14 Notable Multiple Births (for a total of 69 babies)

Triplets, quadruplets, quintuplets, and more may seem almost commonplace now compared to years past, at least to those of us who just read about them. But they are anything but commonplace to parents who find themselves suddenly leading a large family! Until just a few decades ago, multiple conceptions were rare, and surviving children from multiple births were extremely rare. Advances in prenatal diagnosis and neonatal care have raised the odds of survival, and fertility drugs have increased the incidence of multiple pregnancies. Scientists believe another factor is the growing tendency for women to give birth at an older age, since multiples are more common in older mothers.


296Coble.jpgTriplets occur naturally only in one of about 6400 births, but the rate has skyrocketed with the use of fertility therapies. On May 4, 2007, Kyle, Emma, and Katie Coble, ages 5, 4, and 2, were killed in a car wreck that injured their mother and grandmother. Their parents, Lori and Chris Coble couldn't imagine life without children and opted for in-vitro fertilization a few months later. Three of the ten fertilized embryos were viable, and the Cobles insisted on implanting all three, even though their doctor preferred to use only two. The triplets were born on May first, and are said to be doing well at a hospital in Orange County, California. The two girls and a boy are named Ashley, Ellie and Jake.



The Keys quadruplets were born in 1915 in Hollis, Oklahoma. Alma Keys knew something was different about her fifth pregnancy, but she didn't know what until the four girls were born. The family turned down circus and freak show offers, but put the four on display every year at the state fair to raise money. The quadruplets were granted a full scholarship to Baylor University and graduated together in 1937.

The Fultz quadruplets were four identical girls born in 1946 in Rockingham, North Carolina. They grew up advertsing Pet Milk products. Three of the Fultz sisters died of breast cancer; the remaining sibling, Catherine Fultz Griffin, was treated for breast cancer. The News-Record of North Caroina has the story of the Fultz quads in a six-part series.
Continue reading for more quads, quints, sexts, septs, and more.


Lee and Pam Deschler of Pennsylvania kept an online diary from the time they found out they were going to have four babies at once until the children were 5 and a half. Most quadruplets are born around 29 weeks of pregnancy (39-40 weeks is normal for a single pregnancy). With the help of first-class medical supervision at Good Samaritan Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona, the babies were delivered at 32 weeks and 5 days, weighing 3-4 pounds each. Reading their story gives one just a taste of how scary carrying multiple babies can be.


Karen Jepp of Calgary, Alberta bore four daughters last August, a rare instance of identical quadruplets. The babies were conceived without fertility drugs, and were delivered two months early. The odds of identical quadruplets are about one in 13 million. Less than 50 cases appear in medical records (including the Fultz quads). Karen and her husband J.P. traveled to Great Falls, Montana for the Caesarian birth, making the four girls American citizens. The quadruplets have been home a few months now, and are thriving.



The Dionne sisters were the first quintuplets to survive infancy. The five identical girls were born prematurely on May 28, 1934, near Corbeil, Ontario to Elzire and her husband Oliva Dionne. The government of Ontario took custody of the girls from their parents and raised them in a specially-built facility that came to be known as Quintland. Marie, Cecile, Yvonne, Emilie, and Annette were made wards of the crown to protect them from exploitation. However, they were exploited by their new guardians. The quints lived an isolated life while Quintland saw millions of visitors (and dollars). The family regained custody when the sisters were nine years old, but they never bonded with their biological parents. They later broke off all contact with the family. The two surviving sisters, Annette and Cécile, are almost 74. An extensive history of the Dionne quints is online at Quintland. Also see videos of the Dionne quintuplets.

268diligenti.jpg The Diligenti quintuplets were born in Argentina in 1943. Their parents, Italian immigrant Franco Diligenti and opera singer Ana Aversano kept the event a secret, going so far as to register the births in different districts. They were determined to shield their children from the intense publicity surrounding the Dionne family, and were, for the most part, successful. Now age 64, the Diligenti quints are the world's oldest complete set of quintuplets.
266Fischer.jpgThe Fischer quintuplets were the first known set of surviving quintuplets in the US. The four girls and a boy were born on September 14th, 1963 in Aberdeen, South Dakota. Their childhood was documented in magazines and in collectible kitsch, such as dolls and calendars. As they approach 45, all the quintuplets still live in the Aberdeen area.



