• Cierra Chenier

NOIR 'N NOLA Haunted History: The Axeman

Source: (Why So Serial?)

Back in the early 1900s, panic and paranoia lingered over New Orleans in fear of a serial killer commonly known as The Axeman. He was known for using the axes found in his victims homes; he never brought his own. The attacks were not motivated by robbery; the victims' valuables went untouched. He would break a piece of the door panel to enter homes. The majority of his victims were Italian immigrants, often Italian grocers, who operated several groceries in the city. Many Italians immigrated to the city from Sicily and established groceries in and around the French Quarter.


The Axeman's first victims were Joseph and Catherine Maggio, who were attacked first with a cut to the throat, then an axe to the head as they were sleeping. Over a month later, Louis Besumer and his mistress Harriet Lowe were attacked with an axe and survived the blows; only for the woman to die days later.

The third attack was of Mrs. Edward Schneider, a woman who was eight months pregnant at the time. The Axeman entered her home and struck her in the face, cutting open her scalp. Somehow, someway, she managed to survive and give birth to a healthy baby girl. Next was Joseph Romano, an elderly man who suffered a blow to the head, later dying of his injuries. The series of repeated attacks instilled fear throughout the city -- from the areas of the Lower 9, French Quarter, to across the river. In 1919, The Axeman made his way to the Westbank with his attack of Charles, Rosie, and Mary Cortimiglia in Gretna. The couple survived, but their two-year old daughter Mary died of a blow to the neck.

Better Find You a Jazz Band

The story of The Axeman gets even creepier -- on March 14, 1919, he sent a letter to the Times-Picayune stating:

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 was 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 [March 19, 1919}, 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

The same serial killer that showed no mercy in any other instance, decided to provide the city with an ultimatum: play jazz music at 12:15am on March 19, 1919 to be spared of the axe -- or else. The people of New Orleans were appalled, but were not trying to suffer the consequences. So New Orleanians did what New Orleanians do best -- we made the best out of the situation. We threw a party.

That Tuesday night in 1919 is said to have been one of the most bizarre in our city's history. Homes were filled to capacity with jazz music blasting all throughout the night. Those that couldn't make it into a home, packed the rooms of jazz clubs where live bands were performing. Ironically enough, it's said that no one was murdered by The Axeman that night.

Things quieted down for weeks, until two additional attacks occurred back to back. Steve Boca was struck in the head, and despite surviving, lost all memory of the incident. Nineteen-year old Sarah Laumann was attacked weeks later, and also lost recollection of the incident.

"The Axeman" American Horror Story, Season 3, Episode 6

played by Danny Huston

He Came, He Terrorized, & He Dipped

The Axeman's final victim was Mike Pepitone, who was struck in the head in October 1919. He died from his injuries and the scene was left a blood bath. The Axeman mysteriously disappeared and was never seen in New Orleans again. Besides inconsistent descriptions of him being a tall, white man in his 30's, there has been no confirmed description. There has been accusations of alleged suspects, but the killer was never officially identified. His motive was never clear and he disappeared just as mysteriously as he arrived. That is, if he even disappeared at all...


The Times-Picayune


Legends of America


Prairie Ghosts