Photo courtesy of Hackers Property Group

A grand fairytale castle about 90 miles south of Dallas-Fort Worth has re-entered the housing market for $5.5 million.

Parsons Castle

Photo courtesy of Hackers Property Group

The five-story Parsons Castle is back on the market.

The Parsons Castle in Clifton (near Waco) is a glorious cliffside escape in a place with a very apt nickname: The Getaway Capital of Texas.

As CultureMap previously reported, the castle was listed for sale in 2021 for $6.5 million. It didn't sell at the time, so it was taken off the market. Eric Hacker of Hacker Property Group now holds the listing.

"With the price adjustment and with the time lapse in our market, we felt that [$5.5 million] was going to be a much more appealing price for the public and for what this venue has the possibilities of [accomplishing]," Hacker explains to CultureMap.

The castle and event venue, which overlooks Lake Whitney, features 10 bedrooms and 15 bathrooms across 11,500 square feet of space that's destined to make every guest feel like a real royal.

There are balconies on every floor of the five-story castle, a private pool and hot tub, a 3,000-square-foot ballroom, a bridal suite and groom's dressing room, gazebos galore, and much more. Like every good castle, it has a drawbridge and a moat.

Parsons CastleThe 3,000-square-foot ballroom can do more than host large formal dances, like setting the stage for a beautiful Photo courtesy of Hacker Property Group

The property was bought by its sole owners – Stuart and Rebecca Parsons – in 2005, and the slab that would become the genesis for the castle was poured in 2009. By 2017, the magnificent structure had been fully constructed, and has since lived a regal life as a venue for weddings, reunions, and many other special occasions.

Hacker expects his primary audience to be those who already have a business plan to keep the property as an event venue, but he's not counting out potential buyers who fall in love with the castle.

"There could always be an individual who comes in and just falls in love with how special it is and find it appealing for themselves," he says. "But it's really highly accommodating for someone who sees it as an event venue that can hold large events and parties."

Back in 2021, the castle caught the attention of Zillow Gone Wild's Facebook page, with one commenter dubbing it "Taj Ma Y’all."

More information about the Parsons Castle can be found at theparsonscastle.com.


Dallas sold more $10-million-plus homes than any other city, report says

House For Sale

Luxury home sales in Dallas-Fort Worth have grown by a monumental 200 percent for the first half of 2023, according to the new mid-year report by Compass Luxury. This staggering growth indicates a new trend for the city's impressive and explosive real estate market despite recent economic troubles and limited housing inventory.

Dallas-Fort Worth ranked at the top with Houston on Compass' list of ultra-luxury real estate markets — meaning homes selling for $10 million or more — during the first six months of the year. There were 13 total markets that had more transactions surpassing the $10 million mark in this time period than this same time last year.

For some perspective, Compass' data says there were three homes in the Metroplex that together sold for a total of $43.79 million during Q1 and Q2 of this year. That's compared to just one sale in 2022 at $10.95 million.

Dallas-Fort Worth claimed the No. 1 spot in the report, well above rich enclaves such as Martha's Vineyard and Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and edging out Houston, whose sales volume amounted to a mere $31.5 million for the same number of sales in Q1 and Q2.

Compass real estate agents Michelle Wood and Amy Detwiler said in the report that high-earning buyers have been seeking homes in DFW since the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic thanks to the cities' low taxes, a thriving economy, and the value of homes in the region.

"Preferences of the ultra-luxury buyer have evolved to prioritize quality and oversized lots over competitive prices on a price per-square-foot basis," they said. "The shortage of oversized lots in the Park Cities has led to a lack of inventory at ultra-luxury price points."

Jonathan Rosen, principal agent at The Rosen Group, echoed Wood and Detwiler's statements regarding what the ultra-luxurious crowd is searching for in a Dallas-Fort Worth home.

"In 2023, we’re continuing to see great demand for new construction ultra-luxury homes in Park Cities," Rosen said. "Inventory levels are incredibly tight due to the limited amount of ultra-luxury listings available in Park Cities and Preston Hollow. Ultra-luxury buyers in Dallas-Fort Worth increasingly expect high-end finishes and lots sized to at least an acre."

The top 10 real estate markets with transactions over $10 million for the first half of 2023 are:

  • No. 1 – Dallas-Fort Worth (200 percent)
  • No. 2 – Houston (200 percent)
  • No. 3 – Boulder, Colorado (100 percent)
  • No. 4 – Jackson Hole, Wyoming (60 percent)
  • No. 5 – Greater Seattle (55.5 percent)
  • No. 6 – Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts (50 percent)
  • No. 7 – Westchester County, New York (50 percent)
  • No. 8 – Greater Boston (42.8 percent)
  • No. 9 – City of Boston (40 percent)
  • No. 10 – Wine Country, California (25 percent)

The full mid-year ultra-luxury real estate report can be found on Compass Luxury's website.

Photo courtesy of Estately.com

Dallas unlocks No. 12 ranking among U.S. cities with most million-dollar homes

The luxe life

With median home prices sitting at $412,000, it takes quite the leap for the average Dallas home to be considered a luxury listing. And yet there are many; 22 percent of all real estate listings in Dallas are homes worth over $1 million, according to a new study.

The report, by online real estate marketplace experts Point2, ranks Dallas No. 12 nationwide among U.S. cities with the highest shares of luxury homes. Dallas ranks second in Texas, behind Austin.

In Point2's 2021 report, Dallas ranked No. 13 with only 13.9 percent of real estate listings with a price tag for more than $1 million. These new findings confirm that Dallas is on the rise as one of the best housing markets for growth, while also opening up possibilities for redefining what the term "luxury" means for real estate in 2023.

"Once used to describe famous estates recognizable by name alone or opulent residences redefining the apartment concept, luxury may now be reduced to a convenient location and cushy amenities," the report says. "Its meaning varies even further when analyzing different-sized markets across the United States, beyond the well-known house-hunting grounds of affluent home seekers."

Austin ranked No. 10 nationally with 24.7 percent of all active real estate listings for sale for over $1 million. No other Texas cities made the top 15.

The study looked at all available real estate for sale in the 30 largest, mid-size, and smallest cities in the United States, and categorized the listings by their $1-million-plus price tags.

In the category for the smallest U.S. cities, Grapevine ranked No. 13 with 13 percent of all real estate listings for sale worth over $1 million.

The largest cities also were analyzed for active real estate listings worth over $5 million.

The study admits that luxury homes worth over $5 million are the true indicator of what "real luxury" looks like specifically for the largest American cities. In Dallas, only 1.8 percent of real estate listings fit that criteria, earning the city No. 8. Austin, with 1.5 percent, land just behind Dallas, at No. 9.

The top 10 largest cities in the U.S. with the highest shares of luxury real estate listings worth over $5 million are:

  • No. 1 – Los Angeles, California (11.6 percent)
  • No. 2 – Boston, Massachusetts (9.4 percent)
  • No. 3 – San Diego, California (7.6 percent)
  • No. 4 – New York City, New York (7.4 percent)
  • No. 5 – San Francisco, California (7.1 percent)
  • No. 6 – Washington, D.C. (2.1 percent)
  • No. 7 – Seattle, Washington (2.0 percent)
  • No. 8 – Dallas, Texas (1.8 percent)
  • No. 9 – Austin, Texas (1.5 percent)
  • No. 10 – San Jose, California (1.1 percent)

The full report and its methodology can be found on point2homes.com.

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Best Dallas-area homes and neighborhoods for sensational 2023 Christmas lights

Shining bright

When it comes to holiday decorating, Dallas homes and neighborhoods know how to bring the "merry and bright."

From over-the-top homes that would make Clark Griswold proud to entire streets that synchronize animated shows, dazzling displays can be found all across North Texas. (After all, Dallas is the second most festive city in the country.)

Burkman Holiday Home Frisco
Photo courtesy of Burkman family

The Burkman Holiday Home of Frisco competed on ABC's The Great Christmas Light Fight in 2021.

Below is a list of top local homes and neighborhoods for Christmas light pilgrimages this season. Check back often as it'll grow and grow as the holidays draw near.

For a larger list of spectacular Christmas lights around Dallas-Fort Worth, including drive-thrus and commercial displays, click here.

Homes with over-the-top displays and shows

Burkman Holiday Home of Frisco, December 1-25
Two years after their appearance on ABC’s The Great Christmas Family Light Fight, the most famous "Christmas light family" in DFW will be lighting up its over-the-top display of 98,000+ lights. New features for 2023 include more motion/action village pieces, new-and-improved selfie stations, "Sampa's Light Factory," a nightly dance party with a hip-swinging Santa and live dance cam, and more. This year, they're collecting charitable donations for The LiyanaStrong Foundation and for a family friend suffering from a traumatic brain injury. Hours: 5:30-6:30 Superhero Hour (lights will be on at dusk for sensory sensitive individuals) and 6:30-10 for all other visitors, weather permitting. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays until December 18, then open daily until Christmas. The home is at 3809 Hazelhurst Dr., Frisco, on the Frisco/Little Elm border. Follow their Facebook page for updates.

Miracle on 134th Street, Celina, through December 23
A Celina family has turned their ginormous property into a holiday amusement park, complete with 2 million lights, a train, carousel ride, Santa's workshop, Sugar Plum Fairy Island, and so so so much more. The Christmas adventure park is a ticketed experience, $25.99 for adults; $19.99 for kids 3-12, with season passes available and free on-site parking. It runs 5:30-9 pm through December 23. Find it at 10455 County Road 133, Celina, 75009. Follow their Facebook page for updates on special photo ops and more.

The Browne Family Holiday Light Show, Parker, through January 5
This family has a tradition of turning their Dublin Park Estates home into a destination. The Browne Family Holiday Light Show is a full light show synchronized with music taking place throughout the Christmas season. While the show is free, it is an official drop-off point for Toys For Tots; visitors are encouraged to bring a new, unwrapped toy to donate. The show runs from "dark" to 9 pm Sundays through Thursdays, and "dark" to 10 pm on Fridays and Saturdays, at 2701 Dublin Park Dr. (in Dublin Park Estates), Parker.

Santa House, University Park
Once hailed "the single best Christmas light display in Dallas," this perennial favorite fills the front lawn with hundreds of lighted blow-mold decorations that homeowner Wayne Smith has amassed over the years. But look up — way up to the roof — and you'll find his distinctly "Dallas" touch: the head of the State Fair's very first Big Tex, restored to his original form as St. Nick in 1949 and donning a Santa hat. Find it nightly at 3629 Southwestern Blvd., Dallas.

'Movie House,' Allen
This Allen family home has a fun theme: favorite holiday movies. Thousands of lights and props are set to a choreographed show, complete with music and movie quotes from classic characters like Clark, Buddy, Ralphie and more. About 30 films are represented. You'll find it at 1600 Wagon Wheel Dr., Allen. The show runs nightly. Preview it here.

Light Show, Rockwall
This home in The Shores neighborhood of north Rockwall annually puts on a show of twinkling trees and lighted animations that "dance" to music. Visitors can tune their car radios to 87.9 FM to hear the music. Find the home at 1050 Ridge Road West, Rockwall (in The Shores, north of SH66, off SH205). It's up and running nightly, 5:30-10:30 pm, through the holidays.

Lights on Oak Bluff, Sachse, through December 31
This fantastic lights display consistently wins awards from the City of Sachse and the neighborhood HOA. Expect 14,000 individually computer-controlled lights, a 13-foot Megatree, Singing Faces, snowflakes, yard decorations, and synchronization to music, on 92.9 FM. The show runs 6-10 pm nightly (weather permitting), at 4310 Oak Bluff Ln., (in the Woodbridge subdivision) Sachse, 75048. Follow their Facebook page for updates.

Wisdom Way Lights, Haltom City, through January 1
The Gonzalez family's choreographed light show first went viral for a "Selena" theme; this year it's getting attention for its tribute to the Texas Rangers' World Series win. The choreographed show includes broadcast game highlights and more, and runs nightly until December 1. Then a "Super Mario Bros." show and two traditional Christmas themes will play through January 1. Visitors can view the shows from from their cars and listen on radio channel 89.7 FM. Wisdom Way Lights runs nightly from 6-11 pm. Find it at 4521 Wisdom Way, Haltom City, and follow Wisdom Way Lights on Facebook and YouTube for updates.

Curry Christmas Chaos, North Richland Hills
Three houses annually collaborate to present a light show synchronized to music that's anything but "chaos." From start to finish, it's typically over an hour long, and features a mix of pixels and standard LED lights "dancing" to music. Visitors can tune in to 89.9 FM to listen as lots of Christmas trees light up on the lawn. The show runs every night (unless Mother Nature decides differently), 6-11 pm. Find it at 3506 Reeves St., NRH. Follow the Facebook page for more information and updates.

Tell Family Lights, far north Fort Worth, through December 31
The family in this home near Keller Central High School also operates the popular Sugar Lane Lights in Haslet, now it its second year. But their own residential display is still going strong, bigger and better than ever this year, they say. Find the home at 5016 Keating St., Fort Worth, 76244. The choreographed light show is on 6-10 pm daily. From their car, visitors can scan a QR code or visit the website to vote on songs to play. (Make sure to not block anyone’s driveway and be careful driving down the street, they advise.) Follow their website or Facebook page for more information and updates.

Neighborhoods and subdivisions with special displays

Interlochen Lights, Arlington, dates TBA
The Interlochen neighborhood annually presents Interlochen Lights during the holiday season. Hailed as one of the best neighborhood light shows in Texas, the event allows guests to drive through the neighborhood and pick out favorite displays while they tune into holiday music on radio stations 102.1 FM or 98.7 FM. This is one of the busiest spots in Dallas-Fort Worth during the holiday season, and it's free. The route map is here. As of press time, dates were not yet available. Watch for updates on their website and Facebook page.

Deerfield Holiday Lights, Plano, December 1-30
The Deerfield neighborhood of northwest Plano hosts a top-rated winter wonderland you can walk or drive through. You can even book carriage rides in advance to see dancing Santas, millions of twinkling lights, and larger-than-life displays. Deerfield subdivision is located between Preston Road and Coit Road. Check the website for maps and important information about traffic flow and parking. The free event runs 7 pm-10 pm on weekdays and 7 pm-11 pm on weekends.

Regents Park Luminary Event, McKinney, December 16-17
This Stonebridge Ranch neighborhood takes advantage of its layout to host a magical event every year. Residents hand fold over 2,500 paper bags each year and line the streets and central park area with luminaries for families to enjoy. Grab a cup of hot chocolate or apple cider and drive or walk through streets lined with traditional luminaries and enjoy the Christmas lights that adorn these Craftsman-style homes. Rumor has it that a certain special guest in his red suit even loves this event so much that he makes a special trip just to enjoy it himself. For updates, follow the Facebook page (highly recommended as this is a weather dependent event). Runs December 16-17.

Diamond Loch, North Richland Hills, through December 31
This North Richland Hills neighborhood has dressed up for the holidays for decades. Drive through the cul-de-sac slowly to check out adjacent houses that join forces to present a massive computerized show. The rest of the street decorates nicely to make an enchanted "Whoville" Christmas experience known as #NRHGrinchLights. They grow the show every year, and The Grinch himself may actually pop in occasionally; follow their Facebook page to keep up. It's open daily, 5:30-11 pm. To find it, navigate to the address 6217 Windsor Ct., NRH, 76180. (Enter Diamond Loch from Glenview Drive. On busy weekends, traffic must enter going eastbound on Glenview. Turn east off of Hwy 377/Denton Highway onto Glenview Drive, then, in about 1/2 mile, turn right into Diamond Loch.)

Glenbrook Christmas, Bedford, through December 31
The Bedford neighborhood lights up nightly to tell the story of “The Night Before Christmas - In Texas That Is” - along with other festive displays. The entrance to Glenbrook is on Brookside Drive located between Cummings and Forest Ridge. The displays will be on daily, 6-10 pm. Follow the Facebook page for updates.

Morrisdale Estates, Euless
Morrisdale Estates neighborhood in Euless is known for great light displays. The Morrisdale tradition is for everyone in the neighborhood to put up the same red lights on their curbs to create a sea of red as you drive through the neighborhood. Bonus that it's still a bit of an undiscovered gem, so there's not as much traffic as other neighborhoods. Find the neighborhood between Pipeline Road and Hurst Blvd., 76040.

Larger neighborhoods lit up for the holidays

The Park Cities
The grand homes in the Park Cities neighborhoods of Dallas shine with beautiful light displays, many of which are professionally installed; pick just about any street where you see houses lit top to bottom in twinkling lights, and there are bound to be a dozen more. Be sure to check out Highland Park Village and its 1.5 million lights while you're in the area, and don't pass by SMU without driving down the campus' main drag, Bishop Boulevard, toward the fountain and back.

Kessler Park
Historic Kessler Park goes all out, with lots of holiday lights on homes and trees against a backdrop of the Dallas skyline. The holiday decorations are coordinated on various traffic islands in the neighborhood each year. From downtown Dallas, go west on Interstate 30. Take the Sylvan exit, turn south on Sylvan, drive about a half a mile, and turn west on Colorado. You can't miss some of the most majestic oak trees in Dallas, shining bright for the holidays.

Elderoaks Lights, Oak Cliff
A Dallas tradition over 30 years strong, Elderoaks sees 96 percent of the homes in the neighborhood participate in a dazzling display. Located along three streets just south of the old Oak Cliff Country Club (Elderoaks Lane, Elderleaf Drive, and Elderoaks Place), the neighborhood scenes celebrate Christmas with homemade decorations that span medieval times to present day. Don't miss the streaming show of Christmas carols. There's no fee to watch, and lights go on at dusk each night.

Ryan Place, Fort Worth
The gorgeous historic homes in this grand Fort Worth neighborhood get illuminated in spectacular fashion, as do the long walks that lead up to them. The beloved annual Candlelight Christmas in Ryan Place home tour takes place December 2-3, but these stately homes will stay illuminated through the holidays.

Historic Fairmount, Fort Worth
You can pick any night to drive around Fairmount and see historic bungalows lit festively for the season. But the best night of all is Festivus, the annual celebration and holiday lights tour. It takes place 6-9 pm Saturday, December 9. Maps of participating homes will be handed out on arrival. Donations of $10 or a toy for One Safe Place are being requested. Watch the historic district's Facebook page for more information as plans develop.


Know of another spectacular lights display in DFW? Email stephanie@culturemap.com. Please include a website or link to social media page with your recommendation.

New book by Dallas author will be a dishy tell-all about true crime TV

Author News

Dallas-based journalist and podcaster Claire St. Amant has agreed to a deal with BenBella Books to publish Killer Story, a memoir revealing the inner workings of national TV crime coverage, while also offering a behind-the-scenes peek at her journey in mainstream network news.

In the book, St. Amant will recount her days as an investigative crime reporter and producer at CBS News' 48 Hours and 60 Minutes, where she lived the high-stakes game of network television. It promises a peek at the ruthless world of true-crime television reporting, behind the yellow tape and the camera flashes, to show what it really takes to get a killer story.

BenBella Books has published pop culture/celebrity bestsellers such as The Actor's Life, The Geraldo Show, Pretty Little Killers, Presumed Guilty, and Family Don't End with Blood.

In a statement, BenBella Books publisher Glenn Yeffeth says he's "thrilled to be publishing Claire's fascinating account of her career as an investigative crime reporter."

"The only thing more interesting than the true crime cases she covers is the behind-the-scenes accounts of how she breaks the news," Yeffeth says. "Claire is relentless, brilliant and does what it takes to get her story. I could not put this manuscript down!"

Told through the framework of headline-grabbing murder trials, Killer Story is St. Amant’s personal journey into—and out of—true crime television. Can you say Bombshell?

St. Amant was a founding editor for CultureMap Dallas when it launched in 2012, and subsequently spent nearly a decade in network television, pitching, producing, and writing about the biggest true crime stories in the country: American Sniper Chris Kyle, the Parkland School Shooting, and the Murdaugh Murders.

Her stories on Keller "black widow" Michele Williams are still among the top traffic-getter stories for CultureMap since they were published in 2013.

St. Amant has been face-to-face with serial killers, hit men, and cold-blooded murderers. She didn’t start out with any connections to the national media, but built an award-winning body of work that had the big three networks chasing her reporting all the way down to Texas.

"Most people would not believe what actually goes on behind the scenes when you are making true crime TV. It’s a cutthroat business in more ways than one," St. Amant says. "This book has been a dream of mine for years, and it's really exciting to see it come to life."

St. Amant, who also launched a true crime podcast series in 2021, is represented by Carrie Pestritto at Laura Dail Literary Agency. The book is set for publication in February 2025.

Director Todd Haynes tackles inappropriate relationships in May December

Movie Review

Director Todd Haynes has pushed buttons throughout his career, starting with his acclaimed short film, Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story, which used Barbie dolls to illustrate the late singer’s anorexia battle. He’s at it again with his latest, May December, which tackles the idea of highly inappropriate relationships through a lens that itself has the potential to be upsetting.

Elizabeth (Natalie Portman), an acclaimed actress, has traveled to Savannah, Georgia to shadow Gracie (Julianne Moore) in preparation for a movie in which Elizabeth will play Gracie. That movie tackles the beginnings of Gracie’s relationship with Joe (Charles Melton), when he was a 13-year-old seventh grader and she was a 36-year-old pet shop worker. The shocking tryst resulted in much controversy, a child, and a jail stint for Gracie, but the couple professed their love for each other through it all.

Twenty years later, they’re still together, having added two more kids to their family, children who happen to be the same age as Gracie’s grandkids from her previous relationship. Elizabeth wants to experience it all, bouncing from person to person to try to understand exactly who Gracie is and was. Striving for authenticity in her performance, however, soon takes her down a Method acting rabbit hole.

Directed by Haynes from a script by Samy Burch, and loosely based on the story of teacher Mary Kay Letourneau and her 12-year-old student, Vili Fualaau, the film treats Gracie and Joe’s relationship in a relatively straightforward manner. It details a benign life in which they have the love of their kids and some neighbors, even if they occasionally get a box full of poop on their doorstep.

It’s the arrival of Elizabeth that sends things spiraling, as her various conversations trigger responses from both Gracie and Joe that they seem not to expect. Haynes alternates between being serious and being campy, with not enough of each for either for them to seem to be the goal. The score gives off a less-than-serious vibe, and an early scene in which a mundane thing is treated as if it were happening in a soap opera points in the campy direction, but those type of moments are few and far between.

In casting Portman as the obsessive actor, Haynes may have been trying to offer up echoes of her Oscar-winning role in Black Swan. It’s no small irony that the person who comes off as the most craven in such a sordid story is the actor who everybody wants to be around, not the woman who became a pariah because she is a sex offender. In that and other ways, Haynes upends expectations, keeping the film interesting even through its slower moments.

Portman and Moore are ideal for their respective roles, Portman because she has a knack for portraying confidence and guile, and Moore due to her ability to manipulate at will. Melton, best known for playing Reggie on Riverdale, pales in comparison due to his less showy role, but he complements the story well. Special notice goes to Elizabeth Yu as Gracie and Joe’s daughter Mary, who shines in her limited scenes.

The story of May December contains elements that will creep certain viewers out, whether it’s the subject matter itself or the performances of the two great lead actors. Haynes has a way of getting under the skin with his storytelling, and this film is yet another great example.


May December will debut on Netflix on December 1.

Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore in May December

Photo by François Duhamel / Courtesy of Netflix

Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore in May December.