HELL’S HALF-ACRE is a new novel based on the true story of the Bloody Benders, the earliest and most remarkable “family” of serial killers in American history. Like Lizzie Borden and H.H. Holmes—the so-called “Beast of Chicago” featured in The Devil in the White City—the Benders loom large in the early history of American crime. Yet while they remain notorious in Kansas, their story is still largely unknown beyond.

The Benders were German-speaking immigrants who ran a grocery and inn in a remote corner of southeast Kansas in the early 1870’s. Their  modus operandi  was simple: solitary travelers along the Osage Trail were enticed to stop at the Bender cabin by the family’s youngest member, the beautiful and enigmatic Kate. A dinner was prepared by Almira, the little-speaking mother, while John Jr. saw to the visitor’s horses. Sometime during the meal, while Kate distracted them by any means necessary, they were attacked with a hammer by John Sr., who struck them in the head through the rude canvas partition that divided the cabin. The victims were then finished off by knife—possibly by Kate —and dumped in a tomb-like basement chamber. Later, the bodies were dragged through a side door and buried in an apple orchard.

They remain among the earliest known serial killers in US history, with Kate one of the very few young women associated with that crime in any period. Though their guilt for at least twelve (possibly as many as fifty) murders is beyond doubt, the fate of the Benders themselves is a mystery. Were they run down and executed by a posse of vengeful Kansans as they tried to flee to Indian-held territory in Oklahoma? Did they manage to escape, only to be arrested later for other crimes? Were they really related to each other, or were they just a gang of opportunists posing as a family? Was their motive simple robbery? Or do the odd stories of devil-worship and necromancy hint at some other, even darker motive? 

HELL’S HALF-ACRE will be published in the fall of 2015, in print and all ebook platforms. Pre-ordering will begin soon.

copyright©2015 Nicholas Nicastro


Home   Books   Culture Blog   Bio   News   Contact   Other Publications