As a society, we are fascinated with serial killers.
Long before the Manson family captivated us, however, a different serial-killing clan called the Bloody Benders terrorized Labette County, Kansas, from 1871-1873. Together, John, Kate, Elvira, and John Jr. killed more than a dozen people. What’s worse, no one is certain what happened to them after they were confronted and fled.
The Bloody Benders owned an inn and a general store where they would capture their victims.
When a guest would come to the inn, the prevailing theory is that they were given the guest of honor seat at the dinner table, which sat above a trapdoor.
Then, John would hit the patron on the head with a hammer and one of the others would slit their throat. The Benders would then drop the body into the trapdoor to be buried later.
Creepily, this killer group wasn’t even related. There is no documentation that supports their familial relationship, though there is evidence to the contrary.
John Bender was most likely either originally from Germany or The Netherlands. Elvira was born as Almira and went through many names (and husbands she’s suspected of killing) throughout her life.
Kate may have been Elvira’s actual daughter, and John Jr. may have been Kate’s wife, not her brother.
The indigenous Osage people were often blamed for the many disappearances surrounding the Benders, but once a formal investigation began, all four of them left Labette County suddenly in the night.
Several hundred people showed up to search the Benders’ property, where they found the trapdoor and a foul odor, believed to be blood in the floorboards. Over the course of the next day of searches, bodies kept being uncovered, some in graves and others in hidden areas like their well.