Friday, July 8, 2016
The Murderous Bender Family by Col. Frank Triplett 1885
The Murderous Bender Family by Col. Frank Triplett 1885
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There are some crimes so gigantic and so terrible that it is with difficulty we can believe them the work of aught save demons. Humanity, one would think, would naturally shrink appalled from wholesale murder, when perpetrated for gain, and far more quickly from that more diabolical passion that kills merely to satiate a fiendish desire to witness death and suffering. How we are to regard those abnormal creatures, who revel in deeds of cruelty, lust and blood, is the greatest puzzle of the psychologist and law maker.
That there must be some inherent defect in their moral constitution there is but little doubt, and yet it is most probably the result of hereditary culture. As the stock-breeder, by selecting and breeding strongly marked specimens, produces almost any characteristics that he may desire in his cattle, so the unconscious selections of viciousness and crime, in cohabitation and marriage, produce a type of persons strongly disposed to the graver crimes, and whose inborn moral faculties are by nature blunted to all of the finer feelings.
In all of its criminal annals America presents no other such terrible picture as that of the Bender family, of South-eastern Kansas. The family of Sawney Beane, the Scotch robber and cannibal, was hardly more degraded and utterly vicious than these Kansas murderers. It is true that the former were cannibals, in addition to being theives and murderers, and also that incestuous cohabitation had produced from Beane and his wife alone, three generations of beings as hideous morally and physically as their parents. In cannibalism,alone, did they exceed in crime the miserable Benders.
How to obliterate the criminal taint in the blood that leads to every sort of outrage against law, might easily be solved in an ideal State, where a just and discerning government had control of the morals, marriages and private lives of its citizens, but whether the world will ever see such a government is somewhat more than doubtful. The remedy would, of course, be a heroic one; either the death of all possessing a criminal taint, or disabling them from reproducing their species. Physical as well as moral disease would be looked after and a sound race, or none, be produced.
In this way, in the course of time, an almost perfect race of human beings might be insured. This is a Utopia, however, that we shall never behold, and still the sum of human happiness and misery, of human charity and crime will flow freely on, unchecked by the strong remedies of the theorist and unhindered by the vague, though we can hardly say idle speculations of the psychological experimentalist.
If Jehovah led the way in pointing out the necessity of extirpating, root and branch, all in whom the pagan taint had a fountainhead, because He knew that they could never out-grow it, and that it must burst out afresh in them and their descendants, is it not well that human law-givers should imitate Him, and if the victim is not put to the sword, at least immure him for life in prison or stop with him a fountain whose stream can not but be impure?
Of a long line of sin-cursed ancestors must have originated the infamous Bender family, whose terrible deeds, continued for years, must cause to the stoutest of hearts a thrill of horror. This family consisted of four persons: Old John Bender; his wife; a son, young John Bender; and a girl, Kate Bender. The family were German; the father and mother having come to America while the boy and girl were but children.
The old man was a repulsive, hideous-looking brute, without a redeeming trait. Dirty, profane and ill-tempered, his aim seems to have been to disgust his nearest neighbors, so that there might be no interruption from them in the plans which he had laid out. If any of them ventured to call he was received with the fiercest curses, and was plainly told that his room was more desirable than his company.
His wife was a dirty old Dutch crone; her face a fit picture of the midnight hag that wove the spell of murderous ambition and deadly determination about the soul of Macbeth. If it were possible, her face had even a more fiendish look than did that of her husband, though if crime ever set its basest seal on any face to mark a man as its minion, old John Bender bore it.
The younger of the men, also named John, was a stout, healthy-looking fellow of about twenty-four years of age at the time of their flight from Kansas. His face indicated nothing save malicious cunning. When smiling it was the face of a rather good-natured dolt, in repose it had the fierce malice of the hyena. Not closely studied, his face might have been called that of a silly, stolid German, sullen but not wicked. Seen when excited, the greenish glare of the eyes and the fierce lines about the treacherous mouth recalled the grave-robbing hyena at once to mind.
