The state of Kansas saw families shift to a new place into the plains of the place which has now come to be known as Cherryvale in the late 1800s. These families had a religion which a lot of us don’t know about today but in that time it was a big thing. They were called Spiritualists. The people who were already living there were not very welcoming of the new religion as it was alien to them but they did not mind having new people coming into town and living with them. They never really asked a lot of questions when it came to new people come into town and they didn’t really make much of it when the Spiritualists came into Cherryvale.
A couple of the families which moved to Cherryvale moved away very soon after that because they couldn’t adjust to the very harsh conditions of the town. Most of the other families that move to the town tended to keep very much to themselves and didn’t interact much with the locals who already lived there. The Benders was a family which was a whole different case.
They came off as a very normal family initially. The head of the family, John Bender, Sr. settled with his family near the Great Osage Trail that has since come to be known as the Santa Fe Trail. He laid a claim to a few acres of land in what’s now known as Labette County. Both Pa and Ma Bender spoke mostly in German but their kids spoke in fluent English.
The Great Osage Trail
The Great Osage Trail was a very common trail that travelers took and a lot of them would come by the place and spend the night with the Spiritualists because of their healing practices that they were known for. Now the trail was already a dangerous place, as a lot of places were in the Wild West with bandits and accidents, not to mention the Native Indians everyone had conflicts with but over the course of a few years an alarming number of people started to go missing if they passed through Labette County.
These occurrences were mostly unnoticed until Dr. William York, a prominent physician from Kansas went missing. His brothers were two powerful people and they were determined to find out what happened to him.
During an investigation, the Benders were asked about the missing people but the Benders claimed that they know nothing about the missing people. Around about that time, there was a meeting in the township where it was decided that everybody’s houses should be checked out to find signs of the missing people but before the search could begin the weather got bad and it had to be delayed.
The Benders’ Disappearance
Life went back to normal again after the weather turned to normal. One of the Benders’ neighbors noticed starving farm animals one day in the Benders’ property and decided to check out the situation. It turned out that the Benders had fled without any warning whatsoever. The search was going on at that time and when the volunteers came to the Benders’ property, they found nothing out of place inside the home – that was until someone opened a trapped door in the house.
The trapped door behind their private residence revealed something horrifying underneath. The cellar was drenched in blood and filled with the smell of rot but they found no indication of bodies anywhere. That was until they took note of the fact that the garden always looked like it was freshly plowed on the Benders’ property.
Upon further investigation, they started digging around in the garden and started uncovering body after body from the ground. The accounts vary about the number of bodies but it is reported that they murdered at least 21 people and buried them in their garden.
A nationwide investigation was started in search of the Benders to bring them to justice but from the point of the township meeting in the Harmony Grove to this day, nobody has been able to figure out what became of the Benders. They just vanished off the face of the earth.
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