People are oddly fascinated with horrible happenings. We get it. Some want to see the evidence and make contact with people who perpetrated the crimes. But it's still stunning to see the gun Charles Whitman used at the University of Texas Tower shootings up for auction. That is, until we saw all of the other strange, ghoulish bits of Texas murderabilia that have been sold over time.
A number of items connected in one way or another to brutal and gruesome doings in the Lone Star State have made their way from sellers to buyers. Odd (and a trifle sickening) but true. We've put together a list of five of the more disturbing Texas murderabilia items that have ended up on the market:
5. Charles Whitman's gun. On August 1, 1966, Charles Whitman climbed the administration building University of Texas tower in Austin and started shooting. He'd already killed his wife and mother (at home, before). Whitman went on to murder 13 people and an unborn child and wounded 32 others with a Remington 700 rifle before he was shot by police.
It was a brutal act back in the day when mass shootings by lone (presumably crazy) gunmen were not par for the course (such things still aren't par for the course, so much as they just keep happening). You wouldn't think people would want anything to do with such an awful act, but that's where you're wrong. Right now, the supposed rifle Whitman used to do all that killing can be yours for a starting price tag of $25,000.
The current owner -- perhaps wisely -- has chosen to remain anonymous but has reassured those who want to know that it's definitely the gun Whitman used, obtained from his estate and everything. So it's up for sale on this website, and soon some other most likely anonymous person will get to own the thing. Why anyone would want to -- there have been mutterings about historic value and such -- is beyond us, but we haven't a smidge of doubt that the gun will find a buyer.
4. Dirt from the grave of James Byrd. Three white men killed James Byrd Jr., 49, in 1998 in Jasper, Texas. They beat him and then used logging chain to tether his ankles to the back of a pickup truck before dragging him for three miles. It was about as ugly a death as anyone can imagine -- Byrd's head was ripped off by a culvert as the three men who killed him drove down the road -- and back in 2010 interested parties had the chance to purchase dirt from that very culvert via a California-based website, according to the Dallas Morning News. They could also purchase a small bag of dirt gathered from Byrd's grave, complete with photos of Byrd's gravesite and the road where the hate crime occurred.
3. A letter from Fort Hood shooter Nidal Hasan. After Hasan shot and killed 13 people at Fort Hood, he sat down and wrote a letter to a criminology student. The letter was sold in 2013 for $2,000, according to the Military Times.
Sen. John Cornyn has been trying for years to get a federal law passed against the sale of murderabilia. Cornyn revived his efforts after learning of the sale of Hasan's letter.
2. The gun Jack Ruby used to kill Lee Harvey Oswald. The rifle that Lee Harvey Oswald used to assassinate JFK has been a government possession since 1966, kept under lock and key at the National Archives and Records Building in College Park, Maryland. Oswald's widow, Marina, tried to sell her rights to the weapon to John King, a Denver oilman and gun collector, but the government stepped in and did a whole bunch of legal wrangling that landed the gun safely in government hands, and away from the prying eyes and paws of the public.
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Ruby's brother, Earl Ruby, ran into no such trouble when he auctioned off the gun Ruby used on Oswald. Well, relatively speaking. Ruby's relatives and lawyers fought over who owned the gun, but the government types never stepped in on this one. The gun, a .38 Colt Cobra, was auctioned off for $220,000 to Anthony Pugliese III, a Florida real estate guy.
Pugliese in turn almost lost the gun after it was sent for an appearance on the Larry King Show and then confiscated in Washington D.C., because people aren't supposed to carry guns around Capitol Hill (go figure). Pugliese eventually got the infamous gun back and began selling bullets fired from it for $1,000 each, according to the Las Vegas Sun. Pugliese tried to sell the gun at auction in Vegas, but when it didn't fetch a high enough bid, he decided to hang onto it instead. Because of history and all.
1. Elmer Wayne Henley's art. Elmer Wayne Henley helped Dean Corll, aka the Candy Man, rape, torture and murder boys in the Houston area, before killing Corll in 1973. Then Henley went to prison, where it seems he found his artistic side. Back in 1997, he even had an art show over in Montrose, which elicited some outraged protesting from the families of his victims.
Since then, Henley's work has been making the rounds on auction websites. It's mostly black and white, because he has problems seeing color, and it's mostly peaceful stuff. In fact, there's a "peaceful" looking clown up for grabs right now through October 1.