Places

The Liberty Hill Witch Grave: Bad Legends and Cemetery Desecration

I’d known about the legend of the infamous Liberty Hill witch grave for a while but only recently managed to drive up there and have a look around. It seemed a perfect thing to document for Halloween, because the legend, though unlikely, is fueled by witchcraft, cruel death and creepy graveyard stories. But this was one of those times when the damage done by the legend far outweighs the value of recently-created folklore.

The Liberty Hill witch grave is an example of new folklore, and is largely a creation of Internet sites that breathlessly repeat rumors as fact and take EVP tapes gathered by ghost hunters as solid evidence. My research shows that the stories of the witch grave really started to get traction in the last 20 years or so, and have been spread through ghost hunters who visit the cemetery at night to talk to the dead witch and assorted “weird” sites that tell ghost stories. Older locals in Andice and Liberty Hill, small towns north of Austin in the Texas Hill Country, especially those who don’t spend hours online each day, haven’t heard of the witch grave or only know about it now because they are appalled by the amount of destruction ghost hunters and drunk teenagers have done to the cemetery.

Often legends need to stand as they are – critical analysis of the legends seldom does any good because people who have a will to believe will not be dissuaded by facts and because most of the time truth in such stories doesn’t matter. For example, I’ve shared my trip to Baby Head, Texas on this site – Baby Head gets its name because there are stories of a Comanche raid that resulted in the beheading of a little settler girl. I don’t know if that happened, but have come to believe that because the first grave in the Baby Head Cemetery is that of a little girl who died on New Year’s Day, and because Baby Hill/Llano was once in the middle of Comanche territory, the town name may not be based in whole truth but is certainly derived from genuine trauma or terror.  Real Comanche incursions into pioneer settlements combined with that tiny dead girl fueled the legend of the little girl who lost her head to the Comanches, the girl behind the legend that gave Baby Head its name.

Such legends are organic outgrowths of genuine events and even if they are not true in the factual sense, they are true in that they represent the collective fears and anxiety of a particular group of people in a particular place and time. The Liberty Hill witch grave is not one of those kinds of legends. It’s cobbled together using elements borrowed from other places and times, it’s not a story that attempts to explain some unpleasant reality of frontier life because tensions regarding slavery were long in the past when the myth was created (though certainly elements of the story may have some factual basis in social injustices that happened to other black women in Texas). It’s a bad ghost story that doesn’t really add to the lore of Texas or depict social issues of the past so much as it contributes to wholesale vandalism of historical sites.

So let me tell you about the story of the Liberty Hill witch grave, show you some pictures, and then explain, using common sense, why the story is nonsense, and using factual record to show why it’s absolutely false. I’m going to leave the analysis of the myth under the cut so that way people who just want to revel in the ghost story can skip my commentary.  Also, I have set up an album in Flickr that shows the whole of the cemetery so those who love cemetery porn can see some old Texas graves, some of genuine historical worth.

Click on any picture in this entry to see a larger version.

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North entrance into Bittick Cemetery. This sign was erected in 2004 after the wooden sign was destroyed by vandals.

The Liberty Hill witch grave, located in the Bittick family cemetery in Williamson County, is said to contain the mortal remains of a slave named “Elizebeth Simpson.” The legend says that in 1862, “Elizebeth Simpson,” a slave woman, was hanged to death for stealing one of her master’s horses. She was dragged to the Bittick family cemetery, hanged from one of the oak trees in the center of the parcel of land, then cut down and buried there.  Other legends indicate Elizebeth was hanged for witchcraft but witches in the Hill Country were thin on the ground.  I can’t find a single historical record to indicate anyone was ever executed for witchcraft in Texas.  Frankly the horse story makes a lot more sense – stealing livestock is serious business even now, but common thieves seldom make curses from the grave the way hanged witches do.

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What’s left of “Elizebeth Simpson’s” gravestone.

