99% Invisible: 150- Under The Moonlight
January 28, 2015 11:41 AM - Subscribe

The rise, fall, and afterlife of Austin's famed Moonlight Towers.
posted by radioamy (6 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What threw me was how it opened with the Servant Girl Annihilator story, shited to the Moonlight towers, and then only briefly swung back to the Annihilator connection. Half-way through I thought maybe there was an error in the mix and two different episodes were smashed together.

The pictures on the Episode Page are really something - I couldn't picture what the towers looked like within the context of modern Austin. They look like something out of a Godzilla movie - towers to draw Mothra out of her lair.
posted by jazon at 12:21 PM on January 28, 2015

I agree jazon, the two different narratives didn't fit. I feel like they missed some key transition, and the wrap-up wasn't very satisfying.

I can't imagine how weird it would be to have everything so dark at night. We really take modern lighting for granted!
posted by radioamy at 12:37 PM on January 28, 2015

"Servant Girl Annihilator" is such a weird serial-killer name, too. I was expecting that connection to go further than it did; although the episode did carefully emphasize early on that the case was unsolved.

I went to the episode page to see the towers too: they're a lot more spindly and guy-wired than I had imagined. I had pictured them more like that page's engraving of the San Jose tower: a miniature Eiffel Tower.

The description of the arc lights -- intensely, hugely white and bright, sizzling and buzzing, dropping hot carbon ash -- made them sound almost like aliens striding over the city; like H.G. Wells' tripods.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 12:49 PM on January 28, 2015

More on moonlight towers at The Atlantic and at Low-Tech Magazine.

Also, a history of the San Jose light tower -- including on page 11 this bizarre copyright infringement thing against the Eiffel Tower.

There seems to be little on this on the web; it was covered in the San Jose Mercury News, but their archives are paywalled. Relevant search. The article summaries suggest that, somewhat sadly, it was not a real lawsuit; just a local-history activity by the Bench & Bar Historical Society.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 1:17 PM on January 28, 2015

It is definitely worth it, if you visit Austin, to check out the moonlight towers. I don't know why but I've always had a pull toward them. I must have taken a million pictures. They're otherworldly and seem at once both really old and futuristic.
posted by fiercecupcake at 1:32 PM on January 28, 2015

I do feel like the Servant Girl Annihilator was given short shrift. You can't introduce something like that and leave it unexplored, even if the killer wasn't the actual cause of the Moonlight Lamps.

That being said, they did bring in Wiley Wiggins, and that was a treat.
posted by maxsparber at 10:14 AM on January 29, 2015

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