60” x 72”
Oil on Linen
Kate Bender was one of the first serial killers in the United States. She seduced many weary travelers to have a seat at the head of the table, in a small inn along the Osage Trail, in what is now Cherryvale, Kansas.
In the spring of 1873, Kate Bender and three others, her mother, father, and brother, became known as the Bloody Benders, when over two dozen bodies were excavated from their orchard and garden.
From 1871 to 1873, the small hand-built inn and general store became a place for travelers to have a meal and even spend the night. The guests were seated at a table, behind them a large curtain divided the room. Kate, with her beauty, card reading, and other spiritualist activities, would distract the guests. From behind the curtain, one of the Bender men would strike the skull of the guest with a hammer. The throat would be cut and the body moved behind the curtain and down a trapdoor to the cellar. Later the body would be stripped and buried somewhere on the property.
In 1873, a Colonel York came along the Osage trail looking for his brother who had disappeared. Though the Benders denied ever seeing him, later that night when he was to retire, he found a gold locket that had belonged to his brother, family photos inside. Colonel York immediately slipped out and went to get several deputies. The following day when they all returned, they found the inn empty.
A search of the grounds produced over two-dozen gravesites including the brother of Colonel York.
Many rumors arose and remained for years following about the fate of the Benders, from them being killed by vigilantes, to Ma and Kate ending up in Detroit.
Kate is shown here seating you at the table, on the plate are the tarot cards she has drawn for her own fate. In the mirror is the locket belonging to the Colonel’s brother.