Old Rip – Eastland, Texas - Atlas Obscura

Old Rip

Eastland, Texas

Legend says the horned lizard spent 31 years sealed in a time capsule before he was discovered alive. 


In 1897, a courthouse was built in Eastland, Texas. There was a huge ceremony kicking off the construction that included the creation of a time capsule. This time capsule was to be the cornerstone of the courthouse and contained a bible and other documents to mark this special occasion. But according to local legend, these artifacts weren’t the only thing placed in the capsule.

Rumor has it that before the time capsule was sealed, some trickster boys decided to put a horned lizard inside the box as a joke. Thirty-one years later, when the town decided to build a new courthouse, the capsule was opened. Much to everyone’s surprise, a living horned lizard was found.

The lizard (who was often called a horny toad) was named Old Rip, after Rip Van Winkle. The reptile became an instant celebrity. He traveled the United States and even journeyed to Washington, D.C. to meet President Calvin Coolidge.

Sadly, Old Rip died 11 months after his miraculous unveiling. He was preserved and placed within an open coffin inside the courthouse.

But as it turns out, poor Old Rip was not able to rest in peace. In 1973, his corpse was stolen and a letter was left in its place, saying that it was all a hoax and whoever tricked everyone needed to fess up. When no one did, another letter was sent, describing where the body was hidden. Old Rip was later returned to the courthouse, where he can still be viewed today.

Know Before You Go

The courthouse is open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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