American Airlines has canceled more than 1,200 flights this weekend—27 of them in Austin—citing concerns over stormy weather and staffing shortages as the reason for the Halloween shutdown.
The cancellations for Saturday and Sunday made up 12% of national flights and 32% of local flights—not including the 18% of local American Airlines flights that were also delayed. The flight changes come off the heels of Southwest Airlines canceling around 2,000 national flights a few weeks prior.
While demand is steadily increasing in the airline industry, staff cuts from the early days of COVID-19 have put a damper on the rebound. As of 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, almost a third of scheduled American Airlines flights had been called off.
"We have adjusted our operation for the last few days this month by proactively canceling some flights," American Airlines Chief Operating Officer David Seymour said in a statement. "We are taking this measure to minimize any inconvenience as much as possible. Most of the customers impacted by these changes are being rebooked the same day, and we apologize for having to make these changes."
Most of the affected flights were coming from Dallas/Fort Worth, where Seymour said they canceled flights "proactively" due to stormy weather, and Charlotte, North Carolina. Austin's canceled flights make up about 5% of the total.
This is not a new problem for the airline industry: American Airlines had to cancel around 1,000 flights in July and Southwest Airlines has done the same, reportedly due to weather and air traffic control issues. As of Sunday, five Southwest flights have been canceled and 17 delayed.
As for the staffing issues, American Airlines officials said that 1,800 flight attendants are returning from pandemic leave by Dec. 1 and the company has plans to hire pilots, airplane maintenance technicians and 600 new attendants before the end of the year.
To keep up with the canceled flights, click here.
Enjoying Austonia? Signup for our newsletter to get daily Austin news, straight to your morning inbox!
- New direct flight to Puerto Rico launching this fall - austonia ›
- Austin airport offers nonstop flights to Mexico City and Monterrey ... ›
- Spirit turbulence reaches Austin-Bergstrom Airport as airline ... ›
- American Airlines announces 14 new flights from Austin - austonia ›
- Travis Scott, Drake sued after deadly Astroworld Fest - austonia ›
- 2,500+ flights canceled as Austin, nation grapples with omicron - austonia ›
- Warm weather to be hit with freezing weather in late February 2022 - austonia ›
- Austin could see its warmest May in more than 100 years - austonia ›
- Austin airport adds new direct flight to Colorado mountain ski destination - austonia ›
On Christmas Eve of 1884, the city of Austin was given a less-than-jolly surprise as two married white women, Susan Hancock and Eula Phillips, met their grisly ends to a mysterious murderer.
The slayings were the latest—and last—in a series of murders that plagued the town from 1884 to 1885, a spree that was believed to be the work of a serial killer later dubbed the Servant Girl Annihilator. Sound similar to Jack the Ripper? Surprisingly, some Ripper sleuths believe that Jack's first victims may have been in Austin just three years prior to his famous London killings.
The murders ripped a young Austin apart, causing the city's raucous nightlife to come to a halt and servant women everywhere to keep their eyes peeled and doors locked. But perhaps most chilling is that the city's most prolific killer was never caught.
Though it's never seen Ripper infamy, the Servant Girl Annihilator has been subject to many books, podcast episodes and articles in the past—and some even falsely claim that Austin's famous moontowers were built as a result of the midnight murders.
It's a journey to capture the hullabaloo of a murder-stricken 1880s Austin, but we'll try to give you the gist here and let you decide whether or not you'd like to get to be the case's next Sherlock Holmes.
Pecan Street in the 1800s before it was renamed Congress Avenue. ("The Midnight Assassin" by Skip Hollandsworth/Austin History Center)
With around 23,000 residents, mid-1800s Austin was a once-tiny outlaw town that had seen enormous growth in a few short years.
With the fledgling University of Texas giving the town the nickname the "Athens of the South" and the Texas Capitol just a year or two from being constructed, the town was bridging the gap between the Wild West and post-Industrial modernity.
Jan. 1, 1885, began a year of unprecedented violence for the small city as four Black servant women, an 11-year-old Black girl, one Black man and two white women were murdered by axe or knife in just under a year. Several others were injured.
Before it was even officially named, Austin was faced with one of America's first well-documented serial killings. A visiting writer dubbed the killer the "Servant Girl Annihilator."
The city's ragtag police force, led by a saloon-loving City Marshal named Grooms Lee, fell under intense scrutiny as they scrambled to stomp the unprecedented crimes. Detectives from Houston and the famous Pinkerton crew were hired to solve the mystery, and Lee hired a new chief and expanded the police force by December of 1885.
News of the crimes was broadcast in grisly language on front pages of the then Austin Daily Statesman and even the New York Times. As quickly as it had started, the "Athens of the South" was on the verge of collapse.
Doors were locked, visitors were apprehended immediately after they entered the city, and even the city's raucous 24-hour saloons began closing at midnight. Neighbor turned against neighbor, and the city's ne'er-do-wellers became some of the case's biggest suspects.
According to the Statesman's May 30, 1886 edition, "all these murders occurred about midnight, in a majority of instances on moonlight nights, and the same mysterious and utterly impenetrable silence, unbroken by sound or cry, reigned while the assassin was at his terrible work."
Some older residents began to believe that the silent marauder had supernatural powers that kept him from alerting nearby dogs. Other residents speculated that a gang of the city's most evil were behind the gruesome crimes. But with all of the crimes' similarities, most were convinced that a singular sinister force was behind the terror of 1885.
Over 400 men were arrested in the case, at least one lynching was narrowly evaded and two husbands of the suspects were tried in court. One was convicted, though the case was overturned within six months.
But unbeknownst to 1885's Austinites, the killer would never strike again. Had the "Servant Girl Annihilator" been arrested, killed, or skipped town?
About the victims—when and where the crimes occurred
Suspects—Ripper theories and the case of the missing toe
Austin police were given a hard task as they looked for the mystery killer—especially as eyewitnesses gave them seemingly opposite information. The mystery killer was described as a man who was light, dark or "yellow"; had been seen wearing bizarre outfits including a women's dress; and was sometimes identified as different local delinquents, though they were never found guilty.
The lovers of murder victims, including Richard Spencer, Moses Hancock and James Phillips, were prime suspects, though both Spencer and Phillips had been hacked with an axe themselves.
Spencer was acquitted after a few days of the death of his girlfriend Gracie Vance, and a suspect, Vance's former lover William Brooks, was also proven innocent after a brief interrogation.
Moses Hancock was unharmed in the killing of his wife Susan and made it difficult for pro bono lawyer John Hancock to prove him innocent. Susan was afraid of any drunk man and had even written a letter telling Moses she would leave him, though she never did. The letter was used to prove Moses' abusive drunkenness, which had escalated in the wake of Susan's death, though his 16-year-old daughter Lena always backed up her father. After intense family conflict during the trial, Moses was acquitted with a hung jury in 1887.
A drunken, jealous James Phillips was next on the chopping block for the murder of his 17-year-old wife Eula. James had good reason to be suspicious of his young wife—Eula had already likely had an abortion after becoming pregnant with another man's baby and had visited an "assignation house," or rent-by-the-hour romance hotel owned by local prostitute May Tobin, on the night of her murder.
Phillips barely survived the axeman's encounter, but he was still strongly suspected of murdering his adulterous wife and was convicted of the murder. Phillips served six months before his conviction was overturned by the Texas Court of Appeals.
Soon the trail went cold, and few new theories were provided for decades. But some modern-day theorists, including former UT professor and extensive researcher J.R. Galloway, have provided new insights into the centuries-old murders.
The Ripper connection
In the years after the bloody year, tales of Austin's serial killer flew mostly under the radar as tales of Jack the Ripper came in London three years later. But some have given evidence that the two crimes could be connected.
