In 1885, Austin, Texas was terrorized by a serial killer known as the Servant Girl Annihilator. The murderer was never actually found, but he claimed eight victims, mostly black servant girls, all attacked in the dark of night. The very, very dark night of Austin in 1885. After … Continue reading →
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
This is ninety nine percent, invisible, I'm roman Mars, We begin with an unsolved murder mystery, actually a series of unsolved murders, perhaps the work of the United States burst serial killer before Jack the Ripper terrorized London, before h, H, homes, stock, the Chicago Worlds, Fair, Austin, Texas, was Haunted by the servant girl, an producer. Every twelve men would like to reiterate that these murders are unsolved. So its past all that these were individual murders rather than the work of one man. The hard fast fact is this: in eighteen, eighty five eight mostly black servants, were brutally murdered in the dark of night. It was very dark in Austin in eighteen, eighty five there was essentially, no streamlining the darkness of just life after sundown,
in the nineteenth century is something that modern people are just completely unfamiliar with. This is Bruce Hunt associate professor of the history of physics and technology at the University of Texas Austin. Basically, there was no outdoor lighting. There was moonlight when the moon was out that was about it in one thousand eight hundred and ninety four, the city of Austin, decided to buy more moonlight in the form of powers, they're called moonlight towers because it was supposed to approximate a full moon. Austin adopted moonlight towers, which really work powers. There are fifteen stories high therein does looking made of metal scaffolding and each was crowned with a circle of six lights. Soaring way way. High above the city Austin wasn't the first to implement tower lighting in the eighteen. Hundreds alot of major cities had them all play towers, illuminated streets in New York, Baltimore allay San Jose in Detroit Detroit had a very huge system of much larger than Austin ever
and that's actually were often got their moonlight towers in eighteen. Ninety four, the city purchased thirty one of them from the city, Detroit and, despite their romantic name, be absurdly tall. Moonlight towers were actually a very practical design. Do not meet the look cool there very functional and their height was me to accommodate the lighting. They used their art lights. They were Arclight carbon ARC, light, the precursor to the incandescent bulb art lights are basically a continued spark between two carbon electrodes, their extremely bright, lot of glare, throw this sort of thing using searchlight, and if you could, our colleagues at street level. That's blinding, while the solution that was to put it up high enough, they spread the light up but even on their high tower, the Ark lights were EL, so bright I mean they'd be, by today's standards. But then imagine what that would look like to you. If you were an obstinate in the eighteen nineties, accustomed to pitch black streets and gas lamps, a ghastly has the power of about fifteen candles in arc light
the power of a couple thousand. It was a very intense light. Almost two months like people would go out and enjoy the light, but they would bring umbrellas in order to shield themselves from the glare. This is earnest. Freeburg, headed History department at the University of Tennessee Knoxville he's also author of the book, the age of Edison electric light. The invention of Modern America in the glare was just one of the problems with our clients. There were a few other downsides. One was that it sounded like a swarm of angry bees would buzz and they would these. As these carbons burned, they would drop. Shreds of ash burning Ashdown on people down below and drawback, even their blinding glare nefarious hum and deposits of molten ash carbon ARC Light we're still so exciting. They create
a whole new world for people accustomed to dim and dark cities, because bright electric light can highlight certain things that you might not even notice in the full light of day. So a lot of great discussion about seeing the grass in a totally different way. People learn to look at their hands under the arc light in the arc, and they were seeing the details of their hands and in new ways So I really am changing perception that was a thrilling and also the observed, a thrilling feeling of being out at night and feeling safe, because visibility, equal safety Cities thought that these new fangled street lights are gonna cut back on the need for police or eat eliminate line Foresman entirely. If you could set up an arc light in the middle of a town square, you sort of would be returning the square to the public and take it away from criminals and near dwells were hanging around in the shadows. By driving out the shadows. People called the ARC light policeman, o Nepal and they alone a whole new kind of nine life. Many people
excited to go out and attend to fancy fall under the arc light. They got there. They realise that this is a harsh blue light, highlighted every one of their imperfections: every grey hairs, wrinkle many people found that they would never again go near trick light. Manatee aside, every one was kind of nervous about the general idea of late at night, twas unnatural, they decreed the towers, could cause sleeplessness cast eerie shadows crops would overproduce, hens would overlay. There were stories at the hour, lights, learn restless alligators to the shore and attracted biblical proportions of crickets according to Austin statesmen in nineteen. Twenty one, Egypt as such. Taxes when it comes to scourges. After the recent blood came, the crickets tempted by the beams, like to settle in illuminated facilities. Bruce hunt suspects of these reports were overblown I think, though, that was Kennedy newspaperman joking around,
journalism with so much fun back then biggest problem with the towers was, at their height, made them a drag to maintain the arcs burn down the carbon electrodes very rapidly. So you had to go up and change them about once a day I cannot emphasise enough how super tall These things are as dollars. Thirteen story building and if you look at one of Athens Moonlight towers, there's a rickety little police type thing in the centre of it. It's like I dumbwaiter apparatus, especially the guy, would stand on pulled himself up to go up and change their carbon electrodes every day. That's a nuisance, an expense, and so as soon as they could real by the nineteen twenties, the city replaced the art lights. The carbon arcs with big incandescent bulbs, which were not as bright, but we're a lot easier. But well. Austin was but an around with different bulbs, most
Other cities had already removed their terror lights completely. Every place also banned in them by about the nineteen twenty but asked and kept them also had fallen on hard times and the city couldn't afford to tear down the towers, and so they just stayed. And to this day seventeen of the original thirty one survive. The last my towers, although without the Ark lights, the moonlight towers have a kind of weak and distant glow. Their easy to ignore that you might know them from a little movie called dazed and confused eased and confused is set in Austin in nineteen. Seventy six in the movie a bunch of kids party and drive around until they all gather at the end. By my tower, new fierce and making. As we speak, the Moon Moon in the movie days and get confused with Richard Linklater Matthew, Matthew is poor, The moon tat are but the their moonlight hours
the life people don't actually go there to party. Most of them are distant sort of like parking lot, sir, something I went to a moonlight tower on the side of a busy rode on the corner of night and Guadeloupe back, it's not Guadeloupe, its Guadeloupe. Clearly I needed a locals help. My name's wily Wiggans, I'm thirty. Eight years old I was born and raised in Austin Texas and in the early ninetys I was in movie by Richard Link, later called dazed and confused. He play a freshman Mitch Kramer, who wonders about the moon towers, was called out anyway. I guess they decide about here whenever they are building the power plant. Actually, Good idea, I mean you get a full moon. I ever did every now and then they all time up the moon tower. These places to be off limits. Man some John freshman, fell off. You were right, down the middle slackened, his head on every be man. I hear it doesn't hurt after the first couple.
