Both a disorganized and organized serial killer, the Axeman of New Orleans ruthlessly attacked couples sleeping in their beds with an ax--or if no ax was available, whatever he could find to bludgeon them--after scoping out their homes. He never tried to hide any evidence or dispose of witnesses. Despite the sheer violence of the attacks, only half of his victims actually died, pointing to an irrepressible need to “hack and slash” but not kill. The Axeman struck without reason, likely neither caring or even noticing that some of his victims were still alive when he left. He, or she, was never caught.
M.O.: Chiseling out a panel of a back door to gain entry into his victims’ homes or coming in through an open window; attacking at night while the occupants slept
Signature: Violently and repeatedly hitting victims over the head with a weapon found in the victim’s home, most often an ax
Victim Count: 6 dead; 6 injured
Best known for: His affinity for jazz music, never being caught, supernatural or demonic association, writing a threatening letter and compelling an entire city to dance the night away to avoid being attacked
“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.”
“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.”
The Axeman would ransack the homes of his victims to find a weapon he could use to bludgeon them. While this most often was an axe, he also used a straight razor and a lamp in some of his killings. He scoped out houses ahead of time, choosing specific homes to break into, and then snuck inside at night and attacked residents sleeping and vulnerable in their beds. The Axeman chose his victims, weapons and manner of entering the house because they were easy.
His kills were messy and violent, satisfying a need to release his uncontrollable rage. In two cases, the Axeman slashed his victims’ throats and hacked at their heads with an axe. While there was no need for the Axeman to do both, it seems he enjoyed the “overkill” and never tried to hide what he did. Bodies, weapons and his own bloody clothes were left behind at the scenes of his crimes.
His infamous letter to the people of New Orleans mentions “His Satanic Majesty”, “Tartarus”, and “The Angel of Death”, and he claims to be a demon from the hottest hell. The demonic association possibly points schizophrenia. The compulsion to write to the public and the police suggests narcissism. It may also have served the practical purpose of confusing the police and flooding them with red herrings.
For as much as the Axeman reveled in the attention, he threatened harm to the police should they try to apprehend him. He must have felt very powerful dictating the behaviors of an entire city with just one letter. He would not have wanted to lose the attention, which undoubtedly would be the consequence if he were caught.
As abruptly as he began killing, the Axeman stopped. Whether he got bored with murder, succumbed to the influenza outbreak, moved, or was arrested for an unrelated crime, we’ll never know.