Houston Babylon

Four of the spookiest true tales in our city's history

Anderson found several clues. In the artesian well behind the house they found the murder weapon — a hatchet with a blade on one side of the head and a crushing mallet on the other. All of the Schultzes' guns had been removed from the house, leading police to believe that the murderer had known the victims fairly well.

Neighbors told police that Gus and Alice Schultz had hosted a beery little living-room shindig on Friday, March 10. They danced, and people played guitar and piano. Several guests filtered in and out of the party that night, one of whom — Alexander Horton "Sandy" Sheffield, a "big-boned oiler" — had once been "familiarly friendly" with Alice Schultz. Other guests said that the Schultzes planned to leave town for a short fishing trip on Saturday morning.

Despite a rumor that an "unknown Mexican" had been seen leaving the area and later took a blood-soaked suit to a cleaner, Anderson's prime suspect was Sheffield, the grandson and namesake of Sam Houston's aide-de-camp, Alexander Horton. (Anderson scoffed at the "unknown Mexican" theory. No criminal would be so stupid as to take a bloody suit to a cleaners after wearing it while killing five people nearby, he said.)

In a scene typical of early Houston, a slave woman tries not to laugh as three well-armed and drunken "rowdy loafers" harass and alarm a respectable family from the upper crust. A similar confrontation led to Houston's first publicized public hanging.
Gary Zaboly illustration from Stephen Hardin's Texian Macabre
In a scene typical of early Houston, a slave woman tries not to laugh as three well-armed and drunken "rowdy loafers" harass and alarm a respectable family from the upper crust. A similar confrontation led to Houston's first publicized public hanging.
Dr. Robert H. Watson was a physician and one of early Houston's leading citizens. He liked to do two things in his spare time: drink, and collect human skulls. He also liked to drink from the skulls, and here, according to one of his friends, he drinks from one "that had yet brains in it." He reportedly toasted the following: "This when living was not worth a pin, but now how precious with good liquor in."
Gary Zaboly illustration from Stephen Hardin's Texian Macabre
Dr. Robert H. Watson was a physician and one of early Houston's leading citizens. He liked to do two things in his spare time: drink, and collect human skulls. He also liked to drink from the skulls, and here, according to one of his friends, he drinks from one "that had yet brains in it." He reportedly toasted the following: "This when living was not worth a pin, but now how precious with good liquor in."

And in Anderson's eyes, Sheffield had a clear motive. Though Sheffield was married, Anderson believed he still held a candle for Alice Schultz. As the Chronicle grandiloquently expounded on this theory, the slaughter was believed to have been committed "in a fit of jealous rage by someone who had been friendly with Mrs. Schultz and who, unhappy because she belonged to another, succumbed to a paroxysm of feeling and slaughtered her and all about her."

Sheffield was also seen lurking about the area in the days before the bodies were found, and when asked the whereabouts of the Schultzes on Sunday, told a neighbor that they might have drowned on their fishing trip. He also told police that his arrest was not unexpected. His wife declined to visit him in jail more than once, though she did send him a Bible to console him.

And yet it appears that Sheffield was able to beat the rap. Genealogical records show that his son, Alexander Horton Sheffield Jr., was born in 1916 and that Sandy lived on until 1968. It's doubtful that Sheffield would have escaped the gallows for such a crime, and he certainly would not have been out of prison in six years. (Nor were conjugal visits allowed.)

The house is long gone. By 1937, another house was on the property, and that house became the first headquarters of SemaSys Retail Brand & Promotional Solutions. (The second house is gone now, too, as SemaSys has graduated to an industrial office.)

And for now, that's where we will have to end this tale. As of this writing, the county archives are temporarily unavailable, and finding more news of this early suburban horror on Chronicle microfilm is daunting, to say the least. (Check our blog in the weeks to follow for updates on this coldest and most chilling of cold cases.)

There's a Strange One in the Jungle

On September 15, 1959, an ex-con and drifter named Paul Harold Orgeron, outraged that Edgar Allan Poe Elementary School had refused to admit his second-grade son, Dusty, the day before, returned to the Museum District-area school and detonated a briefcase containing six sticks of dynamite. Both Orgerons were killed in the blast, as were a teacher, a janitor and two students. A further 19 people, most of them children, were injured: Many were burned, and two kids lost a leg each.

Survivors got little counseling, and Austin writer Sherrie Tatum says her high school boyfriend Larry, a Poe fifth grader at the time of the bombing, bore emotional scars all his life. During one late-night, hours-long phone call, Larry talked about the bombing, and Tatum says he felt betrayed by society. "He still had that sense of outrage. This affected him so deeply. That was back when we were doing duck-and-cover drills. We expected nuclear annihilation at any moment."

Nevertheless, Larry was doing pretty well by the time high school rolled around. Slim, dark, intense and handsome, he was something like a junior rock star, Tatum says. They first met in 1965 at a Tuesday after-school folk-singing club at Bellaire High School, which Tatum attended. Larry was then a student at Lamar and came by with a friend.

"We would usually sing Kingston Trio songs in unison, and here comes Larry and he looked all bad-boy. He just walked in there, sat on Miss Donovan's desk, played his guitar and sang solo. So that was quite electrifying. We were like, 'Who is this guy? He doesn't even go to our school. Who does he think he is?' And then he asked for a cigarette! On school property!"

Tatum obliged. And then she ran into Larry again a little later, this time at an anti-Vietnam rally. Larry's parents were Communists; in fact, his mother, Mona, was believed by the feds to be the top-ranking Red in the Houston area. The Ku Klux Klan once burned a cross on the lawn of their home on West Main Street, and later peppered the house with gunshots.

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8 comments
carlalex75
carlalex75

Houston was the murder capital in the early 80s. Clocking about 3 times the murders than now days. I think it was 82 or 84 that it had the record number of homicides in the country. Would like to find an article on that. And Jeffery Statton wasn't List murderer, he was in the other end of the house when it happened

innerlooper
innerlooper

Never knew that much about the horror on Toddville Road until this juicy cover story.  Interesting that List's killer, Statton, befriended Elmer Wayne Henley in prison.  The two have an awful lot in common.

Geezy
Geezy

Damn Houston You Scary!!!!

artichokev
artichokev

perfect seasonal article

I came to Houston from NYC in 1988 & was greeted with a news item about a mummy wrapped body found in a a Montrose attic

this poor soul had been the entertainment at a debauched party and was covered in duct tape, save for a few strategic holes

unfortunately the host had a seizure & in the ensuing excitement the bound lad was forgotten by the party-goers

the host was taken to a hospital for a protracted admission as he was found to have a brain tumor

only months later when neighbors noted a foul odor, was the decomposed youth discovered

I learned that NYC had nothing on my new town when it came to edge & that if ever mummified, always have a designated buddy (or two) to bail you out of unforeseen circumstances

DuckDuckGoose
DuckDuckGoose

"Houston and New Orleans stand alone as the creepiest cities on the Gulf Coast."   Galveston might have something to say about that.

 

Great series of stories. Continue, please sir.

roadsscholar
roadsscholar

@innerlooper 

Read the story again, innerlooper.  Jeffrey Statton didn't kill List.  Elbert "Smiley" Homan did.

jnovalomax
jnovalomax

 @DuckDuckGoose Pre-Fertitta Galveston was creepy. Now it's like freakin' Orlando. Well, that's an exaggeration, but it's a lot less scary than it was.

 
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