Rest of the Best: 10 Best Houston Urban Legends
Houston is a big diverse city with a big diverse population, and that more often than not leads to a whole lot of different levels of bunk and bull that must be waded through in order to find the truth. On the other hand, some of those legends are true (Unfortunately it's usually the terrifying ones). We've got plenty of urban legends here, and today we're going to explore the ones that die hardest.
MFAH, gift of the artist, Richard Misrach Post-Katrina graffiti, before the "crime spike in Houston."
10. The Car Bump Scam
About a decade ago the rumor in Houston was that a new band of thieves was using a clever ploy. They would lightly ram a car from behind, and when the drivers got out to swap insurance information the thieves would rob them at gunpoint. There's a kernel of truth to that. In 2004 three young men did go on a huge crime spree that involved robbing 16 people, mostly Hispanic maids over the course of about three hours.
Some of those robberies did involve ramming cars, in motion and stopped at lights, and then pulling a gun on the driver when they got out of the car, but all in all it was the work of a small group of men, all apprehended, and not the start of a disturbing new kind of crime. That said, in the event of an accident, always call the police first and let them know what happened before you leave the safety of your car unless in immediate danger.
9. KLEE Station Identification
Houston has a reputation for bizarre radio and television happenings, such as the old KLOL studio being haunted for instance. More unconventionally, in the '50s it was rumored that a signal from KLEE had appeared on British televisions more than three years after KLEE had been turned into KPRC by The Houston Post. The bizarre occurrence was even written up in Reader's Digest as a believe-it-or-not piece, until it eventually came to light that the whole thing was a hoax by a scamster trying to build interest in a television that he said could receive signals from all over the world.
8. The Heights Batman
It's hard to top having your own monster, and Houston has an awesome, if extremely rare one in the form of the Batman. Around the same time that people were believing that signals from KLEE could cross the Atlantic, there appeared a mysterious man dressed in something like a paratrooper's uniform and sporting a long set of leather wings. He was only seen on one night in 1953, terrifying several onlookers before vanishing in a halo of light. He has not appeared since, but who knows what may be hiding in the Heights?
7. Katrina Bullshit
In 2005 Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and refugees fled to Houston where they were met with open arms in their moment of need. They were also met with some extremely racist bullshit, and it marks a rather shameful chapter in viral emails regarding our city. For instance, you might have seen the "So I Volunteered..." viral email written by a blogger named Maher that claimed all sort of bad and ungrateful behavior from those in the Astrodome. It's possible that he did see something bad, but the overwhelming majority of volunteers reported nothing but gratitude and civility.
There was also the rumor that Katrina victims refused buses to job fairs being held to try and help them find work. Those rumors were mostly directed at refugees in Dallas and Austin, but also were mentioned here. The truth is that there was a job fair in Austin that did offer free transportation that few used, but mostly because the advertising for the buses was poor since it was unclear if FEMA was going to reimburse the city. A job fair held in Houston did in fact draw 7,500 people looking for work, and was open to both refugees and native unemployed Houstonians.
Finally, there is no evidence that Houston experienced any significant rise in crime post-Katrina. There was indeed a small increase in the number of homicides total in the city, but no real pattern linking them to the influx of displaced Louisianans. The myth that Houston took in the criminal dregs of New Orleans and has been living with them since is just not true.
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