Crime History, March 13: ‘Axeman of New Orleans’ serial killer sends letter vowing to strike after midnight

Illustrated map of scenes of the Axe murders of New Orleans, March 1919.

Illustrated map of scenes of the Axe murders of New Orleans, March 1919.

On this day, March 13, 1919, a serial killer known as the Axeman purportedly sent a letter to the editor of the New Orleans Times-Picquene announcing when he’d kill next.

The Axeman of New Orleans had caused a city-wide panic. He, or his copycats, was suspected in nearly a dozen hacking murders in Louisiana, usually while the victims slept in their beds. Some throats were slashed ear to ear before their bodies and heads were chopped with an axe.

The letter to the newspaper begins:

“Esteemed Mortal, 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.”

The writer vowed to strike again at 15 minutes past midnight on St. Joseph’s Day, March 19. In a strange compromise, the killer promised not to visit any house that had a jazz band in full swing at the hour of the planned hacking.

“One thing is for certain and that is that some of your people who do not jazz it on Tuesday (if their be any) will get the axe,” he wrote.

That night the jazz was said to be louder than ever. No one was killed that night.

— Scott McCabe





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