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Mass murdering restauranteurs, the Benders
September 25, 2007 1:43 PM   Subscribe

The Benders were a family of German immigrants who opened a store and restaurant in the newly formed state of Kansas in the late 19th century. Led by the spiritualist Kate, they also were some of the United States first serial killers.

Here's another site on the Benders, from the hotel that houses what's left of the Bender museum in Cherryvale, just watch out for the red background. As an added bonus, you can use this very cool historic newspaper search from the Library of Congress (as posted by cog_nate) to read news stories about what happened to the Benders. Here's a hint: several people were wrongfully arrested, but the Benders were never captured. Also, most believe they weren't even a family. They were liars and murderers!
posted by sleepy pete (37 comments total) 26 users marked this as a favorite

 
Brings new meaning to "On a bender…"
posted by klangklangston at 1:46 PM on September 25, 2007


notthedamanrobot? Oh well.

Here's a site dedicated to their great-great grand delinquent, and cutie, John.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 1:54 PM on September 25, 2007


In William Gibson's newest book one of the characters talks about "Heresy of the Free Spirit" who supposedly were a bunch of fornicators and cannibals. But I don't know how accurate Gibson's character's description actually is.
posted by delmoi at 1:57 PM on September 25, 2007


Coolposthanks!
posted by marxchivist at 1:58 PM on September 25, 2007


Back in the day...when you ate out..you where taking your life into your own hands. Bad Boy H. H. Holmes was the king of them all.
posted by doctorschlock at 2:01 PM on September 25, 2007


Awesome post!
posted by Artw at 2:02 PM on September 25, 2007


Isn't there a comic book covering these events?
posted by bstreep at 2:12 PM on September 25, 2007


Cool post sleepy pete. I love weird Americana.
posted by doctor_negative at 2:21 PM on September 25, 2007


Great post, sleepy pete! I had heard stories about the "Butchering Benders" but never in this much detail.
posted by amyms at 2:25 PM on September 25, 2007


Good post. Never heard of these folks, and I'm from the midwest.
posted by davejay at 2:27 PM on September 25, 2007


Isn't there a comic book covering these events?
posted by bstreep at 2:12 PM on September 25


Yep, A Treasury of Victorian Murder: The Bloody Benders by Rick Geary.
(Multnomah County Library link for Portlanders)
posted by blueberry at 2:36 PM on September 25, 2007 [3 favorites]


I actually grew up near the site where the Benders lived (still known as Bender's Mound), where the state of Kansas has thoughtfully erected a historical marker along Highway US 160. There's nothing to look at except a large hill, but what a weird historical marker.
posted by sleepy pete at 2:37 PM on September 25, 2007


Thanks, blueberry. I just placed a hold on it.
posted by sleepy pete at 2:47 PM on September 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


Awesome post, and equally awesome comment blueberry. I can't believe I've never heard this before.
posted by Roman Graves at 2:58 PM on September 25, 2007 [1 favorite]


The Kansas State Historical Society has more details, along with photos of the dug-up graves, a knife from the Benders' house, and a Wanted poster.
posted by cenoxo at 3:05 PM on September 25, 2007


Am I wrong for wondering if the Benders used some of their corpses for dishes in their restaurant? Something about those two fields together reminds me of Sweeney Todd.
posted by pxe2000 at 3:16 PM on September 25, 2007


What's the matter with Kansas?
posted by Curry at 3:17 PM on September 25, 2007


By the way, Rick Geary has some other books in the same true-crime area: The Borden Tragedy (mcl), The Beast of Chicago (mcl), The Case of Madeleine Smith (mcl), The Murder of Abraham Lincoln (mcl), The Mystery of Mary Rogers (mcl), and Jack the Ripper (mcl).
posted by blueberry at 3:22 PM on September 25, 2007


And The Fatal Bullet. I must have them all!
posted by Roman Graves at 3:35 PM on September 25, 2007


but nobody who speaks german could be a bad person!
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:48 PM on September 25, 2007


How nice, our own sort of Sawney Bean family. I mean, sure a cannibal family is ok, but there’s no cannibal family like an incestuous cannibal family (Gives a whole ‘nother meaning to the term ‘hairy tree’)
posted by Smedleyman at 4:01 PM on September 25, 2007


Katie Bender, as she was sometimes called, engages the unfortunate stranger in flirtatious conversation at the iron cooking and heating stove while she prepares to serve up her main course, DEATH.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:15 PM on September 25, 2007


The Benders were a family of German immigrants...

Oh, man, what a great name for a band.





Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome ... A Family of German Immigrants!
posted by ZenMasterThis at 4:28 PM on September 25, 2007


Here’s my impression of a German immigrant:
*ahem*
Gutenmorgen, bin ich ein deutscher einwanderer.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:45 PM on September 25, 2007


Great post, and now it's leading to even more interesting reading. Thanks!
posted by annieb at 4:49 PM on September 25, 2007


Fantastic post. Thanks.
posted by yerfatma at 5:47 PM on September 25, 2007


Restauranteurs killing passing travellers was a phenomenon (and frequently fictionalized) in medieval China - and yes, the remains were used to prepare food for future guests.
posted by porpoise at 5:59 PM on September 25, 2007


It makes me twitch, the way he keeps writing "The Bender's" as the plural, the "first serial killers" link. Is this really a published book? How ignorant.
posted by Riverine at 6:22 PM on September 25, 2007


Kate a self- proclaimed healer and spiritualist and reported to be a beautiful, voluptuous girl with tigerish grace

I'd hit it.

THAT'S WHAT SHE SAID
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 6:58 PM on September 25, 2007


america has a crazy history that mostly goes untold. I love these facts, nice post.
posted by DamnYouSerpico at 7:04 PM on September 25, 2007


Come to think of it ... No shit, I actually had a phys ed teacher in grammar school in the 70's named Mr. Bender. You don't suppose ... ?
posted by ZenMasterThis at 7:22 PM on September 25, 2007


The first and last link give totally different accounts of how the Benders were found out. Also, I'm not clear on how the last link can provide so much information about such a mysterious and never-caught group of people. How do they know they weren't really family, or exactly who Ma Bender was?
posted by Roman Graves at 7:30 PM on September 25, 2007


Thanks.

I think the fact that they were never found is the scariest aspect of all.
posted by rougy at 9:00 PM on September 25, 2007


ZMT, that's weird, so did I. Did you go to Linda Mar Elementary?
posted by doctor_negative at 11:37 PM on September 25, 2007


Hmmm, I know a Bender too. Wonder if she's related? Heh.
posted by Foosnark at 8:07 AM on September 26, 2007


Their original family name was shortened at Ellis Island. It was originally Bender Bending Rodriguez.
posted by LilBucner at 1:15 PM on September 26, 2007


doctor_negative No; Rockaway Valley elementary in NJ.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:12 PM on September 27, 2007


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