(eerie music) – [Ryan] This week on Buzzfeed Unsolved, we cover the Axeman Killer of New Orleans, one of the strangest serial
killer cases I’ve ever read. – And you’ve read a lot. – Yeah, I read a lot in my time. – You’re a sicko. – I’m not a sicko, I’m
interested in, you know… Okay, maybe I’m a little weird. But this guy had a flare for the dramatic. I think you’re gonna enjoy it. – Okay, alright. – Let’s get into it. Starting in 1918, over a
period of roughly 18 months, the city of New Orleans,
and surrounding areas, were rocked by a serial killer that would later go by
the name “The Axeman”. The Axeman was the
manifestation of the Boogeyman, lurking in the shadows of New Orleans. Almost exclusively attacking at night. And is possibly responsible
for 12 attacks and 6 killings. In chilling fashion, he only seemed to strike people while they slept in their beds. – [Shane] I love this right off the bat. – [Ryan] What do you love about it? – [Shane] Well, I love… I’ll tell you what. I love it when serial killers
have a fun little thing. I don’t approve of serial killers. But I think, if you’re gonna
kill a bunch of people, you might as well have some fun with it. – [Ryan] I feel like you have
baseball cards of this guy. You– – [Shane] I absolutely do not. They don’t make serial killer
baseball cards, though. Do they? – [Ryan] If they did,
you’d probably own them. – [Shane] You would own
them, in a heartbeat. – [Ryan] No, I think
you would own them too. I’d own them– – [Shane] You’d be like, “I’ll trade you a Gacy for a…” – [Ryan] “I’ll trade you
a Gacy for a Zodiac.” – [Shane] Yeah. – [Ryan] The Axeman eerily
never used his own tools. He only used what he could find on hand, in the victim’s households. Usually an axe, which
he typically left behind at the scene of the crime. – [Shane] Everybody had an
axe back in the day, huh? – [Ryan] Yeah, you know, my biggest takeaway from this case is, why not just throw your axe away? – [Shane] Throw your axe away? – [Ryan] Yeah, that’s literally
the first thing I would do. But, these people are like, “err, leave the axe in the shed.” – [Shane] “Hope he doesn’t take my axe.” (laughing) – [Ryan] I know. – [Shane] “I’ve got my
porch axe, my shed axe, my kitchen axe.” (laughing) – [Ryan] His creepy
tendency is now established. Let’s get into the timeline. On May 23rd, 1918, at
4901 Magnolia Street, the first suspected Axe
Man attack occurred. Catherine and Joseph Maggio were struck violently by an axe. A straight razor used on their throats. – [Shane] Wait, he hit them with the axe and then cut their throats? – [Ryan] I don’t know. – [Shane] It also could’ve been his, since it was his first
one, he was figuring out– – [Ryan] Oh, he was dabbling
in, like, different things? – [Shane] If he was gonna be… He was like, “Either I’ll be the Axeman, or the Razor Boy.” Razor Boy would be a
good sidekick for him. – [Ryan] Razor Boy’s not so– – [Shane] Axeman and Razor Boy? – [Ryan] Axeman, I think,
strikes a little bit more fear into my heart than Razor Boy. – [Shane] Lock your doors,
Razor Boy’s out tonight. (laughing) – [Ryan] Catherine had almost
been entirely decapitated. And Joseph had suffered
many severe injuries. The bodies were discovered
by Joseph’s brothers, who lived in the same house. Nothing was heard or seen. And no valuables were taken. The bottom panel of the
kitchen door was knocked out. All that was found was an axe. So he probably went back here, through the back door. Because that’s usually how he did it. – [Shane] I assume the
only people who saw him, were the ones who were killed. – Some of them survived. And they would just report, like a large looming figure. Like a dark figure. So he really did become
kinda like a Boogeyman. It kinda gives me the creeps. – [Shane] There are beads
everywhere in this town. – [Ryan] That means New Orleans. Finger printing was around at the time. But was allegedly not
yet a standard procedure. A little over a month later, on June 28th 1918, near the corner of Dorgenois
and Leharpe streets, another attack occurred. A severely injured Louis
Besumer and Anna Lowe were discovered by a
baker named John Zanka, making morning deliveries. – [Shane] That’s sad for a baker. – [Ryan] They actually thought he did it. – [Shane] They thought the baker did it? – [Ryan] Well, I mean,
like anybody naturally… That’s why, if I ever found a dead body, I don’t know if I’d call it in, man. – [Shane] You wouldn’t call it in? – [Ryan] I’d call it in anonymously. I would not want any part of it. Because, that’s the first
person they look at. – [Shane] But in today’s
surveillance state, you would be suspect number one. Because they’d be like “Why’d
