The Axeman of New Orleans

Real Name







The Axeman of New Orleans was a serial killer active in New Orleans, Louisiana (and surrounding communities, including Gretna, Louisiana), from May, 1918, to October, 1919. Press reports during the height of public panic about the killings mentioned similar murders as early as 1911, but recent researchers have called these reports into question. The events are recounted in the true crime book "The Axeman."

As the killer's pseudonym implies, the victims were attacked with an axe, which often belonged to the victims themselves. The common thread connecting each proposed axeman murder, is the manner by which the crimes were committed. In most cases, the back door of a home was smashed, followed by an attack on one or more of the residents with either an axe or straight razor. The crimes were evidently not conducted as robberies, as the criminal never removed items from his victims' homes.

The axe-man targeted a variety of victims, the majority of whom were Italian-American, leading many to believe that the crimes were racially motivated. Many media outlets sensationalized the quantity of Italian-American victims, going so far as to suspect Mafia involvement, despite the vast lack of evidence. Some crime analysts have suggested that the killings were related to sex, and that the murderer was perhaps a sadist seeking female victims. A less probable theory is that the killer committed the murders in an attempt to promote jazz music, as in his famous letter he stated that he would spare the lives of those who played jazz in their homes.

"The Axeman" was not caught or identified at the time, and his crime spree stopped as mysteriously as it had started. The murderer's identity remains unknown to this day, although various possible identifications of varying plausibility have been proposed. Most notoriously, on March 13, 1919, a letter purporting to be from the Axeman was published in the newspapers saying that he would kill again at 15 minutes past midnight on the night of March 19, but would spare the occupants of any place where a jazz band was playing. That night all of New Orleans's dance halls were filled to capacity, and professional and amateur bands played jazz at parties at hundreds of houses around town. There were no murders that night.

Not everyone was intimidated by the Axeman. Some well armed citizens sent the newspaper invitations for the Axeman to visit their houses that night and see who was killed first. One invitation promised to leave a window open for the Axeman, politely asking that he not damage the front door.

Public Domain Appearances

In 1919, local tune writer Joseph John Davilla wrote the song "The Mysterious Axman's Jazz (Don't Scare Me Papa)." Published by New Orleans based World's Music Publishing Company, the cover depicted a family playing music with frightened looks on their faces.


Although referred to as the "Axeman" there is nothing to suggest the murderer couldn't have been female.

See Also

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