While researching folklore that crops up in serial killers’ wake, I found some really interesting stories linking Katie Bender, of the infamous Bender family, to old-school witchcraft.
The Benders, Ma, Pa and Katie and John, arrived in Cherryvale, Kansas, in 1970. The family settled down and built a cabin to be used as an inn close to the main road between Independence and Fort Scott. The family’s origins are shrouded in mystery: Some said the family had been part of a German or Dutch settlement in Pennsylvania, and had been forced to leave after some sort of dispute, another theory went that the family had been part of an Amish community. The family relations were a bit unclear too. Some said that Katie and John were siblings, others man and wife, and some even said they were siblings living as man and wife. Of the four of them, only Katie spoke English fluently and the family as whole spoke to each other in German.
Shortly after their arrival, travelers — mostly men — started to disappear. When as many as a dozen had failed to arrive at their destinations, it was decided that all the farms in the area had to be searched. The Benders, who saw their share of travelers at their makeshift inn, had not been suspected at that point but took the cue and fled. Not long after, neglected animals had people look in on the farm, which seemed deserted, and a persistent, bad smell made them search the premises.
It didn’t take long before they discovered a cellar smeared with blood, and several graves in the apple orchard. The Benders are believed to be responsible for at least a dozen murders — all of them guests at the inn.
Though it’s a fact that stories told after a horrible event are hardly ever objective and sometimes outright lies, it doesn’t make them any less interesting to me. And in this case it’s particularly fascinating to look at the stories that links Katie Bender to witchcraft and sorcery.