The Dilley sextuplets were the first surviving sextuplets in the United States. The family and their medical team were prepared for quintuplets after an ultrasound detected five heartbeats. After delivering five by Caesarian section, there was still another baby underneath! The four boys and two girls will turn 15 years old on May 25th. See a video of the family.

Kate Gosselin has only been pregnant twice, but delivered eight children. Twin girls were born in 2000, followed by sextuplets in 2004. The delivery of the three boys and three girls was attended by a team of 50 doctors, nurses, and specialists in Hershey, Pennsylvania. The Gosselin family has a reality show on The Learning Channel (TLC) called John and Kate Plus 8, airing Mondays at 9PM EDT. You can read their story at the family's website.

The Harris sextuplets of Birmingham, Alabama were born on July 7, 2002. They are the first surviving set of African-American sextuplets in the USA, all born healthy. Like the Dilleys, they were expecting quintuplets and were surprised at the sixth child. In 2005, the TV show Extreme Makeover Home Edition sent the six toddlers, along with their parents Chris and Diamond and older brother Dewayne to Walt Disney World and built them a new 5,800 square foot home.


Patti Frustaci was the first woman in the US to give birth to septuplets. The four boys and three girls were delivered by Caesarian section 12 weeks prematurely. One girl was stillborn, and two boys and a girl died within 19 days from hyaline membrane disease, a complication of prematurity. The three surviving infants, Richard, Patricia and Stephen were found to have developmental deficits and cerebral palsy. Sam and Patti Frustaci sued their fertility doctor and clinic and accepted a 2.7 million dollar settlement. The couple later conceived healthy twins, but the family broke up sometime afterward.


Kenny and Bobbi McCaughey produced the world's first surviving set of septuplets on November 19, 1997. The babies were conceived with the help of fertility drugs. The McCaugheys received some negative publicity due to their decision not to have "selective reduction" performed in order to boost the survival chances of the remaining babies. The septuplets were delivered nine weeks prematurely, and two of the children have cerebral palsy. The family grants very few interview requests outside of yearly updates with Ladies Home Journal (posing here with their older sister Mikayla) and Dateline NBC, where you can see their tenth birthday report.


300chuckwu.jpgThe first octuplets born in the US were the offspring of Nkem Chukwu and her husband Iyke Louis Udobi of Houston, Texas. The oldest, a girl named Ebuka was born December 8th, 1998, 15 weeks prematurely. A medical team was able to delay the other babies until their Caesarian delivery on December 20th. All the babies weighed less than two pounds. The smallest, a 10.3 ounce girl named Odera, died a week after birth. The remaining five girls and two boys are reportedly healthy at nine years old.
There have been a few cases recorded of nontuplets conceived, but no incidences of any of the children surviving.

Further Reading
List of multiple births.
The History of High-order Multiples.
Quintuplet facts.

The Bloody Benders, America's First Serial Killer Family

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.

Wolfgang via Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0
8 Legendary Monsters of Christmas
Wolfgang via Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0
Wolfgang via Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

The customs of the holiday season, which include St. Nicholas Day, New Years Day, and Epiphany, as well as Christmas, often incorporate earlier pagan traditions that have been appropriated and adapted for contemporary use. Customs that encourage little children to be good so as to deserve their Christmas gifts often come with a dark side: the punishment you'll receive from a monster or evil being of some sort if you aren't good! These nefarious characters vary from place to place, and they go by many different names and images.


As a tool to encourage good behavior in children, Santa serves as the carrot, and Krampus is the stick. Krampus is the evil demon anti-Santa, or maybe his evil twin. Krampus Night is celebrated on December 5, the eve of St. Nicholas Day in Austria and other parts of Europe. Public celebrations that night have many Krampuses walking the streets, looking for people to beat. Alcohol is also involved. Injuries in recent years have led to some reforms, such as requiring all Krampuses to wear numbers so they may identified in case of overly violent behavior.

Krampus may look like a devil, or like a wild alpine beast, depending on what materials are available to make a Krampus costume. In modern times, people can spend as much as they like to become the best Krampus around—and the tradition is spreading beyond Europe. Many cities in America have their own Krampus Nights now.


