LRL Home - Points of Interest

Capitol Spirits

Leading up to Halloween each year, we gather spookie stories and tales of ghostly hauntings that add to the aura of the Texas Capitol and the Lone Star State. Below you'll read about mysterious lights, a quack medicine doctor, and a man whose corpse was buried standing up. 

From the Legislative Reference Library, we hope you have a fun and safe Halloween!!

Radam's Microbe Killer

Radam's Microbe Killer

In the 19th century, death from tuberculosis, a.k.a. "consumption," was widespread and William Radam of Austin claimed to have a remedy. Perhaps Austin's original "weird" character, Radam, operated a seed store at 907 Congress Avenue, and developed, bottled, and sold "Radam's Microbe Killer." Although deemed a quack, sales of his "miracle cure" made him a wealthy man. The building at 907 Congress Avenue has been vacant for over 20 years; does his spirit linger, handing out samples of his microbe killer?


Legislative Reference Library

Ghosts in the Legislative Reference Library

This photo of the Capitol's Legislative Reference Library space shows the room as it appeared circa 1902-1907, when used for the Supreme Court Library.  A ghost-like figure can been seen sitting at a table, near the door to a hidden staircase.  It is reported that a "lady in red" frequents this staircase and the office above it, perhaps hoping to meet up with her lover who once worked in that office.


The Old Rock Store

The Old Rock Store in Oak Hill

The Old Rock Store in Oak Hill has watched over travelers since 1898 when James Andrew Patton, Texas Ranger, and unofficial "mayor of Oak Hill" built the stone building to house his mercantile business.  His daughter, Rosa Patton White, worked in the store after the untimely death of her Texas Ranger husband, John Dudley White, Sr., in 1918 at the hands of army deserters.  Is Ranger White the mischievous ghost who inhabits the building (now home to Austin Pizza Garden) looking for his wife?


UT Tower

Foreboding in the UT Tower

Completed in the 1937, the University of Texas Tower has long been a landmark on the Austin skyline, but it is also notorious for other reasons -- the construction worker who fell to his death, a number of suicides, and the most infamous event of all, the 1966 tower shootings by Charles Whitman. Some visitors report general feelings of foreboding and claustrophobia, as well as encountering cold spots in the stairwell.  Many believe Whitman, himself, is the spirit who turns lights on and off.


Historical marker for James Briton

Mysterious Lights Near Bailey's Prairie

James Briton "Brit" Bailey was a larger than life character who settled in Stephen F. Austin's colony.  He let it be known that when he died, he wanted to be buried standing up, facing west, with his gun, powder horn, rifle balls, and a jug of whiskey.  Legend says all but one of those requests was carried out.  An unexplained light is seen from time to time near Bailey's Prairie on Highway 35 between Angleton and West Columbia.  Perhaps it's just old Brit and his lantern searching for that whiskey jug.


Lights of Marfa

The Lights of Marfa

Strange lights have been reported between Alpine and Marfa, across Mitchell Flat with the Chinati Mountains as a backdrop since the 1880s.  They appear in various colors as they move about, disappear and reappear.  Some believe the logical explanation is car headlights from U.S. 67, while others point to a natural, scientific explanation.  A legend persists that Alsate, the last Apache chief who lived in the area, is lighting watchfires. The lights are definitely there but for what reason? 


Enchanted Rock

Legends of Enchanted Rock

Various Indian tribes have held Enchanted Rock in both religious awe and supernatural fear.  Their legends speak to attempts to explain the natural phenomena they saw. Noises and lights were attributed to a great devil trapped in the rock or various other spirits who linger, such as the last of a tribe's warriors who fought to their end here.  Indentions on the rock's summit are the footsteps of a doomed chief forced to walk the rock forever as a punishment for the sacrifice of his daughter.


W.B. Dewees

More Enchanted Rock Tales

In an 1834 letter, W.B. Dewees said of Enchanted Rock, "The Indians have held it sacred for centuries, and go there once a year to worship it.  They will not permit any white person to approach it." In the fall of 1841, Captain John Coffee "Jack" Hays, singlehandedly held off a party of Comanches because the band would not pursue Hays when he climbed to the rock's summit.  

Cover image by J.W. Remington Photographics

Week in Review, October 20

In this weekly post, we feature online articles and policy reports published recently, and other helpful research tools.

  • Read about student debt at graduation for the class of 2015. (Institute for College Access & Success, October 2016)
  • Consider how voter ID laws and litigation may affect the election. (Stateline, October 19, 2016)
  • Examine police face recognition policies throughout the country. (Georgetown Law Center on Privacy & Technology, October 18, 2016)
  • Find out which states retirees may want to avoid because of an unfavorable tax climate. (Kiplinger, October 2016)

The Economic Stabilization Fund, a.k.a. The Rainy Day Fund

The following information about the Texas Economic Stabilization Fund, commonly called the "Rainy Day Fund," may be of interest. The fund was created in 1988 by the 70th Legislature to set aside state revenue for when revenue shortfalls occur.

For general information about the Rainy Day Fund, including enacting legislation, voting requirements, and constitutional provisions, please see our February 2011 post FAQs about the Economic Stabilization ("Rainy Day") Fund.

For a recent update on the fund, please see the Texas Comptroller's June 2016 report as well as the September 2016 article in Fiscal Notes. 

What is the current and historical balance of the ESF? 

The Economic Stabilization Fund is listed in the Texas Comptroller's Texas Annual Cash Report as fund number 0599 Economic Stabilization Fund. In fiscal year 2015, 0599 Economic Stabilization Fund had an ending balance of $8,468,905,380. The below table lists a number of data points about the fund back to 1990, including:

  • Ending balance each fiscal year
  • Bills that have spent (appropriated) money from the fund
  • Oil and natural gas production tax revenue transferred to the fund
  • Constitutional cap

Cover image by Adrianna Calvo

Interim Hearings - Week of October 24

Today's Committee Meetings on the LRL website is a calendar of interim committee hearings with links to agendas. Below are resources related to upcoming Interim Hearings.


October 26

Senate Committee on Finance

Topic: Child Protective Services' (CPS) plan to ensure timely contact with children at immediate risk of abuse or neglect, impact of CPS initiatives funded in the 2016-17 General Appropriations Act, and status of CPS Transformation

Topic: LBB update on fiscal years 2016-17 supplemental costs for the General Appropriations Act

Week in Review, October 13

In this weekly post, we feature online articles and policy reports published recently, and other helpful research tools.

  • Examine the landscape of legal education today. (Access Group Center for Research & Policy Analysis, posted to Social Science Research Network on October 11, 2016)
  • Read about how candidate vacancies are filled around election season. (Congressional Research Service, October 6, 2016)
  • Explore the linguistic differences across the U.S. (Business Insider, September 30, 2016)
  • See what options Texas voters have to show identification or supporting documentation at the polls. (Texas Secretary of State, September 21, 2016)

Interim Hearings - Week of October 17

Interim Hearings - Week of October 17
Today's Committee Meetings on the LRL website is a calendar of interim committee hearings with links to agendas. Below are resources related to upcoming Interim Hearings.
October 17
House Committee on Public Education
Topic: School choice programs
October 18
Joint Interim Committee to Study Border Security
Topic: Implementation of HB 11, 84th Legislature, R.S., and additional border security efforts

Week in Review, October 6

In this weekly post, we feature online articles and policy reports published recently, and other helpful research tools.

  • Explore data visualizations on population and demographics. (U.S. Census Bureau, accessed October 5, 2016)
  • Read about word count limits on legal briefs. (The New York Times, October 3, 2016)
  • Examine the political aspects of climate issues. (Pew Research Center, October 4, 2016)
  • See which Texas university makes the list of the top 25 public colleges of 2016. (Forbes, 2016)

Interim Hearings - Week of October 10

Interim Hearings - Week of October 10

Today's Committee Meetings on the LRL website is a calendar of interim committee hearings with links to agendas. Below are resources related to upcoming Interim Hearings.


Week of October 10 

October 12

House Committee on General Investigating & Ethics 

Charge 4: State agencies' use of emergency leave and settlement payments


House Committee on Insurance 

Charge 4: Texas credit for reinsurance statutes and effect on market capacity, cost of regulatory compliance, and prospect of federal preemption, and alternative credit for reinsurance statutes in other jurisdictions


Charge 5: Implementation of SB 900, 84th Legislature, R.S., including rulemaking by Texas Department of Insurance and adoption of updated plan of operation by Texas Windstorm Insurance Association


Joint Legislative Committee on Aging

Topic: Geriatric training and continuing education among physical and mental health professionals 


Topic: Collaborative and innovative aging services across the state 

October 13

House Committee on Natural Resources

Charge 3: Freshwater loss 


Charge 1: Regional and state water planning processes, with emphasis on integration of HB 4, 83rd Legislature, R.S., regional planning groups, groundwater management, drought of record, and related issues 


Charge 9: Legislative oversight and monitoring, including review of the surface water permitting process in Texas 

