The Legend of Stumpy - The Flying Torso of Houston, Texas

Strange Tales

The Strange Tale of Stumpy the Torso
The Strange Tale of Stumpy the Torso | Source

Was "Stumpy" a Tasmanian Devil?

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Tasmanian Devils are not Devils at all. They are kinda cute little mammals of Tasmania! Photo - Wikimedia Commons, Public Domainhuman torso
Tasmanian Devils are not Devils at all. They are kinda cute little mammals of Tasmania! Photo - Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain
Tasmanian Devils are not Devils at all. They are kinda cute little mammals of Tasmania! Photo - Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain | Source
human torso
human torso | Source

The day the house burned down...

I was not quite five years old, so my memories are faded with the passage of time. Although I was very young, I remember the images of that evening in1957 just like I am still sitting there in my mother's lap. These visions haunt me.

Our good neighbor's house had burned to the ground. We had been friends with the Griffins for as long as I was alive. Their closest child to my age was Roger Griffin and I haven't seen or heard from him in over 40 years.

But the tale of Stumpy begins with the sisters. They were around my sister's age, teenagers, and their names were Bonnie and Sybil. My sister was Verna. The whole Griffin family needed a place to stay of course, and since our families were friends, we tried to take in the whole bunch.

Our house on Fitch Street in North Houston was in the process of getting a new carport added on to the west side where the kitchen was. The wall was torn open, but it was summertime and there was a good breeze being piped in through the open wall. We were all pretty much gathered in the kitchen to prepare dinner for everyone.

Verna, Sybil and Bonnie were asked to get on their bicycles and go borrow some silverware for dinner as we did not have enough on hand for everyone. This was back in the days before plasticware was common. The girls hopped on their bikes to travel the two or three blocks to another neighbor's house. They had to ride past a heavily wooded lot to get there. On the way, no problem. On the way back, big problem!

The torso flies out of the woods!...

They were rounding the corner to come back home, probably at a good rate of speed. Then something scared them so bad, that they had a spill on the bikes. They arrived running to the house, covered in cuts and bruises and screaming about a torso flying out of the woods at them!

"What do you mean, a torso?" my mother asked.

"A body with no head, no arms, no legs!" they screamed!

Well, this was sufficient to cause my mom to call the cops and to bundle us all into the car and drive around the block looking for the "torso". I distinctly remember standing up in the back seat looking out of the back window of the car as we drove slowly past the woods.

We didn't find so much as a hair, of course. But we did recover the bikes and had a look see. The cops arrived and also found nothing. Everyone calmed down, but I remember sitting in the chair in the kitchen with Roger and both of us holding onto the borrowed knives thinking we would save the rest of the folks if the torso came flying through the carport opening. No sleep for us that night.

The Mystery Deepens...

A few days later I remember seeing the cover of a news tabloid similar to The Inquirer or some such. On the cover was a photo of a Tasmanian Devil. The headline read, "Tasmanian Devil escapes from traveling zoo!" I know what the headline said because my dad read it to me and explained that a Tasmanian Devil wasn't really a devil, but a small animal from Australia or New Zealand or parts thereabouts. Actually they are from Tasmania, near the southern coast of Australia.

So, we all seemed to breathe a sigh of relief and had a good laugh at the girls being scared by a monkey-like animal that had escaped from a zoo. Years passed and we all seemed to forget about the incident.

How I met "Stumpy" the torso of Houston...

During my single dating years, I once dated a Houston police officer. I was about 30 years old at the time and the policeman and I attended a retirement party for the outgoing Medical Examiner of Houston and Harris County. He gave a speech and I was about half listening to it when he said something about "Stumpy".

Stumpy was the nickname he had given to his most unforgettable case of an unidentified body. My head jerked up when he was saying that the body was unidentified to this day because all he had to go on was a torso. The body had no head, no arms, no legs. It was found in a local bayou some 25 years ago (at the time). The time line instantly brought back all the memories of the day my sister had the run in with the "Tasmanian Devil".

Could it have actually been a torso flying out from the woods that day? Could the killer have tried tossing it out of a car as the girls rode by? Did he swing around and scoop it up again? Could the killer be someone we knew? Could Stumpy be someone we knew? How do you identify a body with no teeth or fingerprints or any other identifying marks?

Is the family legend real?...

I am currently investigating this case. I am in the process of contacting Jennifer Love, PhD who is overseeing the Harris County Anthropology Division of the Medical Examiner's office in Houston, Texas. I really don't know if I can help, but maybe by knowing that Stumpy was seen on the corner of Fitch St. one night back in the summer of '57, she'll be able to match it to a missing person report or something.

Perhaps with new DNA testing and technology, Stumpy may actually have a name!

The North Side of Houston

A marker5618 Fitch St. Houston, Tx -
5618 Fitch Street, Houston, TX 77016, USA
[get directions]

Approximate area of where the torso came flying out of the woods! (allegedly)

As of March, 2015, there are over 5,000 unsolved homicides in Houston!

