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15 Third-Party Presidential Candidates

You don't have to read mental_floss to know that President Obama is running for re-election on the Democratic ticket and that Mitt Romney is opposing him on the Republican ticket. However, you might not know about these other political parties and their 2012 presidential nominees.

1. Gary Johnson

Gary Johnson, the presidential candidate of the Libertarian Party, was Governor of New Mexico from 1995 to 2003 as a Republican. As governor, he earned the nickname "Governor Veto." Before politics, he ran his own construction company. Among his personal accomplishments, he lists climbing Mt. Everest and Ironman Triathlons. Johnson is theoretically able to win the presidential election, as he is on the ballot in enough states (43) to achieve 270 electoral votes. Photograph by Flickr user Gage Skidmore.

2. Jill Stein

Dr. Jill Stein is running on the Green Party ticket. She is the only third-party candidate besides Johnson who can theoretically win 270 electoral votes. A physician and medical school professor, Stein focuses on environmental health issues, and has run for political office in Massachusetts twice for the Green-Rainbow Party, which is that state's branch of the Green Party. Stein is on the ballot in 32 states.

3. Virgil Goode

Virgil Goode is the presidential candidate for the Constitution Party. Goode will be on the ballot in 22 states, and can be written in as a candidate in 14 more. He became a Virginia state senator as an independent, then joined the Democratic Party. Goode later represented Virginia in congress from 1997 to 2009, initially as a Democrat. He switched to independent in 2000, and still won re-election. For the 2006 election, he ran as a Republican and was again re-elected -- for a sixth term. Goode was defeated in 2008. Selected as the presidential candidate for the Constitution Party, Goode's campaignseeks to restrict immigration and reduce the size of the federal government.

4. Rocky Anderson

4-21-07 SLC Marathon 5K - 1006

Rocky Anderson represents the Justice Party in the 2012 presidential election. A long-time Salt Lake City lawyer, he served two terms as mayor, from 2000 to 2008. Anderson renounced the Democratic Party in August of last year, and accepted the nomination of the new Justice Party in January of 2012. The party's platform includes the end of war, universal health care, and international cooperation on dealing with climate change. Anderson will be on the ballot in 15 states. Photograph by Flickr user Jen Wakefield-Dillier.

5. Peta Lindsay

Peta Lindsay is the candidate from the Party for Socialism and Liberation, a political party that formed by splitting off from the left-wing Workers World Party in 2004. Lindsay is an anti-war activist. She was born in 1984, so if elected, she would be ineligible to serve as president. The U.S. Constitution states that presidents must be at least 35 years old. Her name will be on the ballot in ten states.

6. Tom Hoefling

Tom Hoefling is the national chairman of America's Party, and is also its 2012 presidential candidate. The party's platform seeks to end the income tax, outlaw abortion, beef up the military, and outlaw gay marriage. Hoefling's presidential campaign does not seek or accept campaign donations. He has achieved ballot access in three states.

7. Roseanne Barr

Roseanne Barr (yes, that Roseanne Barr) sought the candidacy of the Green Party, but lost to Jill Stein in July. She gained the attention of the Peace and Freedom Party, which nominated her in August. Barr's campaign platform includes the legalization of marijuana, an end to war, and forgiveness of student debt. Barr's candidacy has gained the endorsement of NORML, the Green Party Black Caucus, and 2008 Green Party nominee Cynthia McKinney. Barr will be on the ballot in three states.

8. Stewart Alexander


Stewart Alexander
is running on the Socialist Party USA ticket. Alexander is a community and consumer activist and an NAACP member. He ran for mayor of Los Angeles in 1988 and for Lieutenant governor in California in 2006 on the Peace and Freedom Party ticket. He was the Socialist Party candidate for vice-president in 2008. Three states will have Alexander on the ballot.

9. James Harris

James Harris was nominated for president by the far-left Socialist Workers Party. He was also its candidate in 1996 and 2000. Harris rose through the ranks by campaigning for workers' rights and union organization, particularly in the union-averse state of Georgia. His name will be on the ballot in six states.

10. Andre Barnett

Andre Barnett is the candidate for the Reform Party USA. Barnett served with the U.S. Army and was wounded in Sarajevo in 2000. Told he would not be able to engage in heavy physical activities again, he rehabilitated himself and became a fitness model. He then founded an information technology business. Barnett's platformincludes pulling the military out of foreign countries to concentrate on homeland security, implementing tariffs on imports, lowering the corporate tax rate, and regulating the cost of health care. Three states will have Barnett on the ballot.

11. Tom Stevens

Tom Stevens is running on the Objectivist Party ticket, a party he founded. Stevens is an activist lawyer and is also chairman of the Libertarian Party of Pennsylvania. The Objectivist Party was formed to promote the philosophy of Ayn Rand. Stevens also publishes a personal blog. His name will be on the presidential ballot in two states.

12. Merlin Miller

Merlin Miller is the first ever presidential candidate for the Third Position Party. Miller is an independent film producer. Miller has been linked to the the Council of Conservative Citizens, which the Southern Poverty Law Center lists as a White Nationalist hate group. The Third Position Party platform focuses on law enforcement and victim's rights. Three states will have Miller on the ballot.

