Raising the Bar: 9 Even More Elaborate Proposals

The modern custom of the elaborate public surprise proposal gives us lots of smiles and a few vicarious tears of happiness, even if we wouldn't want such publicity for ourselves. We've posted several lists of them in the past. It's just lovely to know people in love will go to so much trouble to express it. However, each viral proposal is in danger of being compared to the one before it, and they have escalated to some amazing productions.

1. An iPad for Christmas

Redditor rad_rob used an iPad box to dupe his girlfriend into thinking she was opening a new iPad as a Christmas gift. It was not an iPad. What was inside was a carefully custom-machined aluminum facsimile of an iPad in texture and weight, inscribed with a proposal. She opened the gift in front of the entire family and said yes. As soon as everyone calmed down, he gave her the real iPad as well, which no longer had its box. It was a Merry Christmas all around.

2. DNA Imaging

This proposal takes the award for the specialized knowledge required to pull it off. What do you wanna bet these two met at work? A biologist wanted to propose to his girlfriend, who is also a biologist. He asked her to image his electrophoresis gel, (wink wink) if you know what I mean. But it was a special mixture of DNA fragments he cooked up just for the occasion.

They're 5 sized PCR fragments (roughly 150, 300, 500, 700, 1kb), I went back through my notes to find 5 primer pairs that I knew worked pretty well (so don't feel bad, they're selected out of primers that had been pre-validated =p). The other lanes are just mixes of the 5 sizes (either 2:3:4 or 4:6 volume mixes going in decreasing size, since larger fragments tend to be brighter). The gel actually didn't take that long (though it was terrifying loading it), but I made a mockup in Illustrator beforehand (along with a ladder to test what sizes to use), and then sketched it out beforehand so I knew what to add to each lane.

Well, that makes perfect sense. I just feel so much better to know that they were pre-validated. Anyway, you see the results of the imaging here. And she said yes!

3. Jurassic Park Proposal

In a similar fashion, when a paleontologist asks another paleontologist to marry him (and do paleontology together), it's only natural to do it at Jurassic Park. Actually, Lee Hall took Ashley Fragomeni to the Montana location where the first scene of their common favorite movie was filmed. He coaxed her into re-enacting a scene from Jurassic Park, which he altered just a bit to include an engagement ring. Lee used a velociraptor claw he hand-crafted for the occasion.

4. Arc Reactor Engagement Ring Box

Eddie Zarick made an arc reactor (featured in the film Iron Man) for his girlfriend. As Tony Stark built the original arc reactor as a replacement for his heart, Eddie's arc reactor presented her with an engagement ring "from his heart."

5. Star Trek: TNG Proposal

The cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation were surprised when a fan's photo opportunity turned into a surprise proposal. Wil Wheaton tells the story:

About 30 minutes or so into this particular session, these two people came in. The girl went to stand between Patrick and Frakes, and the guy directed her to stand in the front, instead. All of us tried to figure out what was going on (usually it's small kids who come to the front, usually sitting on Brent's lap or Gates' lap), and the guy said, "I really love Star Trek, but I love [her name] even more." He got down on one knee, and proposed to her.

Marina started to cry, I felt like I was going to cry, and we all applauded and celebrated when she said "yes." Apparently, they'd met Marina earlier in the day, and Marina had given him shit for not marrying her, so Marina was embarrassed about that.

The photograph snapped at that moment managed to capture the famous Picard facepalm. The photo shown here turned out a little better, although Wil acts as if he's the one getting the ring.

6. Live Lip-Dub Proposal

Isaac Lamb enlisted, well, apparently everyone he knew for this elaborate but touchingly personal proposal to Amy last May. The couple are active in Portland, Oregon's theater scene and have some talented friends. Amy went to have dinner with Isaac's family, and his brother invited her to sit in the back of the car while he played a song for her. The car took off, and so did the production! A second camera attached to the hatch top recorded Amy's reaction. Friends and family who live elsewhere even got in on the act with the aid of laptop computers. There's no way she could've said no after all this! She said yes.

7. The Log Ride

When Doug asked Lindsey to marry him, she didn't know until the photograph was flashed on a video screen after the ride. He got several friends together and practiced the seating order and numbered the signs to make sure everything came out right. Doug's friend Joe hid the signs in his backpack until the ride was underway. Oh yeah, Lindsey said yes!

8. Bryant Park Flashmob

This past June, Craig Jones raised the bar for elaborate, theatrical, public marriage proposals. He spent $9,000 to hire a dance troupe for a flash mob at Manhattan's Bryant Park, plus a 140-strong marching band! Jones, who has a reputation for pulling elaborate pranks, made all the arrangements himself.

He was part of the marching band, and broke away to pop the question. Alison said yes, so it was all worth it! The wedding is planned for March 2013. Oh yes, the whole thing was captured on video.

9. The Mechanical Jewelry Box

But the most elaborate proposal so far is also one of the more intimate. Redditor and engineering student curtisabrina spent several months planning, designing, and manufacturing a magical mechanical jewelry box for his girlfriend. First he made two keys that fit together, and presented them to her as a Valentine's Day gift in a custom-made box. Then he decided to propose, and made an elaborate jewelry box that could only be opened by the keys nested within each other. The top section of the jewelry box was pretty standard, and she uses it to store jewelry (including the keys). The bottom compartment held a locked mechanical device that, when the key was inserted, opened as a iris aperture and revealed another custom-made wooden box with a diamond engagement ring inside!

You better believe she said yes. See an album that explains the whole involved process in pictures.

Is the result of all this making ordinary proposals seem humdrum? I rather doubt it. It's not every day that someone asks you to spend the rest of your life with them.

See also: 10 Quirky Marriage Proposals, Modern Marriage Proposals, and 10 Dramatic Marriage Proposals.

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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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