Are you interested in solving some of these homicide cases?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Maybe if they feature it on TV and I know something about it.
See results without voting

© 2010 Austinstar

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Do you think Stumpy will ever be identified? How would someone track it down? 27 comments

breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 6 years ago

This is an amazing story. I wish you good luck in your investigation. Something tells me there is a book in this for you.


Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 6 years ago from Somewhere in the universe Author

I would be happy if I solved the mystery. It's a crazy persistent memory.


drbj profile image

drbj 6 years ago from south Florida

Now that's an interesting story, Austinstar. No one could make up a scenario like that. Maybe your next career as a P.I. is out there just waiting for you. Or as an author writing about P.I.s.

I can see the headline now: "Austinstar - the next Agatha Christie, Y'all."


Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 6 years ago from Somewhere in the universe Author

Too funny drbj! Yep, I think I missed my calling when I specialized in blood transfusions. I think I might have been happier as a CSI or a homicide detective. I wish I had time to write the novels scrambling around in my brain. I hope to make it my retirement career.

Read the Jack Reacher series by Lee Child and you'll discover my personal hero and what I would like to do. He rights all the wrongs he finds and he does it very well.


drbj profile image

drbj 6 years ago from south Florida

Too funny you mentioned Lee Child, Austinstar. He's my favorite mystery author, too, together with Harlan Coban. Those two are must-reads whenever they publish something new. I knew we had something more in common than just our intelligence and good looks!


akirchner profile image

akirchner 6 years ago from Central Oregon

Oh my GOSH! That is insane - you will have to let us know what your contacts tell you. The Flying Torso Revisited!


GusTheRedneck profile image

GusTheRedneck 6 years ago from USA

Austinstar - "The Flying Torso of Houston" is the result of what can happen when a nervous person overdoes the bad habit of chewing on one's fingernails and does not know when to quit it. (Great article, Austinstar!!!)

Gus :-)))


Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 6 years ago from Somewhere in the universe Author

And after chewing off his arms and legs, he musta lost his head! Alas, poor Stumpy I knew him not!


leo schultz 6 years ago

An interesting story. Thanks for emailing the link.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago

This is a very entertaining story, well written. Thank you!


ralwus 6 years ago

Simply amazing story Star and that would be great if you get this case solved. Kewl. 'This was back in the days before plasticware was common.' Now you have depressed me with that line. LOL Great storytelling.


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia

Cool beans! Please keep us posted!


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 5 years ago from Central Oklahoma

I knew there was a reason I never had any desire to move to Houston. :-) Seriously now, have you found out anything new about Stumpy since you wrote this hub?


Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 5 years ago from Somewhere in the universe Author

Nothing new. I tried to contact the medical examiner in Houston, but she never returned my calls or emails. I just got in contact with my ex-step brother and he was Chief of Police in a suburb of Houston. I think I'll ask him about it. Stay tuned!


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 5 years ago from Central Oklahoma

Will do!


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 5 years ago from Central Oklahoma

Have you tried to find the case at http://www.houstonunsolved.com/

Since you don't give the year of the "Flying Torso" in the hub, I don't know which years to search.


Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 5 years ago from Somewhere in the universe Author

Around 1957. I'll go take a look too! Thanks.


Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 5 years ago from Somewhere in the universe Author

Well, searching torso, 1957, dismembered, unidentified, Fitch St. and I get nothing. Let me know if you find something.


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 5 years ago from Central Oklahoma

Just emailed you another link you may find helpful.


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 5 years ago from Central Oklahoma

The only one from 1957 is:

1200 COMMERCE

Houston, TX

DATE FOUND: 7/8/1957

CASENo: ML57-0694

estimated age: 25 to 40

SUSPECTEDRACE: WHITE

SEX: MALE

Does that sound right?


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 5 years ago from Central Oklahoma

Never mind. The body had a head and limbs and was clothed. Sorry.


kenneth avery profile image

kenneth avery 4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

Hello,Austinstar, on January 16,2012 . . .

GREAT read! Amazing presentation. Informative and very helpful. Voted up and away for I love your writing style and I am now honored to FOLLOW you.

Please keep up the great work and I Invite YOU to check out my hubs, that is if you need a good laugh.

And I would love for you to be a follower. That would make my day. Highest Regards,

Kenneth Avery,

from Hamilton, a small (but proud) town in northwest Alabama that reminds you of Mayberry, that sweet town we loved on

The Andy Griffith Show. Much Peace and Success to you!


Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 4 years ago from Somewhere in the universe Author

Well, Kenneth, I did and I do follow you now. I was impressed with your cool hubs on advertising. I'll have to read some of the 'funny' ones in my spare time. Nice to meet ya.


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 4 years ago from Central Oklahoma

I was hoping there was some news on the identity of Stumpy. Drats!


Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 4 years ago from Somewhere in the universe Author

Stumpy has finally been buried and the case is closed. I guess we'll never know.


kenneth avery profile image

kenneth avery 4 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

Austinstar . . .Stumpy, to me, will always be a star. And NOT forgotten. True folklore's icons NEVER die.


JamaGenee profile image

JamaGenee 4 years ago from Central Oklahoma

R.I.P., Stumpy...

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