In this week’s podcast, Alex, Adam and I each try to create our lists of the Top 5 most evil New Orleanians in history. And, holy moly, there have been some evil people here.
I think the episode was fun, and I learned a lot researching, so I think it’s worth giving a listen, but we were running out of time, and I thought one item was so wild I wanted to share it here.
I wouldn’t rate the Axeman of New Orleans as the most evil villain in NOLA history, but I’d certainly put him up there. Between May 23, 1918 and October 1919 he killed six city residents and injured an additional 12. His weapon of choice was, as you can probably guess by his name, an axe.
And the attacks were brutal. He’d use a chisel to remove a panel on the back door of the victim’s house. Then he’d enter the home and bludgeon his victim(s) with his axe, often also cutting their throats with a straight razor (sometimes so deep, their heads would nearly fall off). Gross.
The victims were almost always Italian-Americans, suggesting ethnic motives, and some believe his targeting of women (with men only being murdered when they tried to stop the Axeman from getting to the woman of the house) indicates he was a sadist, deriving sexual pleasure out of the woman’s painful death.
In any case, we’ll never know, because this happened almost exactly 100 years ago, and the Axeman was never identified or apprehended.
But the reason I wanted to write a blog entry about this was because of the letter I only got to partially read on the podcast. The Axeman published this in local newspapers in 1919, during the height of the local hysteria his killing spree created. He addressed it from Hell.
Hell, March 13, 1919
Esteemed Mortal of New Orleans:
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 (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.
When Tuesday night — the witching hour, as indicated in his letter — rolled around, all of New Orleans’ dance halls were filled to capacity, and professional and amateur bands played jazz at parties at hundreds of houses around town.
The Axeman must have been pleased by the music, because, mercifully, there were no murders that night.
In fact, another didn’t take place again until August 10, 1919.
If you’d like to learn more about The Axeman of New Orleans, as well as a host of other villainous residents of the Crescent City, listen to Top 5-04: The Podcast on iTunes, SoundCloud and Sticher. And give our Facebook page a Like!