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The Strange Mystery of the New Orleans Axeman

History is rife with dark tales of mysterious phantom-like murderers who have materialized from the dark and our nightmares to pounce from the shadows and strike fear in our hearts. These shadowy, enigmatic villains seem to come from nowhere to invade our cities and even our homes, hold us in the grip of terror, and carry out their dark, bloody deeds, only to vanish into the ether and leave in their wakes puzzles and enigmas which we may never truly solve, try as we might. The most famous such mysterious, dark specter of death is no doubt London’s Jack the Ripper, but he is far from the only one of his kind, and indeed one of the most persistently perplexing, baffling, and indeed brutal killing sprees in history is one which occurred over an approximately  two year period in early 20th century New Orleans, Louisiana, in the United States. It was the murderous rampage of an inscrutable figure which bloomed from the darkness to loom over and kill people in their own homes as they slept, would incapacitate the city with panic, leave authorities completely puzzled, and would cause legends to be spun around it which would even go as far as to point to supernatural forces from beyond our reality as we know it. It is a legendary, almost mythical tale of murder, terror and mystery, which remains unsolved to this day.

The official reign of terror of the mysterious figure who would become known as the Axeman began on the night of May 22, 1918, when a Jake and Andrew Maggio were alerted to what sounded like moaning coming from the adjacent room of their brother, Joseph Maggio, and his wife Catherine, with whom they shared an apartment above their barroom and grocery store. The two concerned brothers got out of bed, where they had been fast asleep moments before, and went to investigate after their attempts to call out to Joseph to see if he was alright remained unanswered. It was at this time that they realized that the rear door to Joseph’s apartment had been chiseled apart, with a front panel removed and the wood chisel used to painstakingly remove it laying tauntingly on top of it. Now very concerned that something was amiss, Jake and Andrew went into the apartment and searched it, and it was when they reached Joseph’s bedroom that they would make a gruesome discovery.

Artist's rendering of the scene of the Maggio attack

Artist’s rendering of the scene of the Maggio attack

There upon their brother’s bed on crimson sprayed sheets was Joseph Maggio, who was still barely alive and moving, but bleeding profusely from several horrific gashes etched into his head. On top of him was Catherine Maggio, who remained motionless and also seemed to be leaking a good amount of blood onto the floor. The mortally wounded Joseph tried to speak and go to his brothers, but could not move out from under the body of his wife splayed over him, and died within minutes of being found. Jake and Andrew promptly called the police, who soon learned that Catherine had been killed by a deep slash across her throat that had practically decapitated her, and her face and head had been brutally gashed open with what looked like wounds from an axe. A thorough search of the premises turned up a bloody axe in one of the rooms, as well as a set of bloodied clothes crumpled on the bathroom floor, suggesting that the killer had changed into a fresh set before fleeing into the night. A straight razor was also found, and a picture of what had transpired began to be painted. It was deduced that the killer had chiseled off the door panel and entered the home, where he had then violently attacked the couple, hitting Joseph with the axe, cutting open Catherine’s throat with the razor, and then proceeding to bash them both about the head and face with the axe. It was thought that Catherine had been the real target of the attack and that Joseph, whose throat was uncut, had merely gotten in the killer’s way and been struck down as well. In the vicinity of the house was found another creepy clue in the form of a cryptic message childlishly scrawled across a wall in chalk which said “Mrs. Maggio will sit up tonight just like Mrs. Toney.” It was unclear just why the couple had been targeted or what the strange message meant. Robbery was ruled out because nothing had been stolen and the money from the family safe, as well as Catherine’s jewelry box, had been untouched. It was deduced that the killer had entered with the full intention of murder.

The first suspect in the killing was the deceased’s own brother, Andrew Maggio, as the razor that was found to have been used to slice Catherine’s head practically clean off was found to belong to him. Andrew would claim that he had had the razor at the house in order to hone a nick out of the blade, as he was a barber by trade. It was also thought to be suspicious that he had failed to hear a forced entry and a murder going on right next door until it was too late. For his part, Andrew claimed this was because he and Jake had been quite drunk at the time, since he had been celebrating a night out on the town with his brother before being deployed to the Navy to fight in World War I the following day. Despite his pleas of innocence, Andre Maggio was arrested and considered a prime suspect until it was determined that there was not enough evidence to keep him and he was released a few days later.

Police investigating the Maggio killings interviewed several suspects in relation to the crime, but were unable to make any further arrests. As they dug into the case more deeply, the disturbing find was made that there had been a string of similar murders which had occurred in various areas across Louisiana and Texas during the years of 1911 and 1912, which encompassed a total of 49 killings which all featured people and even whole families who had been ruthlessly murdered and set upon with an axe as they slept in their beds. In at least one of these killings, another cryptic message had been left behind in the form of a note that had read “When He maketh the inquisition for blood, He forgetteth not the cry of the humble, human five.” Although there was nothing concrete to link the Maggio killings with these, in addition to the similarities one clue that seemed to suggest a possible connection was the message found in chalk near the scene of the crime: “Mrs. Maggio will sit up tonight just like Mrs. Toney.” The last victim of the previous 1911, 1912 killing spree was found to have been a man by the name of Tony Schiambra. Even without any leads or any solid evidence to link the crimes, they still suspected that the Maggio killing could be the beginning of another murder spree, but all police could do at the time was wait to see what would happen next. They did not have to wait long.

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A mere month later, on the morning June 28, 1918, the doors to a grocery store run by a Polish immigrant named Louis Besumer were found to be locked by a bread delivery man when the operation was normally always open at that time. Thinking this was a bit odd, the deliveryman, a John Zanca, went around to the back to investigate and knocked on the door, which was also locked. It was probably a bit of a shock when Louis himself came to the door slathered in blood and claimed to have been attacked. It was soon found that Louis and his mistress, Anna Lowe, had been assaulted by an axe wielding intruder who had struck Besumer in his right temple to leave him with a skull fracture, and then slashed his lover over her left ear, leaving her in an unconscious bloody heap upon the floor. As with the Maggio case, a wooden panel of the back door had been painstakingly chiseled off to gain entry, and no valuables or other items had been stolen. The weapon used in the attack was also found, and proved to be an axe owned by Besumer himself. Authorities suspected that he may have actually been the attacker, despite his own wounds, and took him into custody.

In the meantime, Lowe was taken to a hospital for treatment and here made some increasingly rather bizarre and contradictory statements to police. At first she claimed that she had been attacked by a tall, dark skinned man, and a 41-year-old black suspect who worked at Besumer’s store by the name of Lewis Oubicon was even apprehended based on this confession, but later on Lowe changed her story and accused Besumer of being her true assailant. She also made further weird claims that Besumer was not a real grocer, but rather a German spy. This spurred a lot of rather sensationalized news reports that actual spy papers had been found at the residence by police, but it is unclear how much veracity these reports hold. The whole case drew a lot of public attention at the time, partly due to the wild claims, spy conspiracies, and spooky nature of the crime, and partly due to the scandalous circumstances of the very married Besumer being found with his mistress, but little progress was made on the case itself as there was a lack of evidence to show that Besumer was the culprit and no evidence to point to anyone else. Lowe herself would later die on August 5, 1918 from complications arising from surgery on the damaged nerves of her face. Although he was subsequently put on trial for the crime and Besumer even served some time in prison for it, he was ultimately acquitted and released, with the true identity of the culprit still a mystery.

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On August 5, 1918, weirdly the very same day that Anna Lowe succumbed to her injuries, a man by the name of Edward Schneider returned home from a late night at work to find his house deathly quiet, with none of the cheerful welcome home that he usually got from his pregnant wife. In the bedroom, he would make the horrific discovery of his wife laying unconscious in a pool of her own blood. Mrs. Schneider’s scalp had been partially torn off and some of her teeth had been completely knocked out. An investigation of the apartment where the couple lived turned up no evidence of forced entry and nothing had been stolen. When she finally awoke from her stupor later at the hospital, Mrs. Schneider claimed that she had been attacked with an axe by a dark figure that resembled some sort of “phantom.” She could remember nothing of the attack after that. Despite her harrowing ordeal, Mrs. Schneider would later give birth to a healthy baby girl. Police made one arrest in a man by the name of James Gleason, simply because he had run from them, but they had no evidence to hold him and he was released without charges.

