Austin, TX

5 Texas Serial Killers You Should Know About

Surviving in Austin, Texas

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Are you a true crime aficionado? Are you fascinated by sadistic serial killers? Do you want to know about the darker side of Texas history? Listed below are five of the goriest, most chilling real-life murders in the Lone Star State and beyond.

1. “The Candyman”

In the early 1970s, a mass murderer killed as many as 28 teenage boys in Houston, Texas. Upon capture, the monstrous killer was chillingly nick-named “the Candy Man” because he had previously owned a candy shop. He was Dean Corll, an electrician whose teenage accomplices helped him lure boys to his apartment, where he tortured and killed them.

Then, in a shocking twist of events, one of his young accomplices killed him, claiming self-defense. He confessed to police, leading them to the mass burial sites of the many victims. True Crime All the Time podcast examines the killer - How did he become so evil? How did he convince boys to help him kill? - in its “Dean Corll ‘The Candyman’” episode.

2. The“Phantom Killer”

In the Spring of 1946 in Texarkana, Texas, the nocturnal “Phantom Killer” viciously attacked several young couples parked on popular lovers’ lanes in the small town. His last attack, however, took place at the rural home of a farmer and his wife, killing the former.

The killings terrorized the local community, many of them stockpiling weapons and barricading themselves indoors after sundown. The grisly murder mystery made national, and even international, news headlines and has since sparked two Hollywood films: 1976’s The Town that Dreaded Sundown and 2014’s sequel by the same name. And while the killer is now widely assumed to be local petty criminal Youell Swinney, he was never tried for the case.

3. “Houston’s Killing Fields” Killer

Since the 1970s, 30 bodies of murdered victims, mostly girls or young women, have been found within the so-called “Killing Fields,” a patch of land south of Houston and bordering I-45. In the summer of 1984, alone, the mutilated, raped bodies of four young women and girls were found there, each displayed in the exact same manner. Investigators believe the murders to be related, the handiwork of an “organized” serial killer, someone of high intelligence who easily camouflages himself in public and is ritualistic in his carefully covered-up murders. But without a shred of physical evidence, and no witnesses, the cases remain tragically unsolved. The haunting crime even inspired Hollywood, with 2011’s Texas Killing Fields, starring Jessica Chastain and Chloe Grace Moretz.

4. “Austin’s Yogurt Shop Murderer”

Then-mayor of Austin called the 1991 yogurt shop murders “the crime where Austin lost its innocence.” The murders were senselessly horrific, with four teenage girls found naked, bound and gagged, raped, and stacked in piles in a frozen yogurt shop inside a strip mall off of West Anderson Lane. The four girls had met up at the yogurt shop, where two of them worked, and were brutally killed sometime after the shop’s 11 P.M. closing time.

Though investigators initially had plenty of suspects and ledes, the killer has yet to be found. Local award-winning author Beverly Lowry has even written an extensive account of the investigations into the crimes, aptly titling her work Who Killed These Girls?

5. “Austin Axe Murderer”

Long ago, in 1884-85, eight gruesome axe murders terrorized the still small Western town of Austin, Texas. The unknown murderer killed seven women and one man that dark year, always with an axe, and always displaying the corpses in the same manner, as if they were hanging on a Crucifix. Members of the local voodoo community believed that the culprit “had magic powers that enabled him to become invisible, as no dogs outside or in fenced-yards adjacent to locations where murders occurred were heard to bark or raise any alarm.”

Even more chillingly, some experts conjecture that the Austin Axe Murderer, having fled Austin, and the country, after his rampage, relocated to London and became the infamous Jack the Ripper. An Austin-based reporter investigates the mysteries surrounding the deranged axe-wielding murderer in his best-selling historical narrative “The Midnight Assassin.”

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