In real life. These moonlight towers would be really hard decline, which is why, for this scene, Richard Lincoln made of fake moonlight tower. The one in the movie had a ladder, not the pulley thing, and it was nowhere near as tall as a real moonlight tower, and I'm terrified of high Wily would have never tried this done. No one he knew actually did when I was. Kid. There is always somebody who knew somebody who knew somebody who had climbed that its unclear how many times this was ever attempted, but in any case stories abound It was a point when asked and considered finally taken these old lights down, just like all the other cities had done in the fifties and Sixtys B, It was well, these are out of date and we polos down. In fact, I got a bit. I found online. That was a sort of little store vignettes of Aston those made by one level tv stations in the night and Sixtys tonight, Progress report Austin resents the legend of Boston,
And is it here's the moonlight hours and new digital maps of these? light towers will disappear in a few years. Twenty nine of these towers left each a hundred and fifty feet high with mercury, labour, lamps of nine thousand camel power now they're out of date now and no doubt will soon disappear. Modern times and new improvements and lighting have made these efficient for providing light to our city at night, and it's a shame for anyone who has worked under their law body me watching the shadows around him knows the beauty. They have provided and there's a sort of tone. That's well little remnant of our past that we will lose soon. Workpeople too said: why should we do so the towers were inducted into the national registry of historic places in nineteen, seventy six the towers even have plaques and asteroids power provider. Austin energy.
Funnels a lot of resources and to maintaining the towers. Take it from Austin Energy spokesmen. Carlos Cordova right now is really interesting about the moonlight. Tars is gonna, be through a renovation and there's renovation? Is a total drag because these towers and the national registry of historic places they have to be restored to their original form? So we can't go to home depot or loaves, and by bolts and nuts, the contractor Hester CAS bolts and parts that look exactly identical to the original. So you can keep its historic designate. As well as by these moonlight hours. Man I get older, they stay the same. I'm an expensive project? Yes, it's very specialised word but, of course affects the price, but notice there wasn't any approach for the citizens, about spending this burning in the moonlight hours us tonight. Are willing to put up the funds. The towers are this point. Civic pride
Every year during the holidays, us in energy strings Christmas lights from the Moonlight Tower and Zocor Park and asked That's lovingly referred that tower. As these Zocor Park Tree Austin, also the moon, Tower, comedy festival and there's a local band called moonlight towers and at a restaurant I ordered a drink called a moonlight tower. Towers, have become part of the character and folk lore of Austin. I mean there's all sorts of legends and stuff about them like when I was a kid of course, there is always a legend somebody had climbed upon acid and fallen off and died, which is evidently not true, but then, of course, The other legend is that they were built because there was a serial killer. Like in the world? Eighteen, hundreds and that one, I think, is supposed to be true right. Have we have we verified this servant, girl and annihilate. Her story is not a myth and all absolutely true has nothing to do with the moonlight errors. At least not direct.
That was all over with well before they talk about the moonlight towers came up and I've never seen anything about a need for them being associated with servant. Girl, annihilated. Still the servant girl and I later became the Genesis story that oscillates tell about these lights and the story of the servant, girl, annihilated does truly illustrate the limitations of nineteenth century nighttime. These carbon ARC street lamps were chasing away, darkness and fear get something which so easily take for granted. How liberating MRS, how much the darkness was a permanent form of limitation on free will human activity for us. A great benefits, of course, that we sometimes miss, because we have too much like now I towers were strange. Offshoot sort of neanderthal and in the evolution of the street late,
Austin were keep Austin. Weird is an unofficial slogan of the city, printed on bumper stickers and scrawled on bathroom walls. You can't help it like the moon towers, are doing their part Every other city has torn their towers down, awesome holds onto theirs and preserves them, a reminder of the time when the Texas Capital was just an odd ball, but old town that bought the mood to those who haven't looked closely looked closely soon. A day of the artificial moonlight is ending, the site will one day disappear from our city, the last patient with the moonlight low from such tough
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Transcript generated on 2020-02-15.