In this episode, CultLiter’s Spencer Henry takes you to the horrific activities of a cruel psychopath who is being called “The Axeman”.
For almost a year from 1918 to 1919, the axeman showcased a series of horrific murders. He started his hunt on May 23, 1918, where he cruelly slaughtered an Italian grocer Joseph Maggio and his wife, Catherine. On investigation, police found that robbery was not the motive as nothing was stolen. They found a message near the couple’s house written in chalk read: “Mrs. Joseph Maggio will sit up tonight. Just write Mrs. Toney”. Police doubted several people and investigated them but they were released due to lack of evidence. Immediately after a month axeman returned and attacked Louis Besumer, a grocer, and his mistress, Harriet Lowe on June 27, 1918. Though badly injured, both were still alive. Once again people were questioned and one man arrested, but later was released. Lowe’s face was paralyzed after the attack and she has gone through surgery on August 5th. She died after two days. Before dying, she passed the message to authorities that she suspects that Besumer attacked her. Based on this, Besumer went to prison. After nine months in prison, he was acquitted on May 1, 1919.
After a similar attack on August 5th that was made on an 8 months pregnant lady Mrs. Edward Schneider, investigators began to speculate that this incident is related to Maggio and Besumer’s case. Immediately after five days, another grocer named Joseph Ramano was attacked. Ramano’s nieces who were at his house were able to provide a brief description of the killer – a dark-skinned, heavy-set man who wore a dark suit and a slouched hat. Of all these crimes several other clues were found that the victims were mostly Italians and grocers and the killer and in all those incidents the killer chiseled the doors and windows to enter the place. The series of horrific incidents relating to the axeman created great fear in the city which caused the people to carry shotguns along with them all time. Police were flooded with several reports by the citizens claiming that they have seen an axeman in their neighborhood. The Axeman then stopped his cruel practices for some time which paved the way for the people to return to their normal.
But this didn’t last long as Axeman arrived in March 1919. He attacked an immigrant grocer named Charles Cotimiglia, his wife, and his daughter. A grocer in the neighborhood named LorlandoJordano found that three of them attacked. Inspite of being attacked badly, the three survived. Charles’ wife Rosie claimed that Lorlando and his son attacked them. Although Charles denied his wife’s claim, Frank was sentenced to death and Lorlando was given lifetime prison punishment. After a year Rosie reversed her claim so that Lorlando and Frank got released. She made false allegations out of jealousy and spite. Following this incident, fear again caught New Orleans which got multiplied when the Times-Picayune newspaper received a letter from Axeman on March 14, 1919, where he hinted about his next attack.
In that letter, he claimed as the worst spirit from the hottest hell. He mentioned that he likes jazz music so that on 19th March 1919 at 12:15 each and every citizen in New Orleans should play good jazz music, He warned that his axe will slaughter those who failed to play jazz music at the mentioned time. After reading this, panic surrounded New Orleans. On 19th March due to the increased fear they have for the Axeman, the city was sounded full of jazz music. So no attack happened that day. After leaving some give, the axeman showcased three more cruel attacks. His last attack happened on October 27, 1919, were a grocer named Mike Pepitone. This was the last attack that the axeman involved in. After that, he never appeared in New Orleans of any sort. Till now his identity was unknown.
You can listen more Macabre History, True Crime, and All Things Bizarre at Cult Liter with Spencer Henry