Her stone said she was born on April 10, 1834 and died on September 24, 1862. Her head stone had the following saying:

And remember as yo ar pasin by yo must die as well as I

That inscription has been interpreted by some to be a dark curse of sorts, with people insisting it means that anyone who walks in front of “Elizebeth’s” grave will be hanged unless they leave her some sort of offering to appease her.  And I use past tense describing the stone because it’s been destroyed – I am relying on an older picture of the stone I’ve found online to show its original form. A picture taken by someone else before it was wholly obliterated is under the cut.

 

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Debris and offerings left at “Elizebeth’s” gravestone.

Ghost hunters have come to “Elizebeth’s” stone and recorded all kinds of EVPs they claim demonstrate moans they claim no one heard while they were recording, as well as ghostly whispers.

To keep from being hexed by the curse on the stone, or possibly in attempts to curry favor with the dead slave, people leave gifts and offerings on the grave, like toys, alcohol and coins. Curiously, other stones throughout the cemetery are covered in coins, mostly pennies and quarters. I worry that because “Elizebeth’s” stone has been destroyed and lacks visual impact that ghost seekers are going to other graves.  One grave of a dead child who was born the day before Halloween 150 years ago was festooned with quarters, and a rock tomb belonging to a child was also covered with change.

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Toys and cigarettes left for “Elizebeth.” The cough drops seem a pretty thoughtful gift for a witch whose throat likely hurts after being hanged.
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Note the “X” marks at the bottom of the stone. These are reminiscent of marks left on Voodoo Queen Marie Laveau’s tomb.

Some try to raise her spirit to speak to them via seances and ouija boards.  Mr OTC found this handmade ouija board folded up in some tall grass in the northwest corner of the cemetery.

ouija2
Impromptu attempts to speak to the dead.

Far creepier than leaving beer bottles on the gravestone of a possibly executed slave woman is that it appears that people engage in carnal activities on or near “Elizebeth’s” grave.

condom
Never a good sign when you find condom wrappers in a cemetery.
ugh
It’s an even worse sign when you find used hand towels and empty beer bottles near a condom wrapper in a cemetery.

I would like to beg everyone who thinks of going into this cemetery to commune with a dead woman to please not have sex on her grave.  From the standpoint of courtesy, having sex on a grave is impolite.  But I suspect the sorts of folk who fornicate in cemeteries are not often bothered by social niceties.  If you are the sort who doesn’t care about graveyard etiquette, bear in mind I got poison oak just walking through the cemetery – the sap seeped through my jeans.   And let us not speak of all the broken glass from shattered beer bottles around “Elizebeth’s” stone.  If you anger the dead by engaging in any sort of activity that may require even partial nudity, you may find the dead achieve vengeance in itchy or painful ways. Be sure your tetanus shot is up to date.

So here we go – the physical location where people go to talk to, torment, or otherwise irritate a woman they believe was a slave witch executed in the cemetery for stealing a horse or for being a witch.

Now let me explain to you why none of this happened and why this legend is so tiresome where history and the residents of Liberty Hill are concerned.

Halloween Week – The Servant Girl Annihilator

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

Finally, something truly creepy and scary for Halloween week.

At some point during 2000, I read a book called A Twist at the End: A Novel of O. Henry and the Texas Servant Girl Murders of 1885 by Steven Saylor.  I’m not entirely sure how I came to have this book because I’m not really one for historical fiction, but once I learned that the book was indeed based on real events, I became obsessed with the Servant Girl Annihilator case.  As most friends I had at the time can tell you, I pretty much sent a copy of this book to anyone who showed even the slightest interest in it.  I went on a “ghost tour” that took me on a walk late at night to visit the locations of some of the murders.  It was on this tour that I learned about the “Moonlight Towers,” one of which stood at the end of the street where Mr. Oddbooks and I lived at the time, a nearly useless anachronism that seemed pointless to me until I learned their origin.

Much of what I am going to share here is data I have rattling around in my brain, but I will include a list of links at the end of this article for those who may want to read more about this interesting case than just what I remember.

The moniker “Servant Girl Annihilator” is actually both a flippant and misleading moniker for the person or persons behind the murders that occurred in Austin, Texas in 1884-1885.  The name comes from a line William Sydney Porter, aka “O. Henry” put in a letter to a friend, describing the events in Austin in the summer of 1885.  In a bitchy little comment worthy of Oscar Wilde, Porter snarked that Austin was terribly boring but the attacks from the “Servant Girl Annihilators” made things interesting at night.  This moniker is misleading because men, boyfriends/common law husbands living with some of the female victims were also attacked, and because the last two women killed were not servants, but “respectable” married women.

But most of the victims were indeed women and most of them were black servants.  Here is a list of the victims, as well as what was done to them.  Most readers of this site are hardy people, but if you are new here, the content that follows may be a bit upsetting. 

Halloween Week – Slave Cemeteries

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

I was born in Dallas and have lived in Texas all my life.  When I was a little girl, I can remember seeing “colored” entrances, restrooms and drinking fountains in older downtown buildings.  Jim Crow was dead, in legalities at least, so no black person was forced into using these lesser amenities, but they had not been removed yet.  In some places in older parts of Dallas, such reminders of the nastier parts of racial history in the USA weren’t remodeled or removed until the 1980s.

I tell you all of this because while I was and still am aware that race relations in the USA are difficult, it was still…  shocking when I began cemetery investigation and saw that segregation was enforced even in death.  The slave and “colored” sections of “white” cemeteries were seldom maintained well, which is not particularly surprising.  But I discovered that large chunks of history were lost in those slave and black sections of cemeteries, making even some of the simplest genealogy or historical research maddening, if not completely impossible.

And there’s no way around this expression of sentimentality – often slave and Jim Crow cemeteries are sad places indeed.

The first slave cemetery I found was in Round Rock Cemetery in Round Rock, Texas.  I was there looking for the graves for some Old West villains and lawmen, and was startled when I saw it.

Slave Cemetery
Note that you can’t actually see any headstones beyond that sign. 

Halloween Week – My Favorite Cemetery

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

One day Mr. Oddbooks came home and told me about a cemetery near Jarrell, Texas that was evidently very interesting.  It was located in a ghost town called Corn Hill.  Old Corn Hill Cemetery boasts the graves of people of historical importance in Texas, so I wanted to check it out.  Cemetery, ghost town, historical importance – what’s not to like?  The problem was that the directions were so bad that I really think that had we closed our eyes and tried to get there by our sense of smell, we wouldn’t have ended up as lost as we became.

It took us a couple of weekends to find Old Corn Hill Cemetery, but during the hunt we found a couple of very interesting mini-cemeteries, a derelict house where we totally trespassed and took pictures (I later learned that house is the James Shaver home, called the Old Stage Stop and Hotel), and all sorts of interesting fauna, mostly longhorn cattle.  But we also found the Holy Trinity Catholic Cemetery, which has become the cemetery to beat for me in terms of symbology, statuary and emotional attachment.

Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Jarrell, Texas, is an imposing building, very gothic without any accompanying morbidity, which seems strange to say given that the cemetery is essentially in the church’s backyard.  Corn Hill, Texas was established in 1848 and began to die a slow death in 1910 when railroad lines bypassed Corn Hill in favor of neighboring Jarrell.  The Holy Trinity Catholic Church was built in 1914, and, as I’ve mentioned before, in such a young state as Texas a hundred year old church has serious history behind it.  Corn Hill itself was not founded by Germans and Slavs, but their influence is felt heavily in this area.  People who aren’t familiar with Central Texas and the Hill Country are often surprised to know that huge swaths of this area are to this day very German and Slavic, especially Czech Moravian.  For decades many Moravian families spoke a Moravian Czech dialect, as well as English, being bi-lingual in the way that we tend to associate with Mexican and Central American settlers to this area.  Sadly, this dialect with pidgin elements is dying off though you still see lots of signs and bumper stickers boasting the phrase, “Jak se mas?” which translates as “How are you doing?”  In short, Czech for “Howdy!”

Holy Trinity Catholic Church is heavily Czech and the cemetery reflects it.  I loved this cemetery not just because it was exotic to my austere Southern Baptist upbringing, but also because it was, quite literally, an education investigating the stones.  Eventually my friend Barbora K., a resident in Slovakia, had to help me translate much of what is written on the stones.  This cemetery was the gateway to me learning about the German, Moravian and Bohemian influences in Central Texas.  It also taught me a lot about how cemeteries are arranged in Eastern Europe.  Others feel strongly about this cemetery as well – I get at least one message a month from someone who finds my photos and wants to share their experiences with the church or ask if they can use some of my pictures.

And I know this isn’t particularly spooky or Halloween-y, but cemeteries in the bright Texas sun simply cannot be creepy unless you’re out in the middle of nowhere near dusk.  But there is still a somber, gloomy mood to this cemetery, especially when you get to the “babyland” section. The cemetery is a strange mix of dereliction and utter devotion because while many graves and statues have not held up in the Texas heat, every grave has been tended to by church members, even the ones where the stone is missing and all that is left are little metal markers so weathered the names were unreadable. The cemetery is grim yet comforting.

Angry Angel
I am not a particularly good photographer but this angry angel is one of my favorite pictures I’ve taken. You can see the church spires peeking behind the trees. 

Halloween Week – Baby Head Cemetery

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

In the summer of 2012, Mr. Oddbooks and I drove out to Baby Head, Texas.  A real place.  I swear.
Baby Head Cemetery

It’s a ghost town now, more or less incorporated into Llano, Texas, and Llano was a weird place in its own right.  We drove around forever trying to find the remaining Baby Head post office and never found it.  But we did find plenty of Apostolic churches, Cowboy Congregations, exotic animals being raised so weekend warriors can obliterate them with assault weapons on canned hunts, and several hidden little cemeteries that I really want to go back and investigate, as long as I can remember to wear steel-toed boots to repel all the grass burrs and fire ants.

Back to Baby Head.  The town got its name because “oral tradition” says that some time between 1850-1875, a local Indian tribe kidnapped a white child, killed it, and left it on a mountain that came to be called Babyhead Mountain.  (The town’s name and the cemetery’s name are Baby Head, while the mountain is Babyhead.  Don’t ask me why.  But even that isn’t carved in stone as you will find the town, the cemetery and the mountain all referred to as “Babyhead” or “Baby Head” with no real explanation for the variations.)
Historical marker

It’s hard to know if there is any truth to this legend.  The tribe of the Indians who supposedly killed the baby is unknown, though if hard-pressed I would say it had to be Comanches, a pretty harsh tribe to be sure.  The name of the baby is also officially unknown, but it is assumed to have been a little girl.  I personally suspect the baby’s designated gender is because the oldest grave in the Baby Head Cemetery belongs to a little girl who died on New Year’s Day in 1884, though one local historian insisted her late husband knew people who searched for the child.  The woman’s husband said the little girl was murdered in 1873, and that her name was Mary Elizabeth Buster.  I have never been able to run to ground a Mary Elizabeth or a Mary Elizabeth Buster from Baby Head in 1873, but I also have a notoriously short attention span.  This article by Dale Fry best illustrates all the stories about this Texas legend.

I had read several accounts of how creepy Baby Head Cemetery is.  It wasn’t creepy.  It was interesting, and sort of macabre in a very sunny way, but mostly it was painful. 

Halloween Week – Dead Man’s Hole

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

Up US 281 in Marble Falls, TX, there is a site called Dead Man’s Hole. Dead Man’s Hole is a natural limestone cave many ghost hunters insist is very haunted.

It’s hard to rattle me and I self-identify as a skeptic.  But even as I maintain that I am a skeptic, I have had strange experiences that I cannot fully explain.  Some of those experiences involve what I call wrong places.  A wrong place, simply enough, is a place wherein you feel something is not right.  It’s a place where you feel uneasy and you don’t know why. If you probe your feelings long enough, you may find an answer that explains your uneasiness. The human mind perceives more than we process on a conscious level and sometimes our subconscious filters just enough to give us valid information that we may attribute to unseen sources, like the paranormal.  I tend to think that was at play during my visit at Dead Man’s Hole, but, regardless the reason, Dead Man’s Hole is a wrong place.  It is a place where so much human misery played out that even without any sort of paranormal interpretation many may feel uneasy here.  The last time I was there I became so unnerved I likely will never return. I hope that despite the fact I was there during the brightness of the summer that the creepy nature of the place will show up in the pics.

