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The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976) Filming Locations
Director Charles B. Pierce’s fifth film, The Town That Dreaded Sundown (1976), is based on the true story of the “Texarkana Moonlight Murders,” with varying degrees of looseness from the facts. Texarkana straddles the border of Texas and Arkansas, and both sides were terrified by a 1946 spree of attacks and murders that were all attributed to an unknown assailant who became known as the “Phantom Killer.”
Pierce experienced great success with his first movie, The Legend of Boggy Creek (1972), a pseudo-documentary filmed in nearby Fouke, Arkansas, which was based on alleged sightings of a Bigfoot-type creature in the area. With The Town That Dreaded Sundown, he returns to similar terrain, both physically and metaphorically, using a similar style to tell the frightening tale of a monster on the loose.
The Town That Dreaded Sundown was filmed primarily in and around Texarkana, where the original events had taken place.
If you have any tips on locations that I missed, please contact me on the Grahm's Guide Facebook page.
SPOILER ALERT: The descriptions below include plot points of the film.
If you haven't seen the movie, you can buy the Blu-ray on Amazon.
When I began researching these locations, I found an old Angelfire site devoted to The Town That Dreaded Sundown. The Filming Locations page was a big help, but the Photobucket account hosting the location photos is no longer sharing the pictures. That's how things work on the Internet, so I'm grateful that I found it when I did.
Train Station, Hotel Artney and Paramount Theatre
The film opens with a montage of shots centered around a large train station across the street from the Hotel Artney, and the Paramount Theatre, which shares the same building as the Artney. [Notice two young ladies seen from the driver's side of a taxi as they slide across the back seat from the passenger side. In the next shot, seen from the front of the taxi, they're standing outside the taxi again.]
The train station is the Union Station, 100 E Front St, Texarkana, AR 71854, and the “Hotel Artney” is directly across Front Street, as seen on-screen. The Paramount Theatre at the front of the Artney was a façade for the film.
Reference: These sites were listed on the The Town That Dreaded Sundown fan site mentioned above.
The Artney location had been the once-grand Hotel McCartney, but it had apparently ceased operations by the time of filming. Sadly, both the Union Station and the Hotel McCartney have become considerably dilapidated over the years, so be cautious near the buildings.
Texarkana College Auditorium
The opening montage contains a quick shot of the Texarkana College Auditorium as the voiceover mentions veterans returning from World War II and using the G.I. Bill. to attend college.
The auditorium once stood at the Texarkana College, 2500 N Robison Rd, Texarkana, TX 75599. However, the building has since been demolished.
Another scene showing a glimpse of post-war life features a happy, young couple exiting a church after their wedding, as guests toss rice at them.
The church is located at W 14th St at Bowie St, Texarkana, TX 75501, and the building has obviously been abandoned for many years.
Reference: I found this location on the Arkansas.com entry for The Town That Dreaded Sundown.
The Police Station exterior seen in the movie is located conveniently at the one end of the train station, as is seen several times.
The police station exterior is clearly to the right side of Union Station, as viewed from the street.
"Hold it, boy!"
Texas Ranger Captain J.D. ‘Lone Wolf’ Morales (Ben Johnson) head out to investigate with police Patrolman A.C. ‘Sparkplug’ Benson (played by director Charles B. Pierce) as his driver. 'Sparkplug’ races to nowhere with sirens and lights, until Morales yells, “Hold it, boy!” [‘Sparkplug’ slams on the brakes as the car is near a cemetery entrance. When the car stops, it is suddenly back at the thickly wooded intersection seen earlier.]
Exclusive: 'Sparkplug' is seen hitting the brakes at approximately 5399 Mandeville Rd, Texarkana, AR 71854, at the back gate of a cemetery.
I determined this location by looking for cemeteries in the area, and I haven't seen this listed anywhere else on the Internet.
Local students are shown arriving at a prom, and students are later are shown leaving the building, including two ill-fated lovebirds who plan to head to Spring Lake Park.
The prom site is at 601 Locust St, Texarkana, AR 71854. It was obviously a former National Guard armory, but now houses the Texarkana Restaurant Equipment Exchange.
Reference: This site was listed on the The Town That Dreaded Sundown fan site mentioned above.
The Town That Dreaded Sundown has become a "cult classic" over the years, even leading to a 2014 remake. The original is occasionally shown around Halloween in Spring Lake Park, which is mentioned in the movie, and is near the site of one of the actual "Phantom Killer" murders.
The attacks continue to fascinate, and they were the subject of the 2014 book, The Phantom Killer: Unlocking the Mystery of the Texarkana Serial Murders: The Story of a Town in Terror.