Jólakötturinn is the Icelandic Yule Cat or Christmas Cat. He is not a nice cat. In fact, he might eat you. This character is tied to an Icelandic tradition in which those who finished all their work on time received new clothes for Christmas, while those who were lazy did not (although this is mainly a threat). To encourage children to work hard, parents told the tale of the Yule Cat, saying that Jólakötturinn could tell who the lazy children were because they did not have at least one new item of clothing for Christmas—and these children would be sacrificed to the Yule Cat. This reminder tends to spur children into doing their chores! A poem written about the cat ends with a suggestion that children help out the needy, so they, too, can have the protection of new clothing. It's no wonder that Icelanders put in more overtime at work than most Europeans.


Flickr // Markus Ortner

Tales told in Germany and Austria sometimes feature a witch named Frau Perchta who hands out both rewards and punishments during the 12 days of Christmas (December 25 through Epiphany on January 6). She is best known for her gruesome punishment of the sinful: She will rip out your internal organs and replace them with garbage. The ugly image of Perchta may show up in Christmas processions in Austria, somewhat like Krampus.

Perchta's story is thought to have descended from a legendary Alpine goddess of nature, who tends the forest most of the year and deals with humans only during Christmas. In modern celebrations, Perchta or a close relation may show up in processions during Fastnacht, the Alpine festival just before Lent. There may be some connection between Frau Perchta and the Italian witch La Befana, but La Befana isn't really a monster: she's an ugly but good witch who leaves presents.


A drawing of Belsnickel.
Lucas, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Belsnickel is a male character from southwestern German lore who traveled to the United States and survives in Pennsylvania Dutch customs. He comes to children sometime before Christmas, wearing tattered old clothing and raggedy fur. Belsnickel carries a switch to frighten children and candy to reward them for good behavior. In modern visits, the switch is only used for noise, and to warn children they still have time to be good before Christmas. Then all the children get candy, if they are polite about it. The name Belsnickel is a portmanteau of the German belzen (meaning to wallop) and nickel for St. Nicholas. See a video of a Belsnickel visit here.

Knecht Ruprecht and Ru Klaas are similar characters from German folklore who dole out beatings to bad children, leaving St. Nicholas to reward good children with gifts.


Hans Trapp is another "anti-Santa" who hands out punishment to bad children in the Alsace and Lorraine regions of France. The legend says that Trapp was a real man, a rich, greedy, and evil man, who worshiped Satan and was excommunicated from the Catholic Church. He was exiled into the forest where he preyed upon children, disguised as a scarecrow with straw jutting out from his clothing. He was about to eat one boy he captured when he was struck by lightning and killed—a punishment of his own from God. Still, he visits young children before Christmas, dressed as a scarecrow, to scare them into good behavior.


The French legend of Père Fouettard, whose name translates to "Father Whipper," begins with an evil butcher who craved children to eat. He (or his wife) lured three boys into his butcher shop, where he killed, chopped, and salted them. St. Nicholas came to the rescue, resurrected the boys, and took custody of the butcher. The captive butcher became Père Fouettard, St. Nicholas' servant whose job it is to dispense punishment to bad children on St. Nicholas Day.


The Jólasveinar, or Yule Lads, are 13 Icelandic trolls, who each have a name and distinct personality. In ancient times, they stole things and caused trouble around Christmastime, so they were used to scare children into behaving, like the Yule Cat. However, the 20th century brought tales of the benevolent Norwegian figure Julenisse (Santa Claus), who brought gifts to good children. The traditions became mingled, until the formerly devilish Jólasveinar became kind enough to leave gifts in shoes that children leave out ... if they are good boys and girls. 


All the Yule Lads answer to Grýla, their mother. She predates the Yule Lads in Icelandic legend as the ogress who kidnaps, cooks, and eats children who don't obey their parents. She only became associated with Christmas in the 17th century, when she was assigned to be the mother of the Yule Lads. According to legend, Grýla had three different husbands and 72 children, all who caused trouble ranging from harmless mischief to murder. As if the household wasn't crowded enough, the Yule Cat also lives with Grýla. This ogress is so much of a troublemaker that The Onion blamed her for the 2010 eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano.

A version of this post originally ran in 2013. See also: more Legendary Monsters


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