The Axeman of New Orleans was a serial killer who operated in New
Orleans, Louisiana and nearby areas from May 1918 to October 1919.
the Axeman's preferred method of murder utilized an axe. He often
chopped his victims' doors down before entering the homes and laying
into the people inside. Several of the Axeman's early victims were
Italians, some of them with ties to organized crime, leading
authorities to believe the attacks were some sort of Mafia vendetta.
However, too many were not Italian or had no ties to the Mob, and a
great deal of fear built up about who the Axeman was and where he would
The Axeman attacked at least a dozen people and
killed eight, including several grocers and a mother and her infant
daughter. Several people attacked were able to survive despite
In addition to murdering seemingly random
people with a bloody great axe, the Axeman also enjoyed sending
taunting letters to local newspapers, similar to the ones sent a few
decades earlier by Jack the Ripper, dropping vague hints about his
future attacks and claiming to be a demon. And of course, he was never
captured or identified. You'd think a guy toting a gory axe around
the city would be pretty
easy to spot, but I guess not. There have been some people who have,
ahem, made stabs at the killer's identity in the decades since then,
but they really don't
seem to be very good guesses.
So you've got a serial killer who's definitely in the top quarter, as
far as interesting serial killers goes, right? He kills people with an
axe, he sends erudite but deranged letters to
newspapers, taunting people and claiming to be a demon from Hell, and
no one really knows who he was or what happened to him. But does he
have anything else, any particular quirks that really push him into
the Top Ten list of interestingly dangerous serial murderers?
Why, yes. Yes, he does. Apparently, the Axeman was a jazz fanatic.
He sent a letter to the papers on March 13, 1919, claiming that he would
commit his next murder at 15 minutes past midnight on March 19 -- but
he would pass over any location where a jazz band was playing. So on
March 19, every jazz hall in New Orleans was
jam-packed with people, and jazz bands performed at hundreds of houses
all over the city. There were no murders at all that night -- either the
Axeman was satisfied that everyone was listening to jazz, or he was
just planning on throwing off the police.
The Axeman's odd love of jazz is the thing that's gotten him quite a
bit of attention in music and pop culture. A New Orleans songwriter
named Joseph John Davilla wrote a song called "The Mysterious Axman's
Jazz (Don't Scare Me Papa)" in 1919. An Australian band called Beasts
of Bourbon released an album called "The Axeman's Jazz" in 1984, and
a progressive rock band from Las Vegas called One
Ton Project released a song in 2007 called "Deathjazz" that told the
story of the Axeman. A writer named Julie Smith fictionalized the
story for a novel called "The Axeman's Jazz" in 1991, and Poppy Z.
Brite wrote a story called "Mussolini and the Axeman's Jazz" in 1997.
And the Axeman is mentioned in Sister Vigilante's story in Chuck
Palahniuk's "Haunted" in 2005. And in 2007, Haden Blackman and
Cary Nord created a short, stylized comic story called "The Axeman"
for Dark Horse Comics' "MySpace Dark Horse Presents" comic site that
also included references to serial killers H.H. Holmes, Joe Ball,
and Ed Gein.
There haven't yet been any movies featuring the Axeman, but I
wouldn't be surprised to see one someday. You got a mysterious,
jazz-loving madman with an axe, and it's all set in N'awlins? Someone
could clean up with that in the theaters...
UPDATE: synechdouche says: "The Axeman was too careful to axe in the door -- he used a
chisel to remove a single panel and then was able to gain entry by
unlocking the door (according to Gumbo Ya-Ya)."