Give Back and Help the Scientists of Tomorrow #GivingTuesday

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At HMNS, our love of learning is evident in everything we do. We provide education programs for ALL age groups, from interactive labs for students to world-class exhibit halls to phenomenal films in our Burke Baker Planetarium and Wortham Giant Screen Theatre. Help us inspire philanthropy and encourage charitable giving during the holiday season by showing your support for HMNS. Your gift will play a pivotal role in introducing our 500,000 annual student visitors to the wonders of science and the awe of our natural world.

JOIN THE MOVEMENT

Help HMNS reach its  Giving Tuesday fundraising goal of $10,000!

You can be part of #GivingTuesday by showing your support of the Houston Museum of Natural Science! Make your gift of any size, then be sure to share your participation on Facebook and Twitter, using #GivingTuesday and #HMNS hashtags.

  1. Donate Today!
  2. Share #GivingTuesday and #HMNS on social media!
  3. Tell your network why you supported HMNS this Giving Tuesday! Download the #UNselfie form.

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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:

Q: How will the money be used?

A: Unless otherwise instructed by the donor, all Giving Tuesday donations will be directed to the Museum’s Annual Fund. The Annual Fund is the heart of the Museum’s fundraising efforts and provides for the basic needs of the institution.

Q: Are gifts tax-deductible?

A: The Houston Museum of Natural Science is a 501(c)3 organization. Your donation is tax deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law.

ADDITIONAL QUESTIONS?

If you have any additional questions about Giving Tuesday or giving in general, please contact us at 713.639.4629 or development@hmns.org.

Thank you so much for your participation in #GivingTuesday. Every dollar makes a difference!

Giving Tuesday is a global day of giving that harnesses the collective power of individuals, communities and organizations to encourage philanthropy and to celebrate generosity. Giving Tuesday uses the power of social media to inspire people give back in impactful ways to the charities and causes they support. #GivingTuesday!

Get Ready For Trains Over Texas!

All Aboard!

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“Trains Over Texas” being constructed at TW TrainWorx headquarters

 

Create holiday memories by travelling across Texas by model railroad in this scratch built  “O” scale model. The multiple trains crisscrossing the state will visit important and unique places in our state’s geology and physiography. Destinations include oil country salt domes, prairies and wetlands of the Texas coast and state and national monuments such as Enchanted Rock, Pedernales Falls, The Balcones Escarpment and Big Bend National Park.

Along the routes to these geologic wonders the trains will also pass through Galveston, Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin and San Antonio with other surprises along the route.

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Another train set built by TW TrainWorx, the builders of our set.

 

This exhibit (about the size of a tennis court) is the largest indoor “O” scale model railroad in Texas. Its been nine months in the making and it pulls into HMNS on November 18th.  Don’t miss what is sure to become a Houston holiday tradition! 

 

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Another train set built by TW TrainWorx.

 

Free with museum admission.

Dead Things That Might Be Under Your House Part 3: The Black Hope Horror

I spent this past Saturday in a graveyard. But not just any graveyard, it was a forgotten one. I had first learned of its existence in a dusty volume published by the Crosby Historical Society in the early 90’s. Photocopied articles within described an African American Cemetery discovered by children in the Spanish Cove subdivision of Crosby, Texas.

Growing up in Crosby, Texas, I was well aware of the thick forests and swamps that separated our community from the Houston area. That was part of the charm of living there, the relative isolation. When I was little I used to explore the forest with friends, playing hide and seek in the fishing cane, riding our bikes on dirt trails, it was all good fun. But I was never aware of the graveyards in those forests. 

Back in high school while doing some research for a history project, I came across the legend of the Black Hope Horror. According to Texas folklore, there was a world famous haunted house right down the road from where I lived! Being a teenager and thus bored with all of the usual outdoor activities available to me, I was thrilled to learn about something that could rekindle my interest in my hometown.

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Memorial to Humphrey Jackson and his wife Sarah Merriman Jackson, the original settlers of the Crosby area and one of Stephen F. Austin’s “Old 300”

In the early 1980’s, Sam and Judith Haney built their family home in the Newport subdivision of Crosby, Texas. One summer as they were digging a swimming pool in their backyard they made a grisly discovery—two bodies. The couple immediately began some research and were able to track down one of the original graveyard employees. Not only did he know about the bodies but he knew their names—Betty and Charlie Thomas. According to him, the property was originally used as a cemetery until the 1930s by an African American community located in the area and since it was not officially registered with Harris County over time it had been forgotten. 

The bodies were respectfully re-interred on the property, and that’s when the paranormal activity supposedly started happening: things like toilets flushing over and over again, strange smells and shadowy figures appearing. The Haney’s and some of their neighbors sued the developer of the subdivision for not telling them that there was cemetery on the property, but they lost the suit because they had no proof that there was an entire graveyard located on the site, and not just the two isolated burials. 

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Hollingsworth Cemetery, named for Crosby’s first doctor, whose family is interred here.

In preparation for this article, I began researching the so-called “Black Hope Cemetery” and turned up very little. I was unable to turn up any verifiable evidence that there was a cemetery called “Black Hope” on the site or that the identifications of the bodies were accurate.  All I knew for sure was that there were bodies under several houses in that subdivision, and I knew that because several eyewitnesses have told their stories to local media. One witness even wrote a book about the event. Unfortunately, these stories tend to be anecdotal, and don’t provide a firm starting point for research. 

