The Austin Moon Towers: Horror Legends?

It’s the kind of morning that got me to thinking. I know. Dangerous, right? I have a venomous snake doing laps in a glass case behind me – it’s a Hognose that’s about the size of a worm but still venomous. I even managed to survive my daily 7/11 coffee run without a fondle or fatality from the neighborhood crack addict. We’re all surrounded by potential horror every day, yet everyone seems to be writing about the same old stuff.

Here’s an unused idea (to my knowledge): I dropped my wife’s dry cleaning off this morning and took a good look around while standing in line. That place, as well as every other dry cleaner I’ve ever visited, is a nightmare waiting to happen. Whether they’re a newer or older business, they all look, feel, and smell the same. There’s a hint of cleaning solution in the air, the clothes weave in and out the place on an ancient conveyor waiting for unsuspecting fingers, and there’s more random pipes and faucets than a comic book chemical factory. Just what in the hell does all that stuff do? I don’t believe I’ve ever watched or read a horror scenario which takes place in a dry cleaner. Missed opportunity, but I’m way too busy to write it.

The Hognose snake is making noises. I think he’s trying to subliminally convince me to let him suck on my finger. I’m not falling for it.

Another urban element I don’t recall being used in horror is the Austin Moon Towers. Most people know them as the party spot from the 1993 Richard Linklater film Dazed and Confused. Although they’re all over Austin, the main one from the film can be found at Zilker Park near Barton Springs. To some, it’s like stoner Graceland. What is the origin behind these strange lights? Well, that depends. Do you want the boring truth or the yet to be fictionally tapped legend?

According to Wikipedia:

The moonlight towers in Austin, Texas, are the only known surviving moonlight towers in the world. They are 165 feet (50 m) tall and have a 15-foot (4.6 m) foundation. A single tower casts light from six carbon arc lamps, illuminating a 1,500-foot-radius (460 m) circle brightly enough to read a watch.

In 1970 the towers were recognized as Texas State Landmarks, followed by the 15 remaining towers being listed in the National Register of Historic Places on July 12, 1976. Only 6 are in their original locations as established by the Board of Public Works and City Council in 1895.

So… they’re old lights, right? Not so fast, internet. There’s more.

In 1894, the City of Austin purchased 31 used towers from Detroit. They were manufactured in Indiana by Fort Wayne Electric Company and assembled onsite. Some have claimed that Austin put up moonlight towers partially in response to the actions of the Servant Girl Annihilator, also known as the Midnight Assassin, but in fact the towers were not erected until 1894 and 1895, ten years after the murders took place.

Hit the brakes! Servant Girl Annihilator? Again, this is all coming from Wikipedia, but here’s the explanation.

The Servant Girl Annihilator, also known as the Austin Axe Murderer and the Midnight Assassin, was an unidentified American serial killer who preyed upon the city of Austin, Texas, between 1884 and 1885. The sobriquet originated with the writer O. Henry. The series of eight axe murders were referred to by contemporary sources as the Servant Girl Murders.

The December 26, 1885, issue of The New York Times reported that the “murders were committed by some cunning madman, who is insane on the subject of killing women.” The murders represent an early example of a serial killer operating in the United States, three years before the Jack the Ripper murders in Whitechapel.

According to author Philip Sugden in The Complete History of Jack the Ripper, the conjecture that the Texas killer and Jack the Ripper were one and the same man originated in October 1888, when an editor with the Atlanta Constitution proposed this conjecture, following the murders of Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes by Jack the Ripper.

Ok, I’m done with Wikipedia. This is all ‘me’ again. Let’s discuss:

The towers didn’t get to Austin until ten years after the fact, but rumors are they may have been purchased from the city of Detroit as a deterrent to the serial killer. Not just any serial killer, though. Legend states there’s a possibility Austin, Texas was home to one Jack the Ripper before he became infamous across the pond. Why is this not common knowledge?

For a Texas author, this is the mother of missed opportunities! Jack the Ripper cut his teeth by killing servant girls in the city of Austin before hopping a ship to jolly, old England? Also, it wasn’t just any old style of killing. No, he was an axe murderer! I swear I will never look at the city of Austin or the Dazed and Confused film the same again.

Granted, all of this is based on legend since rarely were any records kept and humanity’s detection skills were in their infancy. Even legends contain bits of truth, though, and this legend has managed to stay off my radar for forty-nine years. Since accidentally discovering this information, my mind has raced with thoughts of the moon towers being some type of werewolf or vampire repellant, but the less paranormal explanation may even be more horrible than fiction! Was Jack the Ripper a Texan?

Wait. I’ve got it. Jack the Ripper (we’ll call him ‘Little Jackie’ since he was still young)…

So Little Jackie ‘the still learning how to rip’ Ripper is perfecting how to be a more efficient killer on the streets of 1880’s Austin. He runs a laundry business he “inherited” from a conveniently missing Chinese family. Bored with creasing and ironing, he begins tailing servant girls home when they drop off snooty old white women’s laundry. He slaughters the unsuspecting maids one by one, sinking their bodies to the bottom of the Colorado River like a sort of underwater graveyard. Local authorities are baffled so they telegraph Billy the Kid and his gang of regulators from Lincoln, New Mexico! Billy, Doc, Chavez, Dick, Charlie, and Dirty Steve ride into town with help from the ‘spirit world’ to chase Jackie to Galveston where he hops a steam ship to England.

BAM! Young Guns III!!!

This is why they pay me the big bucks.

If you need me, I’ll be patiently awaiting my call from Universal Studios to begin writing Moon Tower Massacre! At least, that’s what I’d call it. Moon Tower Massacre, a splatter western serial killer novel loosely based on the legend of the Austin Axe Murderer! It’ll all be part of the forthcoming Emilio Estevez cinematic universe which crosses over with The Mighty Ducks. Nothing strikes fear into the heart of serial killers quite like the Flying V Formation! Then, the killer is defeated by a bite to the pinky toe from a rogue Hognose snake. He experiences rare anaphylaxis and dies. Roll credits.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: