Over the last three weeks, a bombing spree in the Texas capital city shared eerie similarities to a string of Austin killings from 1885 that continued for over a year.
“The idea that these were crimes aimed at minority residents, in a weird way pacified people in Austin in 1885,” Skip Hollandsworth says. “And you can see it in the same fashion in the last three weeks.”
Hollandsworth is the author of a 2016 book called The Midnight Assassin about the Austin serial killer in the 1880s. He’s also executive editor of Texas Monthly magazine.
He says once the current series of explosions reached an upper class white neighborhood, though, everything changed. “Everybody was terrified of opening packages. They would not ride their bikes down city trails. There’s just been this sense of foreboding and fear and prickly panic.”
He says these explosions lasted for three weeks, but the 1885 case stretched on for a year.
“The Austin killings in 1885 became a precursor for what was to come in American society, which were these loners who felt a need to draw attention to themselves and loved the idea of creating mayhem,” Hollandsworth says. “So every city that’s had to deal with such a killer has had to deal with the same set of factors: ‘When will he strike again? Why is he striking? What can we do to stop him? And how do we stop it from ever happening again?’ And the answers are still as murky and mysterious today as they were 138 years ago.”
Written by Christopher De Los Santos.