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Category Archives: Serial murder

Chicago Tribune, September 15, 1897. Veteran Hope Chest readers will surely recall the notorious Bender Family of Kansas, whose frontier depredations set the contemporary bar for homicidal family enterprise. This here Staffleback crew strikes me as small potatoes in comparison–murder seems to have been less their “trade” than a sideline–but their operation was not without a certain Gothic panache. Abandoned mine shafts are always good value. Read More »

liverAssociated Press, January 9, 1878. No idea whether these reports of the liver-eater’s demise were premature, though a guy named Liver Eating Johnson surely has got to go sometime . Anyway, this one was the inspiration for a hokey ’70s eco-Western starring Robert Redford, but the entire liver-eating angle somehow got lost along the way. Time for a remake, I think. Casey Affleck looks like he might eat your liver.

Chicago Tribune, May 10, 1873. Meet the Benders, a Kansan family of saloon-keeping, highway-robbing, serially-killing, corpse-plundering spiritualists. Seems they were doing all right in their chosen line of work until they bumped off the brother of a state senator.
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Okay, okay: enough with the forensics, however lurid. Let’s get to the spooky stuff!

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So: the cops, unable to locate the missing persons, enlist the psychic aid of medium Kate Bender, who stalls them long enough for her whole murderous clan to get away. They were never caught, by the way.

That last sentence–“Altogether the murders are without a parallel”– strikes me as wholly licensed by the facts.

chargeaDetroit News, May 26, 1931. Serial murderers work so hard at what they do, but most of them simply fall down the memory hole regardless. As we shall see, this Margaret Summers gal was ultimately credited with at least a dozen killings, but who now remembers her name? Ah well, sic transit gloria mundi.

A few years ago, I wrote what I still think is a pretty funny profile of a bogus profiler of serial killers for the Chicago Reader. I thought I was scuttling her barge, but I still see this nutjob crop up in the media as an “expert” from time to time. Read More »

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