Dave Sartin's fun "spooky reading for the kiddies" thread made me think of this.
I was mostly raised in southeast Kansas. What that means, among other things, is that as a child I was told the story of The Bloody Benders. (In fact, I remember doing a chapbook about it in third grade ... which is a bit messed up, now that I think on it.) Some of you probably know this story, some don't. Here it is. And it's completely true.
In the early 1870s, shortly after the Civil War, the Osage Trail was the most practical means to head out further west. Just off that trail, near where Cherryvale and Independence now exist, a "family" (now known to not be a family at all) had settled in a cabin. The father and mother, "Pa" and "Ma" Bender, spoke mostly German and were not particularly friendly. The son John, in his mid-20s, was thought by many to be a "halfwit" due to his habit of spontaneously laughing. The daughter Kate, a young, attractive woman, was a spiritualist/healer who conducted seances, gave lectures, and performed healings. The Benders ran a small inn out of their home where travelers from the area or passing through could stop for a meal or even a night's rest before continuing on their way, and word of Kate's various charms proved a successful lure to those travelers. The cabin/inn was a simple one-room affair divided in half by a curtain, the dining table being quite near the curtain. Travel was fairly robust through the area, and they had many visitors.
For a while, anyway.
Between 1871 and 1872, three bodies were found in the area. Each had a crushed skull and a slit throat. Those were the only bodies found at the time, but by 1873, so many disappearances of others had been reported that some travelers avoided the trail. Many people still passed through, though, some making it to their destinations, and some ... not. There is no way to know how long this might have continued, but in 1873, a prominent citizen of the area, Dr. William Henry York, was added to the list of the missing. (He'd actually been searching for a missing neighbor himself at the time.)
Dr. York had two brothers. One, Ed, was an Army colonel living in Ft. Scott, and the other, Alexander, was a Kansas senator. Both knew of his plans. When Dr. York failed to reappear as scheduled, they initiated a search. Colonel York actually led the efforts himself. When he came to the area and began to organize the search, he learned of all the other disappearances over the previous several years. He and some others essentially went door to door (farmstead to farmstead, really), asking after his brother. When they reached the Bender farmstead, they were told that yes, Dr. York had stayed overnight with them while he was traveling but had gone on. They suggested perhaps Indians were the culprit.
Shortly thereafter, a town meeting was convened to discuss the disappearances. Colonel York was there, as were 75 others, including Pa and John Bender. It was decided that a search warrant would be obtained and executed on all area homesteads.
Several days after the meeting, a local man driving cattle past the Bender homestead noticed that it appeared to be abandoned. He reported it, but because of bad weather, it was several more days before the apparent abandonment could be investigated. When it finally was, the search party found that the Benders had indeed moved on, taking clothing and personal possessions, but leaving behind their livestock--and a horrible odor emanating from beneath a trap door underneath a bed. When they got it open, there were no bodies, but there was a great deal of clotted blood, the source of the stench.
That day, the searchers broke up the stone floor of the cabin with sledgehammers, physically moved the cabin itself, and searched beneath it. They found nothing, so they decided to search the property. On the grounds, they found one body--Dr. York's--and nine suspected graves. The next day, in those graves and down the well, they found nine more bodies (one a young girl), plus body parts. All except the young girl had skull fractures and slit throats. The young girl was likely either strangled or buried alive. (My guess: buried alive.)
It was theorized that guests were given a seat of honor at the table, a seat that just happened to be in front of the curtain. Either Pa or John Bender would, during the course of the meal, strike the guest in the head with a hammer or something similar from behind the curtain, and then his throat would be slit. Then the body would be dumped through the trap doorway, where later the Benders would retrieve all the victim's valuables, then bury him on the property.
Others in the area were eventually arrested for being complicit in the schemes, including for helping the Benders sell the victims' property, but the Bloody Benders themselves? They were never found.
Last edited by Todash; April 25th, 2013 at 01:28 PM.
Reason: Because the first draft of anything is crap