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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? It goes almost without saying that the Bender women were subject of more interest than the Bender men, with daughter Kate, the murderous medium, representing the ultimate prize in the FBAS sweepstakes. An interesting thing about Kate is that she was invariably represented either as a bewitching beauty or, as in this case, a “perfect demon” to look upon. The notion that the elder Mrs. Bender had burned her face with acid to change her appearance is also quite strikingly bonkers, and anticipates later malarkey about criminals removing their finger prints with acid or surgery to avoid detection. (Chicago, by the by, has as of this morning seen a revival of the acid attack tradition.)
“Both were much terrified when arrested.” Jesus wept: as if life weren’t tough enough for these two already. . . And how sinister indeed that they asked for newspapers. Burn the witches!
I hadn’t thought about it before, but a bounty on the Bender family adds an interesting economic angle to FBAS. Among other things, it’s a get-rich-quick scheme for the yokels. I must look into rumored or real rewards offered for their capture.

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