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The Axman of New Orleans!
"The rule was to avoid New Orleans cliches, like voodoo and vampires"
This is a non-verbatim quote from the introduction to an anthology of New Orleans stories (I forget who to attribute it to). In case you're interested, it's French Quarter Fiction: The Newest Stories of America's Oldest Bohemia, and well worth reading).
I can appreciate this sentiment. In my relatively recent two-year stint in the Crescent City, I saw a lot of the city's rich supernatural lore commoditized in tacky, odorous eyesore tourist trap bead shops. Anne Rice had moved and sold her Garden District mansions, and in those pre-Twilight/True Blood days, residents were slightly embarassed to talk about vampires. The reality was that any gothic, romantic supernatural ambiance - Sting's "Moon Over Bourbon Street", for example - is quickly shattered when a drunken frat pack inundates your shoes with their puke on Bourbon Street.
Well my awesome wife took me back to NOLA for my 40th birthday celebration, and I have good news: the right haunted tour is still well worth taking. The classic lore of the city can still make you shiver by gaslight. We took a haunted tour and heard many of those stories that night, and may use some of my Days of Halloween to bring them to your attention.
I wish I had known sooner about The Axeman of New Orleans! He was the turn of the century serial killing scourge of NOLA's Italian American community. Click on the link to see his list of victims. Theories abound as to his identity. Like his hero, Jack the Ripper, he was quite media savvy. He managed to convince the local populace of his ability to appear in your home without breaking in. He branded himself a 'demon from hell.' Best of all, he did a lot to promote and preserve Jazz music!
See below a transcript of his March 1919 letter to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, then tell me that we need more movies about hockey-masked boors instead of literate classic fiends!
Hell, March 13, 1919
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.
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. 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.