Texas Standard has been Tracking Texas Cryptids. Some are known for their distinctive appearance. Others are known for their unique sounds. That was the inspiration for this Typewriter Rodeo poem.
After almost seven weeks, striking autoworkers reach deals with the Big 3 automakers. Why Texas played a critical role.
Scientists recently got to see a collision of two stars in space – and its aftermath.
The president has released an executive order on artificial intelligence. How far does it go, and will it go far enough?
The tale of Goatman’s Bridge has a history that haunts Texas to its core. The Standard’s Sean Saldana takes us to Denton for the story.
And: What would Texas cryptids look like in real life? We visited an elementary school art class to get some ideas.
With the U.S. House of Representatives still without a leader, two Texans drop out of the race for the speakership. What happens next?
The White House is launching a new program for Ecuadorians who are trying to migrate to the U.S. We’ll have details on the change is and why it’s happening.
Miles and miles of Texas are usually traversed by car – but one writer says the train is the ultimate way to go.
Also, with Halloween on the horizon, we have the backstory on some of the spookiest places to visit in Texas.
The Texas Standard team is Tracking Texas Cryptids this spooky season. There’s La Lechuza, the Hairy Man of Round Rock — and the Jackalope? One of these is a bit more adorable than abominable. That was the inspiration of this Typewriter Rodeo poem.
Recriminations over donations and demands for a high-level resignation: What’s behind the latest political fight between Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dade Phelan?
The Senate green-lights a voucher-like plan to provide public money for private school tuition. Matthew Watkins of the Texas Tribune joins us with more on the week in politics.
How to safely view Saturday’s annular eclipse over Texas.
Ken Burns returns with a new PBS series on the American Buffalo.
And: On Friday the 13th in this spookiest month, why so many folks love to get scared.
This spooky season, Texas Standard is Tracking Texas Cryptids. The Typewriter Rodeo team is also in on the hunt. The target of this poem is said to live in Kimble County.
Does the state have a duty to provide mobile voting centers? Texas democrats claim a new law unconstitutionally disenfranchises young voters, we’ll have details. Also, did Exxon Mobil have one set of numbers about climate change for investors, and a secret set for itself? Texan Rex Tillerson takes the stand in a closely watch trial involving one of the Lone Star State’s biggest companies. Plus, Twitter banning political ads? Tech expert Omar Gallaga on why and what it adds up to. And why you might see tarantulas crossing Texas roadways, and not just tonight, mind you. All of that and then some today on the Texas Standard:
Originally aired: Oct. 31, 2016.
Texas is number one in a great many things: oil, ranching, rodeo, cotton. But you may be surprised to know that we are also number one in horror. That’s right, our very own charming little low-budget film, “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, is considered by many critics to be the best (and most horrifying) horror movie ever made.
At the time of its release in 1974, the famous film critic Rex Reed said that it was the most “terrifying” movie he had ever seen. When the celebrated master of horror, Wes Craven, first saw the movie, he wondered “what kind of Mansonite crazoid” could have produced such a thing. Stephen King praised the movie. He said it had achieved “cataclysmic terror.” And my favorite critique comes from Anton Bitel who said that the “very fact that it was banned in England was a tribute to its artistry.”
In honor of Halloween, I thought I would help you appreciate this hallowed film; here are 10-and-a-half things you may not have known about the film.
1. Ed Gein is the name of the real criminally insane killer who inspired the character of Leatherface. He did not wear a leather mask. What he wore was worse: a mask made of human skin.
2. Ed Gein only killed two people, not dozens. Hardly a massacre. He did not use a chainsaw. He used a gun.
3. Gein did his killing in Wisconsin, not Texas. I know, disappointing right? Wisconsin Chainsaw Massacre just doesn’t have the same poetic ring to it.
4. So where did the chainsaw idea come from? Tobe Hooper, the director, said that he was in a Montgomery Ward store a few days before Christmas. The store was annoyingly crowded with aggressive shoppers. As he stood in front of the chainsaws he had a disturbing epiphany. He realized that if he started up one of those chainsaws the sound alone would part that sea of shoppers giving him a quick path to the exit. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how iconic art is born.
5. One last thing about Gein. He inspired not only Leatherface, but he was also the demented muse for Norman Bates in “Psycho” and Buffalo Bill in “Silence of the Lambs”.
6. Perhaps the most horrifying aspect of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, for the actors at least, was that it was filmed in the middle of the scorching Texas summer. You can see the sweat dripping off, even streaming off, the actors. Hooper said everyone suffered mightily because there was no stopping to wait for cooler weather. And even though
some days were well over 100 degrees, they had to press on to get filming done in a month, come hell or high water – and hell is what they got.
