The Horrifying Texarkana Phantom Killer


this week on BuzzFeed unsolved we take a look into the Texarkana phantom killer a case that has been referred to as quote the number one unsolved murder case in Texas history and quote number one baby yeah I love it I don’t think they have like a big board in the text police station where they so you think they vote oh it seems all relative right yeah I guess so but they seem pretty resolute about this guy being at the top of the key and it’s a rowdy town you’ll see that is it really it’s a ratty town you’ve been there no I haven’t been there but I read it’s a rowdy town fun to read about a rowdy town alrighty time went to rowdy boys let’s get into it on February 22nd 1946 in the Texas Arkansas border town appropriately named Texarkana Jimmy Hall is 25 and Mary Jean Larrey 19 went on a date to the movies and began driving back to Mary Jane’s home on the way they stopped their car on a quiet unpaved Road about 100 yards away from some houses in a residential neighborhood that’s why there you go yeah you know what they’re doing how many oh here we go away in this very funny it’s 2019 when did this bid start like the gods had to be like caveman times you think like a Neanderthal looked at as other Neanderthal pounds went probably it’s a one of the world’s greatest bits I feel like people don’t do it enough nowadays because we’d take it for granted spread that around this year you know if you see your two friends and you you think maybe they’ve been smooching behind your back be like I don’t know what you guys are up to a little I actually don’t think your angles catching it I think we can still see your face a little bit so you might have to turn if I turn a bone making out after about 10 minutes a man walked up as Mary Jean would later relate quote he wore a white mask over his head with cutout places for his eyes and mouth he pointed a flashlight and pistol at us he came up on the driver’s side of the car and told Jimmy something like this I don’t want to kill you fellow so do what I say end quote both Jimmy and Mary Jean got out of the car the assailant made Jimmy take off his pants then hit him twice over the head cracking Jimmy’s skull and knocking him unconscious the attacker then tried to sexually assault and robbed Mary Jean oh okay I did yeah it was good it got a little rough yeah it’s a little rough interesting that he would go through the theatrics of wearing a mask yeah anytime someone wears a mask and it’s a serial killer situation you wonder did they intend to maybe let them go because the only reason why why you’re wearing a mask is so that they can’t then identify you later yeah oh that’s true if a killer approached me and he had a mask on hmm I would feel a little bit better about my chances of surviving because if he walks up with a gun in his like you could just see his face I could see it’s your face I know that’s probably the last thing I’m gonna see and right now I actually thought of staring into those dead cold eyes and if that’s the last thing I see on this earth I made some mistakes along the way Mary Jean pleaded with the attacker telling him they didn’t have any money the attacker hit Mary Jean knocking her to the ground when she got up the man told her to run Mary Jean took off down the road but was wearing high heels the assailant quickly overtook her and hit her again knocking her to the ground where he began to abuse her at this point Jimmy struggled to his feet and managed to stop a passing car it’s not the assailant saw the car lights and fled from Mary Jean both Jimmy and Mary Jean received medical treatment Jimmy spent over 12 days recovering in the hospital this guy did literally get his skull cracked and still was able to get up and flag down another car which then saved their lives yeah good for Jimmy I mean it could just be like a fracture right I don’t know how the skulls really were from what I read it was heard about pretty severe crack from the description she thought that he had shot him that’s how loud the cracking noise was Oh which is not good so oh four – yeah / – but this as you’ll see would be just the first of his eye facts in the mid 40s Texarkana was a relatively violent place killings robberies and other crimes were very common it might make sense then while the attack on Jimmy and Mary Jean was brutal the community didn’t pay it much attention until another attack occurred a month later this one fatal yeah I mean it must be an upsetting place if a masked man trying to assault two people is just passing news yeah it’s like oh did you hear about that uh the masked phantom who tried to murder two people oh yeah hey let’s go get a soda pop on the morning of March 24th authorities found the bodies of 29 year old Richard L Griffin and 17 year old Polly and more in a 1941 Oldsmobile on what was then known as a Lovers Lane both had been shot in the back of the head Richard was found between the two front seats on his knees with his head in his hands his pants pockets were inside out thought to be the result of someone trying to rob him Polly Ann was discovered facedown in the back seat of the car though there was evidence that suggested she may have been murdered on a blanket outside the car and placed there later the couple had last been seen around 10:00 p.m. the night before eating dinner with Richards sister they had been shot with what was thought to have been a Colt 32 caliber pistol and any footprints that would have been around the car had been washed away throughout the day we got to give kids places to make out that’s unfortunately most of these serial killer cases happened in the Lovers Lane Snyder give him a