If you’re from Odessa, Texas and you happen to have gone to Odessa High School there’s a very good chance you’ve heard the rumor of the girl who hung herself in the auditorium or perhaps she fell off a ladder and broke her neck. There are a few variations of the rumored haunting, always attributed to a girl named "Betty." The thing is, it’s not a rumor. Sure, the details have been changed around and the story varies depending on who you ask, but something very tragic did in fact happen to a pretty high school student with dreams of becoming an actress almost 60 years ago, and it’s far more intriguing than the rumors have led you to believe.

Betty Williams and the 'Kiss and Kill' Case

Betty Jean Williams was a senior at Odessa High School in 1961. Considering she had aspired to be a big-time Hollywood actress but had her spirits squashed by the new drama teacher who made her stage manager in the school's spring play instead of a lead, it’s not too far off to think she still a little sour about it.

There is plenty of information online about what happened in the murder that is remembered as the 'Kiss and Kill' case. What happened in March of 1961 in Odessa Texas was the most sensational crime of its time. At its heart, the case alleges that Betty Willams asks her boyfriend, John 'Mack' Herring, to kill her.

Betty was what some called a “fast” girl from the "wrong side of the tracks." That's how Texas Monthly lead a long-form article on the case from their February 2006 issue.  She was pretty but not popular and the more I think about it, perhaps her actions relating to boys was more of an attempt at gaining attention and less a reflection of her true self.  Mack Herring was a football player and as far as social hierarchy went he was what most would consider near the top of the high school caste system and, unfortunately, Betty was at the bottom. Regardless, the two dated in the summer of 1961.  When I say “dated” I’m really not sure what that means considering, from what I’ve read, Mack didn’t take her places like parties or to meet his parents and he never gave her his letter jacket, which as we all know is just what you do when you’re dating in high school.  Apparently, that didn’t sit well with Betty, as it shouldn’t, and she may have decided a little payback was in order so she “parked” with one of Mack’s best friends, a popular football player who had been voted most handsome in class. This is where I have to take a little aside from the story and say that “fast” isn’t at all how I would describe this gal, the word “Boss” seems far more fitting.

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Ok, back to the story.  Mack eventually found out about the tryst and by the fall of 1961 Betty and he were through (he broke up with her via 60’s text message….a handwritten note) and he was on to dating one of the popular girls in no time. Betty took it pretty hard and things spiraled downhill from there. Towards the weeks leading up to her death, she asked more than one of her classmates to help her end her life.  Most of them just assumed it was Betty being overdramatic again seeking the attention of anyone who would give it to her, specifically that of Mack Herring.  Who happened to be in the “could you snuff me please” Betty Jean Williams club as well.

One night a boy in Betty’s drama class drover her home. ] Betty asked him to meet her in the back alley in about an hour, and just like any hormone-driven teenager, he did.  She came out and crawled in the car with him wearing shorty pajamas and a cardigan.  It wasn’t long before a pair of headlights pulled up behind them in the alley. It was Mack Herring, there to make good on the promise he made to Betty that same day in drama.  Betty had begged him to kill her and according to a remark she made to a friend, he had finally relented. Maybe at the time, it was a sick back and forth between the two but there he was and it was her turn to make a move.

“I’ve got to call his bluff, even if it kills me…”  The boy in the car with Betty was Ike Nail, the next to last person to see her alive.  She got into Mack’s jeep and they were gone.

Two days later Betty’s mother Mary called the Odessa police department to report her daughter missing.  Mack was interviewed, gave a story that just didn’t make sense and was eventually brought back in. 45 minutes later he finally broke down.  She had begged him to kill her, he claimed and all he did was what she asked.

This is the part of the story that, in my opinion, didn't go the way Betty had hoped it would. Herring then got in a car with investigators and led them to the spot on his father's hunting lease where he ended a young, heartbroken girl's life. The ride wasn't what you'd expect either, there were no tears shed and no regrets made known. Once they reached their destination they got out and stood in front of a stock tank. Blood spattered the ground near the edge of the water. He says they pulled up, got out, and walked down to the water. Betty was cold and ran back to retrieve her cardigan from the jeep as Herring waited with the shotgun. When she returned he asked her for "one last kiss to remember her by." They kissed, she thanked him then got down on her knees, grabbed the muzzle with one hand and put it to her head, and said "now." Without a moment's hesitation, Herring shot her dead. When police asked where Betty was now Mack began taking his jacket off, unbuttoning his pants and removing his shoes. He waded into the middle of the water and dove under. When he surfaced he began back towards the shore with something he was dragging behind him. As he came out of the water the men on the shore recognized the light pink pajamas Bettys friend Ike had described her wearing and what was clearly a small set of pale feet.

Mack Herring shot a girl he once dated in the head out in the middle of nowhere, weighed her body down and sunk it in a stock tank, and didn't flinch once as he drug it back out on the bank.

A trial was held far away in a different jurisdiction in Beaumont, nearly as east as you can get and still be in Texas, Herring was acquitted. After being found not guilty, Mack Herring returned to Odessa, attended college, raised a family and lived and worked as a member of the community until his death in 2019 at age 75.

The Ghost of 'Betty' At Odessa High School

That Betty Williams haunts the halls at Odessa High School is the city's most persistent legend of haunting. Sword and Scale describes the most comment haunting reports:

The school auditorium is her favoured place where she was once a student and flourishing actress dreaming of Broadway success. Faces appearing in windows, flickering lights, strange noises and objects that mysteriously move are all attributed to the presence of Betty.

Investigative teams like Permian Paranormal spend time in the school hoping for contact.

So if you went to Odessa High or have kids going there now and you hear about the ghost in the auditorium, make sure the story is told right, Betty deserves that much.

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