Ghost stories and scary movies are often filled with enough jump scares to make your heart stop. But getting caught up in the Halloween spirit may cause one to forget that truth is sometimes stranger than fiction.
Some of the most horrific events in U.S. history took place right here, in the capital of Texas. From wild ax murders to yogurt shop crime scenes, these are Austin’s top five terrors.
The ‘Servant Girl Annihilator’
Austin’s first and most famous serial killer, the “Servant Girl Annihilator,” was responsible for the deaths of seven women and one man from 1884 to 1885. At the time, Austin was on the verge of becoming a big city, opening some of its most famous landmarks, such as the Texas State Capitol building and the Driskill Hotel. The murderer began killing the black servants of wealthy Austin families in early 1884, dragging the women into the yard before brutally murdering them with an ax. The killer would later kill two white, high-society Austin women, sending the city into a state of panic. Some suspect the killer, who was never identified, was Jack the Ripper, who started his killing spree in England three years after the Austin murders stopped.
The Tower shooting
On Aug. 1, 1966, in a 96-minute standoff, Charles Whitman claimed the lives of 16 and injured another 31 Austin residents from the top of the UT tower. Whitman was eventually killed by two officers who managed to reach the tower. Later on, some began to speculate that a tumor found in Whitman’s brain during an autopsy was to blame for his actions. Whitman incited mass chaos on and around the UT campus, and is said to have introduced the term “mass shooting” into the nation’s vocabulary.
The Yogurt Shop Murders
On a chilly December evening in 1991, four teen girls brutally lost their lives in what came to be known as the Yogurt Shop Murders. Their bodies, stacked one on top of the other, each with a bullet wound to the head, were discovered by firefighters in the burned ruins of “I Can’t Believe It’s Yogurt,” a shop where two of the girls worked. Although two men originally confessed to the crimes, they were released in 2009 because of a lack of evidence.
Deaths of Rita Salazar and Frank Key
In 1978 two teens, Frank Key and Rita Salazar, were on a date when they ran out of gas on I-35 near Round Rock, Texas. The pair was later found dumped in different locations along the road, both suffering gunshot wounds. Serial killer Henry Lee Lucas originally pleaded guilty to the murder of Salazar in 1983, but it was revealed via DNA evidence in 2007 that Benny Tijerina Jr. was responsible for the deaths.
The Murder of Christine Morton
In 1986, Christine Morton was found bludgeoned to death in her home. Her husband, Michael Morton, was arrested soon after and charged with her murder. After spending 25 years in jail, Michael was eventually found innocent after evidence pointed to Mark Alan Norwood as the perpetrator of Christine’s assault and murder. While Morton was being convicted, Norwood went on to kill another woman in the same fashion two years after Christine’s death.