When you think of serial killers, your mind will most likely leap to the likes of Jack the Ripper, Ted Bundy and Jeffrey Dahmer, to name a few. But, there is a lesser known serial killer that American Horror wove into their Coven season. He was a horrifying man who terrified the city of New Orleans between 1918 and 1919 and is known as The Axeman. In American Horror Story, the Axeman was summoned from the spirit realm by Zoe who released him by means of a Ouija board. This troublesome, jazz-obsessed character causes a whole flurry of trouble to the Coven and its characters. But, in the end the witches win and kill the notorious Axeman. Now, it is time to unleash the story of the real Axeman who actor Danny Huston's jazz-loving character was based on.
The real Axeman rained sheer terror down on the residents of New Orleans. He calmly slipped in with his axe as his unsuspecting victims were fast asleep and savagely hacked his victims to death, vanishing into the night afterward. Perhaps, this cruel killer wanted to gain himself the same notoriety as the sickening Jack the Ripper who inflicted terror on London in the late 1880s. Just like Jack the Ripper, his identity remains unknown, and the murders still haunt the history of New Orleans.
Children are often afraid of the 'Bogeyman,' and this serial killer really proved that maybe the Bogeyman does exist! The Axeman often attacked his victims with the axes that they owned. Seriously, who even just has an axe laying around, maybe it was used for wood chopping during the time period?
The Axeman first struck in May, 1918, murdering a grocer and his wife, Joseph and Catherine Maggio. The couple were found dead by their bed by Joseph's brothers who horrifyingly had to see their loved ones' dismembered bodies. It is said that Catherine had almost been beheaded. Just gruesome! Creepily, the Axeman did not take anything and somehow had time to change and casually left his clothes in his victims' house. The police suspected that this attack was planned because the Axeman had conveniently brought a change of clothes along. The only other clue they had of this mysterious real-life monster was that he was strong, as the door had been battered down.
Next, the Axeman found his second victims, who were Louis Besumer and his mistress Harriet Lowe. The cheeky killer used Louis' axe to terrorize these two victims and left them in a pool of their own blood. In the morning, the driver of a bakery wagon arrived at the scene to make a usual order from the couple at their grocery store. Amazingly, he discovered the victims hurt but still alive. This is when the suspects started rolling in. In a bizarre twist, the police arrested Lewis Oubicon, a new employee at the victims' store. But, the police were unable to find any evidence against him and released him. Once again, the killer did not take any valuables despite them being in plain view.
The New Orleans Axeman seemed to take a break in August, 1918 after giving his sixth victim, Joseph Romano, two blows to the head with his axe. It looked like this victim would live to tell the tale, but sadly he died in the hospital from head trauma.
This unnerving map shows the vast amounts of victims potentially killed by the Axeman's hand
But, all was not safe yet, as in March, 1919 he was about to strike again. Finding himself another family to attack, this time he struck Charles Cortimiglia and his wife Rosie, along with their baby daughter. Heartbreakingly, the daughter was killed, but the parents survived, despite losing a vast amount of blood. Nothing was stolen and perhaps on purpose the Axeman left his bloody murder weapon behind.
The newspapers speculated who he could be:
Then, without warning, in the style of Jack the Ripper, this rambling letter was sent to The Orleans Times, claiming to be the Axeman:
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.
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.
Surprisingly no one was murdered that night...
But New Orleans was far from safe!
In the fall of 1919, the Axeman struck twice again. In total, he killed around 13 people, but the exact number is not confirmed. Five of his victims survived. Was this all at the hand of one man, or did he have an accomplice, too? There are some patterns to the killings: the victims were Italian-Americans, he often used their axe as his murder weapon and never stole from the scene.
An Italian owned grocery store from that time in New Orleans:
Shockingly, between 1911 and 1912, similar murders followed, leaving 49 people slaughtered in their sleep across portions of Louisiana and Texas. The killings began in Rayne, Louisiana where a young lady and her beloved three children were found slaughtered in the home. Just like in New Orleans, all of these victims were decapitated and dismembered in the dead of the night as they slept. It is speculated that this was the same man, but has not been confirmed. Despite it being years since the attacks, the whole thing is still shrouded in mystery and no further conclusions have been reached. Throughout the reign of his terror there were many suspects; some were arrested and released, but the identity of this horrifying man remains unknown. This American Horror Story character just got a whole lot scarier!