The Axeman of New Orleans and Jazz

In the annals of American crime history, one name stands out for its sheer audacity, chilling brutality, and enigmatic mystique: The Axeman of New Orleans. Operating during the early 20th century, this elusive serial killer wreaked havoc on the streets of New Orleans, leaving a trail of bloodshed, fear, and unanswered questions in his wake.

With a penchant for gruesome murders and a strange fascination with music, the Axeman’s reign of terror remains an enduring puzzle that captivates crime enthusiasts to this day.

The reign of terror begins

The first documented murder attributed to the Axeman occurred on May 23, 1918. The victim, Joseph Maggio, and his wife were attacked in their apartment while they slept. The killer broke into the home, and then proceeded to cut the couple’s throats with a straight razor. Upon leaving he bashed their heads with an axe, perhaps in order to conceal the real cause of dealth. This brutal crime marked the beginning of a series of gruesome murders that gripped the city of New Orleans.

What set the Axeman apart from other serial killers of his time was his choice of weapon and his seemingly random victims. Over a period of a year and a half, a total of 12 attacks were linked to the Axeman. The victims included men, women, and even a young child, with no discernible pattern in terms of age, gender, or occupation.

The mysterious letter

One of the most perplexing aspects of the Axeman case was the letter supposedly written by the killer and published in a local newspaper in March 1919. In the letter, the Axeman declared that he was a demon from the infernal realms and claimed he would spare anyone who was playing jazz music in their homes on a particular night. This bizarre request led to a city-wide jazz party, with people believing that appeasing the Axeman’s musical demand would save them from his wrath.

This is part of the exact letter:

“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 fantasy.

-The Axeman”

The event, known as “The Night the Axeman Danced,” saw New Orleans immersed in a symphony of jazz music, as residents played instruments or danced the night away in a collective act of defiance against the killer. Astonishingly, no murders occurred that night, lending an eerie aura of credibility to the Axeman’s proclamation.

The pursuit of justice

Law enforcement struggled to apprehend the Axeman due to the randomness of his attacks and the absence of consistent patterns. However, in August 1919, the Axeman’s reign of terror came to an apparent halt.

Mike Pepitone was attacked by an intruder, and his wife managed to fend off the assailant, unmasking his face in the process. Despite her efforts, the Axeman managed to escape and was never definitively identified or captured.

Legacy and speculation

The Axeman’s identity remains shrouded in mystery. Despite numerous suspects being investigated, none were definitively linked to the crimes. The case has fueled various theories, including connections to organized crime, personal vendettas, and even possible copycat killers.

As time has passed, the true identity of the Axeman of New Orleans has become one of the most enduring mysteries in criminal history.


The Axeman of New Orleans stands as a haunting enigma that continues to captivate true crime enthusiasts and historians alike. His gruesome acts, bizarre letter, and strange obsession with music have left an indelible mark on the history of crime. His crime spree stopped as mysteriously as it had started.

While the identity of the Axeman remains unknown, his legacy serves as a reminder of the darkest corners of human nature and the unyielding pursuit of justice in the face of unspeakable brutality.

Leave a Comment