Joint Legislative Committee on Aging 

Topic: Influenza and bacterial pneumonia disease in long term care facilities


Topic: Elderly financial abuse

House Committees on Agriculture & Livestock and Natural Resources (Joint Hearing)

Charge: Sources of water used by Texans in the production of food and fiber; water delivery methods, water conservation goals, and water-usage management practices in agriculture

Frank Calhoun Reflects on a Half-Century Under the Dome

This is the second installment in our new series, "Texas Treasures," highlighting some of the men and women who have served in the Texas Legislature. In our first post, we featured Sen. A.R. "Babe" Schwartz.
Frank Calhoun comically attributes much of his success in life to the fact that he "keeps showing up." 
Frank Calhoun Rep. Frank Calhoun, 61st Legislature (1969).
And show up he has. Frank represented Taylor County in the House of Representatives from 1967-1975, and he has been a reliable presence in the Capitol ever since. Frank announced his retirement early this year after being active in Texas politics for over 50 years.
Frank was a law student at the University of Texas when he landed his first job in the Capitol in 1957. As an Assistant Sergeant-at-Arms, he was responsible for distributing messages to House offices and performing other clerical tasks. But mostly he sat on a stool in a dark elevator with a law book in hand, an experience he shares with other former lawmakers
"It was simple. People would get on the elevator, and I would punch the button." It wasn't glamorous, but being able to study while he worked was a great benefit. "It never occurred to me that one day I might be elected to the Legislature. I just wanted to get through school and become a lawyer."
After Frank passed the bar exam he went home to Abilene and became a lawyer. His interest and involvement in his community naturally extended to Democratic politics.
In 1966, when redistricting created an opportunity for someone from Abilene to be elected to the House of Representatives, Frank was recruited. "Four men called me to a meeting over a bottle of single malt and told me I was going to run. They agreed to take care of raising all the money. All I had to do was get elected."
During the last of Frank's four terms in the House, he was selected as a delegate to the State Constitutional Convention, which attempted to redraft a new constitution for Texas. The Constitution, he explained, "should reflect the contract between the people and their government." Instead it was a "statutory tangle." Regrettably, the Con-Con's revision failed by three votes. "That was the culmination of my legislative service and one of the most significant experiences."
Frank's involvement in politics continued after he left the Legislature and joined the Houston law firm of Liddell, Sapp, Zivley, Hill & LaBoon where he specialized in legislative and administrative matters.
Frank remembers his time in the Legislature as a very satisfying and interesting experience. Serious moments were frequently interspersed with humor and fun. "I got to know people from all over the state . . . Relationships develop. Periods of great stress forge friendships that never fade."
Several of the friendships Frank forged during those years are celebrated annually at Hilary Doran's ranch near Del Rio. Hilary extended the first invitation in 1967, and his friends have been showing up every November since. Frank expects this year's meeting of "The Extinguished" to be the last in a treasured tradition.
Frank has only missed one Doran Ranch meeting in 48 years. Most members of the group have been former legislators or legislative staff, several of whom have died in recent years.
The first invitation included wives, but it quickly became a "men's deal." "There was hunting, drinking, and carrying on . . . not a lot there for a woman to enjoy." Now the activities are pretty much limited to cigar smoking and dominos. "The guys stopped bringing their guns several years ago," Frank reminisced. "We are no longer angry at the deer."
Del Rio group Back row, left to right: Rayford Price, L.E. "Lee" Arnold, Dick Callahan, Walter Fisher, Glenn Biggs, Frank Calhoun, Guy Floyd
Front row, left to right: Charlie Schnabel, Hilary Doran, Neil Caldwell, Bill Finck
Frank Calhoun Frank Calhoun and Hilary Doran at Doran Ranch, November 2005.
 Deceased members include: Bob Johnson, Don Cavness, Ed Howard, Jim Wardle, Jim Kaster, and Randy Pendleton. Not pictured are: Glenn Biggs, Dick Cory, David Crews, and Grant Jones. Bottom photo: The lodge at Doran Ranch.

Week in Review, September 29

In this weekly post, we feature online articles and policy reports published recently, and other helpful research tools.
  • Review upcoming cases for the U. S. Supreme Court's next term.
  • Read about driverless car regulations. (Governing, September 27, 2016)
  • Examine how bullying affects the educational environment. (American Educational Research Journal, September 14, 2016)
  • Track recent flu activity. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, updated September 28, 2016)
  • Find places to enjoy fall foliage and stargazing in Texas parks. (mySA, September 15, 2016)

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