Kate Bender, the sister, and it is said, the mistress of John, was of medium size and with rather a pleasant face, though it, too, had its wild beast characteristics. Her hair was red, her eyes bright and her countenance showed that her mind was by no means an idle one. Her skin was snowy white, her bust and limbs rather voluptuous and beautifully rounded. She was a great Spiritualist, and numbers of the inhabitants of Parsons, Oswego, LaBette and Chetopa, can remember her rather crude, but singularly powerful lectures on that subject.
With her, Spiritualism was no idly assumed belief, but an actual religion. When she became excited in discussing this theme, her enthusiasm was intense, and her earnestness would almost carry conviction of the truth of her assertions as to the sights she had seen, and the regions she had visited in the silent watches of the lonely night, and even during the broad glare of day, when in trances.
She proclaimed herself responsible to no one save herself. If she acted according to her own desires, and the expressed opinions of her controlling spirits, she had performed her duty. She publicly declared, in one of her lectures, that murder might be a dictation for good, and incest was no more of a crime than the lawful intercourse of the marriage-bed. Communism, not of goods alone, but of wives, husbands, children, lands, in fact of everything, she declared the only Heaven-descended political doctrine.
This is the personnel of the most terribly infamous and murderous family that ever cursed America, and thank Heaven, they were a product of European and not American civilization. Skillfully disguising their crimes, these fiends carried on for years a series of terrible murders, no doubt generally for the purpose of robbery, though from some of the corpses discovered—those of poor laborers and tramps—a few must have been committed in mere wantonness, and without adequate motive.
In no other location, than in a new country or on the border, could they so long have revelled, without discovery, in their bloody course. Changes of location, with all classes, were frequent, and dangerous characters were known to be everywhere abundant, and almost anywhere, sooner than in the cabin of the surly Dutchman —whose national reputation for industry and lawfulness was of itself a shield to him—would have been sought the criminals, who had made murder a daily avocation and means of livelihood. When the discovery did come it was purely accidental.
The Bender Homestead
Having travelled over every portion of Kansas, before any of her railroads were built, and having frequently passed, on my way from Parsons to Independence, across country, the home of the Benders while they were living there, I have often been amused at the crude and lurid descriptions of that notorious den of murder and robbery. Some of the accounts place the house on a high bluff, overlooking the country for miles around; some locate it in fenny fastnesses, engirdled with slimy swamps and sullen lagoons, and yet others have located it over a natural cave, into which prisoners and murdered bodies were cast.
The reality is vastly different. The county of Labette, (more correctly LaBete), is situated in the southeastern corner of the State of Kansas, and the larger portion of the land is high, rolling prairie. The Neosho and Labette rivers are the principal streams that water the county, though they are fed by numerous smaller creeks. To the western part of the county some of these streams fall toward the waters of the Verdigris, which flows through Montgomery county, of which Independence is the county seat.
On a wagon road leading across the country, from the towns of Parsons, Labette and Oswego, to Cherryvale and Independence, these human wild beasts, the murderous Benders, had located their horrible home. Approaching it from the east or west—the way the road ran—the house was reached by long downward slanting stretches, so that the house was really in a sort of basin, instead of elevated on a hill or bluff. At the foot of the slopes, a small stream ran through the valley, and upon this was a thick growth of bushes and a few trees, the latter of but small size.
The buildings on the place were the dwelling and a barn; the former built of frame, the latter of sod. The barn was about a hundred yards from the house, to the east and south of it, and on the opposite side of the road. The house and a small strip of ground were enclosed by a fence; the land thus enclosed being used ostensibly as a garden and orchard, but really as a grave-yard, or place of concealment for the corpses of those who were murdered. Long before any evil discoveries were made, it had been noted as a singular fact, that a portion of the land in the small enclosure was always kept freshly plowed.
This was attributed generally to some idiosyncracy of "the old Dutchman," as his neighbors designated him, and excited no unusual interest. It was classed with the other peculiarities of the snarling old creature, and no doubt served to strengthen the belief which had got abroad, that the entire family were crazy. This was an impression that old Bender and his wife did everything in their power to create, as it served the purpose of eradicating any desire on the part of the neighbors to call upon them.
Having mentioned the buildings upon the place, a short description of them will be given. The barn was a structure very common in that part of Kansas, having walls laid up of sod, not cemented or plastered, and covered with a pole and sod roof. The dwelling house was a large room, about sixteen feet by twenty-six feet. This room was divided into two compartments, the front room being slightly the smaller. This was used as a dining-room and kitchen, being about ten feet by sixteen feet; the other was about sixteen feet by sixteen feet.
