house they  discovered that it was pretty much empty  

  • of clothes and provisions. All that had been  left behind was something that smelled awful,  

  • as if a decaying body was under the floorboards. The men found a trapdoor that was bolted shut,  

  • but they soon managed to wrestle it openThe door led to a dark room under the house,  

  • and there they saw blood splattered  everywhere, some of it not so old

  • The group moved the cabin, and they  started digging, thinking that bodies  

  • must be buried. Later that evening they found  Dr. York's decomposing body. He'd been buried  

  • in the nearby orchard. The next day they found  another eight bodies buried in shallow graves.  

  • When they looked down the well, they found  another body, as well as various body parts

  • It was a horror-show, a terrible thing to  behold. Some of the bodies had been mutilated,  

  • while the body of a young girl didn't seem to  have been injured at all. The group suspected  

  • that the family had buried her alive. In all, the  Benders might have killed at many as 21 people,  

  • although a more conservative estimate is 11. The Benders had few good friends in that area,  

  • but suffice to say, the now growing crowd  of people weren't too kind to folks that  

  • had known the family. One man was hanged  just because he knew them, although the  

  • crowd pulled him down and he survived. The media arrived at the Bender place,  

  • coming from as far away as New York City and  Chicago. The public came from far and wide,  

  • all wanting a look at the place where  evil had lived. Rewards were offered to  

  • anyone who could locate the family, which in  today's money were around $20,000 and $40,000. 

  • Where were the Benders? Well, vigilantes wanted that reward,  

  • with some claiming they had caught up with the  family and killed them all. Some claimed they shot  

  • and buried them, others said they shot and threw  them in the river, but these were likely lies.  

  • No bodies were found and no reward was given. The Benders were either very good at hiding  

  • or they were all six feet under. The reward then went up to more  

  • than $60,000 in today's money, but still no  one could find them. As this was happening,  

  • the story spread to every state. Books were  written, including one called, “The Five Fiends,  

  • Or, The Bender Hotel Horror in Kansas.” It wasn't easy finding this family for the simple  

  • fact that not much was known about them. Were the  parents legally married? Were the children even  

  • their children? Were they even called Bender? It was soon speculated that Mr. Bender was  

  • actually named John Flickinger, and that MrsBender had likely been married several times.  

  • Worse, her husbands always seem to end up  dead with wounds to the head. It was likely  

  • that Kate and John Jr. were children of some of  those men, and that their real names were Eliza  

  • Griffith and John Gebhardt. Where did they all go

  • We just don't know. Their story remains one of  the strangest unsolved mysteries in U.S history.  

  • Maybe they were killed by an angry posse, but  if they were, no bodies were ever recovered  

  • and no one claimed that handsome reward. They  might also have moved West, started another life,  

  • and filled the ground with more bodies. Maybe their descendants are living next  

  • door to you right now, just waiting  to carry on their murderous legacy

  • Now you need to see this, “The Most Shocking  Unsolved Murders In The World.” Or, take a  

  • look at this, “Doctor Intentionally  Kills Over 200 Patients (Dr. Death)”

The year is 1871 and a lonesome traveler is making  his way on horseback through the state of Kansas,  

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B1 bender trail family colonel york brother

America's First Serial Killer Family

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/12/21
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