well-lit area that is central to a town’s location maybe some water vending machines nearby soda pop some breeze whatever I probably won’t bring hammocks into the equation because smoocher might elevate but that is true also a hammock would be really hard to escape if a serial killer did come up to you while you were smooching in a ham it’s impossible yeah it’s just a murder but you’re trapped in a little NIT yeah a little a little spider nest though there weren’t many clues for authorities to go off of three days after the killings at least 50 people had been asked about the murder and over 100 false leads had been investigated while this attack ending in the murder of a young couple turned more heads than the first assault the community still believed these events to be isolated incidents three weeks later their indifference would change into a frenzy of fear on April 14th authorities found the bodies of 15 year old Betty Jo Booker and 16 year old Paul Martin the previous night the two teens had attended a band performance at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Club where Betty Jo played alto saxophone they were also seen leaving the dance around 1:30 in the morning Paul had been shot four times and was discovered in a rural area on North Park Road Betty Jo had been raped and shot twice her body was found up in the woods about a mile away so escalating getting worse getting worse he’s getting a little more bold one thing you can note though because you always see the trends of these serial killers all of these were couples interesting both had been shot with the 32 caliber Colt the same weapon thought to be used in the previous attack this being the third attack in less than two months now with four young people dead the community was finally paying attention and they were panicked when their husbands and fathers were away for work woman in children would move into the aptly-named hotel grim in downtown Texarkana sort of like a staycation no it’s not like a staycation it’s more like a people around us are getting murdered that’s all huddled together under the roof of a place named the hotel Grimm well clearly it’s a popular establishment and if everybody trusts them they’re going there as a place of refuge I suppose maybe stop being so judgey of these the thing is maybe I just don’t have the insight that you have because this town as I said was a rowdy town he even called it little Chicago and as we all know that’s where you hail from I don’t know from big Chicago murdering murder town USA you know there’s some big big issues there others bought guns and crafted homemade security systems from kitchenware and wire around their home typically bustling streets went quiet the techs are Canada Gazette named the attacker the phantom killer it doesn’t help that the the press named him the Phantom killer they gave him a nickname if you give someone a nickname it’s a compliment it shouldn’t we should never be doing that for the serial hop up don’t pop up cuz he probably read that in the paper next name was like that’s got a ring to it I’m gonna get some business cards printed yeah Tillman Johnson one of the lead investigators said quote we were constantly getting calls mostly at night about prowlers people would call about any noise they heard at all and quote everyone was afraid they would be the next victim of the phantom killer seems like a little bit of a stretch for really any Texan in the 1940s to say uh you know what I I think I might need to buy a gun it is also fun that they’re setting little Kevin McCallister booby traps yes I think people perhaps undervalue booby traps I don’t think they’re that practical in real life they could be if you do it well who are you trying to booby trap on a regular basis your cat your sweet OB you trying to booby-trap that cat no I don’t want to do the opposite I want to booby hug him booby hug him I don’t know what the term is a path of rose petals you know come this way sir I tell you what here’s sweet boy with a fuzzy face I’ll give you a little hug on May 3rd 37 year old farmer Virgil Starks was listening to the radio when a 22 caliber round tore through his front porch window and hit him his wife Katie left their bedroom to find Virgil bleeding in the living room Katie went to call for help when the attacker shot her twice in the face the bullets knocked some of her teeth out but she survived ducking to avoid more shots she made her way back to the bedroom as the attacker tried to break in through the kitchen window Katie escaped out the front door with a bullet stuck under her tongue and trailing blood behind her Katie made it to a nearby farm house where she was taken to the hospital and survived Virgil however died I don’t like I don’t like any mouth teeth stuff don’t like it no you know like when people get in fights you could kind of see like the teeth coming like falling out of their mouth I’ve got big issues with teeth even if I’m sitting with someone who was taking a fork and eating and it scrapes against their teeth oh yeah I don’t like their a drill Oh we’re also kind of lightly glossing over the fact that you got shot in the face twice yeah that’s worse than a fork scraping an indication of the fear the phantom killer had instilled in the community 20 to 30 police officers converged on the Stark’s farmhouse police tried to gather evidence and interview possible suspects and witnesses according to Johnson quote people would stand out near the front of their homes and yell at you to identify yourself before you got too close you had to identify yourself or you would get shot end quote fair so yeah I mean we’re on high alert here yeah if this