The Truth About The Bloody Benders Serial Killer Family

In October 1870, the Bender family moved to a 160-acre plot of land in Labette County, Oklahoma, as part of the Homestead Act of 1862. The settlers included John Bender, his wife Elvira, and their children, John Jr. and Kate. As reported by CrimeReads, it is unclear where the family originated. However, it is believed that they were German immigrants.

Upon claiming their land, the Bender family built a cabin, which was used as living quarters and a small general store. Although neighbors described John Jr. as a "half-wit" and called Elvira a "she-devil," they were intrigued by Kate, who was a self-proclaimed psychic and spiritual healer. She was also the only member of her family who spoke fluent English.

CrimeReads reports the Bender family home also functioned as an inn, where settlers traveling along the Great Osage Trail were served meals and offered lodging. However, it eventually became the focus of an investigation into a number of grisly crimes.

Between May 1871 and December 1872, several dozen mysterious deaths and disappearances were reported in the region surrounding the Bender Inn. As the Great Osage Trail was heavily traveled by settlers, it was believed they were abducted and ultimately killed for their possessions. As reported by Daily News, the entire Bender family abandoned their property and seemingly vanished amid the investigation into the crimes.

The family's disappearance caught the attention of neighbors and authorities, who eventually suspected the Benders of abducting and killing the travelers.

The Bloody Benders are exposed

As reported by Daily News, several neighbors entered the Bender Inn to investigate. Once inside, they noticed an unusual odor that seemed to be emanating from a trap door in the floor. The neighbors opened the door and discovered a root cellar, which was completely empty. However, the walls and floor of the cellar were reportedly covered in blood.

A subsequent search of the Benders' land revealed 11 corpses were buried on the property. Daily News reports 10 of the victims suffered blunt force trauma to the head and their throats had been slashed before they were buried in the nude. The 11th victim, who was estimated to be approximately 7 years old, did not appear to have any injuries and was found fully clothed. Authorities believe the child was buried alive inside her father's grave.

Officials believe the Bender family worked together to abduct and kill victims. As Kate spoke fluent English, authorities believe she gained the victim's trust and lured them inside. They believe John Bender Sr. then bludgeoned the victims before slashing their throats and throwing the bodies in the root cellar to await burial.

By the time the bodies were found, the entire Bender family had fled the area. As reported by Daily News, authorities and vigilante groups searched the entire region. However, the Bloody Benders seemed to have vanished without any trace.

Whatever happened to the Bloody Benders?

As reported by CrimeReads, It has been suggested that the man who called himself John Bender Sr., was actually a man named John Flickinger — who likely immigrated from Germany or the Netherlands. His wife, who called herself Elvira, was likely a woman named Almira Mark, who was born and raised in the Adirondack Mountains. A family Bible, which was found inside the Bender Inn, identified John Jr. as a man named John Gebhardt. It is believed that Kate may have been Elvira's daughter from another marriage. However, neighbors said she and John Jr. behaved as though they were husband and wife.

During the search for the Bloody Benders, authorities found the family's horses abandoned approximately 12 miles away from the inn. CrimeReads reports the horses remain the only tangible evidence of where the family fled after abandoning the farm.

Although a number of vigilante groups claimed they captured and killed the Bloody Benders serial killer family, they never produced any evidence to prove the claims. Other rumors suggest the family fled the country, changed their names, or were arrested for other crimes.

In 1889, a mother and daughter were arrested on larceny charges in Michigan. Although the women were suspected of being Elvira and Kate Bender, the claims were never proved.

Despite the fact that the Bloody Benders were never caught or punished for their crimes, CrimeReads reports 12 other men were charged as accessories for redistributing items stolen from the victims.