BLOODY “TRAP DOOR” MURDERS BY THE BENDER FAMILY OF CHERRYVALE, KANSAS

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An official website for the city of Cherryvale, Kansas says the town is “known for its quiet neighborhoods,” it hasn’t always been that way. Consider the fascinating case involving a family of serial killers that is widely believed to have occurred there around 1872-3. Essentially, John Bender, Sr. and John, Jr. erected a small structure near Cherryvale, Kansas, and along with a daughter and mother turned it into a country inn. Travelers would stop in for food, supplies and rest: Many of them checked in and never left. The Kansas Historical Society (FHS) reports that the Benders “built a one-room timber cabin with a trap door that led to a stone cellar.” It seems that the “guests” fell victim and ended up in the cellar after they had been smashed in the head with a hammer and had their throats slit. There were between 8-12 victims in all (some think there were more).

The FHS reports that, once the townspeople were on to the serial killers, they searched the inn and discovered that “The trap door in the cabin led to a cellar whose floor was covered with dried pools of blood, the smell gagging the searchers. Depressions in the soil of the well-cultivated orchard contained the graves of the Benders’ victims.”

Although the murders caused great fear and anxiety in the area, and intense efforts to capture the killers were made, the FHS concluded, “that, to this day no one knows for certain what became of the “Bloody Benders.” There have been some loose connections between the Bender murders and Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the “Little House on the Prairie” series. Reportedly, Wilder once spoke about her “pa” during a speech she made in 1937 and said he was involved in the search for the Benders. She never otherwise mentioned the gruesome “Bloody Bender” case because she did not want to infect the minds of children who read her work. There were numerous other rumors about the Benders, and how they had been captured and killed, however, the official version is that they were never seen again after they fled their killing grounds. 

 

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