The historical marker
According to the Historical Marker on the site, an entomologist called Ferdinand Lueders discovered the hole, presumably in the course of searching out insects, but it was not until the Civil War that the cave gained it’s ghostly and ghastly reputation. The cave is quite deep, probably around 155 feet down, and is now capped to prevent accidents and, one suspects, potential vandalism.

Recycled Reads in Austin, Texas

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

The ever devoted Mr. Oddbooks took me to a used book store on my birthday (my birthday was back during the summer, but you all know I run behind on things) and I didn’t have particularly high expectations. The store, Recycled Reads, is sort of a compromise store. You see, a few years back Austin still had Friends of the Library Sales, but some morally anal blowhards ruined it for everyone. One of the few benefits of being a volunteer on behalf of the library is that when the annual sales come around, you get to have first pick of the books. No one really abuses it and even if they did abuse the privilege, first pick means something different to everyone. My first pick sure ain’t gonna be someone else’s first pick.

It’s a small perk, a very small one when one considers the sheer hell of running the book sales for the library. All the screaming kids, all the assholes with scanners beeping up the place as they try to find stock for their online book stores, all the people asking for bulk discounts or special discounts, the mess and the dust. Yet someone made a fuss about some elderly women holding back a few books to buy after the sale and it resulted in such a mess that for a while, if I recall correctly, the Friends of the Library disbanded for a bit. They sure stopped the annual sales at Palmer Auditorium. Recycled Reads is what came after the annual sales ended. Not sure what the difference is since it is still volunteer-run but I guess now there are cameras to make sure no one there sets aside a completely trashed copy of some old school best-seller? No idea, but given my experiences with library sales, I expected Recycled Reads to be a complete shit hole filled with book sellers beeping up the joint, dust everywhere, and at least one kid with a smelly diaper toddling about.

Recycled Reads, 9/20/12
The outside did not fill me with confidence. It looked like it was going to be some hole in the wall. And yeah, strip malls, bleah…

But the store was much larger than the outside would lead one to believe. It was pretty well organized and nary a beeping shopper to be found. Clean, too.

Recycled Reads, 9/20/12

The store was having some sort of steam punk thing going on.

Recycled Reads, 9/20/12

I am not really that interested in steam punk, as a genre or as an aesthetic but some of the displays were visually interesting.

Recycled Reads, 9/20/12
I was interested in buying this little piece of art but was stymied.  The store was not authorized to sell these pieces and advised me to take a card and contact the artist. Funny but ultimately stupid story: I took the card next to the piece and contacted the artist. The man I contacted had no idea what I was talking about. He was a painter, not a maker of miniature vampire hunting kits. I went back and checked the picture I took of the section and sure enough his cards were placed right next to the little kit. But stuff gets moved around in this place, as other pics will show. A shame, really, but perhaps I should just try to make something like this myself.

Recycled Reads, 9/20/12
The store was far better organized than a regular library sale.  However, no matter how well-organized it may be, it’s hard to discuss a store like this because the inventory turns over every few days or so, even including the books that are not part of the library culls. The public donates books to this location – lots of books. I saw several people bring in boxes of books when I was there. Like, entire trunks of cars full of boxes sorts of drop-offs. While I was there, the fiction section was blah but I found a dozen or so history books that had to come home with me. Among them were a biography about Madame C. J. Walker, a book about a man who stalked Queen Victoria, a biography of Horatio Alger and a biography of Jennie Churchill.

Mr. Oddbooks also found a lot of books about naval history and doing stuff with boats. As a person who grew up then subsequently lived her life landlocked, I have no idea, but he seemed to like them.

Recycled Reads, 9/20/12
The store had a nice collectible section, but you will be hard pressed to tell because I took some really crappy pics with my phone. Sorry about that.