13. Jerry White

Jerry White is the candidate for the Socialist Equality Party, a party that follows the philosophy of Leon Trotsky. His platforminvolves issues of jobs, workers' rights, and quality of life issues like universal healthcare, guaranteed minimum income, an end to foreclosures, and universal pensions. He will be on the ballot in two states.

14. Jim Carlson

Jim Carlson is running for president for the Grassroots Party. The party shares a philosophy with the Green Party with an added emphasis on the legalization of marijuana. The campaign has no website. Carlson is the owner of a Duluth head shop, Last Place on Earth. Minnesota is the only state that will have Carlson on the ballot.

15. Will Christensen

Will Christensen represents the Independent American Party. The party is very conservative, and only on the ballot in one state: Oregon.

This information, particularly the states that have these candidates on the ballot, is subject to change. You can check for more information here.

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8 Surprising Uses for Peeps
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You can eat marshmallow Peeps, and you can put them in someone's Easter basket. But that's just the beginning of what you can do with those small blobs of sugary goodness. Branch out and use your Peeps in new ways this year.

1. S'MORES

Peeps are marshmallows, and can be toasted over a campfire just like their plain, non-sugar-coated brothers—which means you can make classic S'mores out of them. Best of all: You don't even need a campfire to do it. Serious Eats has a recipe for them that they call S'meeps, which only requires that you pop them in the oven for a short time. If you're a Peeps purist, forget the graham crackers and chocolate and enjoy the unique taste of campfire-toasted Peeps all by themselves.

2. WREATHS

Vanessa Brady at Tried & True has made several Peeps wreaths that are sure to inspire you to do the same. (She even has a tutorial to get you started.)

3. PEEPS-KABOBS

If you want to trick a kid into eating a fruit salad, just serve it up on a stick—with a marshmallow Peep in the middle. Blogger Melodramatic Mom made these for an irresistible after-school snack for her kids.

4. ART SUPPLIES

With their consistent shape and size, and variety of bright colors, Peeps can be used as pixels for larger artworks. Ang Taylor made this Mario jumping a Piranha Plant out of marshmallow chicks and bunnies. To be honest, there are many ways Peeps can be used as an art medium, as we've seen many times before (like in this collection of Peeps dioramas).

5. CAKE TOPPERS

Peeps chicks and bunnies are ready-made decorations that will easily stick to cake frosting and make for desserts that are both seasonal and colorful. If you need a recipe, check out this one for a Marbled Cake with Peeps and M&Ms. See some more cake decorating tips here.

6. PEEPS POPS

There's no danger of misshapen cake pops or drippy lollipops when you start with a Peep on a stick. Michelle from Sugar Swings made these candy pops out of marshmallow Peeps, and using Peeps left her plenty of time to decorate them as Star Wars characters. Michelle has plenty of other Peeps pops ideas you can try out, too.

7. PEEPS KRISPIES TREATS

We've seen that Peeps can be substituted for marshmallows in recipes, but remember that Peeps come in a variety of colors and can be bought in small batches. That makes them really useful for coloring separate portions of your Rice Krispies treat recipe. Kristen at Yellowblissroad has a recipe for Layered Peeps Crispy Treats, and a video of the process at Facebook.

8. DIORAMAS

Using Peeps as characters in a diorama, where you can let your imagination run wild, has become somewhat of an Easter tradition. Kate Ramsayer, Helen Fields, and Joanna Church put their heads together to recreate the Broadway musical Hamilton in marshmallow with a diorama that featured the lyrics to the show's opening number.

While The Washington Post has suspended its annual Peeps Diorama Contest after 10 years, other newspapers—including the Twin Cities Pioneer Press and the Washington City Paper—plus local libraries across the country are carrying on the tradition and holding Peeps diorama contests. But you don't have to enter a contest to have fun making a scene with your family.

This piece originally ran in 2017.

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The Bloody Benders, America's First Serial Killer Family
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In 1870, a group of new families moved to the wind-ravaged plains near what would become Cherryvale, Kansas. They were Spiritualists, a religion that was foreign to the homesteaders already in the new state, but locals tended to accept newcomers without asking too many questions. Two of the families moved away within a year, discouraged by the difficult conditions, and the others kept to themselves. But the Benders were different.

At first, they appeared be a normal family. John Bender, Sr., and his troupe settled near the Great Osage Trail (later known as the Santa Fe Trail) over which innumerable travelers passed on their way to the West. The older Bender, called "Pa," made a claim for 160 acres in what is now Labette County. His son John (sometimes called Thomas) claimed a smaller parcel that adjoined Pa's land, but never lived on or worked it. The Benders also included "Ma" and a daughter named Kate, who advertised herself as Spiritualist medium and healer. Ma and Pa reportedly mostly spoke German, although the younger Benders spoke fluent English.

The group soon built a one-room home equipped with a canvas curtain that divided the space into two areas. The front was a public inn and store, and the family quarters were in the back. Travelers on the trail were welcome to refresh themselves with a meal and resupply their wagons with liquor, tobacco, horse feed, gunpowder, and food. Kate, who was reportedly attractive and outgoing, also drew customers to the inn with her supposed psychic and healing abilities. These men, who usually traveled alone, often spent the night.