was me and I have a double-barrel shotgun pointed directly at the door at all times you’d probably have to have shifts because I’d want someone out there at night too I’m staying up day and night I don’t sleep well then oh now you’re setting yourself up to that’s vulnerable because you’re gonna fall asleep maybe I’ll take a nap yeah take a nap now take a nap and then let’s do shifts you’re right she’s right chips are good I want it to be I’ve never even shot a gun so you’ve never shot a gun no you don’t have to found with a cab deal authorities followed bloody footprints left by the killer that went from the house across the highway where they eventually lost the trail while this incident exacerbated the fear of the phantom killer it’s possible this killing was done by someone else the other attacks had targeted people younger than the Starks and had taken place in cars not homes in addition Virgil was shot with a 22 caliber semi-automatic pistol a different weapon than the 32 caliber used in the previous murders of Betty Jo and Paul still this incident was included in the phantom investigation as panic swept the area authorities took to dressing as young couples in an effort to lure the murderer but it appeared the Phantom was done two months later with no more phantom murders the community’s fear began to decrease and life started to get back to normal no one was ever found guilty of the murders backtrack just a bit about the dressing up exactly right yeah I thought so I’m imagining an old Texan man with a large bushy Musk it’s like a chubby Sam Elliott a cop hat on white t-shirt pack of cigarettes rolled up in it you’re imagining a clearly adult burly police officer trying to look like a 16 year old boy a hundred percent it’s hilarious yes and next to him also an adult male with a big old mustache no way God pretending to make out or maybe actually making out or pre-recorded noises of smooching noises Oh like a Ferris Bueller situation sort of that’s like cartoon kissing no one sounds like that one with that it’s time to look into possible theories behind the Texarkana phantom murders of which they are basically only two the first theory is HB duty Tennyson a college student who confessed to some of the killings in a note left behind after he killed himself according to a newspaper from the day of his death a sheriff reportedly said the note read quote why did I take my own life well when you committed two double murders you would – yes I did kill Betty Jo Booker and Paul Martin in the city park that night and killed mr. stark and tried to get mrs. stark and quote according to duties cousin a forensic psychiatrist dr. Jon Tennyson Duty had connections to all of the victims he was allegedly an usher at the theater where some victims of the attacks had seen movies before their deaths and had been in the same high school band as Betty Jo according to dr. Tennyson one of Duty’s friends lived under the same roof as the sister of Katie Starks alright so he had some connections to some of the victims mm-hmm but I will note that the sources when it came to that note in particular were shaky at best it was just him what do they save these things why is this hearsay people want to happen answer me it’s like that people have even won the public want answers there’s this horrible thing happening in their town they look to the authorities for answers and if they don’t have them there’s outrage so you need to have something to say interesting so as a result some maybe some shoddy reporting but it is fairly convenient that he has all these connections to them and it is he’s a he’s a very interesting suspect for sure but for me because there’s that note and these connections and yet he still wasn’t indicted for the crimes there must have been something that ruled him out outright no our other theory is 29 year old ul Li Swinney around the time of the attacks Arkansas State Trooper max Tackett observed that cars were reported stolen and later found abandoned whenever the phantom killer made an attack following this lead led police to stake out a downtown parking lot on June 28th 1946 where a stolen car was abandoned this led to the arrest of 21 year old Peggy Swinney the new wife of one ul lease whinny while in custody Peggy gave many detailed statements explaining how her husband committed the murders of Betty Jo and Paul though descriptions of her own involvement varied from statement to statement on July 23rd Peggy gave a statement saying that on April 13th the day before the bodies of Betty Jo Booker and Paul Martin were found she and ul parked at Spring Lake Park and drank some beers according to her statement ul left the car saying he had to quote take a leak and quote Peggy said quote he was gone from the car about one hour when I heard something that sounded like two gunshots it was just getting daylight when he came back to the car and started driving out of the park at a rapid rate of speed when he came back to the car I saw that his clothes were wet up to his knees and damp on up to his waist and quirked she says that her boyfriend steps out of the car to go go P you know and then he takes a long time comes back and when he comes back he’s very rushed she’s whose parents she’s heard gunshots he’s driving very fast he’s wet mmm not cuz of the P I imagine because he went through a creek or something it’s near Lake so it’s near Lake washing off the blood she does seem to have a fair amount of details she does and there’s one detail that she has that is very interesting that she knows and we’ll get to that in a second okay on July 24th Peggy gave another statement in this one she said ul had said quote he was going