Recycled Reads, 9/20/12
The store also had a pretty good selection of sociology and cultural studies books but because everything in life invariably photographs terribly and is awfully staged when I am behind the camera, all you can really see is the misplaced copy of Jane Smiley’s Moo. I snagged a Cornell West title, One Drop of Blood: The American Misadventure of Race by Scott Malcolmsen, Flesh and Blood So Cheap: The Triangle Fire and Its Legacy by Albert Marrin, Ain’t Nobody’s Business if You Do: The Absurdity of Consensual Crimes in a Free Society by Peter McWilliams, No Shame in My Game: The Working Poor in the Inner City by Katherine Williams, and The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as an Experiment by A.J. Jacobs.

Recycled Reads, 9/20/12
I do feel some regret about not purchasing The New Glutton or Epicure.

Recycled Reads, 9/20/12
Mostly, it’s a brightly colored store with art and some seating, most of it less than comfortable. I have some more blurry pictures here if you are interested. But you really can’t ask for amazing seating in a place where the hardcovers are all $2 and the softcovers are $1. A friend of mine got a vintage and evidently very expensive collection of Mark Twain books for about $50 at Recycled Reads. I did not luck into anything like that but we did leave with 42 books for $90.

The hours are extremely limited. They are only open Thursday through Sunday, 12-6. But you know, cheap books and supporting the library system in Austin. So there’s that.

I didn’t really fall in love with this store but, again, the stock turns over so frequently that I could go there next Friday and think it is the best place ever. So checking it out if you are an Austinista or just visiting would be worth it if you land there on a day when they have stocked the sections relevant to your interests.

South Congress Books, Austin, Texas

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

So, I’ve been lax where discussing independent book stores is concerned. Amazon has made me completely unwilling to leave my house and risk encountering crappy selections, deal with parking and endure as kids half my age sneer at my selections because I’m obviously too pedestrian for them to waste their time bothering to make eye contact with me as I spend Mr. Oddbooks hard earned cash on the very things that permit them to have a job in the first place. (Yeah – I hate shopping at BookPeople. There! I said it. Most arrogant, unpleasant staff ever. If I wanna be mocked by weird kids with poor taste, I’ll review another Tao Lin book.)

But Mr. Oddbooks and I decided the best way we could spend our Fourth of July would be to go a bookstore and we chose South Congress Books.
South Congress Books, Austin, Texas

Oh, I very much like this store.
South Congress Books, Austin, Texas

You know how bibliophiles talk about loving the smell of books? And you go into a book store and all you can really smell is dust? Used book stores, I fear, have come to represent the smell of old books – musty dustiness. In South Congress Books, you get to smell that gorgeous aroma of books, of softened pages, crisp mylar, and a vague under note of vanilla, possibly nutmeg – something sweet and edible. The real smell of beloved, pre-read books, not the smell of mustiness.

The store is also a huge departure from most used book stores. Sometimes you want a store that is a hot mess because you want to dig through piles in the hopes of finding an under-priced gem. But sometimes you want a store that has done the work for you and separated the wheat from the chaff. South Congress Books is a small store and gorgeously arranged. So organized that my inner organizational pedant wept. One of the reasons it can be so organized is because this store is particular in what they stock. You go into a used book store and you expect to see the usual shelves of Stephen King, Tom Clancy, Dean Koontz and endless copies of the same romance novel. Not at South Congress Books. Here, if there is a King on the shelves, it is because it is a first edition, not because dozens of people decided to get rid of their copies of Duma Key at roughly the same time. Their eye to selective book acquisition means one could spend hours in this small store because every title is worth picking up and flipping through.
South Congress Books, Austin, Texas
I did not see a single copy of Eat, Pray, Love in the entire store, not even in the signed books. It felt good.

I’m not kidding. The selection is astonishing. Guys, the cats here at Chez Oddbooks have had a rough couple of months. Kidney failure, thyroid problems, urinary tract infections, a weird spell of sneezing blood that we never got figured out despite numerous vet visits. That kind of devotion to elderly and defective pets costs money, money that in a just and decent world would be spent on books. I had to tell Mr. Oddbooks we had to go before he was really ready and I studiously avoided certain sections of the store (the metaphysics section would have wrecked me financially had I looked in serious depth) once I ascertained there were titles I really wanted and had to put back on the shelves because I chose to keep the cats comfortable. And the cats are totally not grateful and there were, like, seven books I had to leave behind. Goddamn cats.
South Congress Books, Austin, Texas
So, instead of owning this copy of Dr. Johnson’s Doorknob, I just have to go to bed at night knowing that Cicero Cat’s metabolism is working well again. If you want a good look at all the books I had to leave behind, here’s my small Flickr set of the pics I took that day.

