Texas Chainsaw Massacre: Fact or Fiction

“…an idyllic summer afternoon drive became a nightmare…”-Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

With Halloween upon us, my mind turns to those great slasher movies of my childhood. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a gory staple of the standard Halloween horror movie line up. Out of all the films, it unnerves me the most. It begins with a gruesome introduction followed by a macabre of red and black sequences while a news broadcast sounds speaking of ravaged graves and mutilated corpses. It becomes more sinister when the group of friends picks up an insane hitchhiker, and from there, the characters fall downward into a spiral of blood, gore, and madness.

The films over the years have been marketed to be based on a true story. The horror that the story behind Leatherface being a factual entity has worked to bring the franchise a substantial earning margin over the years and a large fan base. But did it really happen?

Fanart of Leatherface

The answer is, Yes, it did happen, just not in Texas.

This time, our story will leave the strange realm of the Lone Star state and slither northeast to Wisconsin, which is no stranger to sinister happenings.

It is November 1957; winter has descended on the rural town of Plainfield, Wisconsin. Bernice Warden has been missing for days. Her son, the town sheriff, searches frantically for her. Then his suspicions turn to sweet but odd Eddie Gein.

The people of Plainfield tolerate Gein with an uneasy kindness. He makes a living by handyman work and unbelievably babysitting for some of the braver parents. Even so, he has become quite unhinged since the death of his beloved mother in 1945. The whispers among the townsfolk are that even though his once neat house is falling around him, he keeps HER room immaculate. There is no disrepair when it comes to his mother’s room. Oh no! He would never allow that.

The exhausted sheriff has nothing more than assumptions when he takes a small group of townsmen to Gein’s home. They find poor Bernice Warden’s corpse strung up from Gein’s rafters, beheaded and gutted like a pig. The horrors did not end there.

The lovely Hewitt House of Granger, Texas. The house was used in both 2003/2006 Texas Chainsaw Massacre films.

Grandfather of Gore

If a nightmare had a home, it would reside in the house of Eddie Gein. Organs in jars, soup bowl skulls, and a skin suit complete with female breasts and genitalia were all found in Gein’s possession. Dark beginnings triggered a very dark end for Gein. What happened to him to turn him into such a monster?

Eddie was born to Augusta Gein and George Philip on August 27, 1906. His life was hard and turbulent. His father was a neglectful alcoholic, while his mother was fanatical about her faith and a burden to live with. In school, Gein was harassed for being feminine. He formed no attachments or friends. Only an unhealthy relationship with his unfit mother. All of these factors later fueled his fall into utter madness triggered by his mother’s death in 1945, the same year as his first documented victim, Mary Hogan.

It is thought that he may have even killed his brother. One evening the two boys aided in stopping a brush fire. Eddie’s brother disappeared and was found later in an area where the fire did not reach, covered in bruises. Perhaps Eddie alone wanted his mother’s love.

The story of Eddie Gein inspired not only the Texas Chainsaw Massacre but also The Silence of the Lambs and Psyco. Unlike the Texas Chainsaw massacre, Gein did not kill his victims with a chainsaw but with a pistol. Unlike Leatherface, who wore his human skin face because of skin disease, Gein’s skin obsession was more kin to Buffalo Bill’s woman skin suit. Both wore a skin suit because they wanted to be a woman.

Out of the three movies Texas Chainsaw Massacre, frightens me the most. At least Hannibal Lector had some class when he ate people. Stay Strange!

Women in White

The ghost story of the Woman in White has haunted children and parents for decades. The origins of the world-renowned ghost story are unknown but reach across continents and cultures. In Brazil, the Woman in White is called Dama Branco. The story goes that a young woman died in childbirth while another version declares the ghost to be the vengeful spirit of a wife murdered by her husband in an honor killing. In Canada, the Chute De La Dame Blanche (white lady waterfall) is the ghost of a  heartbroken young woman who committed suicide when her husband to be was killed in combat by throwing herself over a waterfall.

The Wittle Wieven(white Woman) roams the moors in the Netherlands. Ireland, Malta, and several other countries harbor tales of an otherworldly beautiful woman dressed in a long white gown with long, dark, sleek hair tormenting the living. The name and country may change, but essential details of the Woman in White’s features stay the same, and the fact that she is always found near water never changes. Texas does not have one story of The Woman in White. We have several because you know we go full throttle with the supernatural here in the Lone Star state!

