You’ve been granted free access to this subscribers only article.
Alligator Man from Elmendorf
Rainy Days and Starry NightsFebruary 12, 2014 | 3,983 views | Post a comment
I just heard an interesting story about the Alligator Man from Elemendorf. My Aunt Clare called from Georgia. She is my age, 82, and my only surviving aunt. When we get on the phone we talk mostly about the old days. Her memory is even better than mine. While we were reminiscing, for some reason she asked if I knew where Elmendorf was. When I told her I did, she began to tell me a story she remembered that happened around 1936 or ’37.
After they had moved to San Antonio from the Fairview community in Wilson County, they were going down U.S. 181 near Elmendorf. They were on their way to visit us on the farm at Kasper.
She said her daddy, my grandpa, stopped at this place in Elmendorf to get a bottle of beer. He went in and came out with the beer and the owner came with him, and he introduced his family to Joe Ball. Before they left, Grandpa shook Joe’s hand and they drove away. Grandpa told them about the five alligators Joe had in a pit behind the tavern. He had captured them in the San Antonio River nearby. The pit had a fence around it so the alligators could not crawl out. They didn’t get to see the alligators that day. She said Joe was a nice friendly man. But as a little girl, she wondered why Joe didn’t put the alligators in the zoo.
Then later that year, it was in all the news, how Joe Ball had killed all these women, supposedly his barmaids who continually disappeared, his girlfriends, and a wife, and buried them by the river, and on a beach in Port Aransas, but they never found all of them. But she remembers her daddy and mama talking about all the different rumors.
The rumors were that Joe fed them to his alligators, after dismembering their bodies. That is all she remembered, because she was only about six or seven. She even remembered people saying that Joe Ball had a brothel in Elmendorf. Girls disappeared from there too.
I told Aunt Clare I would “Google” Joe Ball’s name from Elmendorf, Texas. As she stayed on the phone I did just that. And to my surprise I found the story. It was true; but only part of it was true. Some things are rumors.
It seems that women in the area were reported missing, including barmaids, former girlfriends, and his wife, and when two Bexar County sheriff’s deputies went to question him in 1938, Joe pulled a handgun from his cash register and killed himself with a bullet through the heart.
But later a man who worked for Joe, told authorities Joe Ball had fed the women to the alligators after killing them. He got several years in prison for being an accomplice.
Joe Ball had an interesting life, being in the Army in World War I, then was a bootlegger in the “Roaring ’20s,” and when Prohibition ended and he couldn’t make any money bootlegging, he opened a tavern on U.S. 181 in Elmendorf, called the Sociable Inn, in the 1930’s. That is when my grandpa learned of him. But I haven’t been able to find anything that mentioned a “Bawdy House.”
The story has been handed down for more than 70 years, written in True Crime magazines, and in Texas Monthly magazine. Joe Ball was known as “The Alligator Man,” “The Butcher of Elmendorf,” and the “Serial Killer from Elmendorf.”
I found an interview with his nephew on YouTube, telling the truth about Joe Ball. He said his Uncle Joe did kill a few women and bury them, but never fed them to the alligators. I wonder if any of my readers ever heard about the Alligator Man from Elmendorf.
Lois Zook Wauson is the oldest of eight children who grew up on a farm in Wilson County in the mid-20th century. After many years living in other parts of Texas, she now lives and writes in Floresville. Her two books are available from the Wilson County News office. Email her at email@example.com.
Your Opinions and Comments
Be the first to comment on this story!
You must be logged in to post a comment.
South Texas Living Archives
Celebrate July 4 in cradle of Texas liberty (June 29, 2016)
Freedom Fest brings in big names, big fun (June 29, 2016)
Hear Keen sounds at the river (June 29, 2016)
Paint by number (June 29, 2016)
Poth church offers Bible study, services (June 29, 2016)
Stagecoach ride in Anderson (June 29, 2016)
The Falstaff years and the trucks (June 29, 2016)
Austin’s oldest museum offers daily tours (June 22, 2016)
Dine out with The ROCK (June 22, 2016)
Esparza reunion planned for July 9 (June 22, 2016)
Free guided hikes at Enchanted Rock (June 22, 2016)
Getting your hands dirty — in the garden with Iris Seale (June 22, 2016)
Men: Pay attention to your health (June 22, 2016)
Movies in the Park (June 22, 2016)
New Pioneer Playroom offers hands-on learning (June 22, 2016)
Old newspaper makes memories ‘Local and Personal’ (June 22, 2016)
Poth church to celebrate 90 years (June 22, 2016)
See Legacy of Leadership exhibit in Washington (June 22, 2016)
SS museum plans meeting (June 22, 2016)
Tips for a safe trip to the beach (June 22, 2016)
Wall pocket (June 22, 2016)
Area seniors invited to Bingo Tuesdays (June 15, 2016)
Art Walk America contest deadline is June 23 (June 15, 2016)
Attend picnic at Dewees-Remschel House June 15 (June 15, 2016)
DRT receives honors at state convention (June 15, 2016)
Hear patriotic tunes in Pleasanton (June 15, 2016)
It’s gone! The Spot is gone! (June 15, 2016)
Join WASP for summer season (June 15, 2016)
Jubilee offers fun for the whole family (June 15, 2016)
Martinez Social Club keeps you dancing (June 15, 2016)
Meet 2016 Stockdale Watermelon Jubilee, rodeo court candidates (June 15, 2016)
Moms walking group invites members (June 15, 2016)
Napoli Glass (June 15, 2016)
Oak Hills Church plans yard sale (June 15, 2016)
Ramirezes celebrate golden anniversary (June 15, 2016)
See free movies at Arcadia (June 15, 2016)
Sutherland Springs seeks volunteers (June 15, 2016)
Vendors needed for Freedom Fest (June 15, 2016)
Witness Summer Solstice performance (June 15, 2016)
Add amphibians to your landscaping (June 8, 2016)
Enjoy free summer movies at Rolling Oaks Mall (June 8, 2016)
Enjoy Pilgrim Opry (June 8, 2016)
Gene Watson in Kerrville (June 8, 2016)
Hear ‘Bach to Luckenbach’ (June 8, 2016)
Hummel plate (June 8, 2016)
June dances in Geronimo (June 8, 2016)
Meet for Play Dates in the library (June 8, 2016)
OLPH names 2016 Mother of the Year, May Queen (June 8, 2016)
Prepare to enter cool creation in Ice Cream Freeze-off (June 8, 2016)
Remember Flag Day June 14 (June 8, 2016)
Running group plans June 11 run (June 8, 2016)
St. Ann Teen ACTS plan 5K Color Run (June 8, 2016)
Take Dad out to FatherFest June 19 (June 8, 2016)
The old Wagenfuehr house in Bleu Casa Village (June 8, 2016)
Tracking an icon in the ‘horned lizard capital of Texas’ (June 8, 2016)
Building communities (June 1, 2016)
Cowboy penknife (June 1, 2016)
Garcia receives Linda West Scholarship (June 1, 2016)
Garner State Park celebrates 75 years (June 1, 2016)
Libraries prepare to launch ‘Reading Is So Delicious!’ summer program (June 1, 2016)
Lutheran Church windows relocated for a little TLC (June 1, 2016)
St. Helena Men’s Club plans picnic (June 1, 2016)
Stockdale’s early beginnings (June 1, 2016)
The progression of the classic ‘koozie’ (June 1, 2016)