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The family that kills together, stays together. At least in the case of the Bloody Benders, a family of killers from 1870's Kansas.

Are the Bloody Benders the creepiest serial-killer family ever?

A family that kills together, stays together. 

That was probably along the lines of the Benders’ family motto. Some families play baseball together, some families watch movies together, but the Bender family killed their patrons together. 

The Bloody Benders may be one of the most depraved families in American history. They ran an inn in Cherryvale, Kansas and it’s a shame they didn’t let the adorably-named town live up to its sweet name. 

Many people who stayed at the Bloody Bender family inn never returned home because of the family’s corrupt killing hobby. Cherryvale would become the resting place of many travelers along the Great Osage Trail in the 1870’s. They probably never guessed their fates would be sealed by simply taking a seat. 

The family that kills together, stays together. At least in the case of the Bloody Benders, a family of killers from 1870's Kansas.

The Bloody Benders’ homestead 

The Bloody Benders moved to Kansas in 1870. They were spiritualists that claimed a couple hundred acres of land, and other homesteaders never really questioned who they were or where they came from. The family consisted of Ma, Pa, and their two grown children, Kate & John Jr. 

The family built a one room inn off the Osage Trail so many travelers stopped and frequented their home. They separated the front of the building, which was a store & inn, from the back of the building with a curtain. In the back was their private living quarters. 

They carried liquor, food, tobacco, horse feed, and gunpowder. Their place was a veritable oasis in the windswept landscape of Cherryvale, Kansas. No one thought anything strange about the Benders until a considerable amount of people started disappearing after staying at their inn. 

There were many causes for travelers never returning from a journey in those times. From Native Americans raids to dysentery, the reasons abounded, but the amount of trail followers disappearing in Labette County just kept stacking up. It wasn’t until a well-known doctor from Independence, Kansas disappeared that people discovered the Benders for what they truly were: killers. 

The family that kills together, stays together. At least in the case of the Bloody Benders, a family of killers from 1870's Kansas.

Bloody Benders’ modas operandi 

In 1873, the established doctor William York disappeared after spending the night at the Bloody Benders’ inn. York’s brothers had powerful connections and were determined to find out the cause of his sudden vanishing. They investigated all of Labette County and eventually their search led them back to the Benders’ inn

When the Benders were questioned, it’s said that Ma “flew into a violent passion.” Investigators questioned them about a woman who reported to have been threatened with knives there. Ma said she had deserved it because she thought her a witch. The Benders vehemently denied all culpability regarding any disappearances. 

A town meeting was then held that decided the Benders’ property should be searched for evidence of missing people, but because of bad weather their search was delayed. By the time they finally had a chance to look at the Benders property, the Benders had fled. They had taken only food and clothes with them. 

The family that kills together, stays together. At least in the case of the Bloody Benders, a family of killers from 1870's Kansas.

What the townspeople found behind the curtain that separated the Bender building horrified them. There was a trapdoor beneath one of the chairs leading to a very bloody cellar. Although the cellar was covered in blood, there were no corpses to be found. It wasn’t until they searched the Benders’ freshly plowed garden that they found a shocking 21 bodies. 

After extensive inspection and interviews of visitors who had stayed at the inn, investigators postulated that the Benders would bash a person’s head in once they took a seat in the trapdoor chair. After that, one of the Benders would open the trapdoor and head down to the cellar to slit the victim’s throat. 

Their motive was stealing, but it’s estimated that the Bloody Benders probably only gathered a few thousands dollars from their bloody work. 

The family that kills together, stays together. At least in the case of the Bloody Benders, a family of killers from 1870's Kansas.

Were the Bloody Benders ever caught?

As far as we know, karma didn’t wield its justice balancing skills in the case of the Bloody Benders. None of the Benders were ever caught, although investigators were said to have found their true identities. The funny thing about the Bloody Benders is that they weren’t actually a family. It’s said that only Ma and Kate were likely related. 

Pa and Ma were indeed of German descent. Pa was reportedly really named John Flickinger. With a common name like John, what’s the use of changing your first name? Ma was supposedly really named Almira Meik, a woman who married several times and bore twelve children, but all of her husbands died of head wounds. 

Kate’s name was Eliza Griffith and John Jr.’s name was John Gebhardt. People who knew the real John Gebhardt reported that Kate was actually his wife, not his sister. 

The family that kills together, stays together. At least in the case of the Bloody Benders, a family of killers from 1870's Kansas.

A movie on the Bloody Benders

Were the Benders the creepiest serial killer family ever? I think many would answer with a resounding yes. 

If you’d like to learn more about what the Bloody Benders’ sinful life might have looked like, check out the 2016 film Benders.


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