Beautifully wrapped evil is the Woman in White.

I descended into the story of the Woman in White while researching a creek called Woman Hollering Creek east of San Antonio. The creek is etched in legend and connected to the Hispanic doppelganger of the Woman in White, La Llorona. Woman Hollering Creek is located off of Interstate 10 between Sequin and San Antonio. Reports of wailing and moans have been reported in the area of the creek.

One version of the story explaining the wailing is that a woman drowned her children in the creek to please her lover. Another story states that the hellish moans are the ghost of a pioneer woman calling from help after being stranded at the creek. A logical story that circulates about the area is that the wailing of Woman Hollering Creek is not a ghost at all but is the loud hollering of a robust farmer’s wife calling her family to meals. The connection of water and a mourning ghost, however, has a sinister connection to the battered stories passed through time of the Woman in White.

Danger lurks under the still waters of Woman Hollering Creek.

La Llorona, the Weeping Woman in English, is a popular legend with several movies regarding the ghost story. It was born of rich Hispanic culture, and it carries a dark and merciless fate for the victims that fall prey to La Llorona.

The legend of La Llorona begins with an exceptionally bonita chica (beautiful girl.) By day she lived the humble life of a poor village maiden, but at night her life was quite different.

She would put on a beautiful white dress and go into the village to be worshipped by the men there. She craved their praise and attention, and to get it, it is said, that she murdered her two young boys to free herself of her motherly duties so she could continue with her nightly escapades.

Of course, like all stories, the details get muddled as they are passed along, and some say that she did not murder them directly, but the poor boys died of neglect from their mother. There is even a third form of the story. That La Llorona was never the poor maiden of a village at all but the neglected wife of a wealthy man who had turned his favor to another. She drowned her sons out of spite and was doomed forever to roam, looking for them bound to the waters of her great sin.

Children of Hispanic culture are warned to stay away from unknown water because La Llorona could be waiting to drag them to their watery graves. Truth Or Legend? I believe perhaps the legend is an elaborate fabrication to steer clear young children from the dangers of water. La Lorona is the most famous story of the Woman in White.

Texas is dotted with similar stories of women in white. Such as the ghost of Woman Hollering Creek, but there are many more within the state, including the San Bernard River in the Houston area and even Dallas.

The White Rock Lake Park in Dallas holds its own Woman in White story. In the 1930s, a beautiful young woman died in a boating accident, and until this day, her beautiful ghostly silhouette is spotted throughout the park wearing a white 1930s style evening gown. She is always searching and always wet as if she had just stepped out of the lake.

The details change from place to place, but the tragedy and horror remain of the Woman in White. The stories all embody great pain, regret, and death, and for me, this was a hard story to research. Beauty wrapped in pain and despair, crowned with black flowing hair, clothed in white and bound by water, the Woman in White perhaps is one entity bound to the waters of the Earth wandering for all eternity.

Now there will be no sleep for me tonight. Think twice before taking a swim! Happy Fall ya’ll!

Driskill Hotel

Timeworn beautiful hotels seem to trend in the great state of Texas. They have faces that display secrets of loss, struggle, pride, and elegance. Hundreds of guests have left their print on the rooms of these hotels. For decades the rooms have experienced countless lives and activities from honeymooners, travelers, business people, and even death. The Driskill Hotel in Austin, Texas, has had its fair share of life and death, and it seems that imprints of both remain on the hotel.

When I first came across the Driskill Hotel, it much reminded me of the Stanley Hotel that represented the Overlook Hotel in the original movie of The Shining. I was immediately intrigued and started to dig.

The glorious Driskill Hotel!

The Romanesque in style Driskill is the creation of Col. Jesse Driskill of the confederate army, who served in the Civil War and gained his fortune from running cattle. The hotel’s grand opening was in December of 1886 and was well-received due to its opulence and grandeur.

Unfortunately, so I have read, tragedy struck only a year after the hotel opened in 1887 when the young daughter of a senator fell to her death on the grand staircase while chasing her ball. The child’s laughter can still be heard along with her footsteps around the stairs and throughout the fourth floor of the hotel, which seems to be the hub of most of the peculiar happenings.

It is rumored that Driskill killed himself four years after the hotel was built. I found no written fact of this, but I wonder if the many tragedies drove Mr. Driskill to take his own life. It is said that his detached spirit still roams the hotel from which he cannot part due to his great love for the structure.