The following diagram will explain the location of the rooms and furniture thoroughly:
A.-Dining Room and Kitchen. B.-Bed Room. C.-Table. D.-Shelves for Canned Goods. E E.-Beds. F.-Door. G.-Window. H.-Door between Rooms. I.-Stove. J.-Bench. K.-A heavy Canvas Sheet, eight feet wide, extending from floor to ceiling, behind which old Bender stood with a sledge-hammer to kill the victim seated at the table. The bench being placed against this curtain, the victim's head was plainly shown and the blow made certain. L.-Trap-Door.
In the bed-room was a trap-door, L, leading into a small cellar, and under the window, G, was a small square hole leading into the cellar, and of barely sufficient size to admit the passage of a man's body. The reasons for this arrangement of the rooms and furniture, and their uses will be given in another chapter.
In the enclosure mentioned were set a few fruit trees, and a small quantity of vegetables were also planted there. On a line with the back of the house were several rows of corn, which, with the weeds that were permitted to grow at their edge, formed a dense screen between the garden and the road during the summer. Between the window and the cellar, opening under it, on the outside, and the ploughed ground, neither corn nor anything else was planted. Sitting at this window one had a clear view of the ground which was always freshly cultivated.
This arrangement was necessary to permit the murderers to remove the bodies of their victims from the cellar, they being pushed up through the small square opening under the window, on the outside, aud dragged to the ploughed ground of the little orchard, where they found convenient graves. This arrangement, so necessary for the plans of the Benders, was one of the links in a chain of strong but simple circumstances that led to the discovery of these fiends
A starving calf in its pen calling for its dam, that with distended udders was standing near in perfect agony, started the search that ended in the discovery of the flight of the demons, and the finding of a number of the bodies of their victims. Such are the simple causes that lead to the unmasking of that awful crime, that, no matter how its perpetrators may endeavor to hide it, "will out." The blood of Abel crying aloud against his brother Cain is the type of all murder. Earth shudders at the blood so guiltily shed and refuses to conceal it.
All nature conspires to betray the unlawful shedding of human blood; the insensate earth, the elements, the dumb beasts, all league together to render up the wretch who takes the life of another. What a chapter, nay, what a volume, might be written upon the trivial clues that have led to the detection of such criminals. A scrap of paper, a spider's web, the smoke from the flame of a candle, the imprint of a ring, the flight of a bird, the utterance of a single word or sentence long years after the commission of the deed, these and even lesser things than these have caused the arrest, trial and conviction of the guilty.
The man who passes from earth in the ordinary course of nature is no more missed than the bubble that dances for a while upon the ocean's surface and then forever disappears. Compared with the vast myriads that throng the earth, a solitary person is but a unit amongst billions; but that little unit, that drop in the watery waste of old ocean, that atom of sand upon its boundless beaches is ever under the watchful eye of Him who declares, "Vengeance is mine," and permits not his untimely removal by his fellow-man.
Murder Will Out
Passing by the Bender house one day, soon after the search for Dr. Yorke, a neighbor noticed a calf in a pen that seemed to be starving to death, while outside, its mother, in a perfect agony, moved uneasily to and fro, her udders distended almost to bursting and the milk streaming from her teats. Looking toward the house, he saw that it was closed, and as it was now after eight o'clock he thought that the family must be sick, as no farmer would be in bed at such an hour,, if able to be up.
Thinking to offer his services, he approached the door, and was greeted by the fierce snarling of a savage looking dog chained near it. Calling several times and receiving no answer, he went around the house to the window and peered in. A single glance showed him that the family were gone, and from the clothes and utensils scattered over the floor, he knew that the removal must have been a hurried one—in short a flight, and not a removal.
Remembering now the search that had been made for Dr. Yorke, and the fact that this house had been searched under the snarling protest of old Bender, the suspicion that the family were the guilty parties sought for, flashed upon him. Going back to the calf pen, he turned the cow in, and then hurried off for some of the neighbors, as he did not care to take the responsibility of breaking in the door himself.