7. In his much-praised book, “Chain Saw Confidential”, Gunnar Hansen, who played the character of Leatherface, said that the name of the depraved family in the first film is Slaughter, not Sawyer. If you look above the Coca-Cola sign at the gas station you will see “W. E. Slaughter BBQ.”
8. Hansen also said that the power of the chainsaw myth they created on film persists with such tenacity in Texas that people would not believe him when he said that no such chainsaw crimes ever happened in the state. People would say something like: “No, they happened. My cousin worked on death row over in Huntsville and saw Leatherface himself get the chair.” But this is understandable because the film falsely marketed itself as “based on a true story.”
9. The film cost less than $300,000 to make, and eventually grossed $30 million in the U.S. The movie had its opening in Austin, appropriately, since its director was a University of Texas professor and documentary cameraman. Though it is hard to believe, he tried to keep the gore and violence of the film to a minimum so he could get a “PG” rating. That didn’t work. He got an “R” rating.
10. Horror and humor are allies. The movie even spawned a hilarious Geico ad that has run the last couple of years – the one where four people are running from a killer and debating where to hide. One suggests they take the running car and another says that’s a horrible idea and suggests that they hide behind the chainsaws. Even Leatherface is astounded by their filmic ignorance.
10.5. The film’s gas station is now a kind of bed and breakfast in Bastrop. It’s called The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s “Last Chance Gas Station”. You can get BBQ and spend the night in a cozy cabin. Chainsaw alarm clocks are certainly available. I understand the BBQ ain’t half bad. At least the owners are not, like those in the film, focused only on serving their fellow man.
W.F. Strong is a Fulbright Scholar and professor of Culture and Communication at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. At Public Radio 88 FM in Harlingen, Texas, he’s the resident expert on Texas literature, Texas legends, Blue Bell ice cream, Whataburger (with cheese) and mesquite smoked brisket.
By W. F. Strong
La LLorona (the crying woman) is a Mexican legend that is at least 500 years old. It no doubt arrived in Texas with the earliest Mexican settlers and La Llorona has haunted our rivers, lakes and streams ever since, particularly in the border regions. There are dozens of versions. Here is one.
La Llorona was a poor girl in a small village. She was extraordinarily beautiful with raven black hair and large almond eyes. One day when she was getting water from the town well, a handsome man on a fine horse rode up and asked her for a drink. She had never seen such a perfect man or felt so wonderfully nervous in the presence of one before. He felt the same way about her. They fell in love on the spot. He could not marry her, though, because she was a poor village girl and he was from a the richest, most prominent family in the region. But he could not live without her so he bought her a big home and showered with jewelry and gifts and gave her two children. He came to visit often and adored playing with their children. It was not perfect, but she was happy because she loved him so much.
After a few years a period of time came when he did not visit at all. She was worried about him and did something she had never done. She went to the big city to visit his mansion to see what was wrong. When she arrived she quietly asked a servant if he was there and she said, “Oh, no, today he is getting married to a famous princess from Spain.”
La Llorona was so angry that she wanted to do something to hurt him. In that jealous rage, she went straight home and took their two children to the river and drowned them. When she regained her sanity she was plunged into such despair over what she had done that she died of grief right there on the river bank. As she attempted to enter the afterlife, an angel asked her where her children were. She said she didn’t know. She was told she must find them before she could rest. So she was forced back to earth and condemned to wander rivers and lakes and streams looking for her children forever.
If you go out near water at night you will sometimes hear her crying, “Mis hijos, mis hijos.” My children. They say if she sounds near she is really far away, but if she sounds far away, she is very near you. Those who’ve seen her say that she wears a moldy shroud and has jet black hair, but no nose and no mouth, only luminous violet eyes that are horrifyingly red-streaked from her eternal crying. If you see her thrashing around the middle of a creek or river, don’t go in to try to save her because she will drown you.
You should also never let your children stay out late near a river or creek or lake – or even a backyard swimming pool because La Llorona may think they are her children and steal them away from you forever.
So La Llorona is a legend, a cautionary tale and the boogie man (coo-cooey) all in one. Particularly Hispanic mom’s have used her to enforce good behavior for centuries. “Come inside now or La Llorona will get you.” “You come straight home from David’s house. Don’t wander. La Llorona is always looking for lost children.” And some even say that La Llorona makes children respect their mothers. She has appeared to children who have left their homes angrily, saying bad things to their mothers as they’ve left. La Llorona finds them walking in the dark and says, “I’ll let you go this time, but go back to your mother and be good to her.”
