This evening I had the best cab driver ever, leaving the SXSW Interactive festival. Driving through the streets of Austin, he asked if we had ever heard the story behind the many moonlight towers that light up the city. What follows is HIS account of how the moonlight towers came into being, with links I found that have a more detailed account of the story and the history associated with them.
Austin was home to the first recorded serial killer. In 1884 a series of murders prompted the city to install these towers to better light the city and improve public safety. Most of the towers still exist today (map).
The killer would be on the loose for the better part of 1884 and was linked to the murder of several women who were servants throughout the city of Austin.
Though the perpetrator was never caught, many suspect that his rampage continued across the Atlantic. In 1888 a killer also brought panic to the city of London. We know him as Jack the Ripper. It turns out that there was a very interesting connection between those London murders and Austin murders in terms of the victims and the methods used. But the connection goes deeper. One of the suspects in the London murders was a cook who went by the name Maurice. As it turns out, he had previously been employed at The Pearl House – in Austin. He left the city in January of 1886, the murders ending just 3 weeks prior to his departure.
There’s a great (but long) piece about the Austin murders written by Katherine Ramsland that you can read by clicking here. It goes into much more detail than I’ve put down or that our cab driver shared with us. Big props to Austin for staying weird and having cab drivers well versed in local history.