One of the neighbors waited on happened to be a man who was present at the searching of the house, and he called up all of the suspicious circumstances connected with it. He remembered that one of the men who were prosecuting the search, had said that they would go on to Cherryvale and Independence, and if they found no trace of the Doctor at either of these places, that they would come back and make a good search of this place. Another of the men swore—laughingly—that he could see the shape of graves out in the orchard.
This talk was merely intended to annoy the old German, who had cursed them savagely and resisted their search, as far as he could with mere words. None of the men had the slightest suspicion that there was anything wrong.
Going back to the house, the party of three men burst in the door and proceeded to examine the premises thoroughly. On the floor were scattered articles of wearing apparel, cooking utensils, two or three old German books, and a lot of Kate Bender's manuscript, amongst it a complete lecture, from which, if our space permits, we may give a few extracts. Amongst the clothing that littered the floor were found women's dresses, suits of men's clothing and even the garments of babies. Where this varied collection was obtained was soon to be solved.
Fatigued with their labors in looking about the place, the men had just decided on a rest, when the posse that had gone on to Cherryvale arrived. These men entered and one of them, the very man who had jocularly sworn to seeing the shapes of graves in the orchard, took his seat on an old chair by the window. Here he sat for some time, the whole party discussing the mysterious flight of the Benders, when he turned on his seat and began gazing out of the window.
All at once, while the others were chatting pleasantly, he turned to them and said, earnestly:
"By Heaven, boys! I do see the shape of graves out in the orchard."
This at first called up a laugh at his expense, some of his comrades who remembered his former remark insisting that he must have "graves on the brain."
"Come here and sit down and look out at that ploughed ground— see them—one, two, three, four, five, six, seven of them in sight."
Following his pointing finger, the crowd saw seven depressions in the ground of the orchard, and singularly enough, these depressions did have the appearance of newly made graves.
Hastening out into the orchard, one of the men drew the ramrod from his musket and thrust it down into one of the slight depressions.
"There is something more than dirt in here, boys!" he said, and withdrawing his ramrod, the end of it contained several human-hairs. Going to another depression the ramrod was thrust down and this time brought up a piece of cloth. The mystery was solved—Here was the grave-yard of those who had so strangely disappeared; here was the den of secret murder that had engulfed so many victims. For a time no thought was given to the fleeing wretches who had wrought all of this evil.
Spades were secured and the work of disentombing the corpses began. The first unearthed was that of Doctor Yorke. As they were raising it from the grave, they noticed beneath it the body of a child, and a thrill of horror was caused by the fact that the poor little creature had been buried alive. It was evident from the struggles she had made in suffocating, that the Doctor had been killed and placed in the grave, and that then his legs had been raised up, and the child placed beneath them, and thus pinioned down while the dirt was being thrown back to fill up the grave. Her sufferings must have been horrible, and strong men wept when they looked upon her.
Had the family of fiends been present when this discovery was made, it is safe to say that they would have been torn limb from limb by the excited crowd which had gathered. Eleven bodies were disinterred, some of which were identified, but some were unknown to all present. One was that of a young and beautiful woman, who, from all that could be gathered, must have lain dead in the hideous cellar when the posse were searching the house. One of the men testified to having noticed fresh buggy tracks leading up to the door of the house, (on the morning of the search), and from there turning abruptly off toward the bushes on the creek. A search showed that a buggy with a single horse hitched to it had been standing for some time, deeply hidden in the thicket.
The body was too well preserved to have been buried longer than a few days, and as this was evidently the last murder of the fiends, it was supposed that she had driven to the house and been murdered, and the buggy used afterward to carry one or more members of the family away. The fingers were lacerated as if rings had been torn from them, and on each wrist were marks, showing that bracelets had been worn. No one in Parsons, Oswego, or Cherryvale, the nearest towns, knew of the disappearance of any such person, and who she was remains to this day an unsolved mystery.
A buggy with a single horse, and driven by a young and handsome woman had been observed in Parsons, driving toward the west. No one knew the driver, and whether she was some one journeying on toward some legitimate goal and met midway by horrible murder, or whether it was some one who had been lured thither by the infamous wiles of Kate Bender for unhallowed purposes no one will ever know. It was an undoubted fact that Kate Bender pretended to a great degree of medical and surgical skill, in its illegitimate practice, and did not hesitate to declare that it was perfectly proper to limit the production of offspring.