The most prevalent legend that Driskell Hotel is owner of is the tale of the suicide brides. If your brave enough, you can experience your honeymoon at the hotel. It has everything from lovely rooms and a romantic setting, the hotel offers succulent meals, and it is in a superior location in downtown Austin on 6th street, but you may not make it out alive!

Two brides found dead 20 years apart to the exact date and room. Two of the Driskill’s most tragic deaths.

The bitter story begins with no set date but with room number 525. A beautiful young bride, only hours after her wedding, is found dead in the bathtub. The story is tragic and strange. Was the young bride murdered or took her own life due to some unhappiness?

I have so many questions that I was not able to find answers for, but what is even stranger is that 20 years later, to the date in the exact room, another bride committed suicide in the bathtub with no reason or explanation.

Some have argued that the room where both brides were found was not 525 at all but the Yellow Rose Suite, which is room 529. What I do know for a fact is that room 525 was shuttered for many years since guests experienced so much paranormal activity during their stay that many demanded another room or checked out of the hotel altogether. The room was reopened in 1998 and is still a hot spot for activity that seems to attract thrill-seekers and ghost hunters alike.

Even with a dark reputation of being haunted, the Driskill receives guests from all walks of life in droves.

Captivated by its grace and beauty, guests flock in every year to stay in the charming, well cared for rooms. The Driskill has a 5-star rating in atmosphere and hospitality, which is invaluable for a hotel’s reputation. Famous guests have frequented the Driskill, including Bill Murray, President Bill Clinton, and one of my absolute favorite singers, Louis Armstrong, performed at the hotel in 1931. “I’ve found my thrill on blueberry hill…” Oh, how I love Armstrong’s music!

I was very excited to read that Louis Armstrong performed at the Driskill Hotel in 1931. I’ve been a fan of his since I was a child! He was an amazing singer and musician.

It must have been a surreal experience when Mr. Armstrong performed in the luxurious atmosphere of the Driskill Hotel!

That’s enough, daydreaming for me. Perhaps one day, I will drag my scaredy-cat self down to Austin to have my own Driskill Hotel experience.

The Ghost Road

Have you ever been driving down a dark lonely road late at night and get the creepy feeling that you are being watched? Yeah? Okay great! Glad to know I am not the only chicken here. I can relate!

I worked at a gas station not too long ago for Brookshire’s grocery in East Texas. If you live in Louisiana or Texas, you may have seen the little fuel kiosks set in the Brookshire’s parking lots. It was one of my favorite jobs, but I usually worked the 2nd shift and would end up driving home around ten at night, and on my drives home, I would always get the creeps!

There is nothing more creepy than driving down alone Texas country road late at night. It’s dark and lonely with thick trees and brush that line the road. During the day, it’s a pleasurable drive cruising through the country and taking in the lush East Texas countryside.

Driving down the same country road at night is a totally different story and if you are driving down a dark, desolate road late at night that happens to be in the grand old state of Texas and the feeling that you’re being watched ebbs up on ya, well, you probably are being watched because there is a good chance that Texas road is HAUNTED-because Texas is strange like that.

A loan Texas Road photographed by Jonathan Bottoms

During my research concerning strange happenings in Texas, I came across Old Bragg Road of Harden County. Harden county sets in southeast Texas and is home to the Big thicket National forest.

Old Bragg road, also known as the Ghost Road, is a dirt road located west of the town Saratoga off of HWY 787. It is an old dirt road with a simple marker stating its presence but carries a dark load of history.

The history began in 1902 when the industrial movement was plowing through pristine woodlands. During this time, the Santa Fe railroad blazed through the area, bringing opportunities and more accessible travel. Bragg, now a ghost town, and Saratoga flourished during the early 1900s with the modern convenience of the railroad.

During the mid-1900s, specifically around the time of the 40s and 50s, reports of strange phenomena and sightings started to roll in regarding the area around Bragg. The main reports were of strange lights later named Ghosts Lights for their glowing orb-like appearance. According to the locals of the area, the lights can still be seen from Old Bragg Road.

The reason for the lights is vast and diverse. Some scientists argue that the lights are nothing more than a type of swamp gas, while other scientists reason that the lights are merely reflections of passing vehicle headlights from nearby highways.

Others believe that the supernatural is at play concerning the lights.  

One of the first stories I came across was the lights were beacons marking the unmarked burial places of conquistadores treasure. That maybe be a theory worth testing out!

Another story was that the lights were part of a haunting of a brakeman that was decapitated. It is said that the brakeman roams the area, searching for his missing head.

One story that I came across regarding Old Bragg road ghosts was the cruel story of love and loss. It is an old story of true love that ends with the lovers being separated by a violent death.  

The story goes that a groom brings his beautiful bride to the inn near the north side of Bragg, which was then a busy town. The bride was murdered in her marriage bed by thieves, and now the ghost of the devastated groom searches the area for his dead long gone bride.

A broken hearted groom doomed to search the lonely tracks for is dead bride for all time

Whether the lights are something natural of nature or a supernatural phenomenon, it is safe to say that the happening is quite extraordinary. You never know when you’ll come across something strange while in Texas!

Goatmen of Texas

West of Dallas lies Lake worth, home of the lake worth monster, aka Goat man. In the summer of 1969, several eyewitnesses saw something that shocked and terrified them. They saw a creature that many described as over 7 ft tall in height, being a humanoid, having an excess of hair, scaly skinned beast.  The beast was said to be bellowing a mournful cry as it made its way through the dense brush surrounding the lake. To this day, the legend of the Lake Worth monster reigns supreme in the area and has even given inspiration to a yearly celebration called the Lake Worth Monster bash. In an article by The Dallas Morning News, a Natural Resource Specialist of Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge, Michelle Villafranca states, “The Stories are enduring. The lore is enduring.”-regarding the Goatman of Lake Worth.

Lake Worth is vast in size, and 3,000 acres of woods, Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge wrap the entire northwest shore of the lake. That is a big area for the Goatman to roam! Numerous sightings of the Goatman have been reported over the years. Reports state that the Goatman is aquatic, which would explain the partial scales that cover its body. Sightings have also been notified of the Goatman climbing trees and moving amongst the treetops. It is said that the Goatman resides mainly around the west fork of the Trinty River.

The Goatman of Lake Worth is not the first legend of a half-goat humanoid hybrid. It’s not even the only goatman legend in Texas. History, lore, and folktales throughout the world and time are dotted with goatmen. In America, Texas, Maryland, and Kentucky are some of the states that have goatmen legends. The earliest mention of goatmen I found dates back to Roman and Greek Mythology with the Satyr and Faun.

The Satyr, a more brutal creature with horrid actions, is well known in Greek Mythology as a companion to the god of wine, Dionysus. Satyrs are described as half-man and half-beast with legs from anywhere between a horse to a goat.

Fauns, the benevolent counterpart of the Satyr, is found in Roman Mythology. Fauns were a symbol of peace and fertility and were only described as its top half being humanoid and its bottom half being that of a goat. Goatmen are well rooted in history across multiple cultures and religions.

Image of a Faun of Roman Mythology

A more sinister tale of another goatman in Texas really gave me the willies is the haunted tale of the Goatman of the Old Alton Bridge.

The Old Alton Bridge is located in Denton, Texas, well north of Lake Worth. There are a couple of backstories of the reasoning of why the bridge and area around it are haunted, and both are terrifying. The first story is terrible. It is the story of an African-American goat farmer that was hung from the bridge by the vile Ku Klux Klan. The farmer’s body was never found; some say he is the Goatman seeking vengeance while guarding the Old Alton Bridge.

Old Alton Bridge also known as Goatman’s Bridge located in Denton, Texas

Another explanation for the hauntings on and around the bridge is that evil rituals were performed in the general area, and the result was that a demon, the Goatman, which remains in the area. It is said that people have been thrown from the bridge while trying to cross or saw an apparition of the Goatman waiting for them on the other side of the bridge. Locals of Denton say the Goatman can be summoned by knocking on the bridge three times at midnight, and the Goatman will appear after a waft of putrid smell of rotten flesh fills the air. I’m just trying to figure out why anyone would want to summon this thing, yikes!!

Goatman-demon, ghost, simply an unknown cryptid yet to be discovered, who knows?! I believe with all the historical documentation and sightings that we are dealing with some kind of animal waiting to be discovered. We fear what we cannot explain or understand. The next time you’re in Texas, be on the lookout for your friendly, neighborhood Goatman!