TISD to Host The Phantom Killer Forum This Saturday

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Texarkana, Texas | Texas High School Forensics Science students will host The Phantom Killer: Facts, Theories, Folklore and Fiction on Saturday, November 8 in the Sullivan Performing Arts Center & John Thomas Theatre, 3941 Summerhill Road. The event will be from 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. and will be FREE to the public.

The panel of speakers brings a diverse level of expertise in varied areas regarding the cases. Forum speakers, topics and time of presentations are:

10:15 – 10:55 a.m. – Jereme Kennington – An Overview of the 1946 Phantom Killings

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10:55 – 11:20 a.m. – Greg Bischof – Geographical Locations Related to the Phantom Killings & Victims

11:20 a.m. – Noon – Russ McDermott – Suspect Youell Swinney

1:00 – 2:00 p.m. – Dr. John Tennison – Suspect H.B. “Doodie” Tennison; Profiling: Potentially Influential Content in 1940s Media

2:00 – 2:20 p.m. – Dr. John Tennison – Approaches to Interrogation: Lies, Leading Questions, The 3rd Degree, Polygraph Tests, Hypnotism, Drugs, Statement Analysis & False Confessions

2:20 – 2:40 p.m. – Ann Winger – A Report on Paranormal Activities at the Tennison Mansion

2:40 – 3:10 p.m. – Mike Hackworth – Independent Movie Making in the 1970s; Reflections from the First “Victim” in the Town that Dreaded Sundown; How the Movie Deviated from Known Facts

3:10 – 3:40 p.m. – Pamula Pierce Barcelou and Charles B. Pierce, Jr. – Charles B. Pierce: From Those Who Knew Him Best

The idea for a forum on The Phantom Killer cases began with Texas High School Science teacher, Kelly Rowland, whose mother was a best friend with Betty Jo Booker, victim. Ms. Rowland’s mother was interviewed at length because of her friendship with Booker in order to get the information that could lead to a suspect.

“The many stories and details I have heard through the years has given me a passion for this case,” shared Rowland. “My mother was greatly affected by the horrific and traumatic killing of her friend and it has always bothered me that justice has still not been served for these families.”

Through social media, Rowland came in contact with Dr. John Tennison, who is the cousin of H.B. “Doodie” Tennison, who at one time confessed to at least some of the attacks. “I learned he was separately beginning to organize the same type of event. By pooling our resources, we have produced an event to remember for our community.”

For Rowland, it was apparent that the history of The Phantom Killer was dying with the generations. “I mentioned it to my Forensics students and they were unaware of the local murders but did seem to recall some information when the movie name was mentioned. After further discussions with my students, they became more intrigued on the idea of developing a forum. In fact, intrigue became school wide and other classes were involved for a cross-curricular unit.”

As part of the Saturday forum, Texas High School art students have created art for display and the graphic arts students were charged with the design of posters and programs. In other classroom work, foreign language students related The Phantom Killings to the day of the dead, English classes used the cases as writing projects and the astronomy class found interest in the Texarkana Moonlight Murders naming. Through their work, students pulled the dates on all attacks and looked at the faces of the moon and the weather for those dates in order to dispel the myth that all attacks were committed during a full moon.

“We have a very unique group of presenters for our forum that I believe will bring much insight to the investigations, suspects and continued theories that abound,” commented Rowland. “We will also have a limited number of early release copies of James Presley’s book, The Phantom Killer: A Town in Terror.”

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