The trail was a dangerous place, and there were many reasons for travelers to go missing on their way out West—bandits, accidents, conflicts with Native Americans, disease. But over the course of several years, more and more people went missing around the time they passed through Labette County. It usually took time for such disappearances to draw attention—mail and news traveled slowly—but that all changed in March 1873 after a well-known physician from Independence, Kansas, named Dr. William York seemingly disappeared after getting off the train at Cherryvale. Dr. York had two powerful brothers who were determined to find out what happened to him: Colonel Edward York and Kansas Senator Alexander York.

Colonel York led an investigation in Labette County. When questioned, the Benders denied all knowledge of York's disappearance, although Ma Bender "flew into a violent passion," in the words of The Weekly Kansas Chief, when asked about a report of a woman who had been threatened with pistols and knives at their inn. Ma defended herself by claiming that the visitor had been a witch, a "bad and wicked woman, whom she would kill if ever she came near them again.”

Around the same time, the township held a meeting at the Harmony Grove schoolhouse; both male Benders were in attendance. The townsfolk decided to search every homestead for evidence of the missing—but the weather turned bad, and it was several days before a search could begin.

Eventually, a neighbor noticed starving farm animals wandering the Bender property. When he investigated the inn, he found it empty: The Benders had fled. The volunteers who later arrived for the search noted that the Benders' wagon was gone; little else had been taken from the home besides food and clothing.

Though the house was empty, all else seemed normal—until someone opened a trap door in the floor. What they found beneath it was chilling.

The trap door, located behind the curtain in the Benders' private quarters, led to a foul-smelling cellar, which was drenched with blood. Horrified, the group lifted up the cabin from its foundations and dug into the ground, yet found nothing. The investigation then turned to the garden, which was freshly plowed; neighbors recalled that the garden always seemed freshly plowed.

Working through the night, the volunteers first unearthed York's body. The back of his head had been smashed, and his throat slit. Soon, they found more bodies with similar injuries. Accounts differ about the number of bodies excavated from the site, but totals hover around a dozen. In all, the Benders may have committed as many as 21 murders. Their terrible work garnered the family only a few thousand dollars and some livestock.

Investigators later pieced together the group's modus operandi. It's believed that guests at the inn were urged to sit against the separating curtain, and while dining, would be hit on the head with a hammer from behind the curtain. Their body was then dropped into the trap door to the cellar, where one of the Benders slit their unfortunate victim's throat before stripping the body of its valuables.

One man, a Mr. Wetzell, heard this theory and remembered a time when he had been at the inn and declined to sit in the designated spot near the curtain. His decision had caused Ma Bender to become angry and abusive toward him, and when he saw the male Benders emerge from behind the cloth, he and his companion decided to leave. A traveler named William Pickering told an almost identical story.

The crimes created a sensation in the newspapers, drawing journalists and curiosity-seekers from all over the country. "Altogether the murders are without a parallel," read an account reprinted in The Chicago Tribune. The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported over 3000 people at the crime scene, with more trains arriving. A book published in Philadelphia soon after the murders were discovered, The Five Fiends, or, The Bender Hotel Horror in Kansas, described how "large numbers of people arrived upon the scene, who had heard of the ... diabolical acts of bloody murder and rapacious robbery. Hardened men were moved to tears." The house in which the murders took place was disassembled and carried away piece by piece by souvenir seekers.

1873 stereographic photo of the excavated grave of a victim of the Bender murders
An 1873 photo of the excavated grave of a victim of the Bender murders

Senator York offered a $1000 reward for the Benders, and the governor chipped in another $2000, but the reward was never claimed. In the years following the sensational crimes, several women were arrested as Ma or Kate, but none were positively identified. A number of vigilante groups claimed to have found the Benders and murdered them, but none brought back proof. The older Benders were allegedly seen on their way to St. Louis by way of Kansas City, and the younger Benders were supposedly seen heading to an outlaw colony on the border of Texas and New Mexico, but no one knows what ultimately became of them.

Investigators were likely hampered by the group’s deceit: None of the Benders were actually named Bender, and the only members who were likely related were Ma and her daughter Kate. "Pa" was reportedly born John Flickinger in the early 1800s in either Germany or the Netherlands. "Ma" is said to have been born Almira Meik, and her first husband named Griffith, with whom she had 12 children. Ma was married several times before marrying Pa, but each husband before him reportedly died of head wounds. Her daughter Kate was born Eliza Griffith. John Bender, Jr.'s real name was John Gebhardt, and many who knew them in Kansas said he was Kate's husband, not her brother.

Today, nothing remains to indicate the exact location where the Bender house stood, although there is a historical marker at a nearby rest area. Though rumors still surround the case—some say Ma murdered Pa over stolen property soon after they fled, others that Pa committed suicide in Lake Michigan in 1884—after 140 years, we will probably never know what really happened to the Bloody Benders.

A version of this story originally ran in 2013.

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