Houston Is Haunting

Is there something particularly harrowing about having a successful professional basketball franchise during the 21st century? Rent.com may think so. In their recent list of the "Top 10 Haunted Cities", the only Texas city they deemed ghoulish enough to make the cutting board was San Antonio. What gives? There is a sprawling graveyard of reasons why Houston deserves this damned distinction. Here are the five most mercilessly macabre:

5. Galveston Hurricane of 1900 Hell hath no fury like a woman with the meteorological power to unleash 135 mph winds and eliminate 20 percent of the population of your metropolitan neighbor. The deadliest natural disaster in U.S. History produced more than 8,000 fatalities and provoked the entire island--which is so inextricably linked to Houston's identity--to be mechanically elevated 17 feet. Looking over the towering seawall and seeing how subsequent hurricanes have pummeled the city, it's a eerie reminder of the thousands that were buried at sea and, upon washing ashore, burned on funeral pyres.

4. San Jacinto Battlefield Sure, there's good reason why the slogan "Remember the Alamo!" has been heralded by so many in our historical consciousness. But perhaps Americans should commit another slogan to their collective, amnesiatic memory: "Remember the 700 Mexican soldiers killed during the span of 18 minutes in what is present-day Houston's largest county!"

3. Texas City Fire and ammonium nitrate are kind of like the cast of Jersey Shore and a library--results are best when they are mutually exclusive. Unfortunately, this was not the case 63 years ago in this small city in the southeast region of the Greater Houston area. Of the 581 total deceased, 113 were classified "missing" because no identifiable body parts were discovered. This "worst industrial disaster on U.S. soil" discharged approximately 2,300 tons of this chemical compound and, in its aftermath, even more grief was released into the ether of this eponymous Texas city.

2. Jeff Davis Hospital and Crematorium 5,000 some-odd Yellow Fever victims underground since 1867; one stretch of land fostering more than just emerging artists today. Jeff Davis Hospital stood as an active hub of medical care from 1924 to 1981 on what is known today as the aesthetics-appreciating Elder Street near Buffalo Bayou. However, before the hospital was erected, the land was home to "City Cemetery," a graveyard established in 1840 that occupied thousands of Confederate, Union and common-folk remains. Digging further into history and soil, approximately 60 "black earth graves" from Plague victims of the 1600s were discovered (by U of H archaeologists in 1986) on this same Poltergeist-esque property. Over the years, the adjacent fire station has encountered more than fires, friendly or otherwise; while pedestrians of the paranormal preoccupation have continued to brave the preternatural possibilities.

1. Brio Toxic Neighborhood It's been nearly two decades since The Toxic Avenger revitalized the horror movie genre and seeped into the cabinet of American cult classics in 1984. Around the same time, the unsuspecting residents of the South Bend subdivision were avenging their very own fight against rampant toxicity. As history goes, a neighborhood was partially built on the site of two toxic waste dumps courtesy of Brio Refinery, Inc. and Dixie Oil. The result? Three children died, scores of severe birth defects were recorded (11 in one four-month period), and a mutiny of others have battled medical problems. Since then, the neighborhood has become a figurative and literal wasteland of viable vacancy and the subject of a $207 million out-of-court settlement. Though new developments now exist in very close proximity to the chemical clusterfuck, the generations who have been and continue to be affected by this real-life Erin Brockovich-meets-Mutant will not soon forget its lethal legacy.

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