With the Schneider attack and a clear MO beginning to take shape, authorities began to believe that there was the distinct possibility that they had a potential serial killer on their hands, and it was at this point that panic began to roil within the community. Their suspicions would only be bolstered with a new assault that would come only five days after the Schneider attack. On August 10, 1918, two sisters by the names of Pauline and Mary Bruno were awakened in the dead of night by the eerie sound of ominous thumping and banging emanating from the room of their uncle, Joseph Romano. When they went into the hallway, they spied the sinister sight of a tall, dark, heavyset figure in a dark suit and hat looming in the hallway. When Pauline screamed, the figure then made a hasty retreat that was so nimble and effortless that the two sisters would later emphasize that the intruder had been “awfully light on his feet.” The two sisters would then find their uncle in his room covered in blood, with a series of vicious gashes scrawled across his face. Although he was alive when he was sped away to Charity Hospital, Joseph would succumb to his wounds two days later. It was found that the house had been roughed up and ransacked a bit, yet nothing had actually been stolen, and a bloody axe was also found in the backyard. One detail of the attack that started to raise red flags was that the door of the residence had been chiseled open, just as in previous such intrusions.

The Romano case is perhaps when panic and hysteria truly began to grip the city of New Orleans, and people began to whisper of the lunatic who was out prowling the streets. No one felt safe, and it was common for citizens to essentially barricade themselves into their houses at night, not sure if they would be the next to awake to the glinting blade of an axe arching down towards their heads. Family members took to setting up night watches, and armed individuals kept vigil as their relatives slept. It was around this time that newspaper articles started to give this mysterious, terrifying intruder a name; the “Axeman.” Authorities began to be deluged with tips and alleged sightings of the Axeman all over New Orleans, ranging from the potentially legitimate to the delusional. In one case, a grocer claimed to have found a wood chisel lying at his back door, and yet another grocer claimed to have found an axe lying in his yard. In another bizarre sighting, the Axeman was allegedly seen wandering about dressed as a woman, but a subsequent police investigation turned up nothing. One witness reported seeing the fiend leaping effortlessly over fences, but a manhunt could not locate the mysterious individual. A more dramatic incident involved a man who claimed to have heard someone chiseling away at his back door only to blast through it with a shotgun and send the trespasser running, leaving behind no blood and apparently uninjured by the gunshot. Numerous people came forward with reports of finding their doors chiseled away, discovering axes in their yards, or of seeing a shadowy figure in dark clothing  lurking about, but it was unclear to the authorities which of these claims was worth following up on and which were merely the products of the panic and mass hysteria spreading through New Orleans like wildfire.

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Police were at a loss as to who could be responsible, which was only compounded by the fact that the attacker left no fingerprints, and that there was no clear connection between the victims besides the fact that many of them had been grocers. There was also the fact that in each case the doors had been chiseled away, and furthermore the perpetrator always left the chisel behind. It was also seen as relevant that the weapons used in the attacks were usually taken from the victims’ own homes and were nearly always an axe, which were also left at the scene of the crime. It was around this time that a retired Italian detective by the name of John Dantonio publicly speculated that the spate of crimes was related to the killings that had gripped the area in 1911, and that the culprit in each case was the same individual, describing him as likely someone with dual personalities prone to sudden uncontrollable urges to kill and who could be anyone.

After the Romano attack, despite the myriad sightings and false alarms, no new attacks took place for several months and there was the glimmer of hope that the madness had perhaps passed, but this respite from the terror was not meant to last. On March 10, 1919, the mysterious assailant would strike yet again, this time in an immigrant suburb called Gretna, located just across the Mississippi river from New Orleans. On this night, a grocer named Charles Cortimiglia was set upon by a large man in dark clothing who wielded an axe. The man’s wife came to investigate the commotion along with their 2-year-old daughter Mary, and were confronted with the sight of Mr. Cortimiglia being struck down by an axe to lay upon the floor in a slumped, bloody heap. It was then that the enigmatic, malevolent stranger would turn on them, hacking the little girl to death despite her mother’s screams for mercy, and bashing the mother mercilessly about the head and face, leaving her with a severe skull fracture but alive. The ravaged family was found when a neighbor by the name of Iorlando Jordano came to investigate the ruckus and found the husband laying in a pool of blood and the bloodied mother clutching desperately at her brutalized dead daughter. Although the daughter had been killed, Charles Cortimiglia and his wife would survive the encounter with severe gashes to the head and neck, as well as skull fractures.