South Congress Books, Austin, Texas
This is Sheri, one of the co-owners. She told me about a strange series she read by Andrey Kurkov. She hooked me up with the second book in the series, which is awesome because it will remind me to order the first book. If it’s odd enough, I am sure to discuss it here. She also worked at Half-Price Books and listened calmly as I shared the horrors I faced at the Round Rock store, what with all the bats, rats, urine soaking from the men’s bathroom into the break room and that black stuff that may have been mold but was probably something far worse. Most frightening building I’ve ever worked in. But enough about me…

Here’s what we ended up with that magical day:
Kings of the Road: A Cartoonumentary of a Life on the Road by Ragnar
Penguin Lost by Andrey Kurkov
Saint Genet: Actor and Martyr by Jean-Paul Sartre
The Murder of Marilyn Monroe by Leonore Canevari, Jeanette van Wyhe, Christian Dimas and Rachel Dimas with foreword by Brad Steiger (this one is gonna get discussed here for sure)
Oval Office Occult: True Stories of White House Weirdness by Brian M. Thomsen
Dessous: Lingerie as Erotic Weapon by Gilles Neret
Smothered in Hugs: Essays, Interviews, Feedback, and Obituaries by Dennis Cooper

And of course, our selections are in no way representative of the bulk of the books in the store. The art and photography sections, in particular, were amazing.
South Congress Books, Austin, Texas

The only drawback I found to the place is that being on South Congress there were a lot of looky-loos wandering around, which happens when a shop is located on a street with a lot of foot traffic, and it happens even more in the heat of the Texas summer when people are looking for a place with sweet, merciful air conditioning as they make their way to the BBQ and beer trailers. And if one has to discuss the traffic of people who just wanted to look around in order to find a drawback, then that means there probably isn’t one.

Next time I go I will have a large wad of cash with me. Mark my words, I will not go back into South Congress Books without some serious bank because it was just too painful to leave behind books that were so clearly meant to come home with me. Sigh…

Domy Books, Austin, Texas

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

It’s been over a year since I wrote about an independent book store, which may seem like a long lapse for the average person. But I kind of like not leaving my house often. If I’m not taking a cat to the vet, buying groceries or subject to fire evacuations, I pretty much like staying home. And since we moved to the suburbs, driving into Austin seems like Death Race 2000. So even though Domy Books is less than 20 miles from my house, I hadn’t been in three years or so.

Domy Books, 9/20/70
But Mr Oddbooks urged me to haul my carcass out of the house and off to Domy we went. Domy Books is an alternative arts and culture book store and art space. Perhaps it is a good thing I can’t go there much because when I do go, I spend unseemly amounts of money. It’s a visually appealing space.

Part of one of the art exhibits on display currently.
Domy Books, 9/20/70

I don’t know from art, however. I mostly go for the books.
Domy Books, 9/20/70

So many beautiful books.
Domy Books, 9/20/70

Domy Books, 9/20/70
It’s one of those spaces where you can never look enough. I feel like I never have enough time to get a handle on all that is on offer there. And I think I don’t look as much as I should because just a quick scan can cost me a couple hundred bucks. A deep look would likely require a bank loan.

The manager, a friendly and very knowledgeable man named Russell, turned me on to a couple of new strange writers and when I told him I maintained this site, he even offered to do a weird book tour for me if I gave him a heads up so he could organize it. I definitely plan to take him up on this offer once I have gathered sufficient money to take another Domy splurge. I guarantee you there is no way I would have the strength to go on such a tour and not, and forgive the rude parlance, blow my wad.

