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Encyclopedia of Arkansas Minute: The Town That Dreaded Sundown

A horror film based on a series of post-World War II murders in Texarkana yielded a big profit for a prolific Arkansas director.

Charles B. Pierce, director of such classics as The Legend of Boggy Creek, released The Town That Dreaded Sundown, featuring Oscar winner Ben Johnson and Dawn Wells of Gilligan’s Island, in 1976. The movie, based on a series of 1946 attacks by a hooded man the Texarkana Gazette called “The Phantom Killer,” was one of the first slasher movies.

Shot over four weeks in Texarkana, Garland and Scott, the movie premiered in Texarkana on December 17, 1976. Local officials threatened to sue over the movie’s poster, which stated “In 1946 this man killed five people…Today he still lurks the streets of Texarkana, Ark.”

Receiving mixed reviews, the film enjoyed wide release at drive-in theaters before moving to television in 1978. The Town That Dreaded Sundown reportedly cost four hundred thousand dollars to make and earned Pierce around five million.

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