The Texarkana Moonlight Murders

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The killer was tall, thin, and he wore a white/light gray mask which appeared to be a bag over his face, with holes cut out around his eyes so that he could see. This killer was quickly dubbed “The Phantom”. The Phantom targeted young lovers parked on deserted roads known for making out. There were 5 definite victims, though many say 6, and there were 3 fortunate individuals who lived to tell the tale. All of this occurred within 3 months, in the small, sleepy town of Texarkana back in 1946.

Movie depiction of the killer

It all began on February 22nd; Jimmy Hollis and Mary Jeanne Larrey were parked on the side of the road at night when suddenly, there was a blinding light in their eyes. The person with the light demanded they get out of the car. Jimmy was forced to take his pants off, and once he did, he was beaten within an inch of his life. Mary ran for her life, but the phantom caught up with her. The attacker beat her in the face with his fists as he sexually assaulted her. Luckily, a couple coming home from a late night movie just so happened to be driving by; they stopped, and the killer ran like hell. Both Jimmy and Mary survived – future victims would not be as lucky.

A couple weeks later, Richard Griffin and Polly Ann Moore were parked in lovers lane when they met with The Phantom. They would not live to tell what happened; their remains were found the next day. They had been beaten, shot with a .22, tied up, and Polly had been brutally raped. A few weeks after this, Paul Martin and Betty Jo Booker (she was only 15) would meet the same demise.

Crime scene photo of Paul, photo courtesy of aymag

Finally, In the beginning of May, a married couple named Virgil and Katie Starks became victims. My guess is that, due to all of the murders, teens stopped going to lovers lane and the killer was hard up for victims; the Starks were attacked in their own farmhouse. Virgil was shot twice in the head, then Katie was shot multiple times as well. Miraculously, Katie survived – she ran for her life to a neighbor’s home for help.

Photos from the crime mag

Some attribute other murdered/missing persons to the Phantom, such as the disappearance of Virginia Carpenter, and the murder of Earl McSpadden. Earl was killed, his limbs were cut off, and he was placed on the train tracks to be found. These don’t completely follow The Phantoms Modus operandi, but the time period somewhat matches up.

Though the crimes do remain unsolved, there are a few suspects and theories. A local crook, Youell Swinney, is said to have confessed the murders to his wife. She later recanted this, and Youell never did admit it to anyone else.

Whatever happened to the Phantom, it’s extremely unlikely he suddenly stopped killing as serials very rarely stop on their own. The Phantom was either incarcerated, institutionalized, dead, or moved away to continue killing elsewhere. Some believe the Phantom and the Zodiac killer to be one and the same. This theory is very intriguing, check it out: Both killers left shoe prints at the scene, and not only were they the same size but it’s believed both wore Navy boots. Both used a firearm, killed in border towns, left their victims out in the open to be quickly found. The similarities go on and on. Their physical descriptions and disguises are so close, and in both cases the killer got away, never to be solved.

Texarkana has learned to live with their legacy, and even to embrace it. They play the movie “The Town That Dreaded Sundown” every year in a park very near to the scene of the murders.

*I’m so sorry for my absence. After coming back home from Kentucky to Florida, my brother’s death hit me HARD. It has been difficult to even string a couple of sentences together and make sense, let alone write something in depth – and that’s especially true when if there’s a simple autocorrect mistake on one of my articles some people can’t wait to tear me apart. I just couldn’t handle that on top of my grief. But I’m ready to start writing again, and I’ve also picked up crochet to try and keep busy. Thanks to those of you who have been supportive during this time, which has been probably the worst month of my life. I appreciate y’all more than you know. And to those of you who kicked me when I was down, I believe in karma. Though I would not wish what I’ve been through on my worst enemy, I hope when you’re in your darkest place that you remember the way you treated me. So, I’m going to do my best to get back to writing, and stop talking about my brother here. I hope you’re all doing well 🤍

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