A description of this corpse, given at the time, is as follows: "About twenty or twenty-two years of age; of medium size; rather stoutly, though gracefully built; rounded limbs; snowy complexion; auburn hair, very long and thick; regular features; small, even teeth; eyes, light hazel. Below the right knee, on the outer side of the leg, was a small scar; another circular scar, very slight, just below the left ankle, on the outer side; a double scar on the left shoulder, and a red mole on the right breast." No examination by competent authority was made to see if, at the time of her murder, she were enciente, or if any operation had been performed upon her.
Eleven bodies in all were found buried in the orchard. This was supposed to have been used as a burying place only for those victims murdered in the day time, and which had to be disposed of quickly. The others were carried to the river, and there the entrails were taken out and buried in the sand, the bodies filled with stones and sunk in the water. In the winter, a more summary mode of disposal was followed, a hole being cut in the ice and the corpse shoved under it. These facts were all ascertained in following up the trail found at the Bender homestead.
Some Narrow Escapes
A brother of the writer, now living in Colorado, but at the time of the discovery of the Bender murders, a resident of LaBette county, Kansas, gives the following as his remembrance of the discovery of the crimes of these monsters:
At the time of Dr. Yorke's disappearance, the Benders had resided upon their claim for some time. No one knew where they were from, and though they kept a house of entertainment for travellers, yet they had made themselves so odious to their neighbors, that their only visitors were the people travelling the road. Their house was about half-way between Parsons, (on the east,) and Cherryvale, (on the west,) and was a natural stopping place for travellers.
A rough counter stood to the right of the door, as one entered the house, and back of this were shelves containing a few canned goods. To the left of the door stood a rough pine table, and back of it was a bench. The head and back of a person seated on this bench was outlined upon a heavy canvas sheet that stretched from the ceiling to the floor. This sheet was eight feet wide, and hung so close to the bench as to touch it. It was the old German's shrewd device for murdering his victims.
Woe to the solitary wayfarer, who induced by hunger, or the liberally displayed charms of Kate Bender, stopped at this den of murder. Whatever his motives, the chances were against his ever leaving it alive. If he halted and went in to rest, or to purchase any of the canned goods so ostentatiously displayed, he would be waited upon by Kate, who with blushes and protestations would arrange her disorded garments. All of the parts of the murderous machinery would fall rapidly and readily into place.
Old Bender with his ponderous sledge hammer had, at the first appearance of the victim, secreted himself behind his terrible screen; the old hag, his wife, as if to give the stranger a chance for a tete a tete with her daughter, would go out of the front door and stand near the corner of the house, or seat herself upon the steps. She was the look-out for the horrible combination, and often a peculiar cough from her—indicating the near approach of some one—has suspended the murderous swing of the sledge, and a merciful Fate has reprieved an almost doomed victim.
Whether the traveller called for anything to eat, or merely expressed a desire to rest, he was invited by Kate to take a seat on the fatal bench. Standing upon the opposite side of the table, she would hold the victim in steady conversation until the fiend behind the curtain could with certainty swing his sledge, and crush the skull of the unsuspecting man. When a blow was misdirected and the man only stunned, he was quickly dragged into the next room, the trap thrown up, his throat cut and the body thrust into the slight excavation that could hardly be called a cellar.
Sometimes, as the bullet holes in the roof and walls showed, the stunned victim made a noble fight for life, but these were always without avail. To show how nearly discovery sometimes waited upon these wretches, a gentleman named Corlew, who lived at Independence, Kansas, said that one day about noon he stopped at Bender's to get something to eat. He noticed that Kate and old Bender looked flushed and excited, but the old woman seemed cold and malignant as a demon. Hearing a sighing and kicking under the house as if some animal had got under it, he asked the cause, and was told by Kate that it was "only a hog."
He volunteered to help get it out, and was surprised at the fierce objections of old Bender, who told him he had better mind his own business, and that if he didn't like the hog being there he could leave the house. Kate, who was getting the canned goods called for by Mr. Corlew, spoke imperatively to her father, bidding him be quiet, and he immediately ceased his snarling and disappeared, as Mr. Corlew thought into the next room, but more probably behind the screen. The old woman went out of the door.
