Hell’s Half-Acre: The Untold Story of the Benders, America’s First Serial Killer Family

Viking. Mar. 2022. 368p. ISBN 9781984879837. $28. CRIME
Jonusas, a former bookseller, recounts the story of the “bloody” Benders, a family who murdered at least 11 people in Kansas in the 1870s. The Bender family sold dry goods and provided lodging to travelers in their remote Kansas home. Occasionally, they murdered travelers and fenced their belongings. After the Benders killed William York, the brother of a prominent Kansas politician, they drew the attention of the authorities and fled. Although legend holds that the Benders vanished without a trace, Jonusas shows that the authorities tracked the family to the Texas frontier but were unable to gather the necessary force to capture them. As the years went by, many tips about the Benders’ whereabouts emerged, one of which led to a prominent trial of two women claiming to be Ma and Kate Bender. Jonusas places the story of the Benders in the context of Kansas’s turbulent history. Additionally, she discusses the sensationalist media coverage of the case as well as its impact in the present day.
VERDICT A fascinating look at a case that still captures the imagination. Fans of historical true crime will be pleased.
Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing