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Austin, Texas Myths, Legends and Stories
AUSTIN, TEXAS - As I walked down the incandescently radiated streets of
downtown Austin, just blocks away from the Texas State Capitol building in
1985, little did I know that only one hundred years earlier the city wasn't
the calm and peaceful municipality that it was on this winter morning. What
has become merely a footnote to the capitol city's history is the year of
bloodlust that began at the end of 1884 and ran through Christmas Eve 1885.
Seven women and one man were brutally murdered, the women dragged outside and
sexually assaulted in the moonlight. The identity of their assailant has
remained an unsolved mystery in the Austin Police Department homicide files to
this day. Could this be the work of America's first serial killer? Some say it
was the early work of the White Chapel murderer in London, England known as "Jack
In order to understand the Austin of 1884-1885 we need to re-discover what
was happening on the streets of the city sometimes called, "The Athens of the
West". Still recovering from years of
reconstruction after the
Civil War, Austin was emerging as a more modern metropolitan community.
The city started attracting people looking for work.
William Sydney Porter (O.
Henry) arrived in Austin in 1884 looking for employment. According to
records Austin's population had grown to 23,000 people. Mayor John Robertson
proclaimed, "No city in the state has a promise of a more healthful
The Capitol Under Construction - Dec. 19th, 1886 ©2004 Murray Montgomery -
All Rights Reserved
CONVICTS IN THE CITY
"Ox Cart John" Ireland was the Governor of Texas in 1884 and was tasked to
rebuild the State Capitol after the old limestone capitol was destroyed by
fire during a rainstorm on November 9, 1881. Original plans called for
construction with Texas limestone. But following lying of the cornerstone on
March 2, 1885, doubt arose concerning the quality of limestone from a quarry
in south Austin. The limestone discolored easily. Owners of
Granite Mountain at Marble Falls in Burnet County offered building stone,
free of charge, to the state. To save tax payer's money convicts were used to
quarrying the granite and for building the needed rail line from Burnet to
Austin. Was one of the convicts the killer?
A KILLER AMONGST US
The City had become a place of prosperity and crime was unheard of
besides the usual fights at the brothels in "Guy
Town". People felt safe to walk the darken streets of Austin without fear
of robbery or murder. Doors and windows were left opened and unlocked
throughout the city to allow the night air to cool their homes. The last day
of December 1884 brought an end to peaceful nights for the citizens of Austin.
"BLOODY WORK!" was the headlines in the Austin Daily Statesman newspaper when
the body of victim No. 1, maid Mollie Smith, was discovered in the snow next
to the outhouse behind 901 W. Pecan St. (now Sixth Street). She had a large
gaping hole in her head.
"ANOTHER SERVANT GIRL FOUND SLAIN" was the headline for Eliza Shelley's murder
May 6. Eliza was the cook for Dr. L. B. Johnson. According to the Statesman
report, Shelley was found with "her night dress displaced in such a manner as
to suggest she may have been outraged (sexually assaulted) after death. Her
body was found at the corner of San Jacinto and Cypress Streets.
The City of Austin (1901) only 16 years after the unsolved murders.
Only three weeks later, Irene Cross was brutally murder with a knife. An
eyewitness who spoke to her before she died stated she looked as if she had
That August, a servant named Rebecca Ramey was knocked unconscious while she
slept in her bed. Her eleven-year-old daughter, Mary, was dragged to a
backyard washhouse, stabbed through the ear with an iron rod, and raped.
Mary's death sent shock waves throughout the city. Demands grew stronger for
the police department to capture the killer.
Still more death came to those who slept in their homes. In the early morning
hours of September 27th, Mr. W. B. Dunham heard a noise coming from his
servant's cabin, in the back of his residence on Guadalupe Street, as if
someone had jumped through a window, followed by a woman screaming. Dunham
grab his gun and swung open the door to see a woman fighting with a man at his
gate. He leveled his gun at them and yelled at them to stop making all that
noise. The woman ran to him telling him everyone in the cabin had been
murdered and the man she was fighting was the killer. The man seeing the woman
run to Mr. Dunham fled into the dark streets to the big thicket a few blocks
back of the houses. Mr. Dunham at once called his neighbors to assist him in
catching the murderer but the man had gotten away. The woman was Lucinda Boddy
and she occupied the cabin with a man named Orange Washington and his wife
Gracie Vance and anther woman named Patsie Gibson. A newspaper article in the
Austin Daily Statesman written three days later described that from the
testimony and surrounding circumstances it appears the killer entered the room
of the sleeping occupants through a window, and before any of them awoke
succeeded in striking all four of them on the head with an axe. Seizing Gracie
Vance, he dragged her through a window, threw her over a fence, and then
pulled her through weeds across a vacant lot to a rear stable. At this point
it appears that Gracie recovered consciousness, as evidence of a death
struggle was abundant. She was, however, overpowered and her head battered
with a brick that was found nearby smeared with her blood. While she
struggling between life and death, her murder brutally raped her. A watch was
found on her person with the chain tied around her arm. A horse was also found
saddled and tied to a tree near the scene of the tragedy.
While the assassin was killing Gracie, Lucinda Boddy, recovered somewhat from
the blow she had received, regained sufficient strength to get up and light a
lamp in the cabin. The assailant seeing the light in the cabin, returned,
shaking his head in the window while looking at Lucinda, cursed the woman and
ordered her to put out the light. On seeing him she screamed and ran from the
building. He leaped through the window, put the light out, followed and
overtook the fleeing woman. This was the commotion that awakened Mr. Dunham.
Gracie Vance was dead when found. Orange Washington died at an early hour the
following Monday morning. Lucinda was taken to the hospital. All the victims
had horrifying gashes in their head and face.
Map of Austin, TX 1885-1886
|These murders created intense excitement among both whites and
blacks at the repeated occurrences of this nature in the capital city,
read the article in the Austin Daily Statesman dated September 30th.
Yet the greatest horror was still to come.
The killer seemed interested only in black women. All the previous
victims had been black. But on Christmas Eve that would change. Sue
Hancock, a white woman described by one reporter as "one of the most
refined ladies in Austin," was discovered by her husband lying in
their back yard. Her head had been split open by an ax, and a sharp,
thin object was lodged in her brain through her ears like Mary Ramey.
Today the location is near 98 San Jacinto Boulevard along Town Lake.
The Four Seasons Hotel occupies the property.
About an hour later, Eula Phillips was found dead in the wealthiest
neighborhood in the city, near where the Austin Public Library stands today.
Lying in an unlit alley behind her father-in-law's home where she lived with
her husband and son, her bare body was discovered with her skull bashed in by
an ax, and heavy pieces of timber had been placed across her arms, as if to
keep her pinned down during the attack. And she had been raped. Jimmy, her
husband was found in his father's home lying in their bed, nearly unconscious,
a severe gash in the back of his head. The little boy was next to him,
unharmed, holding an apple. Eula was found by following the trail of blood
from the bedroom to the alley. A writer for the Fort Worth Gazette, one of
many Texas journalists who rushed to the scene, reported that Eula was on her
back, her face "turned upward in the dim moonlight with an expression of agony
that death itself had not erased from her features."
Governor Ireland posted a reward of three hundred dollars for the capture of
the killer or killers. Citizens questioned the authorities and wanted to know
why the Austin Police department only had 4 officers on duty at one time.
Others blamed the City Council for not hiring more men to patrol the streets
at night as sworn in emergency police officers. Anger raged as men stayed home
at night in fear of losing their wives to the killer. People started locking
their doors and windows and refusing to leave their homes after sun down.
A FEAR THAT DOESN'T DIE
To this day the murders have remained unsolved. Their impact has forever
changed Austin. The City erected the now famous "Moonlight
Towers" in 1895 in order to light up the neighborhoods so people would
feel safe walking around after sun down. The women forever rest in some-what
peace in Oakwood Cemetery. Their killer has never been brought to justice!
THE SERVANT GIRL ANNIHILATOR
Ranking up there with London's Jack the Ripper is Austin's own Servant Girl
Annihilator. For two years, a maddened axman roamed the darkened streets of
the Violet Crown City searching for the victims of his trade — domestics,
working girls — who were invariably hacked to death while sleeping.
Altogether, 13 Austin girls fell prey to this, the unkindest cut of all, the
last on Christmas Day 1885. And like Jack the Ripper, the Annihilator's
identity has never been unmasked.
Another somber note, "Servant Girl Annihilator," which though the title
sounds like one of those strange old Budgie/Blue Oyster Cult songs with weird
titles just for comic relief, is actually based on a true, local horror story,
about an Austin fellow in the 1800s who, as the name implies, murdered servant
"The thing about this," explains Charlie, "is that it happened about four
years before Jack the Ripper. The Ripper is known and world famous for being
the first serial killer, but this Austin case -- this Servant Girl Annihilator
-- is undisputably the first serial killer, maybe in the world."
January 26, 2001:
Amateur historian Jeanine Plumer is one of the few people in Austin who
still relives the nightmare year of 1885, those long months of chilling fear
that must have seemed interminable to the city's residents. A killer such as
the world had never seen before was stalking the women of Austin on moonlit
nights and using an axe to cleave his victim's skulls. Plumer has become so
fascinated with the serial killings -- which have never been solved -- that
she has put together a walking tour of the locations where each of the nine
victims were found.
As she stands near the corner of Brazos and Third, in what was once a
neighborhood filled with German immigrant families, Plumer points south to a
parking structure covering one murder site, and north to another site, now a
vacant lot. On not a single lot where one of the murders occurred, Plumer
says, is a house now standing -- it's as if the killer's rampage left scars
on the city that never healed, even if no one remembers their origin. Gazing
up at the moonlight towers that dot central city neighborhoods, most Austin
residents probably feel a touch of warm nostalgia, not realizing that city
leaders raised those huge arc lights to lift the cover of darkness under
which the serial killer had struck.
"The city covered them up completely," Plumer says of the killings. "This
is a huge event that no one knows anything about." But though the death toll
of the 1885 "Servant Girl Annihilator" murders is astounding (Jack the
Ripper, by comparison, slew but five victims during his murder spree in
London three years later), they were but the first of a series of Austin
murders that shocked not just this city but the world. By the time Charles
Whitman climbed the UT Tower with a hunting rifle and unleashed the "violent
and irrational impulses" that tortured his soul in 1966, this oasis of
civilization had already produced a handful of murderers who had set new
standards in psychotic criminality.
"Austin is a city so known for its reputation as this sort of paradise of
Texas," says Texas Monthly Senior Editor Skip Hollandsworth, who followed up
on the research done by Plumer and other local historians and wrote a
historical account of the Servant Girl Annihilator murders (published last
July; Steven Saylor's A Twist at the End: A Novel of O. Henry is also about
the murders). "It's always had that reputation from away back -- this great
center of learning and relaxation and leisure. But more than other cities,
it's been dotted by vicious mass murder."
The 1885 serial murders introduced the world to a new breed of criminal,
who seemed unfathomably evil even a century later in the persons of New
York's Son of Sam or Wisconsin's Jeffery Dahmer. But in 1885, there was no
criminal profile to explain a killer who took out his violent passions on
seemingly anonymous victims. The first of the Austin murderer's victims were
black servant girls, one of whom he stabbed through the ear with an iron rod
and raped. But then, on Christmas Eve, the killer struck at the most
precious sanctum of 19th-century society: Two wealthy white women, Eula
Phillips and Sue Hancock, were found lying dead just outside their homes
where they had been dragged, raped, and bludgeoned with an axe.
The killings sent Austin into a frenzy. The Christmas edition of the
Austin Daily Statesman cried "BLOOD! BLOOD! BLOOD!" and more than 500
citizens gathered in the streets, desperate for a plan that would stop the
murders. It was arguably the most dismal Christmas morning in Austin
history. "The baying of blood hounds frantically seeking the killer's scent
broke into the usual chorus of Yuletide merriment, chilling holiday
spirits," wrote a Statesman reporter.
In the aftermath, the husbands of the two white women were tried for
their murders, though not until investigators had first roughed up some
black suspects. But Messrs. Phillips and Hancock were eventually released
from custody, and though plenty was learned at trial about the titillating
private affairs of affluent white families, the perpetrator was never
Hollandsworth, who like other sleuths has been seduced by the unsolved
riddle of 1885, says he has continued to track down descendents of victims'
families, hoping to find a clue in someone's attic that will give the killer
away. For more than 100 years, it seems, nearly everyone else has preferred
THE ENGLER MURDERS
It was just the start of another hotter-than-hell Del Valle August day in
1925, until the visitors stepped across the threshold of Charles Engler's
spacious home. Then they found the bullet-riddled bodies of the prosperous
farmer, wife Augusta, and pretty 25-year-old foster daughter Emma. There was
no apparent motive.
The sheriff's department "went fishing" with a couple of suspects but
didn't catch a thing. So desperate were the whitehats for a nibble that they
resorted to the use of a then-new and controversial drug--scopolamine--for the
first time in Travis County. Most of us know scopolamine as truth serum.
A related story has one of the suspect's wives cornering him while "under
the influence." "What I want to know," she demands of him, "is — have you
always been true to me?" His answer is not known. The case was still alive 13
years later when True Detective Mysteries magazine retold the grisly story and
offered a thousand-dollar reward for information leading to the arrest and
conviction of the killer. The reward was eventually withdrawn, and no
perpetrator or motive has ever surfaced.
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE GIRAFFE?
"The first and only Giraffe to be ever exhibited in Texas," trumpeted
circus advertisements during the early fall of 1880. The Greatest Show on
Earth stretched its neck all the way out in promoting its newest mysterious
strange attraction, fresh from the depths of darkest Africa. A full complement
of rubberneckers and starry-eyed children were waiting for the great Barnum &
Bailey gypsy train as it chugged in from Houston (Just as it does each summer
now, 120 years later). This greeting committee didn't exactly get what they
came for; Giraffe was a lifeless (and smelly) as a land-locked mackerel, and
had been since Brenham.
The roustabouts were looking forward to a big giraffe barbecue until a
public-spirited citizen decided that the children of Austin would not walk
away from the circus disappointed. He engrossed the carcass and engaged the
services of Mr. Lesterget, Austin's most popular butcher. Lesterget promptly
and scientifically skinned the hide and in turn presented it to the local
tanner, who performed his peculiar ablutions, and bequeathed the hide to the
local taxidermist, who restufied it to original specs.
Suitably remodeled, Giraffa camelopardalis was now ready for the carnival
midway where it could be viewed by the general public for the modest sum of l5
cents. (So much for public spirit.) Folks paid the price, gazed upon its
remnant beatification, and left, muttering that they had seen it all now ...
Being as this particular mother lode played out rather quickly, the
giraffe's proprietors/agents offered it up for sale or trade for city
property. It sure beats the hell out of a wooden Indian, they suggested to
We don't even know whether they ever managed to palm their four-legged
skyscraper off on some cubic rube, much less what ultimately happened to the
long-necked pawn in this story. But we can be sure of one thing: an 18-foot
mercerized giraffe doesn't just gambol off into the sunset one evening, never
to be seen again.
THE STONE ON THE STEPS
Louis Francke had a powerful thirst, and he was determined to do something
about it. A day's labor in the vineyards of the public weal often does that to
a man. But at that particular hour of the aftemoon, he and his pocketbook
weren't on speaking terms. No problem; Fayette County's representative to the
Texas Legislature just quick-stepped down the statehouse hall to the
sergeant-at-arm's office, where he pocketed his per diem and travel pittances.
Thus armed, he maneuvered down Capitol Hill, down Congress Avenue, hellbent
on fulfillment, past the Blue Ruin, past the Last Chance, finally turning into
an anonymous little watering hole just the wrong side of the End of the World,
where the beer was cold and the talk cheap. He drank his fill, and as there
was no lobbyist present to pick up the tab, Francke whipped out a fiver and
shoved all but a nickel back in his pocket.
Then he steered back up Congress to Capitol Hill. The black hills to the
west were clutching at their violet crowns. Climbing the dark statehouse
steps, Francke was ambushed by a pair of deadly swift shadows, who stove in
his skull with a large rock. They lightened his pockets and tossed the corpse
down the steps before disappearing forever into the night. Quite a few people
had noticed two strange men lounging on the Capitol steps late that afternoon,
February 19, 1873, and a grocer recollected selling them some beers, but
neither they, nor anyone one else, were ever apprehended.
STATE TREASURY ROBBERY
There was no law to speak of, save what the citizens could muster up.
Robert E. Lee had surrendered two months ago, Governor Pendleton Murrah had
faded into Mexico, Yankee General Gordon Granger's triumphant entry into
Galveston on Juneteenth was still a week away. There was no moon, either. All
in all, a perfect time to strike, that particular Sunday night, June 11, 1865.
The 40-odd brigands, turncoats, bushwhackers, and other assorted scalawags
stole into town at a fashionably late hour and up darkened Congress Avenue to
Capitol Hill, to the old Treasury building, which stood to the right of the
old corncrib-cum-pumpkin Capitol building. Some stayed outside as lookouts,
while the rest battered down the doors and proceeded to smash open the safe.
The drummer of the local militia company discovered the break-in and
started to beat a call to arms on his drum. Within minutes, 15 armed men were
marching on the Treasury. Gunfire erupted as the minutemen encountered the
bandits' lookouts; the militia stood their ground, the outlaws ran. The good
guys entered the building with gum blazing, not that it did much harm; only
one robber bit the dust. The others escaped into the inky night, some toward
Mt. Bonnell, others to the south. No one knew exactly how much they got away
with — best estimate was about twenty grand — but much of what they left with
was dropped along the roadside as they scurried for cover. The militiamen
found the treasury-room floor knee-deep in silver and gold coins, but neither
they, nor anyone else, ever found any of the midnight raiders.
The pestilence brought on by the lure of buried treasure seems to be a
universal affliction, and Austin has certainly been no exception to the rule.
We have long been possessed of all the right ingredients: skulking Indians,
vulnerable Spanish gold trains, skulking bushwhackers, a vulnerable state
treasury, skulking robbers, vulnerable bank vaults — you get the picture —
multiplied by a multitude of limestone cubbyholes in which to stash the swag.
A buried-treasure map once fell into Will Porter's hands. According to the
map, the hoard seemed to rest somewhere in Pease Park. Porter and company
hoisted shovels and lanterns one night soon thereafter, and set about
retrieving it. These two-legged moles resolved that they would either have the
treasure or be standing in the streets of Shanghai by dawn.
Would have, but for the inhuman shriek and accompanying scream that
frightened them off. A few hours later, early risers found a state hospital
inmate sitting on the edge of the hole with a spade in his hands. They all
wondered how he could have dug such a deep hole in so short a time.
Every bit as infectious as the buried-treasure bug is Diamond Fever.
Diamond Fever was wreaking havoc around here by 1869, sending countless
citizens out into hills in search of bits of crystalline allotrope of carbon.
The Gazette observed: "Everybody in Austin will soon have his pocket full
of rocks. The search for diamonds is unabated. During the rain, we saw
individuals hunting with umbrellas over their heads. We are fearful that
digging will commence soon, and that our beautiful city will be undermined."
Another account read: "For some time past, people of all sorts — officers,
clerks, white boys and black ones — have been seen roving over our gravelly
hills, with their eyes intently fixed upon the ground as if in search of
something lost. They are looking for Austin diamonds, not yet found, but they
may be — who knows? What they do find are small pieces of crystalized quartz,
very hard, hard enough to cut common glass."
Everything's bigger in Texas, and that includes The University of Texas. It's
the biggest public university in the US and has branches in more than 10 Texas
cities. Campus tours are available from many different companies, and you will
see things like the infamous UT Tower, the Blanton Museum of Art, the LBJ
Library, and the UT Communication Building, where the show "Austin City Limits"
is filmed. Go down to "the drag" and shop at some of the quirky little
boutiques, or buy something orange-and-white to wave at a UT Longhorns game.
The city is home to nation's largest urban bat colony found under the
Congress Ave. Bridge during the eminent summer. A kiosk on the north shore of
Town Lake's hike-and-bike trail near the Four Seasons Hotel and another on the
south shore inform visitors when and where to watch for the nocturnal mammals.
Garriott's Haunted House
Wishful rumors aside, the ultimate "haunted house" attraction of all time was
the Halloweenified home of Richard Garriott (better known as "Lord British," the
creator of the Ultima series of computer games) of Austin, Texas. Garriott's
4,500-square-foot mansion and its three surrounding acres were reputedly
something to see even at normal times, what with their dungeon, hidden library,
indoor tropical rain forest, trap doors, secret passageways, rooftop observatory
and private island. (He's moved since then to larger, scarier quarters.) But
every second Halloween between 1988 and 1994, Garriott would go all out,
investing more than $100,000 to turn his mansion into an interactive theme park
where guests were led through a real-life sword-and-sorcery adventure, complete
with monsters and mayhem. The renovations were so extensive that he'd have to
move out for the three months leading up to the event to allow workmen
sufficient rein to do what they needed.
This fright-fest was in operation for only four years, so it's too late now
to think about getting to see this in operation. Only 200 guests a night were
led through the manse and its grounds. People typically lined up two days in
advance to get in on the adventure. The tour was free (the only cost was the
wait to get in), and it was reputedly well worth the camp-out. Garriott himself
claimed to have seen folks going up and down the line offering $1,000 for anyone
who'd give up his ticket and finding no takers
Barbed Wire Capitol
Barbed wire and the XIT Ranch
In spite of earlier failures to sell Texans on barbed wire, Henry Sanborn
didn't give up. Along with Joseph Glidden, Sanborn bought land in the Texas
Panhandle and set about to prove the usefulness of their wire fence.
Farmers were the traditional fence builders, using them to keep livestock,
wild or domesticated, from trampling their planted fields. Sanborn had a
vision of fences used to keep cattle in their designated feeding grounds. It
was a novel use for the product in a land that prized its wide open spaces and
Into the Frying Pan
Frying Pan Ranch had 120 miles of barbed wire fencing. The experiment was
a success even though it wasn't enough on its own to sway the cattlemen.
It was but one step in the taming of the wild west.
The Frying Pan ranch demonstrated the usefulness of barbed wire for cattle
ranches but it would take a much larger experiment to substantially effect a
move from free-range to closed land ranching. That experiment was made
possible in 1881 when the Texas State Capitol building in Austin burned to the
Ten counties that built the State Capitol
Everything's bigger in Texas. In 1882 Texans wanted a new capitol building
that was bigger than any other state capitol and the legislature further
decreed that it must be one foot taller than the national capitol building in
To pay for the rebuilding of the capitol, three million acres of public
lands in the Texas Panhandle were set aside for the men of the Capitol
Syndicate of Illinois. In exchange for building the new capitol building,
these men received this "worthless" land that became the XIT ranch (one story
says that the name XIT is X for the 10 counties across which the property
spread and IT for in Texas; other stories say the name was more a matter of
convenience, a brand that could be easily applied to cattle by just turning a
single bar several directions).
Take a tour of the State Capitol of Texas, a huge pink granite building
that is over 300 feet high. Tours are free and leave from the south entrance
every 15-30 minutes, seven days a week. The guides will tell you all sorts of
interesting details about the history of the lovely building. A Texas
tradition is to stand on the star that's on the rotunda floor, clap your hands
or make some noise to hear the incredible echo, and then look at the gold star
over your head and spin around until you get really dizzy. If you're touring
behind a group of Texas school kids, you may have to wait your turn to have a
The XIT ranch was intended as a new way of raising cattle - by confining
them as opposed to raising them on the open range. To accomplish this the XIT
ranch turned to barbed wire fencing. And it took a lot of wire. By 1885
476,000 acres had been fenced. Despite the destruction of much of the first
fence in a prairie fire the fence builders continued their work until they had
eventually completed fifteen hundred miles of barbed-wire fencing.
Although not created specifically to showcase barbed wire, the ranch in
effect did just that. The XIT was an example - a huge example - of how barbed
wire could effectively fence animals in in addition to being useful for
farmers who wanted to keep animals out.
The successes of The Frying Pan and XIT ranches also served to ensure the
preservation of the barbed wire industry after some unfortunate developments
in the early to mid-1880s that threatened to stop the industry in its tracks.
---------- Forwarded message ----------
This story came from the "Daily Texan" - the University of Texas newspaper.
Apparently it occured during Fall Premier - a UT tradition that is a celebration
of the end of midterms.
"Reason to not party anymore"
This guy went out last Saturday night to a party. He was having a good time,
had a couple of beers and some girl seemed to like him and invited him to go to
another party. He quickly agreed and decided to go along with her. She took him
to a party in some apartment and they continued to drink, and even got involved
with some other drugs (unknown which).
The next thing he knew, he woke up completely naked in a bathtub filled with
ice. He was still feeling the effects of the drugs, but looked around to see he
was alone. He looked down at his chest, which had "CALL 911 OR YOU WILL DIE"
written on it in lipstick.
He saw a phone was on a stand next to the tub, so he picked it up and dialed.
He explained to the EMS operator what the situation was and that he didn't know
where he was, what he took, or why he was really calling.
She advised him to get out of the tub. He did, and she asked him to look
himself over in the mirror. He did, and appeared normal, so she told him to
check his back. He did, only to find two 9 inch slits on his lower back. She
told him to get back in the tub immediately, and they sent a rescue team over.
Apparently, after being examined, he found out more of what had happened. His
kidneys were stolen. They are worth 10,000 dollars each on the black market. (I
was unaware this even existed.) Several guesses are in order: The second party
was a sham, the people involved had to be at least medical students, and it was
not just recreational drugs he was given.
Regardless, he is currently in the hospital on life support, awaiting a spare
kidney. The University of Texas in conjunction with Baylor University Medical
Center is conducting tissue research to match the sophomore student with a
I wish to warn you about a new crime ring that is targeting business
travelers. This ring is well organized, well funded, has very skilled personnel,
and is currently in most major cities and recently very active in New Orleans.
The crime begins when a business traveler goes to a lounge for a drink at the
end of the work day. A person in the bar walks up as they sit alone and offers
to buy them a drink. The last thing the traveler remembers until they wake up in
a hotel room bath tub, their body submerged to their neck in ice, is sipping
There is a note taped to the wall instructing them not to move and to call
911. A phone is on a small table next to the bathtub for them to call. The
business traveler calls 911 who have become quite familiar with this crime. The
business traveler is instructed by the 911 operator to very slowly and carefully
reach behind them and feel if there is a tube protruding from their lower back.
The business traveler finds the tube and answers, "Yes." The 911 operator tells
them to remain still, having already sent paramedics to help.
The operator knows that both of the business traveler's kidneys have been
This is not a scam or out of a science fiction novel, it is real. It is
documented and confirmable. If you travel or someone close to you travels,
please be careful. Sadly, this is very true. My husband is a Houston
firefighter/EMT and they have received alerts regarding this crime ring. It is
to be taken very seriously. The daughter of a friend of a fellow firefighter had
this happen to her. Skilled doctor's are performing these crimes! (which, by the
way have been highly noted in the Las Vegas area). Additionally, the military
has received alerts regarding this. This story blew me away. I really want as
many people to see this as possible so please bounce this to whoever you can.
Claim: The film The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was based on a true story.
Status: Sort of.
Origins: When The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
hit movie theaters in 1974, it quickly supplanted the previous year's
top horror flick, The Exorcist, as "the most terrifying movie ever
made." Unlike The Exorcist, however, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
eschewed standard production values and modern special effects in
favor of a grainy documentary-like approach with decidedly low-tech
visual effects. The tale of five young students who unwittingly meet up
with a sinister hitchhiker, the mask-wearing maniac Leatherface (whose
mask is actually made from dried human skin, not leather), The Texas
Chainsaw Massacre turned "a lumberjack's tool into the stuff of
nightmares and the blood-curdling scream into an art form," in the words
of Toronto Star writer Melissa Aronzyk.
remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre has been touted with the
tagline "Inspired by a true story," leading many horror fans to wonder
whether the grisly film was actually based on real events, or whether
the claim is simply another bit of Hollywood promotion intended to
attract filmgoers via the extra-chilling lure of a macabre tale not
entirely the product of a screenwriter's imagination (a technique
successfully used by the Coen brothers to entice viewers into suspending
disbelief for 1996's
gruesome cinematic depiction of a kidnapping-for-hire scheme gone awry).
Actually, the The Texas Chainsaw Massacre has been promoted as being
"based on a true incident" for quite a few years now, as the original
videocassette cover includes the following synopsis:
The film is an account of a tragedy which befell a group of five
youths, in particular Sally Hardesty. For them an idyllic summer
afternoon drive became a nightmare when they were exposed to an
insane and macabre family of chain saw killers. One by one they
disappear to be brutally butchered, each murder more horrendous than
the last with one victim being hung live on a meat hook, another
trapped in his wheelchair as he is hacked to death and the surviving
member of the group making a frantic bid for escape in the horrific
This video cassette is based on a true incident and is definitely
not for the squeamish or the nervous.
So, true story or not? Certainly there was no real family of
cannibalistic chainsaw murderers slaughtering people in Texas, nor any
actual series of chainsaw-related killings. Writer/director
said the inspiration for the film came from his spotting a display of
chainsaws while standing in the hardware section of a crowded store:
I was in the Montgomery Ward's out in Capital Plaza. I had been
working on this other story for some months — about isolation, the
woods, the darkness, and the unknown. It was around holiday season,
and I found myself in the Ward's hardware department, and I was
still kind of percolating on this idea of isolation and such. And
those big crowds have always gotten to me. There were just so many
people to go through. And I was just standing there in front of an
upright display of chainsaws. And the focus just racked from my
eyeball to the people to the saws — and the idea popped. I said,
"Ooh, I know how I could get out of this place fast — if I just
start one of these things up and make that sound." Of course I
didn't. That was just a fantasy.
Hooper has also said that he based the character of Leatherface on
Ed Gein, a Wisconsin farmer who robbed graves (his own mother's
supposedly among them), allegedly engaged in necrophilia and
cannibalism, and murdered at least two women in the 1950s (one of whose
corpses was found hanging naked — decapitated and disembowelled — in
Gein's residence). As Gunnar Hansen, the actor who portrayed Leatherface,
notes in his Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Here's what Tobe (director) and Kim (writer) told me themselves one
night during the filming. They had heard of Ed Gein, the man in
Plainfield, Wisconsin, who was arrested in the late 1950s for
killing his neighbor and on whom the movie Psycho was based. So when
they set out to write this movie, they decided to have a family of
killers who had some of the characteristics of Gein: the skin masks,
the furniture made from bones, the possibility of cannibalism. But
that's all. The story itself is entirely made up. So, sorry folks.
There never was a massacre in Texas on which this was based. No
chainsaw either. And, in spite of those of you who have told me you
remember when it happened, it really didn't happen. Really. Believe
me. This is an interesting phenomenon. I've also had people tell me
that they knew the original Leatherface, that they had been guards
at the state prison in Huntsville, Texas, where he was a prisoner.
