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Kate Bender

Sketch of Kate Bender

Leading member of the "Bloody Benders"

Kate Bender gained the reputation as an attractive but dangerous woman in her Labette County community.

She lived with her parents and brother while helping them run an isolated grocery and road house. Somewhat an alien in the midst of the other family members, she was the only one to culture social skills. She also had an alleged gift for second sight and spiritualism and distributed advertising circulars throughout the county proclaiming her abilities.

Her enduring fame, however, would come from other skills, namely that of murderer, for Kate was the leading member of the "Bloody Benders." The small Bender home was divided into two rooms by a canvas cloth. There was a table, stove and grocery stores in front and beds in the back along with the pit-like cellar covered by a trap door.

The Bender family's crimes were considered some of the more gruesome perpetrated on Kansas soil. John, his wife, son, and daughter Kate operated an inn outside of Parsons from 1871 to 1873.

Photograph showing an advertisement for Prof. Miss Katie Bender's healing powers and a knife found in the Bender homeThe inn was located on a main road and travelers would often stop for food and rest. Many never left. While seated on the bench near the temporary wall their heads made perfect outline in the canvas. It was a simple matter to murder the victim with a sledge hammer kept on hand for just that purpose. The bodies were then tossed into the cellar until they could be removed. When suspicions were aroused in 1873 the Benders fled. Eleven bodies were found, with crushed skulls, in the Bender garden. No one has ever been able to prove what happened to Kate and her family, even though a nationwide manhunt turned up suspects for many years after. 

Entry: Bender, Kate

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: June 2003

Date Modified: September 2012

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.