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Category Archives: The Bender Family

Dallas Morning News, November 6, 1889. Time for some follow-up on that recovered memory-inflected FBAS (False Bender Arrest Syndrome) drama whereof we spake last month. Deviating from the journalistic norms of its day, the Dallas Morning News decided ahead of time that this story smells like bullshit. There can never be enough of this kind of skepticism, especially in journalism. Read More »

San Antonio Daily Express, July 7, 1873. Here is a singularly pitiable instance of FBAS (False Bender Arrest Syndrome). In the headline of the post that inaugurated this thread I made a casual comparison between FBAS and contemporary hysteria over blue gum negroes. The resemblance actually runs deeper than I’d deeply thought about: Both are basically semi-secularized versions of witchcraft panic. In this case, we have a bit of an overlap with the whole rural wild woman phenomenon too. Everything that plummets must converge, see? Read More »

Chicago Daily Tribune, October 31, 1889. Your average false arrest of a Bender suspect is a pretty prosaic affair: Some unlucky schmuck or schmuckess is in transit through a hick town, and a random resident of the latter spontaneously decides That’s John Bender! (sometimes senior, sometimes junior) and/or That’s Kate Bender! and/or That’s Almira Bender! An arrest or arrests ensue, and the newspapers triumphantly report that the long-sought criminal or criminals have been arrested at last and for sure this time, and no mistake about it. Often the coverage simply stops there until the next round, though sometimes there’s a sheepish follow-up item to the effect that, uh, perhaps the rock-solid Bender identification had been a bit premature after all. This one, however, is a bit more complicated. Read More »

Chicago Tribune, December 20, 1882. Hey, we’re back in business here at The Hope Chest. (And may I just thank the international service response team of the Hewlett-Packard corporation for fixing me up with working computer in just slightly more time than it would have taken for Rural Free Delivery to deliver me a can of Dapper Dan Pomade? Outstanding.) Read More »

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.
medium cruel1A

Okay, okay: enough with the forensics, however lurid. Let’s get to the spooky stuff!

medium cruel2A

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.

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