It’s October. For the next three weeks, we’ll be focusing on bloody, violent, and generally horrifying historical episodes. This week: The Bloody Benders, America’s first ever documented serial killers.
The Benders operated an on the Osage Trail (later called the Santa Fe Trail) where they allowed travelers to stay the night, resupplied pioneers with food and dry goods, and one of them, Kate Bender, promoted herself as a spiritual healer and fortune teller. They also killed several travelers, and buried their bodies in a garden (pictured below) that became known as “Hell’s Half Acre.” Probably the most famous person associated with the Benders is Laura Ingalls Wilder, the author of the Little House on the Prairie novels. Wilder was very young when her father joined a posse to hunt for the killer family, and did not include them in any of her books. While she had no compunctions about including violent and unflattering portraits of Native Americans in her novels (including several references to massacres supposedly perpetrated by the Osage Indians), Wilder, it seems, demurred at the idea of including killer white people in her work.