Texas is a land of mystery and enchantment, enticing such intrepid pioneers as Jim Bowie and Stephen F. Austin to its verdant plains and lush Hill Country. But in order for anything to be mysterious, it has to keep a few secrets.
Even people who have never been to Texas know that the Lone Star State is the home of the Alamo where 300 brave souls took on an army roughly five times its size. Non-Texans also have heard of the famous King Ranch, the Chisholm Trail and Texas’ cowboy history. And, of course, everyone has heard of Dallas’s Dealey Plaza, where one of America’s most disputed historical tragedies played out. But even if you lived in Texas your whole life you might not have heard of these 10 Texas secrets.
10. There is a defunct underground missile base in Denton.
The U.S. Army Nike missile base in Denton, Texas was constructed in 1959 and abandoned in 1968. Opened at the height of the cold war, the missile base is about 10 acres and housed an underground missile silo intended as homeland defense in the case of a nuclear war. According to the Civil Defense Museum website, the aboveground facilities were demolished in 2010. To learn more about the history of the site, visit DFW Urban Wildlife blog.
9. There’s an antebellum crypt under an overpass in Houston.
Even if you live in Houston you may not know about the Donnellan family crypt lurking under the Franklin Street Bridge over Buffalo Bayou. The crypt was the final resting place for members of the Donnellan family, including two young boys who died after discovering an unexploded Civil War era bomb in the wreckage of a Confederate ship in Buffalo Bayou in 1866. The family was moved in 1901, but the crypt remains to this day.
8. There’s a Waylon Jennings Museum in Littlefield.
In the hometown of the Texas native, run by Waylon’s brother James, there sits the fittingly named Waymore’s, a drive-thru liquor store that serves as a tribute to Jennings’ life. James Jennings maintains old guitars, albums and other memorabilia alongside the operating liquor store.
7. Austin has several hidden bars.
In a town known for both its bars and its hipsters, it’s no surprise that there would be several watering holes only frequented by the in-the-know. In fact, there are enough clandestine speakeasies that Thrillist even published a list of the best ones. Some, like Firehouse Lounge (pictured above) are accessible via secret entrances. In the case of Firehouse, patrons enter through a bookshelf that doubles as a doorway.
6. Downtown Dallas has abandoned underground train tracks.
No, it’s not a subway, but it is similar. Built in 1924 to link the four buildings of the Santa Fe Terminal Complex, the subterranean train tracks were serviced by a steam locomotive until 1950 when it was upgraded to diesel. The train carried goods to the merchandising centers in the buildings above, and is said to have ferried illegal booze during prohibition, and soldiers during WWII.
5. Marble Falls has a “Dead Man’s Hole”
Natural gas is assumed to have created this cave system in central Texas. Discovered by an entomologist in 1821, the hole gained infamy during the Civil War era as a dumping ground for the bodies of Union loyalists. Though several bodies were recovered in the late 1860’s, the presence of gas prevented thorough exploration of the caves until nearly a century later in 1951.
4. Texas is a literal treasure trove.
No really, there is buried treasure reputed to be hidden away all across the Lone Star State. From the Newton Gang’s missing loot to the Singer treasure in Padre Island, estimates put Texas’s hidden treasure at over 300 million dollars in worth. That is, if it can ever be found.
3. Texas is where historical bad guys go to retire.
According to local lore, Jesse James and John Wilkes Booth both fled to Granbury after authorities asserted these men were gunned down. Nearby Hico claims a similar story, insisting that the real Billy the Kid is buried in their cemetery. Whether or not the legends are true, there are certainly gravestones in each town that purportedly house the bodies of men claiming to be the infamous outlaws.
2. There is an underground tunnel system connecting much of UT campus.
The underground steam tunnels at the University of Texas main campus were revealed to the public in 2005 when blogger Tynan posted images of himself and his friends exploring the tunnel system. Though the tunnels aren’t much to look at, mostly containing pipes and wiring, the simple fact that they exist unknown to most of the student body is pretty fascinating. Also Tynan and his fellow explorers discovered a secret message scrawled on one column in code, ending with the cryptic statement, “Forgive me”.
1. Everything really is bigger in Texas.
Most Texans have heard that the land that we now live on was once covered with shallow, Precambrian seas. Texas’s aquatic history accounts for much of its paleontological finds, and in 2015, a new one was made. A fossil unearthed in Jacksboro, Texas in 2015 revealed a prehistoric shark that measured 26 feet in length, or over half the length of a school bus, put simply. The find was christened the “Texas Supershark” and while it doesn’t exceed the largest prehistorical shark, Megalodon, paleontologists say it was easily the largest shark of its time. The Texas Super Shark is said to be about 25% larger than the modern Great White shark.