Maybe they knew somebody who dreamed of being Leatherface. It is, I
suppose, something to aspire to.
Police eventually discovered the remains of 15 different mutilated
female bodies in Gein's filthy farmhouse, parts of which (mostly skin
and bones) had been fashioned into a variety of bizarre objects
(including drums, bowls, masks, bracelets, purses, knife sheaths,
leggings, chairs, lampshades, and shirts), as well as a refrigerator
full of human organs.
Gein later admitted to killing two women, one in 1954 and one in 1957.
He was suspected of involvement in the disappearance of four other
people in central Wisconsin (two men and two young girls) between 1947
and 1952, but the remains found in his farmhouse all came from adult
females, and none of them matched up with any of the four missing
persons. (Gein maintained that with the exception of the two women he
had admitted killing, all of the body parts in his farmhouse had been
taken from corpses he dug up in the local cemetery.)
Gein's story inspired (at least in part) the Norman Bates character — a
young man who murders women out of a twisted sense of loyalty to his
dead mother — in the classic thriller Psycho, and the Buffalo Bill
character — a transvestite serial killer who murders women to make use
of their skin — in the horror novel Silence of the Lambs. Although the
the Leatherface character and the events depicted in The Texas Chainsaw
Massacre differ in many substantial ways from what is known about the
life and activities of Ed Gein (most notably in that Gein was apparently
far more a grave robber than a murderer, and he didn't go around slicing
up live victims with a chainsaw), there are definite similarities
between the film and the Ed Gein story as well (e.g., hanging a murder
victim's corpse in the house, making functional use of the skin from
dead bodies, elements of cannibalism). Whether these similiarities are
sufficiently close to justify the statement that The Texas Chainsaw
Massacre was "based on a true story" is up to filmgoers to decide for
Crime Case Closed - Ed Gein (BBC)
Case File - Ed Gein
Eddie Gein (Court TV)
Last updated: 15 October 2003
The URL for this page is http://www.snopes.com/movies/films/chainsaw.asp
Guide Picks - Books by or about Austin, Texas
Heroes and Legends
Our heroes, living
legends, and famous characters make for some fascinating, entertaining,
and often educational reading. This selection of books covers Texas
celebrities from the world of sports, business, politics, and music �
including some in their own words. Known just as well outside Texas as
here in Austin, give a little bit of Texas celebrity to friends far
It's Not About the Bike: My Journey Back to Life
Lance Armstrong was a
winner on a different front when he fought his way back from a
devastating bout with cancer to later become a four-time Tour de France
winner. This Austinite is an American hero.
Stevie Ray Vaughan: Caught in the Crossfire
The all-too-brief life of
Texas blues-guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan is told by Austinites Joe N.
Patoski and Bill Crawford. It covers his early years, his comeback from
drug and alcohol addictions, and the final years before his death in a
helicopter crash before the age of 40.
Buried Alive: The Biography of Janis Joplin
This classic biography by Myra Friedman explores the too-short life and
music of this legendary rock musician from her birth in a small Texas
town to her worldwide fame. Her short but memorable life included her
years at the University of Texas and being involved in the early music
scene in Austin.
Willie Nelson Sings America
This well-researched work looks at and into the recordings of our living
legend. Stephen Opdyke and others include background on various
recordings, Willie's memories, and notes from others involved in
Willie's long musical career.
Direct From Dell: Strategies That Revolutionized an Industry
From a dorm room at the
University of Texas to one of the leaders in the computer industry, it's
the story of Michael Dell. In this book he looks at Dell's
direct-selling method - both the history and the approach. Good reading
for anyone who would like to learn from the success of Dell Computer.
Liz Carpenter: Girl from Salado
Betty W. Cox tells the
story of this noted writer, journalist and former press secretary to
Lady Bird Johnson.
There's Nothing in the Middle of the Road But Yellow Stripes and Dead
Armadillos: A Political Subversion
Texan Jim Hightower assesses the political scene in no uncertain terms.
Molly Ivins calls it "the best and most important book about out public
life I've read in years."
A Charge to Keep: My Journey to the White House
You won't find any deep,
dark family secrets revealed here but there are a lot of family memories
and some peeks into the influences that shaped the life of George W.
Bush. If you're expecting a book that "dishes the dirt," you'll be
disappointed. What you can learn more about is his convictions and the
Bush political philosophy.
9. Others: LBJ, Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock, Robert
Rodriguez, Rene Zellwegger,