Kate, who had turned her back to her customer, managed to disarrange the front of her dress so as to expose her bosom, and turning back—pretending to be oblivious of the fact—begged Mr. Corlew to sit down at the table and eat, as he would be more comfortable. He excused himself, saying that he was in a hurry and must ride on a few miles, to where his horse could get grass, before he could eat his lunch. She insisted strenuously, but he determined to ride on, and no doubt saved his life by doing so.
Perhaps the narrowest and most singular escape of these fiends from detection, and of their intended victim from death, was in the case or a young fellow who lived in Cherryvale, and whom we shall call by a nick-name, by which he was almost universally known in Southern Kansas. "Happy Jack" (Reed) was on his way from Cherryvale to Parsons, and had ridden by the Bender house, when he was attracted by a noise at the door, and turning in his saddle beheld a vision of floating auburn hair and snowy bust and shoulders. Sitting irresolutely on his horse for a moment, he turned back and dismounting entered the murderous den.
His enchantress had disappeared and in her stead there was only visible a hideous old hag, wrinkled, sullen and malignant. Buying a can of fruit he was about turning to go when from the inner room emerged the Circe that had spelled him, her form properly decked, but her hair still flowing free. After some entreaty on her part, Happy Jack took a seat at the table and was soon engaged in a rather amative conversation, when all at once there was a shrill and singular cough from the old crone who had gone out of the door.
Simultaneously with the cough Jack felt the swift passage of some object along the cloth behind him, the feeling being similar to that of a bird in rapid flight. Two travellers now drew up at the door, and asking a few questions of the old hag outside, rode on. This interruption broke Kate's spell, and Happy Jack, suddenly conscious of the time he had wasted, resisted all attempts to engage him in further conversation, and mounting his horse, rode on, promising to stop on his way back and stay all night, unconscious that the swiftly moving object that stirred the curtain was the deadly hammer of old Bender, which had already started upon its murderous mission when the signal from the door changed its direction and saved Jack's life.
Finishing his business at Parsons, Happy Jack so timed his departure as to reach the Bender place about an hour before sundown. He was cordially received by Kate, and had determined on an evening of great enjoyment, when two comrades whom he had left in Parsons rode up to the door. He remarked to Kate that he recognized the voices of the men and that he would send a message to a friend by them. Kate used every endeavor to prevent his doing so, but without success, and going to the door he told them that he would stay where he was for the night and start early in the morning for Cherry vale.
After the departure of his friends Jack noticed quite a change in the demeanor of Kate. She became cold and distant, the conversation lagged, and announcing that she must attend to her household duties, she left him to his own meditations. Bed-time finally came and he was ushered into the next room, where he speedily retired. During the night he was restless and slept but little, and about twelve o'clock he heard a wagon drive up to the door, and a man's voice called for the landlord.
Escape of the Benders
The strangeness of his day's adventures, the unaccountable conduct of his inamorata, and the lateness of the night arrival caused him to pay close attention to all that transpired. In addition to the voice of old Bender, he heard that of another man in the next room, and he noticed that both got up and went out in answer to the call. He heard the wagon driven to the stable, and in a few minutes heard a heavy blow and a dismal shriek followed by heavy moans.
Other blows followed rapidly and the groans ceased. Knowing that the other bed in the same room was occupied, and suddenly conscious that danger was imminent, Jack feigned a sound slumber, and it was well he did so, for rising from a bed in the further corner, Kate came over to where he lay and listened attentively to his breathing. Apparently satisfied that he was sound asleep, she went into the next room and spoke to the men who had just returned.
"He is sound asleep," she said, "he has heard nothing."
"It's good for him he hasn't," said old Bender, and again all retired to their couches.
In the morning, after an early breakfast, Kate asked Reed how he slept, and was answered that he had enjoyed a fine rest.
"I didn't know," said the beautiful fiend, "but that you might have been disturbed in the night. One of our horses got loose and father, who is very high tempered, beat him severely. I could hear the poor brute groaning, clear to the house, and I didn't know but it might have disturbed you."
