Sometimes, the smallest towns hide the biggest secrets. That was the case with the Texas Slave Ranch, one of the state's creepiest stories. Walter Wesley Ellebracht Sr. and his extended family had lived in Mountain Home, TX, for generations, and they were known as decent folk. But something strange began happening on their ranch in the late 1970s and into the 1980s. People - mostly drifters - began disappearing around the property.
What happened at the Texas Slave Ranch? True stories from Mountain Home lay out the chilling details. Walter Ellebracht, along with accomplices, had kidnapped, enslaved, and tortured people on the property. At least one man was presumed dead. Finally, in 1984, the authorities raided the property on a tip. They rescued six people, but what else they discovered was nothing short of gruesome: bone fragments and tapes of torture sessions.
Ellebracht and a few others went to trial in 1986 and were ultimately convicted on charges of conspiracy to commit aggravated kidnapping. However, they were effectively acquitted of murder, and there are many who believe justice has yet to be served. The men involved might have been found guilty, but they barely saw any jail time. These Texas Slave Ranch facts illustrate a sordid chapter in the South's history.
The Men Tortured One Slave To Death
For Anthony Bates, the punishments doled out on the Ellebracht ranch proved to be fatal. Bates had injured his leg while working on the ranch, and was mostly incapacitated. That didn't matter to the Ellebrachts; they began to torture him with the cattle prod. Bates did not survive, and his body was doused in gasoline and set aflame - apparently while his captors listened to Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire."
Survivors of the slave ranch pointed police to bones that remained after the attempted cremation.
Slaves Slept Chained In The Dirt
Life for the abused captives on the Texas Slave Ranch was a never-ending nightmare. They even slept chained in the dirt. Survivors reported being shackled at the end of each work day, and being put to bed in a metal barn. The building was freezing in the winter and burning hot in the summer, and the captives were denied pillows and blankets. There were no bathroom facilities, either, so they had to sleep in their own filth.
There May Have Been Sexual Assault
Though there were no claims of sexual assault made by the men and women held captive at the Ellebracht ranch, the wife of a foreman on the ranch did make such a claim. Sheri Hamilton said that every morning she was forced to kiss the ranch owner's son, Walter Ellebracht Jr., and to do it in front of her husband. She claimed the abuse led to rape:
"He [Walter Ellebracht, Jr.] made me take my clothes off. He took off his clothes. He then made me have sex with him."
None of Hamilton's testimony ever made it into the court room, since Ellebracht Jr. wasn't on trial for sexual assault. The trial judge later stated that "it would have led to an automatic reversal of a verdict in the case" - that is, Ellebracht Jr.'s conviction for conspiracy to commit murder and aggravated kidnapping
The Captives Made Wooden Keychains For Tourists
Prisoners at the Ellebracht ranch performed a number of duties, almost always the most labor-intensive and punishing available. One of the primary tasks was the cutting of firewood and harvesting of cedar trees. They performed these jobs chained together, and when they were done with the cutting and sawing, they were forced to carve pieces of cedar into keychains that were sold in stores around the Mountain Home community.