Jump to content

Graves on the corner of Houston Ave. and Memorial Dr.

Recommended Posts

I recently had to show up at the city courts for jury duty, I was told to park in parking lot H just right across from the Memorial Dr. over pass. I walked across Memorial down Houston Ave. and saw these 3 graves that were fenced off and was wondering if this is a public cemetery or a family owned (private) one. see picture attached.


Edited by sinister1
Link to post
Share on other sites

Apparently private. Here's the property record URL http://hcad.org/reco...���^&bld=&tab=1

Those graves are new, apparently, by the freshly-mounded dirt sans vegetation (also see google maps street view... they graves are not there).

edit: in case my link above doesn't work, search account #0052350000008 on the hcad site

That's kind of creepy because on one grave says that person passed in 86 and the other 73. I couldn't read the last one. I'm thinking the must have been relocated there because you are right I don't remember seeing those graves there before; I use to live off of Houston Ave.

in the First Ward from 81 to around 89 and never recall seeing these when walking through this area.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 9 months later...

The graves are fake.


In life, Johnny Mack Chappell was a rough-and-tumble football coach who had friends in high and low places, and loved to party with just about anybody.

Now, 16 years after his death from a heart attack on Christmas Eve at the age of 42, he's helping keep away some of the very people he might have liked to know.


Chappell's name is chiseled into one of three tombstones that stand beneath a shade tree in a neatly mowed, fenced and padlocked lot at the corner of Houston Avenue and North Memorial Way near the municipal courthouse.

But neither he nor the people named on the other two headstones are buried there. And they never have been.


The graves are part of a small fake cemetery established about a year ago by the owners of the lot in an attempt to deter vagrants from trashing the property, said a person at the offices of the owner.

The fakery has grown intricate: A plastic flower decorates the front of one of the headstones; long, narrow mounds of grass-covered dirt add to the appearance of recently dug graves; there is not a spot of trash.

Stones' origin unknown

"He would get a kick out of that," Johnny's older brother, Wayne Chappell, said Tuesday when told about the fake graves. "What he'd probably do is go find the hobos and bring them back to drink by it."

Billy Smith II

Three headstones sit on a neatly groomed lot Tuesday May 14, 2013 on Houston Avenue that was set up as a joke to look like a grave site in order to scare away

According to Harris County records, the property is owned by a company belonging to Albert Bel Fay Jr., the son of a prominent Houstonian who was a U.S. ambassador, oilman, Republican Party leader, and friend to former President George H.W. Bush.

Fay did not return calls for comment Tuesday.

The other two headstones contain the names of Dee Brown Hancock, 1922-1973, and Sandra Ruth Howen, 1939-1986.

No one seems to know where the trio of headstones came from.

The peculiar cemetery was first brought to the attention of Ron Bass, a researcher for a major oil company, who is privately working on a book on interesting, sometimes funky aspects of Houston, primarily inside Loop 610.

"I learned it was new," Bass said of the cemetery. "I learned there was a guy buried there that was also buried somewhere else, and the other two, nobody had ever heard of. The people died years and years ago, yet had three identical headstones - and three freshly buried bodies. Where did they come from?"

His brother says Johnny Mack Chappell, who died 16 years ago at 42, would "get a kick" out of his bogus resting place.

Wayne Chappell said he has no problem with the fact that a headstone bearing his brother's name is now serving as a scarecrow for vagrants.

His brother was a leader on the Reagan High School football team, president of his class, and "had a whole lot of friends," from an array of backgrounds, the older Chappell said.

Rowdy at college

He said his brother, whose football career was hindered by an injury, briefly played fullback for the University of Texas at Austin behind the legendary Earl Campbell, who went on to win the Heisman Trophy and play almost his entire professional career with the Houston Oilers.

Chappell, who went by "John" after high school, lost his scholarship at UT because of rowdiness in the athletic dorm, his brother said.

Real grave at Woodlawn

Wayne Chappell said he had no idea why there was a second headstone bearing his brother's name or where it came from, but speculated that a friend might have ordered it at the time of his death without the family's knowledge.

"A lot of those grew up and were fairly wealthy," Chappell said of his brother's school friends. "It could be that somebody wanted to do it, and never contacted me."

Carl Haynie, of Houston's Woodlawn Garden of Memories, said the cemetery's records show Johnny Chappell's remains are where they should be - in lot 177 on the far north side of the cemetery, which has nearly 30,000 occupied graves.

"Johnny Mack is right here," said Haynie, who smiled at the notion of headstones and graves being used to keep away vagrants. "I have never heard of anyone having a throw-down cemetery."

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 3 years later...
  • 2 weeks later...
  • 6 months later...

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Create New...