"Not at all," said Jack, I never slept sounder or better in my life."
As he made this answer, Jack heard something heavy set down upon the floor behind the screen, and old Bender shuffled into sight, as if he had just come out of the other room. Glad to get away from the place, Jack paid his bill and mounting his horse hastened on to Cherryvale. Here he told his tale, which was only laughed at as a nightmare, and all suspicion, if any ever existed, was thus laughed away.
But few men make as many narrow escapes in a life time, as did Jack Reed in the short space of a few hours. In the first place the signal cough of the old hag had saved him, even after the sledge had been poised for the fatal blow. Again he had been marked for murder, on his return to the den at night, and this was only prevented by his speaking to his friends. The demons knew, that should he not make his appearance in Cherryvale the next day, he could be too plainly trailed and his disappearance located at their place.
Again he made a third escape, the next morning, by feigning to have slept well during the night. Even at the risk of detection for his murder would they by his death have concealed the knowledge of their midnight crime, and had his answers to Kate's queries not been satisfactory, old Bender had already placed himself behind the screen to silence him forever.
Our informant, mentioned in the last chapter, says that on the next claim to the east of the Benders lived two brothers, with whom old Bender was continually at bitter enmity. Bender's cow very often broke into the corn field of these young men, and when they remonstrated with the old German, he invariably cursed and abused them fiercely. These men were the first to ascertain the flight of the fiends. The occurrence was as follows:
Doctor Yorke's brother, in searching for his missing relative, succeeded in tracing him to Bender's den, and there all trace of him ceased. Accompanying Mr. Yorke were three or four friends, but no suspicion of the guilt of this family occurred to any of them. Kate Bender went into a trance and endeavored to obtain from the spirits some knowledge of the Doctor's whereabouts. So confidently had Kate spoken of her mediumistic powers, and so highly had old Bender and his wife extolled them, that she seems to have even imposed upon Mr. Yorke.
She announced to him that the spirits were angry at the crowd that accompanied him, but that they promised her faithfully to notify him of his brother's whereabouts, if he would return to her alone in five days. This he determined to do, and the crowd rode off. As might have been expected, the five days were not idled away by the murderous family.
Three days after Mr. Yorke's visit, the two brothers spoken of found Bender's cow in their field, and they noticed that her udders were terribly distended. Thinking to do their unamiable neighbor a kindness, they drove the cow over to his house. Here all was silent, and in a close pen was a starving calf. Turning the cow into the pen, the young men went to the house and knocked repeatedly. Eliciting no answer they finally burst the door in, and found that the family had made a hurried flight.
Remembering Yorke's search for his brother, the young men had him notified of this suspicious circumstance, and with a few neighbors, he promptly hurried to the scene, in a farm wagon. While the party was sitting in the wagon, which was standing in the road between the house and the stable, Mr. Yorke chanced to cast his eye over the freshly ploughed ground, in the little orchard, and was at once struck by the appearance of depressions in the ground curiously resmbling newly made graves.
Getting out of the wagon, he took the iron rod from its end-gate and getting over the fence, began probing into the depressions. The result has been already described. There were found to be two rows of five graves each, and in addition was found a shallow well into which their first victim had been thrown, head foremost, and covered with dirt. In the surrounding creeks bodies were also found, undoubtedly those of the victims of these horrible creatures.
Search was made in every direction for the demons, but none of them were ever discovered. In New Chicago, a small town above Parsous, a team of two horses was found hitched to a post in the streets. People remembered that they had been thus standing, without food or attention for two days, and as they were never claimed, it is supposed to have been the team by whose aid the Benders succeeded in making their escape. At this point they probably separated in order to facilitate their escape, and having long since re-united are probably pursuing their murderous schemes in some other locality.
There is hardly a doubt, but that the Benders formed a link in a great criminal chain, for unaided this family would have been unable to have disposed of the horses and wagons, which formed a large part of their spoils. There is also but little doubt that being notified of their danger, other members of the conspiracy hastened to their aid, and conveyed the members of the family to secure hiding places. Unless this had been the case, it would have been utterly impossible that they should have succeeded in so thoroughly evading all search. The wagon left in New Chicago, was probably done to turn the pursuit toward the railroads, while under the guidance of fellow criminals the family journeyed by wagons or carriages to places of safety.
