We revisit the iconic filming locations in Texas to bring you one step closer to taking a seat at the Sawyer family table in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974).
Austin, Texas wasn’t always the destination to live that it is today. In fact 77-years ago, in 1943, the city of Austin created a promotional film, Austin The Friendly City (1943) to attract new residents and visitors. The film followed a recently relocated family, who moved to the city when it was just under a population of 100,000 residents. Little did the residents of Austin know that their friendly city would also become a home for horror — a refuge for those interested in the macabre, the supernatural, mysticism and a film called The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974).
Lois Belle and Norman William Ray Hooper, who owned a theater in San Angelo, welcomed a son on January 25, 1943 in Austin, Texas. Willard Tobe Hooper would discover his interest in filmmaking at the tender age of 9-years-old while using his father’s 8 mm film camera. That young boy would go on to attend the University of Texas at Austin and base his film, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, on themes from his childhood — exploring hicksploitation, isolation and darkness combined with inspiration from graphic news coverage of violence in the late 60s to early 70s. The key thread being his core belief that people were the true monsters.
With the vital ingredients ready, Tobe Hooper and Kim Henkel co-wrote a screenplay that included further macabre inspirations based on the murders of Ed Gein, a graverobber, corpse defiler and murderer in Wisconsin in the 1950s and Elmer Wayne Henley, a serial killer incarcerated in Texas for the Houston Mass Murders. Henkel met aspiring film student and assistant director Tobe Hooper at the University of Texas at Austin and the pair became friends, with Henkel appearing in Hooper’s debut feature film Eggshells (1969). This friendship and marriage of brilliant cinematic minds would produce the film once cited as, “one of the scariest films of all time.”
The film premiered in Austin, Texas on October 1, 1974 and upon its national theatrical release on October 11, 1974, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre shocked audiences — in part by convincing them that the events unfolding on screen were based on a true story. The film received mixed reactions from critics upon its initial release, but has since been awarded praise for its aesthetic while managing to true terrify with little gore. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre has had a significant culture impact as a major influence on the horror genre. The score composed by Tobe Hooper and Wayne Bell still sends chills down my spine.
With a direct sequel, Texas Chainsaw Massacre (2022), to Tobe Hooper’s disturbingly violent and visionary horror film that shocked audiences worldwide releasing on Netflix today, it felt like the right time to revisit The Texas Chain Saw Massacre’s iconic filming locations. It’s authentic rural Texas setting is part of what made it special and truly terrifying. Let’s celebrate the film’s cult status and continued relevance by sharing all the destinations in Texas you can visit to get one step closer to taking a seat at the Sawyer family table.
The Sawyer House
The Sawyer family farmhouse was filmed in Round Rock, Texas off Quick Hill Road and Old Country Road 172. While you’re welcome to visit that location, it’s private property and we don’t recommend it. The house of horrors has since be relocated to Kingsland, Texas. The quaint cottage style home was purchased by The Antlers Inn in 1998 and disassembled into nine pieces to make the trip to its new lcoation just off the railroad tracks in Kingsland. The home’s Queen Anne architecture was restored and the building opened as a restaurant, the Grand Central Cafe.
You’ll find only a subtle nod to the house’s claim to horror fame if you make your way upstairs to say hello to Grandpa Saywer and catch a glimpse of behind-the-scenes photos of the film or guests can wander into the Club Car Bar where additional photos and very special chain saw can be found along with merchandise from the film to purchase. We’ve had the opportunity to dine at the cafe and visit the upstairs lounge twice where Grandpa gave us a good jumpscare, even though we knew he’d be there.
Location: Grand Central Cafe, 1010 King Court, Kingsland, Texas 78639.
If you’re feeling particularly macabre, make your way to the cemetery when the opening scenes featuring desecreated corpses as a radio announcer describes incidents of grave robbing in the fictional town of Newt, Texas was filmed. Bagdad Cemetery in Leander, Texas was opened in 1857 and has hosted over 3,500 burials since that time. It is also where Bubba Sawyer and his family mirrored the crimes of Ed Gein, robbing graves and stealing corpses to make his iconic mask made of skin and butcher the meat. The tombstones featured in the film were props, but the grave marker is located near the large building in the center of the cemetery — just look for the grave monument marker of C.C. Mason.
Location: Bagdad Cemetery Association, 400 N Bagdad Rd, Leander, Texas 78641.
Slaughter House and Stockyards
While cattle can no longer be found here, this location is seen in the film while the five youths are in their green van traveling down a Texas highway on their way to Sally and Franklin's grandparents family homestead. Sadly, that location burned down in the 1970s and and is now a Texas highway. Mickelberry’s Meat Products acquired the slaughterhouse property in May 1976 and the site still includes the cattle wrangler corral and feeding troughs from the film. The farm structures seen in the far distance of the film are no longer visible due to natural forestation.
Location: Cross the street from 1691 U.S. 77 Hillsboro, Texas 76645.
The Gas Station
There is a trope in horror cinema, specifically in rural settings that always features a creepy rundown gas station and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre includes one. This filming location is where the Sawyer family cooked their victims, both eating and selling them as barbecue. The gas station is probably one of the best places to stop not only for fans of the film, but any horror enthusiast. It's located in Bastrop, Texas and the sign reads, “We Slaughter BARBECUE.”
The restaurant serves Texas barbecue including sausage, brisket and beef with all the fixings. You can also stay in one of the small green cabins out back for the night, enjoy the star filled night sky around a communal fire pit and enjoy an outdoor film screening. Of all the destinations, this one leans into the horror fandom and includes a gift shop lined with horror film memorabilia and merchandise for purchase. Be sure to peek inside the green 1972 Ford Club Wagon driven by Sally Hardesty and the other teens parked out near the cabins. There is also a rusty pick-up truck some say belonged to the gas station owner.
Location: The Gas Station, 1073 TX-304, Bastrop, Texas 78602.