Axe-Murderer

When police came to search the premises, they soon found a bloody axe discarded on the back porch, and the door had been chiseled away with the chisel left behind, just as in the other cases. No fingerprints were found, and it was also discovered that whoever had perpetrated the crime had carefully stacked timbers from the chiseled door by a fence in order to perhaps help in their escape. It was also found that once again, no money, valuables, or any other belongings had been stolen. When she was well enough to speak with police, the wife, Rosie Cortimiglia, stated that they had been attacked by the very man who had come to find them, Iorlando Jordano, along with his teenaged son Frank. It was an odd claim to make, as Jordano was a 69-year-old man in poor health who also happened to be nearly 300 pounds in weight and far too large to have fit into the opening that had been chiseled into the door. For his part, Charles Cortimiglia himself denied his wife’s claims and said the two men were innocent, yet nevertheless the Jordano’s were tried for the crime and convicted, with Frank recieving a death sentence and his father life in prison. Luckily for them, Mrs. Cortimiglia would later retract her testimony, saying she had done it out of spite and to remove them as business competitors, and the two innocent men were released in 1920.

The Cortimiglia case sent a new wave of terror through the streets of New Orleans, and at this time the bafflement of police produced increasingly bizarre theories for who the assailant could be. The fact that the attacks always were often later described as being carried out by a large, even hulking man was contradictory to the available evidence at hand, with the openings chiseled into the doors barely large enough to allow a child to pass through, let alone a large, full grown man, and all of the doors were always locked from the inside. There were theories that the killer might actually be a slight woman or even a midget, but no one knew just exactly what was going on. The public started to create theories and rumors of their own, with whispers making the rounds that the killer was not human at all, but rather some sort of supernatural phantom, demon, or entity. This far out notion was only reinforced by reports of the attacker having the ability to move superhumanly fast, with one witness claiming that he was a spectral, shadowy figure which moved “as if he had wings.” There were even those who were starting to draw parallels between the Axeman murders and the Jack the Ripper murders that had taken place 30 years earlier, with some going so far as to suggest that they were one and the same.

A jazz piece from the time  inspired by the Axeman killings

A jazz piece from the time inspired by the Axeman killings

As bizarre as the situation already was, it was set to get only stranger from there. A mere three days after the Cortimiglia attack, the killer would reach out and make contact with the public, in much the same way as Jack the Ripper had done during his own reign of death decades earlier. This came in the form of a letter sent to the editor of the New Orleans Times-Picayune on Friday, March 14, 1919, which would prove to be at the same time fuel speculation of supernatural, demonic forces, serve as a bold proclamation of further violence, and give a glimpse into the mind of a madman. The twisted letter reads as follows:

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 the 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 were 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, I am going to pass over New Orleans again. 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 night mentioned in the letter would live up to whatever expectations this crazed maniac or demonic spirit had had. Clubs, bars, and homes throughout the city were packed with revelers playing jazz music loudly and celebrating as if their lives depended on it, which perhaps they did. People everywhere played loud jazz and danced the night away, the air was abuzz with the sound of music, and a famous local composer by the name of Joseph Davilla even wrote up a theme specifically for the occasion by the name of “The Mysterious Axeman’s Jazz (Don’t Scare Me Papa)” which then became a huge hit. On that fateful night of jazz and partying there were no new attacks in the city as had been promised, whatever bloodthirsty entity behind them seemingly sated by this extravagant display of music and revelry. In addition to the partiers were those who actively challenged the Axeman to try and come to their homes as they waited with shotguns, but for the first time in awhile there was mostly hope that whatever evil had decided to call on the city was perhaps satisfied and willing to let them be. Unfortunately, this would not prove to be the case.