So Austinites, I heartily encourage you to check out Domy. It’s a place to find ‘zines, high and fringe art books, fringe graphic novels, amazing photography compendiums, vinyl collectible dolls, alt culture non-fiction and local art. Russell was laid back and let us look, while offering help or comments when needed. It’s definitely a place where long-term browsing is allowed and encouraged. So visit if you can and if you can’t, you can shop online. I’ve got more pictures of the store on my Flickr account – just click on one of the pics above and wallow in the pretty art and pretty books.

And oh yeah, here’s what I bought (and I am only linking to them on Amazon because what I purchased does not appear to be on the Domy web store):
Richard Dadd: The Artist and the Asylum by Nicholas Tromans
Encyclopaedia of Hell: An Invasion Manual for Demons Concerning the Planet Earth and the Human Race Which Infests It by Martin Olson
Burn Collector: Collected Stories from One through Nine by Al Burian
Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet Of Wonder by Lawrence Weschler
True Norwegian Black Metal by Pete Beste

Brave New Books, Austin

This post originally appeared on I Read Odd Books

Okay, I have to admit I buy the bulk of my books online. Not only do I find what I am looking for but I also don’t have to deal with disapproving glances from hipper-than-thou clerks who can barely restrain themselves from sighing as they see if they can order David Icke from the distributor. There are locally-owned book stores in Austin, Texas, but I’ve come to dislike BookPeople because they harass me to check my purse every time I go in (I could be naked and carrying a change purse and I’d be asked to check all my belongings at the front desk). Ever since FringeWare died a decade ago, I haven’t had a local store that I really like, a place where I can get my odd topics on without being subject to snerts for displaying a lack of intellectual snobbery or apparently being such a crime risk I have to leave my wallet, check book and car keys with a stranger in order to have the privilege of shopping.

So when Mr. Oddbooks discovered that Brave New Books has been operating in Austin for 4 years, I was annoyed that I had not heard of them, but I am also a hermit so it comes as little surprise. Dubious, I agreed to check the place out and am glad I did. In fact, I was so pleased that I may start trying to visit other small book stores around Texas and beyond. Or I may not. I’m a notorious flake. But you never know.

Brave New Books stocks titles that would appeal to those of us with interests in the fringe, lunatic or otherwise, as well as maintaining a nice little DVD section. The store also runs films in a back room, and hosts discussions on relatively diverse topics. On Saturday, July 24, there will be a discussion about the Templars and Christopher Columbus. Leaving my home two weekends in a row seems arduous to me because the only thing I hate worse than leaving my house is leaving my house, but I may well try to attend.
Brave New Books, Austin, Texas

I asked the owner, Harlan Dietrich, to tell me what book in the store he felt I needed to read. Because he is not the indiscriminate conspiracy nut that I am, he recommended The Creature from Jekyll Island: A Second Look at the Federal Reserve by G. Edward Griffin. I had heard some buzz around this book but am sometimes mentally lazy, preferring to read easier, more salacious sorts of books (evidenced by the ones I selected on my own and by the bulk of what I review here) and likely would not have purchased it had he not recommended it.

I also purchased:
War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race by Edwin Black
The Illuminati: Facts & Fiction by Mark Dice
Apocalypse Waiting To Happen, The Plagues That Threaten Us All by Dr. John Coleman
Liquid Conspiracy: JFK, LSD, the CIA, Area 51 and UFOs by George Piccard
And, best of all, the last copy of 9-11 Descent into Tyranny: The New World Order’s Dark Plans to Turn Earth into a Prison Planet by local hero, Alex Jones, whom I sometimes mock, but love nonetheless.

And though I am linking to my Amazon account via some of the above links, I only do so when the book I purchased there is not on Brave New Books’ online ordering system or if I know I got the last copy and linking to it could cause the store some hassle. So you can shop there even if you don’t live in Austin – browse the site’s selection as well as their events section. It appears that this store, unlike some of the other independent book stores in town, is contributing to the community with free lectures and a space to watch films. Though I am laughably the worst person to be encouraging community involvement since my own community mainly involves simply the two levels in my own home, I think such engagement is to be lauded and supported. There was a lively political discussion taking place around the front desk while we were there, and the whole vibe of the place just suited me. I encourage you to shop there.

Brave New Books, Austin, Texas