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Knowledge of our past is our inheritance. What we do with that knowledge will shape our destinies...

Monday, September 30, 2013

Crime Tidbit: The Axeman of New Orleans

Did you know...

That between May 1918 and October 1919, a brutal axe-murderer terrorized the city of New Orleans? He began attacking victims, generally by breaking into their homes and attacking them with either an ax or straight razor. Though his victimology was broad, many of his victims were Italian-American working class people, which made many people believe they might have been racially motivated.

He was definitely more angry toward women than men, as it was the women who were often killed or hurt more profoundly. Criminologists of the time believed he only killed men who got in the way of his killing women.

In March, 1919, he sent a letter to the local paper, which was published, sensationalizing him even more. It read as follows:

Hell, March 13, 1919 
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.      
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 blood and brains 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, 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 on 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 

Looking at the letter, obviously this guy was insane, and had something of a god complex. No one was killed that night, though ever dance hall and speak easy was filled to capacity well past midnight.
My favorite part of this story is that several citizens, outraged by the letter and the situation on the whole sent letters of their own to the paper, inviting the Axeman to come to their homes, and see who would be killed first. One even offered to leave the window open, politely asking that he not damage the back door. I love these people! I'm not sure I'd have their nerve, but you gotta admire the guts! And people who just can't stand the idea of a madman bringing New Orleans to it's knees.
The Axeman stopped killing as suddenly and mysteriously as he started. His identity was never discovered. Many believed he might have been a man by the name of Joseph Momfre, who was shot to death in L.A. in December of 1920, but deeper investigation has revealed this to be something of an urban legend. Momfre was a common surname in New Orleans at the time and was probably used as a place holder because the killer's ID was unknown. (Akin to calling someone John Doe.) The records of the time are too incomplete for us to understand all that happened in the investigation.

Who do you think the axeman was? What were his motivations? Can you see this as an awesome fiction story?


  1. I can't even guess, but anyone that kills with an ax has serious issues.

    1. I agree, Maurice. It's one of those things: I don't know what's more disturbing. That such a thing as an axe-murderer even exists, or that it's happened often enough that we've coined a term for it.

  2. What a strange story! And the bit about those who played jazz music would be spared--wow.

    1. Yeah, pretty creepy, right? :D Thanx for stopping by!

  3. It would be interesting to get the BAU take on this case. I know they are fictional and they probably don't do cold cases but it would be interesting to find out how they see the victimology and motives. The jazz music might point to some kind of trigger. I am really curious as to why he stopped. Was he finally satisfied or did he fall in an old well somewhere?

    1. Yeah,it would be interesting to hear a profiler's take on this. There's no way to tell for sure why he stopped, but it'd be interesting to learn. :D