At least a dozen people were killed and buried on the Bender property - a hammer blow to the head and their throats cut.
An Innocent Bed and Breakfast...
Unfortunately should you stay the night (or even just for a meal) it was likely you were not going to leave again. The Bender family were all serial killers and their list of victims was long.
As you are shown to the place of honour at the dinner table you probably would not take great notice of the thick curtain behind you that subdivided the little one room cabin, or the trap door at your feet. Unfortunately death was waiting for you there.
The table would be moved out of the way, and the trapdoor opened, where you would be slid below the house to have your throat cut, spilling your lifeblood onto the cellar floor. From here you would have all your valuable possessions taken from you and then buried in one of the various adhoc burial grounds dotted around the Bender property. Maybe you would be buried whole, maybe in parts... it all depended on the Bender’s mood and whether you were easy to carry or not.
You were then just another of the missing persons who had disappeared while travelling this part of the country, a statistic, your fate unknown until this murderous scheme was uncovered by almost pure luck.
One of these families was John Bender Senior and his son John Bender Junior. They made their land claim and began creating a home – the one room cabin, a barn and a well. Once these initial constructions were complete they sent for Kate Bender and her daughter Kate (yep, two John’s and two Kate’s, due to this the parents will now be referred to as Ma and Pa Bender and their children as John and Kate.)
This small community of families were all spiritualists, of which Kate was a self proclaimed psychic and healer. Ma and Pa spoke very little English, were not very nice to their neighbours, and were considered half wits. John spoke English well, but was also considered a halfwit due to his tendency to laugh aimlessly and at length. Kate on the other hand was beautiful, charming and quite the business woman.
It was a quiet community, travellers went through and although many went missing, no one thought there was murder happening in their own town. That is until the body of a man was found in a nearby creek with his head crushed and throat cut. The following year, 1872, two other men were discovered in a similar state, and soon people realised something was quite wrong as finally the disappearances seemed to be linked to the Osage township.
Groups of vigilantes were formed who would then travel around arresting anyone who seemed untoward or had the slightest criminal record. However, with no proof, these people were released by authorities only to be chased out of the town.
The Finger is Pointed
Doctor York had two brothers, one a Colonel, who went looking for him and the trail led straight to the Bender family. The Bender’s did say that the Doctor had stayed at the inn, but had left the next day and that perhaps he had been attacked and killed by the local Indians.
That would have been that had Ma Bender not chased a woman from the inn screaming and threatening her with a knife. Colonel York returned to the inn with armed men to find out what had happened. Ma Bender could not speak English very well, but upon being pushed, she flew in a rage saying the woman she had chased was a witch who had cursed her.
Kate Bender settled the situation down and invited the Colonel back (alone) the following night so she could use her psychic abilities to help him locate his Doctor brother. The Colonel did not fall for the ruse and was convinced the Bender family were guilty of all the disappearances, but needed proof.
A meeting was arranged at the township in the hopes of organising a warrant to search all the homes (as not to single out the Bender family), but the arguing began and soon once again the Osage Indians were in the firing line, many thought they were to blame. As all of this was taking place, the Bender family quietly took their possessions and fled.
The Benders Escape
The cabin was then lifted by several dozen men and carried some distance so the entire floor could be easily dug up. No bodies were found. However, when they started to dig in the vegetable garden and apple orchard the bodies were discovered – one of the first found was Doctor York. A majority of the bodies were found to have one side of the head smashed in and their throats cut. Not all bodies were found in the ground, as some were discovered in the Well along with other dismembered remains.
A friend of the Bender’s was found by the mob and taken back to the house and questioned. When he had no answers they hanged him from a rafter, and when he lapsed into unconsciousness they took him down, woke him up and continued interrogating him. This cycle of hanging and release was repeated several times before he was allowed to leave.
Many other people would be caught, tortured and arrested under suspicion of being in cahoots with the Bender family, or being a Bender. However it is not known whether the Bender family themselves were ever caught. Bounties were put on their heads, and although several groups claimed to have captured and killed the Bender’s (one saying they burnt Kate at the stake for being a witch and murderer), none ever claimed the reward.
As a final twist, it turns out that Ma and Pa Bender might not have been married, but rather John and Kate were!