In the darkest annals of true crime there is only one maniac killer who bent an entire city to his murderous will. Deep in the swampy terrors of New Orleans, amidst the honky-tonk jazz palaces, clip joints, lurking within iron wrought stronghold of voodoo, a disciple of the dark arts lay waste to an entire community with the swift sure stroke of his terrible swift sword – a huntsman’s axe – before his infernal fiend simply vanishing to baffle law enforcement to this very day.
Little is known about the mysterious killer –except that he seemed to target members of the newly emigrated Italian community before boldly declaring to the press that his unrelenting attacks on Big Easy would cease – if only, the entire city ceded to his insane demand.
In the years following the end of World War One – from May 1918 through October 1919, The Axeman of New Orleans carved a bloody swathe. The AxeMan was neither caught nor identified and the police’s inept attempts to capture him proved elusive. Some criminologists believe the AxeMan may have started killing as early as 1911 before cops caught on.
Among his first victims were grocer Joseph Maggio and his wife Catherine. Sleeping alongside his wife, Maggio was startled to find an intruder within their humble, modestly furnished abode. The killer quickly slit their throats and then beheaded them with an axe. Investigators found the murderer’s bloody clothing that he had discarded, evidently bringing a fresh set with him. In the days before forensic analysis the gore soaked raiment provided no clues. The axe belonged to the bother of the deceased grocer who remained a chief suspect in the dual homicide. Despite intensive interrogation, police were unable to break his alibi. Neighborhood eyewitnesses claimed they had seen an unknown man lurking around the grocery before the murders occurred. An isolated incident, perhaps, but then multiple head-chopping occurred throughout the city igniting panic.
Another grocer Louis Besmer and his mistress Harriet Lowe were also attacked whilst slumbering. Besmer died but his mistress made inflammatory statement to local press suggesting that her lover had attacked her. Undergoing plastic surgery in a failed plastic surgery attempt, she also died.
And then an eight-month-pregnant woman was axe-attacked in an apparent robbery attempt. Soon more people attacked with seven dying as a direct result of the axe wielding maniac.
In nearly every case, a small hole was cut through the door which allowed the AxeMan to enter without forcibly breaking or entering. Theft was ostensibly the reason and the primary victims were women – that is – unless the men got in the way in which case they were met with an oncoming axe.
After the initial spree, there was a curious lull in the crimes until March 1919 when the crazed killer made short work of a family on the outskirts of New Orleans. Police found a bloody Rosie Covington cradling the corpse of her two-year-old daughter while her husband lay dead, the blood spilling from his wounds.
Now, here’s where things get really strange.
Like Jack the Ripper before him, the Axe Man sent a letter to New Orleans newspapers, prompting even more havoc unless they heeded his satanic request.
“Hell, March 13, 1919
They have never caught me and they never will. They have never seen me, for I am invisible, even as the ether that surrounds your earth. I am not a human being, but a spirit and a demon from the hottest hell. I am what you Orleanians and your foolish police call the Axeman…
Now, to be exact, at 12:15 (earthly time) on next Tuesday night, I am going to pass over New Orleans. In my infinite mercy, I am going to make a little proposition to you people. Here it is:
I am very fond of jazz music, and I swear by all the devils in the nether regions that every person shall be spared in whose home a jazz band is in full swing at the time I have just mentioned. If everyone has a jazz band going, well, then, so much the better for you people. One thing is certain and that is that some of your people who do not jazz it on Tuesday night (if there be any) will get the axe.”
On March 19, 1919, the terrified city erupted with an outpouring of jazz music – from every nook and crawfish-filled cranny, from jazz palaces and Baron Sameda’s favorite gin joints to player pianos erupted as free-form scatological music filled the eerie night.
There were no more attacks. His demand met – the New Orleans Axe-Man vanished into the mist of history – a legendary boogeyman never to be heard from again – save for hushed whispers on Bourbon Street in between shots of Jack.