out to the park to rob some end quote Peggy said she went with ul to Paul Martin’s car where ul pointed a gun at the young couple and told them to get out of the car Peggy said that she refused to search the teenagers which angered ul and he shot Martin twice Peggy then allegedly helped betty jo in place while UL got his car he drove it back made both girls get into the car drove west turned around and shot Paul two more times as he had apparently been able to get up and move after the first two shots he took betty jo into the woods while Peggy waited in the car when you well returned he told Peggy he had tried to quote get some end quote with a young girl and then shot her after she refused wait so this is the same attack but a different story so she gave multiple statements about this day that they were at the lake one version she says he left and came back this version she says she was well involved well she was somewhat involved in she said that he was going to go rob these people I see well Peggy story shifted she crucially told police information that only someone who had been at the scene of the crime would have known for instance Peggy mentioned how Paul’s date book was thrown into some bushes a fact that only Bowie County Sheriff WHU bill Presley knew at the time as he had been the one who’d found the book that sounds like she knows what she’s talking about okay so there’s two scenarios right she was there when the murder happened or she happened upon it she happened upon it while they were at the lake found these bodies saw that there was that in the bush and then ran away and then realized later maybe they’ll find out I was there yeah but I will say that if scenario two was true it does not make a bit of sense for her to be like yeah we decided we were gonna rob them oh they might find out I was there I know what I’ll tell them we killed him tell them he killed them and I thought about just kind of what I wasn’t down ul was arrested at the Arkansas Motor Coach bus station as he arrived back from Atlanta where he had attempted to sell a stolen car while his wife was willing to talk to investigators ul was not critically while Peggy did give statements to investigators could not be forced to testify against you well as they had gotten married mere hours before police arrested her I’m having a hard time taking a temperature on these two yeah do they love each other clearly not because she’s she’s you know ratting him out but that also could be self-preservation she could have been involved doesn’t get off that’s not a saying like a weird Bonnie and Clyde but Bonnie and Clyde stuck together Bonnie wasn’t like hey got to check out this Claude guy ul was taken to Little Rock for a truth serum shot but he was given too much which caused him to pass out investigator Tillman Johnson said quote I think that if we had just kept him here in Texarkana and kept questioning him we would have gotten the truth out of him eventually end quote truth serum is not real yeah I mean we’ve come across this it’s a very elusive truth serum you’ve looked enough and most of these cases I mean whatever it is apparently you could overdose on you could take too much true serum too much serum yeah so you’re bringing in this quack doctor who’s just he’s not told root give him more okay let me inject him on my lemon juice cocktail and tell him make him pretty doc Peggy was imprisoned for her own involvement in the card theft but eventually released ul was sentenced to life in state prison for being a habitual criminal after the auto theft charge but was released on parole in 1973 when the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals decided that he didn’t have adequate representation on a car theft charge from 1941 ul died in a nursing home in Dallas in 1994 crazy to think you can kill five people in the 1940s and then live long enough to see Jurassic Park in theaters thank you thank you for that colorful I’m just trying to put into perspective the fact that this man so long ago committed these crimes and then he and he saw our into the future and he saw the rise of Industrial Light and Magic hi there wizard yeah I don’t really know how to wrap this one up because it’s just kind of upsetting because I feel like this man got away with it or the other guy gotta say that already okay but it does seem like this guy the techs are can’t offend to murder stand out as managing to stoke frenzy of fear in a community that had been numbed to violent crime SWE Acheson a resident of the area who was 16 at the time of the attack said quote the big wonder for everyone back then was whether the killings were being done by someone who lived among us and I still wonder who did it end quote across four attacks five people were shot to death and three others were severely injured as for who was responsible that remains unsolved I will say that since the the time of the murders the town really has leaned into it the movie that was made about this was called the town that dreaded sundown I’ve heard of that I didn’t realize that that was about that I’ve never seen it but that’s about the Texarkana phantom killer dang well that I don’t really know how to wrap this one up because it’s sad here’s a positive let’s do it what do you got this made the town rally together they thought like maybe we got to stop being so violent with each other that didn’t happen but they certainly remember the murders well then they said let’s remember these murders there ever and I’m sure it’s a lovely town yeah I’ve never been well we’ll have to go sometime okay we could watch the movie – yeah I’ll just watch the movie on that town that dreaded sundown is what