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On August 10, 1919, a grocer by the name of Steve Boca stumbled to the home of his neighbor, Frank Genusa, with his head cracked open and bleeding profusely from the garish wound. Upon reaching his neighbor’s house, Boca promptly lost consciousness and was taken to a hospital. He would later recover from his wounds, but could not remember much of the actual attack other than that he had struggled with a large figure in dark clothing that he had awoken to find looming over his bed as he slept. Police would find that nothing had been taken from his home and again a door had been chiseled away and the chisel left behind. The attacks continued on September 3, 1919, when neighbors went to check on 19-year-old Sarah Laumann and found her lying unconscious upon her bed with a massive head wound and jagged, broken teeth. In this case the assailant had entered through an open window rather than a chiseled door, but a bloody axe was found on the front lawn in true Axeman fashion. Around this time there was another attempted break-in by the mysterious killer, but the attack was thwarted by the armed homeowner, William Carson, who fired several shots at the intruder, who chillingly left behind an unused axe and a chisel in his swift escape. The following month, on October 27, 1919, the Axeman would claim his last official victim, when he hacked a man named Mike Pepitone to death as his wife and children slept in the next room. The wife, Esther Albano, would come to investigate and find a dark clothed intruder with an axe hunched over her husband’s body, who then swiftly escaped and left behind a blood spattered room and the butchered corpse of Pepitone. The attacker was described as being very big, yet extremely quick and nimble, but Albano was unable to give any other further details on his appearance. As in the other Axeman attacks, the door had been chiseled away and a bloody axe was found discarded near the back porch.

Interestingly, a year after this murder, Pepitone’s widow would shoot to death a man by the name of Joseph Mumfre in Los Angeles, who she claimed had been the man she saw kill her husband. Although there was no solid evidence to conclusively link Mumfre to the crimes, there were nevertheless some spooky details that suggested he may have been involved. Mumfre had been released from a stint in prison which had begun in 1911, around the time of the first brutal axe killings in the region, and been released in 1918, just when the official canonical Axeman attacks had begun. Additionally, he had been living on the West Coast since around the time of the last known killing and furthermore was known to be involved in a blackmail ring that targeted Italian Americans, which represented most of the Axeman’s victims. Yet despite these suspicious coincidences there was no concrete physical evidence to conclusively link him to the crimes, and his death at the hands of Albano made it impossible for authorities to question him, leaving his ultimate involvement uncertain.

Photograph of New Orleans from around the time of the Pepitone murder

Photograph of New Orleans from around the time of the Pepitone murder

It must be noted that the story of Mumfre’s killing and indeed even his existence have been called into question in recent years, as some researchers have pointed out that there are no police or public court records that make mention of a Joseph Mumfre being killed in Los Angeles and no evidence that Albano had ever been arrested for murder. With this lack of proof, it is hard to say whether this incident ever really happened or not. Other researchers have argued that the man was not “Mumfre,” but actually Frank “Doc” Mumphrey, who was convicted of shooting down several Italian couples in the early 1900s, and who often went by the name Leon Joseph Monfre or Manfre, and who had indeed relocated from New Orleans to Los Angeles in 1919. It is postulated that it is this similar but slightly different name that has made it difficult to find any records of a “Mumfre.”

Whatever the answer to the Mumfre mystery is, Pepitone’s murder marked the last known official killing carried out by the notorious New Orleans Axeman, and left baffled police trying to figure out just what they were dealing with. No suspect was ever apprehended and they were left with an array of puzzling clues that didn’t really materialize into any concrete answer, and few of which made any sense, a situation that has not changed much even in the present. What is known is that the killer preferred to chisel away door panels to gain entry into houses, yet not only were the openings too small to account for the large physical appearance given in descriptions, but chiseling away at a door seems to be a very strange, tedious, slow, and inefficient way to break into a home. There is also the mystery as to why the attacker left behind the chisel each time, which meant that whoever it was was buying a new one with each new attack. It is also known that he preferred to use an axe to dispatch his victims, which usually belonged to the victims themselves and which was also left behind in the attacks, but it is unclear as to why he would choose an axe rather than the various knives or blunt instruments that would be lying around the house as well or why he would leave it behind as possible evidence to be used against him. As to motive, since nothing was ever stolen, the only other reason seems to be connected to the fact that most of the victims, but not all, had been Italian immigrant grocers, which gave rise to the idea that the attacks may have been somehow connected to the Mafia. Yet how would this describe the attacks on non-Italians, such as that of Sarah Laumann, who was not only not Italian, but also not a grocer? Had those attacks been copycats, or did the killer have a wider range of preferred targets? Even now no one knows. There is also confusion as to why the killer targeted such a range of ages, encompassing both male and female victims, and there was some speculation that it was women who were the real targets and that the men had been merely in the way, but know one really knows for sure.

