(Austin, TX) Early this year, the Eritas Daily staff got together to watch the film Dazed and Confused as a group in order to better understand the history of the town we call home. For many, this was their first exposure to the wild world of the film and the iconic characters within, such as Matthew McConaughey’s David Wooderson or Ben Affleck’s Fred O’Bannion. However, it wasn’t the characters that caught our attention, it was the moontower at the climax at the film that we wanted to know more about. You see, we already knew about the moontowers of Austin, but the one in the movie seemed to be in an impossible location. This became the catalyst for what would be a months-long search for the mystical moontower.
For those who aren’t from Austin, here is a quick backstory on the structures we refer to as ‘moontowers.’
Moonlight towers or ‘moontowers’ were popular in the late 19th century in cities across the United States and Europe they were most common in the 1880s and 1890s. In some places they were used when standard street-lighting, using smaller, shorter, and more numerous lamps, was impractically expensive. In other places they were used in addition to gas street lighting. The towers were designed to illuminate areas often of several blocks at once, on the “high light” principle. Arc lamps, known for their exceptionally bright and harsh light, were the most common method of illumination. As incandescent electric street lighting became common, the prevalence of towers began to wane.
They are unique to Austin because they are some of the last remaining moontowers in operation, with 13 still remaining. The beginning of our search was simply reviewing the existing moontowers to verify that they weren’t the one we were looking for. And while the one at Zilker park looked close, we knew it wasn’t what we were looking for.
From there, we did some digging on the movie Dazed and Confused itself, but were only able to find a cover story. According to the director Richard Linklater, the moontower in the film was ‘a mock-up of a tower, which was erected at Walter E. Long Park east of Austin.’ Sounds like the same excuse given for the moon landing, am I right?
As professional conspiracy theorists, we knew this was a red herring, but decided to visit the East Austin park to verify anyway. We were glad that we did, because when we got there, we saw a moontower shining in the night where no moontower was supposed to be. We parked our car and set out to see if we could get closer. It wasn’t until we were right up on where the moontower should be that we realized that it had been a trick of the light and no moontower could be found.
This was a discouraging moment to say the least. That is, until our accomplice walked into the woods just beyond the tower and found that there was a hidden clearing just beyond where the moontower was supposed to be. We followed them into the clearing and couldn’t believe what we saw.
The clearing looked exactly like it was depicted in the movie, with teenagers in 1970s clothes still walking around and engaging in party activities. Somehow, the set from the film had come to life, 30 years from the original filming and 50 years displaced from the time period it was meant to take place in. And yet, it didn’t look like the people milling about were actors at all, but teenagers living their life as if it was 1976.
This brought a whole new meaning to one of the most iconic lines from the film.
Rather than try to make too much of what we were seeing, we decided to let this piece of paradise exist without explanation. Some of us have tried to make our way back to that clearing and so far no one has been successful. We’ve come to believe that we were shown the clearing intentionally so that we might spread the message of its existence.
The clearing, and the moontower within, will then reveal itself to you when you are ready for it. And not a second before.