So where did my research take me? Well, it was about 4:30 in the evening on October 29th, and I was pushing my way through the thick brush just a hundred yards behind the quiet suburban neighborhood of Spanish Cove in Crosby, Texas. Accompanying me was my Mother and two of her friends from her real-estate office who had been to the ancient cemetery before. We searched for a long time, but the vegetation was so impenetrable it made the weathered headstones nearly impossible to locate. In the waning afternoon light, we finally we came upon it—a series of sunken depressions in the ground with a few crumbling granite tombstones still visible several yards beyond.

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Tombstone of David McFarlin and Sarah Funghun.

The newspaper article that had led me to the site claimed the cemetery belonged to an African American community situated somewhere in what is now the Spanish Cove neighborhood, about five miles from Newport. One of the tombstones had the names of David McFarlin and Sarah Funghun, who died in 1912 and 1904, respectively. The granite memorial had been overturned, possibly by vandals or weather, but the heavy base still stood upright, the inscriptions on its front: “Father” and “Mother” obscured by moss.

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“Father” and “Mother” inscribed on the base of David and Sarah’s tombstone

As I took pictures, one of my Mother’s friends mentioned that the graveyard is surrounded by private property “land locked, as it were” he said. This makes it difficult for anyone to go in and clean the place up because they would have to cross private property in order to do it. 

On top of that, the area is rapidly being developed, large sections of the forest between the Newport subdivision and Spanish Cove are being cleared for a new trade school and several residential neighborhoods that are currently in the planning stages. All along the country road that runs between the two subdivisions, large gas stations are popping up in preparation for the new developments. Currently they stand alone in fields, but soon they will be in the midst of a busy, residential area.

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Areas like Crosby were historically very isolated. The nearest stores or postal routes were several days journey by horse and wagon. A quick trip to the grocery store was hardly an option so people had to live with what was around them. Small settlements popped up that might include one or two large land owners, some of the people who rented land from them, and smaller farmers in the area, These little communities had their own church, their own school, they traded and bartered with each other for the supplies they needed. Journeys to town were undertaken only for hard-to-get necessities like coffee or machinery. Often times the communities would be made up of members of a particular religion or ethnicity. There were several African-American settlements in the area, and a few Czech Catholic settlements. Settlers’ faith and culture played a big role in where they lived, as one could hardly ride their wagon for three days to visit the nearest Catholic church.

But as the railroad, the automobile and paved roads were introduced to the area, people became more mobile and these communities became less important. Crosby didn’t really exist until the Railroad came, but from then on it grew in size and importance. Nowadays, the small settlements that dotted the area are gone, but the graveyards belonging to the many churches and family plots remain. Every once in a while, kids exploring the woods or a backhoe digging a pool, might rediscover one.

 

 

Ghostly Creatures of the Night: A True Raccoon Story!

The other day I was on one of my three-mile walks, fighting off those extra pounds that come with my new, sedentary office job. The sun was coming down earlier than I expected, an unwelcome consequence of changing seasons, and I found that the pretty tree-lined lane I live on had become a particularly dark and foreboding tunnel through an already dark night. The instant this realization struck me, a scrambling, scratching of claws against pavement was heard right beside me. I nearly jumped out of my sneakers!

Of course, what did it turn out to be? A raccoon… an animal too cute to be feared when seen, but whose nocturnal actions have managed to scare the living daylights out of many a night-time pedestrian. In fact, recent reports of Albino raccoons are shedding light on the possibility of a true fright! Dr. Dan Brooks, our Curator of Vertebrate Zoology has recently co-authored with former intern Adrian Castellanos an article on the phenomenon.

In early January 2001, a phone call was received from Barbara House indicating the League City Animal Control had obtained an albino raccoon that had died of distemper. The uniqueness of this specimen warranted getting it mounted (taxidermied) in a life-like pose.

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As part of HMNS’ centennial celebration, an internet blog was created featuring 100 of the museum’s most unique objects. The albino raccoon mount from our Vertebrate Zoology collection was featured. Several individuals responded to the post that they had observed albino raccoons in nature. James Oberg posted on 11 July 2011 that he saw an albino raccoon the night prior feeding from his cat’s outdoor food bowl. Oberg successfully photographed the raccoon and indicated it was in League City.

On 20 April 2012, Joe Butler trapped an adult leucistic raccoon approximately 7 km south of Cleveland, (Montgomery Co.) Texas. This site is approximately 100 km north of League City. The animal was reported as an albino… however, the presence of tail rings and an otherwise ivory colored coat suggested a leucistic (very light colored) specimen rather than a true albino.

While there are several cases of aberrant color documented in birds, including several on display here at HMNS , aberrantly colored mammals are not documented as often. It is interesting that both of the albino raccoon specimens were from League City. Further observations or specimens of albino raccoons from League City might indicate the presence of a population that are genetically pre-disposed to albinism.

I definitely plan on keeping an eye out for these ghostly creatures during my evening walks, and so should you. For those of you who prefer not to walk around in the dark, we have our raccoon, as well as other mammals showing albinism, including an entirely albino bobcat and partially albino specimens of skunk and plains gopher, on display right now in our Farish Hall of Texas Wildlife.