Excellent advice for Halloween and all the other days of the year.
I’m W. F. Strong. These are stories from Texas, via Mexico. Some of them, are true.
Don your face paint, costumes and masks for Halloween, but don’t forget that it’s not always movie monsters or villains that are the scariest ghouls to haunt our waking days. That was the inspiration for this Typewriter Rodeo poem.
12 billion dollars for farmers: the Trump administration trying to offset losses in a trade war smart policy or a band aid on a self-inflicted wound? We’ll have the latest. Also, another effect of zero tolerance: no place for local prisoners to go. We’ll talk with the sheriff of Hidalgo county facing a space crisis. And a prescription for a rural doctor shortage. That’s how a Texas university is pitching its plan for a new medical school. But with around a dozen already, does Texas really need another one? And has Beto O’ Rourke narrowed the gap with ted cruz to just two points? A Politifact check and a whole lot more today on the Texas Standard:
There’s more than one Texas bridge that can be especially troubling for those with gephyrophobia – fear of bridges.
The Pecos railroad bridge can certainly give you the willies from the right perspective. The Corpus Christi Harbor Bridge can give you pause if you’re hit with the outer bands of a tropical storm when you’re up on top. Some of those five-stack interchanges in Dallas and Houston can cause a palpitation or two. But in my opinion, the scariest bridge in Texas is the Rainbow Bridge between Port Arthur and Orange, on Texas Highway 73.
The bridge offers the triple threat. You can see it coming from a long way off. It has a steep ascent and descent. And it rises frighteningly high over the water. Those are the things gephyrophobics most dread.
The Rainbow Bridge is scary enough today, with two lanes for one-way traffic, but it used to be much worse. When it was completed in 1938, it was the second-tallest bridge in America, second only to the Golden Gate. It was essentially 20 stories tall. For many decades, drivers had to put up with two thin lanes carrying cars and 18-wheelers in both directions.
As you arrived near the top of the bridge, all you could see was sky in the daytime and the stars at night. You just had to have faith that the pavement would be there waiting for you when you passed over the hump. It was enough to make some folks take a 30-mile detour to avoid the stress. Seems odd that a bridge with such a nice name could cause such fear.
Local driver’s education teachers often made students drive over that bridge on their first day of class. They believed that the best way to conquer a fear was to face it – head on – right away.
Originally, it was called the Port Arthur-Orange Bridge. I personally believed that the Rainbow Bridge name came from Norse mythology wherein the Rainbow Bridge connects heaven and earth. But no. In 1957 the North Port Arthur Lion’s Club had a naming contest and 6-year-old Christy McClintock submitted the winning entry – Rainbow Bridge.
She said it looked like a mechanical rainbow. And it does indeed. If you are ever there towards sunset and see it illuminated in those pink hues of the evening, it does look like a steel rainbow. Christy got a $50 savings bond as her prize. Doesn’t sound like much today, but in 1957, you could have bought 200 Whataburgers with it.
Why was the bridge built so tall, 177 feet of vertical clearance, in that delta region? There was an important ship channel there and they wanted the tallest ship in the navy at the time, the USS Patoka, the be able to pass easily beneath it.
The Rainbow Bridge was more than an engineering marvel. It was also a magnet for teenagers in the night. The high school kids in the area used to climb up into the catwalks. One of those students was destined for worldwide fame. It is said that she used to sit up there high above the moonlit waters of the Neches River and sing in her passionately raw style. I’m sure you’ve heard of her. Janis Joplin? Her biographer, Myra Friedman, said that she would sing up there under the great Texas sky and “scorch the stars.” But that’s a whole ‘nother story. I’m just giving you the abridged version. The pun is free.
The tallest ship in the Navy never did cruise beneath the Rainbow Bridge. Seems a shame – somewhat like a bride having planned a perfect wedding, and the groom never showed.
Has the freedom caucus outlived its usefulness? Congressman Ted Poe on why he walked away and what that means for conservatives in Texas. Also, out of control: after hundreds of arrests and even deaths during spring break, South Padre demand a shift in the island’s image as the teenage party capitol. And from ranchers to rock stars, how the resurgence of chain stitched western wear could be a Texas sized boon for business. Also a warning to gephyrophobes about the scariest bridge in all of you know where. All that and more today on the Texas Standard: