The Axeman Of New Orleans

Posted by blogger in New Orleans Ghost Tours
The Axeman Of New Orleans - Photo

In today’s entry of offbeat and unearthly New Orlean’s tales, we’re going to slither back to the years just prior to the start of the 20th century and dig up the creepy and bewildering chaos that was The Axeman killings.

Now, given that this is a haunted infested blog, mostly devoted to the ethereal, the ghastly, and the phantasmagorical why are we devoting a whole article to the tangible? Why veer into true crime? Well, because the Axeman murders, a series of brutal attacks in New Orleans, Louisiana, have not only a mystique but a supernatural flavor to them. Even still the whole shenanigan is brushed with hints of the strange, the sickening and the paranormal. The Axeman of NOLA has slowly become that city’s premier boogeyman. He’s slipped the coils of his mortality and become something far more sinister and deadly; a spook or demon that still terrorizes the city.

To what extent has the Axeman blotted the lines of reality? Christopher Farnsworth‘s 2012 novel Red, White, and Blood – The third in his best selling series – centers on a murderous specter called the Boogeyman, which has possessed a real mix of bodies throughout history, including our hero, the Axeman of New Orleans. He’s also appeared as a murderous ghost in American Horror Story: Coven.

The Axeman murders are so ingrained in the town’s spirit that they actually inspired a whole subsection of NOLA music; “Axeman’s Jazz.” The first hit single of this musical branch: “The Mysterious Axman’s Jazz (Don’t Scare Me Papa),” in 1919. 

One of the most baffling points about the Axeman spree was how he entered the residence of his victims. It was later discovered, when no sign of entry could be surmised by the police, that he entered by chiseling small holes in their doors and walls. He somehow accomplished to fit through these impossibly tiny entrances points; they had been overlooked by the police on account that they were so small.

The Axeman of New Orleans

The Axeman of New Orleans is the nickname given to a person, a serial killer that operating in New Orleans, Louisiana – and surrounding counties, including that of Gretna – The dates: May 1918 to October 1919. Justice was never served on The Axeman, he was never apprehended nor identified, and all the murders that bear his signature are cold cases.

As the killer’s sobriquet suggests, his victims usually were struck with an ax. The weapon itself often belonged to the victim. The intruder would somehow sneak into the victim’s house and very deliberately, with the stealth of a cat, sneak up to his would-be preys and strike. The Axeman would make a bloody mess and then leave like a ghost in the night. The killer didn’t rob his victims, nor did he assault them… robbery wasn’t a motivation.

The bulk of the Axeman’s victims were Italian immigrants, driving many to consider that the atrocities were ethnically motivated. Multiple media outlets sensationalized this viewpoint, even hinting of Mafia involvement. Crime analysts have proposed that the motivation for the crimes was sexual and that the slayer was potentially a sadist, and the pattern suggests they were seeking exclusively female targets.

Criminologist brothers Damon and Colin Wilson have hypothesized that the Axeman murdered male victims solely when they hindered his efforts to reach his preferred target of women.

Another theory suggests that the Axeman perpetrated the crimes in a bizarre effort to make jazz music more popular. This conjecture is due to a note allegedly written by the Axeman in which he proclaims that he will not slaughter anyone who plays jazz in their home. More on that later. 

With no satisfying ending to this crime spree the hideous killings stopped as mysteriously as they had commenced.

The Axeman’s Victims

Joseph Maggio was attacked while sleeping alongside his wife, Catherine on May 23, 1918. The killer burst into the flat and then continued to cut the couple’s throats with a straight razor. Before leaving, he bashed their heads in with a heavy ax.

Harriet Lowe and her lover Louis Besumer were assaulted on June 27, 1918, at the rear of his grocery store. Besumer was clubbed with a small hatchet just above his right temple. Lowe was sliced over her left ear, she was found unconscious when police arrived at the grizzly scene. Luckily both of them survived. However, many have speculated that this was not an Axeman related case.

Next up was Anna Schneider who was viciously attacked on August 5, 1918. Tragically she was 8 months pregnant at the time. Anna woke that night to find a figure standing in silhouette over her, suddenly and without warning she was struck in the face. She survived her injuries and happily gave birth two days later to a healthy baby girl.

Pauline and Mary Bruno were being looked after by their uncle Joseph Romano, he was an elderly man. On August 10, 1918, his nieces were startled awake by the sound of commotion. They flew into their uncle’s room and manage to catch the Axeman fleeing the scene. Romano had been mortally wounded and died two days later from the effects of his severe head trauma.

Meanwhile, in nearby Gretna, Louisiana lived Charles Cortimiglia and his wife, Rosie, along with their infant daughter, Mary.  On March 10, 1919, shrieks were overheard coming from the residence. Neighbors rushed to their aid. Charles Cortimiglia, his wife, and their daughter had all been attacked. Rosie had a serious head wound and was clutching her deceased daughter.

Steve Boca was attacked in his bedroom on August 10, 1919. Boca survived.

Sarah Laumann was also assaulted on September 3, 1919. Laumann also recovered from her many injuries.

Mike Pepitone received his visit form the Axeman on October 27, 1919. Mike was hit in the head with an axe. Mike didn’t recover. Newspaper headlines made painted a ghastly scene.

“Blood splatter covered the majority of the room, including a painting of the Virgin Mary.”

The Pepitone murder is thought to have been the last of the Axeman’s attack. 

The Letter That Made The Big Easy Dance

Hottest Hell, March 13, 1919

Esteemed Mortal of New Orleans: The Axeman

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.

When I see fit, I shall come and claim other victims. I alone know whom they shall be. I shall leave no clue except my bloody axe, besmeared with the blood of he whom I have sent below to keep me company.

If you wish you may tell the police to be careful not to rile me. Of course, I am a reasonable spirit. I take no offense at the way they have conducted their investigations in the past. In fact, they have been so utterly stupid as to not only amuse me, but His Satanic Majesty, Francis Josef, etc. But tell them to beware. Let them not try to discover what I am, for it were better that they were never born than to incur the wrath of the Axeman. I don’t think there is any need of such a warning, for I feel sure the police will always dodge me, as they have in the past. They are wise and know how to keep away from all harm.

Undoubtedly, you Orleanians think of me as a most horrible murderer, which I am, but I could be much worse if I wanted to. If I wished, I could pay a visit to your city every night. At will I could slay thousands of your best citizens (and the worst), for I am in close relationship with the Angel of Death.

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 out on that specific Tuesday night (if there be any) will get the axe.

Well, as I am cold and crave the warmth of my native Tartarus, and it is about time I leave your earthly home, I will cease my discourse. Hoping that thou wilt publish this, that it may go well with thee, I have been, am and will be the worst spirit that ever existed either in fact or realm of fancy.

  • The Axeman.

The aforementioned letter made NOLA society go bonkers. Everyone, already in a panic due to the Axeman’s almost supernatural power to slip in unnoticed into a house and paint the walls red, converted to enthusiastic Jazz fans.

The night of the 19th all of New Orleans’ dance halls, discos, bars, and honky-tonks were filled to burst, and trained and inexperienced bands played jazz until dawn.

Hundred of parties rolled into existence that night around town. Everyone danced the night away, Jazz blaring out of every window… There were no murders that evening.

The Axeman Hauntings

But you guys came in for the preternatural spooky terror. So let’s get onto that. In the third season of American Horror Story (the Coven Storyline) the Axeman’s ghost shows his ugly mug and becomes one of the many dangers plaguing the protagonists. There’s a reason why the showrunners decided while researching NOLA, to include the Axeman’s phantoms into the blood-drenched storyline… And that’s because the Axeman and his specter have become interwoven into NOLA’s history, cultural makeup and, ghost-filled closet of terrors.

  • The house where Joseph Maggio and his wife, Catherine, is said to be haunted by their remnants. On certain nights near the area, people have reported screams and shrieks. 
  • From March 13 to the 15th, it is a NOLA tradition to play Jazz in most pubs, clubs, and disco – at least once a night – in order to ward the Axeman’s fury. It doesn’t matter if its a Honky Tong, a goth club or the swankiest highfalutin dinner hall, you will hear the beat of Miles Davis or his cronies at least once during those nights.
  • The hospital where Joseph Romano was treated is said to be haunted by the fella’s restless spirit. 

The Haunted Hotel

According to local legend. the aptly named Haunted Hotel of NOLA – not a portmanteau but the actual name of the hotel –  is the location believed to be where the Axeman hid between picking off his victims. This is the place where he slept during his murder sprees. The natives believe that his ghoulish specter remains at the hotel.

In the back of the hotel, there is a quaint courtyard with a strange dark vibe. Visitors have claimed to have seen wandering shadows, pools of blood, capture strange EVP’s and even experience bizarre electrical hiccups with their cellphones.

For our next entry, we are going to talk about The Grunch… The NOLA’s chupacabra and the case of John and Wayne Carter; NOLA’s killer Vampires