A Malay cook—"perhaps named Maurice"—was reported by a Statesman reporter in 1888 at The Pearl House at the time of the Austin crime spree of 1885, and conveniently left in January of 1886, just after the Annihilator's final murders. The Pearl House was located just next to the neighborhood of almost all of the crimes.
Perhaps coincidentally, a Malay cook was named as one of the suspects in the London crimes just a few years later.
Author Shirley Harrison posed a different Ripper story. A Liverpool man named James Maybrick, who Harrison says signed as "Jack the Ripper" and confessed to killing prostitutes in his journal, was apparently in Austin at the time of the killings. In Harrison's book, "Jack the Ripper: The American Connection," she presents Maybrick's apparent diaries and finds his motive—Maybrick had apparently seen his wife having an affair in the streets of London and periodically returned to the area to conduct murders. Maybrick's marriage woes wouldn't improve—he died from poisoning (likely from his wife) after both crime sprees had ended in 1889.
The case of the missing toes
The midnight Austin assassin had a damning detail unknown to the public—he often went barefoot, and bloody footprints were often found at the scene of the crime. Interestingly, he appeared to be missing a toe on his right foot, and perhaps more interestingly, two possible culprits were found that fit that profile.
The first suspect was Alex Mack, a local troublemaker who happened to be missing the same toe. Mack was attacked by detectives and officers, who tied a noose around his neck outside of a bar one day. A local patron intervened last minute and stopped the potential lynching, but Mack was then beaten for nine days during police questioning. He was never tried or convicted for the crime.
But just after the final murders of Christmas Eve occurred, a new possible culprit emerged—a young man named Nathan Elgin. Elgin made the papers in February 1885 after drunkenly dragging a woman from a bar to his brother's house nearby, where he subsequently beat and berated her.
A local policeman, saloon keeper and neighbor put a stop to the attack, but Elgin resisted arrest and brandished a knife before he was shot. Elgin died the following day, and the Servant Girl Murders never occurred again.
Galloway paints a damning picture in his criminology of Elgin. A later plaster of his foot matched that of the missing-toed killer, and several other bits of evidence, including Elgin's criminal past, his history of living with servant women and his knowledge of the neighborhoods in the murder, all contribute to a possible culprit for the infamous murders.
Not satisfied? You can read all about the crimes on Galloway's website, go on a Murder Walk tour downtown that takes you through the murder locations, or check out other accounts, including a PBS investigation, a My Favorite Murder podcast episode and Harrison's book.
All news clippings and other information on the crime was provided by the Austin History Center.
- The origins of Austin's boomtown status in 19th century - austonia ›
- "Forget the Alamo" highlights slavery in Texas History - austonia ›
- Austinites retell the history of South Congress Avenue - austonia ›
- Where to find Austin's moon towers, and why we love them - austonia ›
- Three injured, one suspect in custody after axe attack in downtown Austin - austonia ›
- Four injured in Austin Sixth Street shooting during SXSW - austonia ›
- Four injured in Austin Sixth Street shooting during SXSW - austonia ›
- Three injured, one suspect in custody after axe attack in downtown Austin - austonia ›
- The Servant Girl Annihilator – Nathan Elgin – A Criminology | The ... ›
- Texas prosecutor: More than 60 deaths now linked to serial killer ... ›
- Learn about Austin's first (and most notorious) serial killer on this ... ›
- How the 'Servant Girl Annihilator' Terrorized 1880s Austin | Mental ... ›
- Austin's 'Servant Girl Annihilator' serial killer continues to baffle ... ›
- FBI: Inmate is most prolific serial killer in US history - News - Austin ... ›
- Murders in the Night: Austin's Serial Killer ›
As Halloween makes us second guess if that cold spot was a ghost or simply the cool front, keep your guard up because there are supposed haunted grounds in the city.
Austin is largely free of widespread hauntings but that doesn't mean it doesn't have its fair share of phantoms if you know where to look. Here are some of Austin's most haunted burial grounds.
