Lifestyle

The Absolute Weirdest Things That Have Ever Happened in Houston

You may think Austin has acted as Texas' weirdness lightning rod, effectively channeling all the state's bizarre energy its way... but you'd be wrong. Houston has had just as big a slice of strangeness in its time, and these 15 happenings will pretty much prove it:

Cullen’s $12k Titanic meal

Year: 2012
On the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, Cullen’s offered guests the peculiar option of enjoying a meal similar to that of the Titanic passengers’ very last. For $1,000 per person, Houstonian’s could book Macy’s Table -- a 12-person private dining table suspended from the ceiling -- and nosh on beef, after-dinner cheese, and a 1900 bottle of French brandy while totally not thinking about the 1,500 some odd people who died when the Titanic sank.
 

When we all realized Hotel ZaZa had a “goth dungeon closet

Year: 2013
When Reddit user joelikesmusic’s colleague booked a stay at the swanky Hotel ZaZa, a tiny closet room decorated with creepy skulls and a chain holding the bed wasn’t what he was expecting. The hotel had accidentally given him Room 322, a “Hard Times” jail-themed room that is just part of the hotel’s quirky allure. There are theories that 322 is a reference to the secret Skull and Bones Society. We just want to know what a portrait of what seems to be former Stanford Financial Group President Jay Comeaux is doing there.

When gambling saved a major bank from collapsing

Year: 1931
When the economy collapsed during the Great Depression, Houston’s First National Bank would likely have went along with it had it not been for notorious gambler Jakie Friedman. The bookie ran one of the city’s most famous casinos, “Domain Privee,” and made so much money doing so that when he decided not to withdraw his money during the Depression, he pretty much saved the bank.

When the Montrose Rollerblader made it on America’s Got Talent

Year: 2014
We can all agree is was pretty bizarre that Juan Carlos made it so far on NBC’s hit talent show, right? But we still love you, JC!
 

That time a Clear Lake grocery store almost collapsed communism 

Year: 1989
After a trip to the Johnson Space Center, the newly elected Soviet premier Boris Yeltsin perused the aisles of a Clear Lake Randalls, claiming if his countrymen saw the conditions of American supermarkets shopped, “there would be a revolution.”
 

That time a news reporter got beat up for shutting down a whorehouse

Year: 1973 
La Grange brothel The Chicken Ranch had been operating without public backlash for over a century before KTRK’s Marvin Zindler began his investigation after receiving an “anonymous tip” (that tip turned out to be from the Texas’ Attorney General, btw). His coverage lead to the brothel being forced to shut down, which in turn lead to La Grange’s Sheriff giving Zindler two broken ribs. The entire ordeal is the basis for the 1978 broadway musical, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Fun times.

Brooke Viggiano/Thrillist

When Chinese Universalists built that Dr. Evil-esque palace 

Year: 1996
Topped by a 40ft gold dome, the 40k-sqft Chong Hua Sheng Mu Holy Palace is one of the more bonkers buildings in Houston. Also dubbed the Palace of the Golden Orbs, the $6 million fortress was built by members of a Chinese Universalist religious organization that had plans to complete the temple complex before the sect’s leader was deported in 1999. Today it sits abandoned in the middle of a neighborhood on Ashford Point. So much for world domination.
 

When some freakily cool UFOs were spotted in the sky

Year: 2014
The moniker Space City got really real just last year, when several pictures and videos showing a circular sequence of lights maneuvering the night sky surfaced online. Lead investigator of the Syfy Channel's "Fact or Faked: Paranormal Filesclaimed the photos could be a hoax or possibly exploding fireworks or flares, but we’re sticking with the alien story because it’s way cooler.

HBO

Matthew McConaughey’s strange as hell commencement speech at UH

Year: 2015
Matthew McConaughey is known for being “colorful,” but his deranged 45 minute University of Houston commencement speech -- in which he shared stories about naked bongo playing, crumbs being “the enemy,” and how you really shouldn’t own a “No Fear” T-shirt -- just may take the cake in terms of oddity. 
 

When an obese inmate hid a 9mm pistol in his flab

Year: 2009
George Vera, a 500lb man and 3rd-degree felony suspect, managed to pass multiple pat downs, first at the scene of his arrest, then at the city jail, and again when he was transferred to the Harris County jail, without police personnel finding the 9mm pistol hidden in his rolls of blubber. Once at lockup, Vera was even subjected to even more thorough searches, but to no avail. He must have gotten tired of being so damn badass, because he later admitted to having smuggled in a weapon during a shower break. 

When a vampire attacked a Galveston woman

Year: 2011
You guys, we all have to come to terms with the fact that we live in a world where someone somewhere may bite you because they think they are a freaking vampire. Take, for example, Galveston’s Lyle Monroe Bensley, who broke into a woman’s apartment and began biting her because he had been “alive over 500 years” and “needed to feed.” Reports say he was actually only 19 at the time.
 

When the Heaven’s Gate leader taught music at the University of St. Thomas

Years: 1965-1970
Just a few short years before meeting Bonnie Nettles and forming the suicide pact/UFO religious Millenarian group Heaven’s Gate in the early, Marshall Applewhite served as chair of the music department at the University of St. Thomas. Creeeeeepy. 

When Lil B put a curse on James Harden (and it worked)

Year: 2015 
Rockets guard James Harden’s post-celebration dance hit a little too close to home for rapper Lil B (aka The BasedGod). He told TMZ Sports, “If Harden doesn’t tell what he is doing, which is the Lil B cooking dance, he will be cursed.” By May, Harden still hadn't given the rapper props and as the Rockets flamed out of the playoffs, it looks like Lil B’s curse happened for reals.

That night Batman was wandering the Heights

Year: 1953
One insanely creepy night back June 18, 1953, several Heights residents claimed to have seen a “very tall man or manlike figure” with mysterious bat-like wings appear before he/it vanished into thin air. The mystery remains unsolved to this day, but we’re thinking it had something to do with LSD. Just a guess.
 

The face that haunts University of Texas Medical Branch’s Ewing Hall to this day

Year: It’s still happening!!
Many claim to have seen the face of a man, thought to the the ghost of former land owner, etched into the Ewing Building on UTMB campus. The legend goes that the man haunts the place because his family promised not to sell the land after his death. His creepy face was originally seen on the 4th floor, but when the university had the wall sandblasted after rumors ran amuck, the face moved to the the 3rd floor before eventually moving around a few more times. People still claim to see the face today.

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Brooke Viggiano is a Houston writer who is really hoping to see that Heights Batman and/or the ghost of Boris Yeltsin at Randalls. Let her know if you’ve seen either @BrookeViggiano.