Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Joe Ball: The Butcher of Elmendorf


Joe Ball
Joe Ball

More than 60 years after Joe Ball committed his crimes, it is difficult to assemble a factual account. None of the original investigators is alive and the local authorities have no files or written accounts. Had it not been for the persistence of Michael Hall, managing editor of the Austin Chronicle, there probably would not have been a story to tell — at least not a very detailed one. During the summer of 2002, Hall ferreted out surviving witnesses, relatives and other details about Joe Ball. This information was published in the July 1, 2002, issue of Texas Monthly magazine. His account, along with various pre-existing reports, has made it possible to put together a reasonably complete story of Joe Ball's life and crimes.

Texas Monthly magazine cover
Texas Monthly magazine cover

Although most Texans do not recall how many people Joe killed or when the crimes took place, virtually all know his name and have heard stories about him. Many were told the tale by their parents at bedtime, or while sitting around a campfire trading ghost stories. Whether it is the sheer brutality of his crimes or the unique aspects of the case, the name Joe Ball is one not easily forgotten.

Most horror buffs have seen Tobe Hooper's popular movie The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It was Hooper's second movie, Eaten Alive, which may have been more reality based. The film told the tale of a crazed Texas hotel owner who fed his guests, including a pretty hooker, to an alligator he kept behind the hotel. Surely this is not sheer coincidence, and strongly suggests that Mr. Hooper, like many Texans, remains fascinated by Joe Ball and what he did to his victims.

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