Originally called the city cemetery, Oakwood Cemetery is Austin's oldest burial ground and has been standing since the 1850s. Though record-keeping isn't as robust from its early days, with over 40 acres of land and more than 25,000 people buried, Oakwood Cemetery is said to be the permanent home to some well-known Texans: U.S. Marshall and Texas Ranger John Barclay Armstrong who passed in 1913, Alamo survivor Susanna Dickinson who passed on in 1883, radio personality John Henry Faulk who was buried in 1990.
Oakwood Cemetery is also known for its fair share of hauntings—note that not all who lie there are resting in marked graves and some of the early marked graves, like 1897's "Little Brother" gravestone, are haunting in and of themselves.
So, why should you stay away from Oakwood Cemetery at night? You might run into the ghost of the first of the Servant Girl Annihilator's victims, 17-year-old Eula Phillips, who was murdered by her then-husband with an axe. Philips is said to wander the grounds lamenting her violent death with tears. Dickinson, who died at the age of 68, may also appear to you and is said to be the most visual of specters that roam the grounds.
Oakwood Cemetery is known for graverobbing—rumor has it that university professors used to steal bodies from unmarked graves to use as cadavers for their students—so you might encounter the souls who are still roaming the cemetery, looking for their bodies.
Shoal Creek Indian Massacre Site
The historical marker is located at 24th Street at Shoal Creek. (austinghosts.com)
Shoal Creek, like nearly all of the United States, can be traced back thousands of years to 9,000 B.C. with Native American arrowheads. Settlers would camp along the mouth of the creek, including famous residents like the second president of the Republic of Texas Mirabeau Lamar, where it is said they engaged in a turf war with the Native Americans who resided right nearby. Those who weren't killed by Comanche warriors were killed by cholera and were buried along the creek. It is said that a mass grave, filled with victims of yellow fever, cholera and unexplained violence, lies beneath the creek.
Of the hauntings most commonly seen at Shoal Creek, watch out for cold spots in the middle of summer, vanishing orbs of light called "Marfa Lights," vanishing apparitions, unexplainable noises at night, sudden sickness and nightmares after visiting.
The Austin State Hospital
The Austin State Hospital is still operating. (Texas Historical Commission National Register Collection and the Portal to Texas History)
When the Austin State Hospital took in its first patients in 1861, it was meant to be a beacon of hope for the mentally ill to recover from the stressors of everyday life. On any given day, the hospital would treat and allegedly sometimes experiment on anywhere from 200-4,000 patients and after an unfortunate death, bodies that were not claimed were buried in the cemetery out back behind the hospital. When the cemetery inevitably filled up, bodies were exhumed and transferred to a burial ground just over two miles away. Though they say all the bodies were transferred, legend tells that some have been left on the still-operating hospital's grounds just six feet below.
The Austin State School and State School Farm Colony
The Austin State School is now closed, many of its 68 buildings abandoned. (Andreanna Moya Photography/CC)
These two gender-segregated facilities were originally intended for mentally-troubled juvenile offenders, many of whom never left the grounds. On the school's 436 acres, 1,800 students were housed across 68 buildings and the campus also held farmland, a swimming pool and a cemetery. Children who were not claimed were buried on-site, where about 3,000 students are buried. The school was sued in the 1960s after changing its name to the Travis State School for inadequate living conditions and closed in the late 90s. Many buildings have been taken over by charter schools but some remain empty to this day.
Tucker Cemetery's unique sight is its dozens of hand-written tombstones. (kissingtoast/CC)
Just outside the Barton Creek Greenbelt, Tucker Cemetery doesn't have many stories of haunts to its name other than anecdotes of car locks popping open on their own. However, what makes this cemetery freaky is its collection of tiny, hand-scrawled tombstones.
Keep Austin spoOoOoOoky!
- holidays - austonia ›
- 6 activities that'll remind you it's fall in Austin all month long ›
- Driskill Hotel tops list of state's most haunted spots, among six other ... ›