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Mystery of the Axman of New Orleans

It’s still considered unsolved.  From May 1918 until October 1919, New Orleans residents lived in fear as a serial killer brutally murdered at least 8 people and may have attacked more. The victims included women and children.

In most instances, the back door of a home was smashed, followed by an attack on the residents of the home who were either killed with an axe or a straight razor.

Nothing was stolen from the homes and the only possible motive was that many of the victims were Italian descent. Reporters of the day began referring to the killer as the Axman of New Orleans.

On March 13, 1919, a typed letter that was supposedly sent to the newspaper from  the Axman was published to advise that he would kill again at 15 minutes past midnight on March 19. However, he advised that he would spare the occupants of any household where a jazz band was playing.

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Once the letter was published in the newspaper, people rounded up every instrument in town, parties were planned and dance halls were filled to capacity. All professional and amateur bands were hired and played jazz at parties in hundreds of households throughout the city. Sure enough, the city awoke to learn that no murders had been committed that night.

The last attack occurred in August of that year. The Axman was never caught and brought to justice. Speculation was rampant that he had something to do with jazz and that he was a respectable citizen with an alter ego like a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde type.

Wikipedia lists the victims and also suggests why the killings may have stopped including the fact that perhaps the husband of the last victim exacted revenge by ultimately killing the serial killer.

One of the tunes that likely was performed on that fateful jazz night was The Mysterious Axman’s Jazz (Don’t Scare Me Papa) by local musician Joseph John Davilla.

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The sheet music for that song became a “best seller” and still remains on display in a New Orleans museum.

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The Axman’s letter stated that They have never caught me and they never will. His letter turned out to contain that truth.

 

 


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