KATE BENDER'S LECTURE.
"My friends, the sceptic denies that we can commune with spirits, and yet that very man will put his faith in spells and omens, will carry a potato in his pocket to keep off rheumatism and will firmly believe that it is unlucky to dream of snakes, to begin any enterprise on Friday, or to upset the salt at the table—which, I ask you, is the wisest, the spiritualist or such a sceptic? I know what your heartfelt answer is, and truly the spiritualist, upheld by the communion with those in the spirit-world, purified by their gentle warnings and stayed with their angelic love is most of all to be envied.
What if the scoffers do accuse us of free love, is that not as our Heavenly Father intended it? Do not the horse, the lion and the noble mastiff —next in the scale to god-like man—select their mates at will? If nature, or nature's God, has implanted in us a magnetism by which we recognize our carnal mates at a touch, a breath, a glance, shall we conform to the miserable requirements of self-constituted society, confine ourselves to a single love and deny our natures their proper sway and nourishment?
Even though it should be a brother's passion for his own sister, I say it should not be smothered, for it is a god-given impulse. Does this doctrine startle you? Are you not aware that the rulers of Egypt and those of Peru always married brothers and sisters? Absalom's love for his sister, and Byron's for his, were God-given impulses, and each found soul-mates as well as carnal partners. What has the civilization of to-day discovered that was not old in Egyptian civilization thousands of years ago, in that of Peru centuries before our own era began? Shall we then presume to oppose our new morality against theirs? As great a folly, my friends, as to oppose our arts and sciences against theirs.
Aye, murder—though my assertion may startle, may shock, may horrify you—is not the great crime that your laws would make it. A poor creature is toiling painfully along beneath a heavy burden—a benefactor suddenly appears, lifts the load off of worn and weary shoulders, bids the toiler enter into green fields and lie down by cool brooks—is that cruelty? No more is it cruelty at one sudden blow to drive the spirit from this hard cold world to that blest land of the beyond, the glorious spirit-sphere.
You ask me how I dare to make so bold an assertion? My answer is that I have often held converse with spirits thus disembodied and they knew nothing but gratitude for those who had so benefitted them. Weak woman as I am, I might shudder and even swoon at the sight of human blood, but do you think that I would refuse my hand to the fate-impelled slaughterer of his brother-man? Far from it, for under what the unthinking world might deem unexampled villainy, my more clairvoyant soul might read bravery, nobility and humanity."
These extracts are from the MSS. lecture found in the Bender house after the flight of the wretches, and they will be recognized by those, who in Chetopa, Oswego, Labette, Parsons, Cherryvale and other Kansas towns, have heard this disciple of lust, free love, murder and spiritualism hold forth on her favorite subjects. At the very time that she thus flippantly discussed topics that have puzzled the wisdom of sages, her hands were almost daily red with the blood of victims lured to their doom by her fatal beauty and her freely displayed charms.
It has been said that the Benders went by wagon to Chanute, a town adjoining New Chicago, and there bought tickets to some point in Texas, but abandoned the train at Chetopa, (just on the line between Kansas and the Indian Nation,) and from there struck out on foot through the Nation. This account states that they were overtaken just as they were about to cross Grand river, and hung by their pursuers. This is most likely a mere sensational story, as for months afterward parties were being arrested at various points in the United States and carried to Oswego under the supposition that they were the Benders. This could not have happened had the citizens known that the Benders were already punished. Had those in pursuit captured and killed them, they would not have hesitated to avow their action, as nothing could have been done with them. Our account is probably as nearly correct as can be. The starving team tied up was doubtless a blind to draw attention to the railroads, while the fiends were being conducted, by their accomplices, to places of safety by wagons or on horseback.
It is singular the ascendancy that Kate had gained over John, her brother-paramour. He asserted to a person in Independence, as gospel truth the supernatural power possessed by Kate, and in all solemnity said that if she willed it, she could move Independence bodily to any other part of the State. It is supposed that when Kate persuaded Yorke to return alone, she intended to have him killed, but after he left, fearing that others might accompany him and might find out their horrible secret, she determined on flight.
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