100 thoughts on “The Horrifying Texarkana Phantom Killer

  1. Make sure to leave your questions for our Post Mortem episode down below!

  2. Peggy’s varied statements seem like the products of bad interveiwing to me. Leading questions, fact planting, and threats lead to this kind of thing. Gradually escalating statements and the slow involvement of herself?? And after all that the statements still don’t make much sense. It all seems super fishy – remember that these are the same police that tried to use a truth serum. It just reeks of false confession.

  3. my friend does the fake kiss thing all the time, he also listens to old music, understandable

  4. There is a film loosely based on this called "The Town That Dreaded Sundown" (1976).

  5. Just so everyone knows- the hotel grim was POPPING in the 40s and 50s and is super gorgeous but now it’s run down. Local texarkanan btw

  6. Mr. Stark gets shot once through a window and dies Mrs. Stark not much of an Iron man are you? gets shot twice in the face and still lives

  7. Is it just me or does the manikin in the background of Shane seems to keep moving it’s head in every episode or…

  8. BRUHHH the whole time watching this i was like "dang this sounds just like The Town that Dreaded Sundown" and then at the end….lmao

  9. Boobytrap = IED, landlines, tripwires, Punji stick trap. Booby traps are very effective.

  10. 1:38
    cough cough with eachother cough cough
    i didn't say anythiiiiiiing~ UwU

  11. I think the son of Sam was inspired by these murders or he knew the killer personally and the killer went by Sam which then gave him the name

  12. Texarkana native here. Just nitpicking here but you refer to the lake of spring lake park which is actually false. There is no lake at the park nor is one really nearby. It's actually just a big ol pond

  13. What do booby traps look like and where can they be purchased ?
    And do do they come in different sizes?

  14. Can you guys update the entire playlist. Some of the videos are missing from the complete playlist

  15. All the women/girls killed had middle names. Only women/girls with middle names should panic.

  16. you gotta give the killer a name that he hates like "dirty little bunny boy" or "Sparkling pink princess".

  17. It seems to be there were two killers. Not a copycat, but someone taking opportunity of the community freaking out to rob people.

  18. “It’s like we’re both making out.”
    – Shane 2019

    I was listening to this in the car with no visuals and nearly crashed!

  19. Wait a minute. WAIT A MINUTE. I just saw a comment talking about age gaps and some ppl rlly care more about the same gender relationships being “predatory” and not MASSIVE age gaps? Like wtf Idek I just think that’s weird asf

  20. "You're a sweet boi with a fuzzy face" is the greatest string of words ever said

  21. I can't be the only one disappointed at the end of every episode. "It remains…..un…solved" super glad I just wasted a half hour on a great story, average jokes, and terrible theories just to be told it'll never be solved.

  22. why d'ont thy dna tesst the grils vajena to se whos pensis w'ent in it wen she got rappided

  23. okay, but they were in a car, why didn't they just drive off when they saw the attacker

  24. Richard L. Griffin kinda deserved it maybe just a little? I mean he was 29 and she was 17? That’s a bit weird and kinda creep dirtbag status. I’m 31 and 2 years ago I couldn’t even imagine being with a 17 year old girl even if it was legal in the state I was in. He didn’t really deserve it… just don’t agree with his choice of girls age.

  25. If you guys want haunted places, ghost stories, pirates, buried treasure, haunted face on a building that was cleaned off, mysteries, murder mysteries COME TO GALVESTON TEXAS!

  26. I had a dream once we’re thousand of teeth were falling out of my mouth in the backseat of my dads cars and I was spitting them in a bottle cap and they all fit even tho there were thousands

  27. The reason he would've got away with this is because legally husband and wife are considered ONE person under law. Meaning that they couldn't convict him because she couldn't have testified against him in a legal court. Absolutely insane.

  28. 4:45 why did the audio quality change? That's random and it lasted about 2 seconds??

    (edit) it happened again at 15:24 and I noticed both times this happened it was in a date? Did y'all mess up the dates in the original v.o.?

    (Edit 2) 18:14 it wasn't a date this time, it was the book in the bushes thing.

  29. If u were Single in those Times that Phantom Killer was ALIVE consider yourself Lucky Dodging a Bullet

  30. Henceforth and forevermore hammocks will only be known as murder bags. That is all.

  31. Shane & Ryan being serious about the topic and Ryan brings up the fact that the couple goes to a private place.

    Shane: I know what they’re doing. gives eye brow and turns around to do the makeout bit

  32. 11:16 I thought this was a common practice in Texas, maybe this circumstances just established this tradition

  33. That’s why japan has the red light district also this dude was probably rejected then got pissed

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