Haunted History in NWA: The Yacht Club Killer


FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA) — The Yacht Club on College is the hot spot for food trucks in Fayetteville, but what you may not know about this space is that it has a dark history.

In 1948, Henry Booker Tennison, nicknamed “H.B. Doodie,” was a freshman at the University of Arkansas, after graduating high school in Texarkana.

His first cousin, once-removed, is Dr. John Tennison.

“He was very introverted, he was described by friends and people who knew him as having an inferiority complex. He did not have many friends,” he said.

Henry Booker Tennison was living at 617 North College Avenue when he committed suicide using mercury cyanide poison.

Henry Booker Tennison, 1948 senior class photo
Courtesy: Dr. John Tennison

“It appears that he was trying to hide his confession. It doesn’t appear he was trying to present his confession to the public,” Dr. Tennison said.

Will Watson, a northwest Arkansas history enthusiast, explains how Henry Booker Tennison left several suicide notes. “Probably the ones that got the most attention were the ones that left clues to other notes. He left a series of notes explaining what he had done. The ones that created all of this controversy are the ones that he confessed to being the Phantom Killer from Texarkana.”

“Why did I take my own life? You may be asking that question, well, when you committed two double murders you would to. Yes, I did kill Betty Jo Booker and Paul Martin in the city park that night, and kill Mr. Stark and try to get Mrs. Stark.”

Henry Booker Tennison suicide note

The Texarkana Moonlight Murders were a series of violent attacks around Texarkana in spring 1946.

Eight people were attacked and five were killed, all on weekends.

Dubbed the “Phantom Killer,” no one was ever convicted of the crimes.

“It led to a lot of people being panicked the whole summer thinking that there were more that were coming…I think a lot of people were looking for who could have done this and why,” Watson said.

But in another note found by investigators, Henry Booker Tennison indictated he took his life for other reasons.

“Please disregard all other messages I have written, they are only thoughts which I was thinking about a possible reasons for taking my own life. As I think about it, it is none of these things.”

Henry Booker Tennison suicide note

“There was a lapse of time. The murders themselves occurred in the early part of 1946. The attacks started in February, but the murders started in March, April and May of 1946. That’s when he was a sophomore of high school,” Dr. Tennison said.

So, did Doodie do it?

“The analysis that I have done is mainly to try to compare him to another suspect, Youell Swinney. When I just do a comparison of those two and look at the evidence… I do find the evidence of H.B. Tennison to be more compelling than that for Youell Wwinney. But, it is quite possible there was another person who was the perpetrator who we don’t even know about,” Dr. Tennison explains.

Watson says it’s a spooky piece of northwest Arkansas history that remains unclear.

“I think that’s half the fun. I don’t think there is any specific story about the Yacht Club being haunted…the house isn’t here anymore so I don’t think there is anything to be haunted, but I think half the fun around Halloween is wondering whether or not there is any piece of what happened still here,” Watson said.

So, if you don’t spot anything at the Yacht Club on College, you can always just grab a bite to eat.

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