The possible identity of the New Orleans Axeman has evolved and changed over the years, and remains just as murky and mysterious as any of the other questions orbiting the case. The range of possible suspects runs the range of the plausible to the absurd. Early ideas embraced by the terrified populace were that the Axeman was exactly what he had claimed to be in his letter to police; a bloodthirsty supernatural entity or demon. This was seen as the reason why he was able to allude authorities and fit into houses through small openings despite his imposing figure. It was also the reason that whatever it was could be so fleet footed and agile, as described in several reports, and also apparently immune to gunfire. This explanation was also argued to be the reason why not even people who remembered being physically assaulted by a large figure could remember any real features other than that the attacker had been garbed in dark clothing, perhaps due to some mental power, and could also explain the complete lack of any fingerprints or indeed even any evidence that fingerprints had been wiped away.

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Murderous demons, deadly phantasms, and ghostly killers aside, considering the largely Italian victim base, a more plausible explanation offered is that this was some sort of series of Mafia contract killings, perhaps in an attempt to extort the grocer businesses of the area. This makes sense in a way, since many of the victims were Italian immigrants and owned or operated small businesses. It is also notable that at the time, New Orleans had heavy mob activity and these Mafiosos often used grocers as fronts for criminal dealings. In this scenario, the victims could have either been direct targets of organized crime or simply caught in the crossfire between two warring factions of the mob struggling for power. This had happened throughout the early 1900s in the region in fact, with grocers often killed in Mafia attacks or as retribution for other attacks, and it was not uncommon for these businesses to receive threatening letters or even death threats from the mob. In a perhaps unrelated but nevertheless interesting detail regarding Mafia involvement, the last Axeman victim, Mike Pepitone’s, own brother, Pete Pepitone, had been arrested in the April 13, 1910 killing of Mafioso Paul DiCristina. In this case the killing had been retribution for a botched assassination attempt on then mob boss Vincenzo Moreci, and was carried out with a shotgun in Peter Pepitone’s own store.

One main suspect often mentioned in relation to mob activity is the person already mentioned earlier, Leon Frank “Doc” Mumphrey, also known as Joseph Monfre, who was ostensibly a pharmacist but who had deep connections with mafia related violence as well. He had been involved in a kidnapping in 1907, the dynamiting of an Italian owned grocery store in 1908, and was well known as a blackmailer and extortionist of the Italian community, which he indeed was sent to prison for in 1911. In addition to these crimes, he had been held as the prime suspect in a suspected mob related assassination around the time of the start of his prison sentence. Although there is a wide variety of contradicting research on the possibility of Mumphrey being the Axeman, and his subsequent alleged death at the hands of Pepitone’s widow, it has always been seen as somewhat suspicious that a similar string of killings carried out in 1910 and 1911 stopped when he was in jail and began again when he was released in 1918, only to then stop altogether upon his relocation to California and subsequent apparent death. The spooky, uncanny timing at the very least seems to strongly suggest that he was involved somehow, but with little real evidence and no new information it is unlikely we will ever know for sure.

Other theories have pointed to a deranged serial killer on the loose, a maniacal midget, a demented woman dressed as a man, an actual vampire, and even Jack the Ripper himself, once more succumbing to the urge to kill again. For all of the speculation, theories, and debate that the New Orleans Axeman has sparked over the years, the killer’s identity has never been discovered for sure. We don’t know who did it, why they did it, in some instances how they did it, or indeed even how many victims there actually were. The New Orleans Axeman case has become one of the most barbaric, baffling, and perplexing crime sprees in history, which has remained unsolved and probably always will. Who (or what?) stalked these streets and held the city of New Orleans in the grip of terror? Where did they come from? Was this simply Mafia hits? A serial killer on the prowl? A deranged individual overcome with a temporary bloodlust which then faded away? Or was this the work of some murderous supernatural entity? It all remains a total mystery. Such is the case with many of these mysterious murderers that occasionally come out of the shadows from seemingly nowhere to kill, only to fade away without a trace to leave behind a stain on our history with their puzzling acts of sudden, inscrutable barbarity which we can never wipe away, and leave us devoid of the answers we may forever seek but never find. In the annals of such phantom killers, the Axeman of New Orleans has surely earned a place among history’s most enigmatic and mysterious bringers of terror and death. One wonders when the next might spring from the night and our darkest nightmares.