How a serial killer family got away with murdering seven men and a baby

On a Kansas evening in 1872, Julia Hestler immediately regretted her visit to the Bender family. The stagecoach that dropped her off was already racing away, leaving her alone on the prairie in front of a solitary, decrepit cabin.   

When the self-proclaimed “spiritualist” Kate Bender invited Julia inside for their scheduled séance, she was revolted by a strong stench and buzzing flies. She sat across from Kate and held hands to begin, not wanting to insult her hostess. 

But with her eyes closed, Julia felt doom. She looked up to see three Bender family members suddenly standing silently behind Kate. Pa Bender held a heavy tool that shone in the candlelight. Terrified, Julia leapt up and fled. She tumbled down the cabin’s front steps before scrambling to her feet and running for her life across the darkened plains. 

Julia was lucky to survive, as Susan Jonusas writes in “Hell’s Half-Acre: The Untold Story of the Benders, a Serial Killer Family on the American Frontier” (Viking), out now. The neighbors she told found the incident more creepy than criminal, but the following spring her fears were validated when eight corpses were found buried beneath the Benders’ apple trees. The Benders would go down in American history as the most infamous family of serial killers.

Keep reading

Kansas mayor resigns after threats over backing mask mandate

 A western Kansas mayor announced her immediate resignation Tuesday because of threats she has received after publicly supporting a mask mandate.

Dodge City Mayor Joyce Warshaw said she was concerned about her safety after encountering aggression, including threats via phone and email, after she was quoted in a USA Today article Friday supporting a mask mandate, The Dodge City Globe reported.

“I understand people are under a lot of pressure from various things that are happening around society like the pandemic, the politics, the economy, so on and so forth, but I also believe that during these times people are acting not as they normally would,” Warshaw said.

The commission voted 4-1 on Nov. 16 to impose a mask mandate, with several exceptions.

Ford County, where Dodge City is located, has recorded 4,914 cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, according to the state health department. The county has about 33,600 residents.

Warshaw said despite the threats, she doesn’t regret voting in favor of the mask mandate.

Keep reading

Editor’s note: we used to tar and feather them, so…a kinder gentler nation?