you call it in anonymously?” – [Ryan] Well then, maybe
I’ll just spend my whole life trying to avoid dead bodies. How about that? Also, this guy didn’t know. He was just delivering bread. He opened the door– – He was probably like, “Good
morning, I’ve got your brea– “Oh my god!” (laughing) – [Ryan] Louis would
actually survive the attack. And Anna would survive for
another seven weeks before dying. Anna supposedly recounted to the police that a large white man, with
a hatchet, had attacked them. The bottom panel of their
bedroom door was missing. And once again, a bloody
axe was left at the scene. – Another beautiful street though. – It is a beautiful street. The trees in this area are just so nice. – Sometimes even the most beautiful places hold the darkest secrets though. – Profound. – Okay. – [Ryan] Roughly a month later on August 5th, 1918, in an
undisclosed home location, Mrs. Ed Schneider was found by her husband in the afternoon at their home. Mrs. Schneider was still alive, and rushed to Charity Hospital, and would reportedly survive the attack. Upon investigation, it was
discovered that their axe was missing from their shed. Mrs. Schneider was also pregnant. And I’m happy to report, that in the week following the attack, she successfully gave birth. – [Shane] Good for her! – [Ryan] Yeah, that’s– – [Shane] That’s something. – [Ryan] That’s a super mom right there. – [Shane] Is that the only axe baby, outta this whole story? – [Ryan] I think, yeah I think that– – [Shane] Can you imagine
being an axe baby? – [Ryan] I don’t, I don’t
know if that’s a thing. – [Shane] I’d go around telling everybody, “one of one”– – [Ryan] My mom took a– – One of a kind, baby. Axe baby. – My mom took some hard
steel to the noggin, and I popped out. – Jesus. – [Ryan] Five days later,
on August 10th, 1918, reportedly near Tonti and Gravier street, 80 year old Joseph Romano
was found by his nieces Pauline and Mary after
they heard him struggling. His head was bashed in. The two girls allegedly saw the attacker, and described him as quote,
“dark, tall, heavy-set, “wearing a dark suit
and a black slouch hat.” End quote. Joseph Romano would die two days later. – This guy sounds like the villain from Rocky and Bullwinkle. – Yeah he does.
What’s a slouch hat? – I think it’s, um, I don’t know. I was about to talk outta my ass there. Are you gonna Google that? – I’m gonna look up a slouch hat. Because that sounds like something I need. – Right now, we’re at the
side of the fourth attack. – You think the yellow house? – It may be. We just know it was on this corner. – Honestly, this Axeman might just like, could be a fan of quaint houses. – [Ryan] He’s a fan of corners too. – [Shane] Not that it’s
okay to kill anybody, but the elderly above all. – [Ryan] Yeah. Well, at least he lived
a full life, right? – [Shane] No. You’re right actually. – Well he didn’t… I’m sure that’s not how
he wanted to go out, when he was picturing retirement. – Well nobody does. – Getting hit with an axe. – I rescind my statement. Maybe if you’re gonna be a serial killer. – Maybe kill elderly people. – Kill the elderly. – That’s a weird thing to advocate, but– – I mean, but they’ve lived a long life. – That’s true. Around this time, August 1918, the New Orleans (mumbles)
newspaper allegedly recounted quote, “Armed men are keeping watch “over their sleeping families “while police are seeing
to solve the mysteries “of the ax attacks. “Extra police are being
put to work daily.” End quote. And when looking at the
timeline, it apparently worked. For a while, that is. As nearly seven months
later, on March 10th, 1919, the Cortimiglia family was attacked. Rose Cortimiglia woke
to her husband Charles fighting the Axeman. A fight that Charles would lose. Rose and their two-year old daughter Mary were also attacked. Rose and Charles would actually survive. But their daughter, tragically did not. In typical Axeman fashion, the axe used belonged
to the Cortimiglia’s. – [Shane] Did they all it Axeman fever? Or Axe-mania? – [Ryan] Or did they call him Axie? – [Shane] Or were they like, “Everybody in the town’s got Axeman fever, “as the terror continues
to grip the community.” – [Ryan] “This just in,
throw away your axes.” – [Shane] “This just in,
more skulls crushed.” “Wha-oh.”
(laughing) “Throw out your axes.”
(laughing) – [Ryan] Five days later, a New Orleans newspaper
called The Times Picayune, received a letter from
the apparent Axeman. Quote “Hell, March 13, 1919 “Esteemed mortal, they
have never caught me, “and they never will. “They have never seen
me, for I am invisible, “even as the ether, which
surrounds your earth. “I am not a human being, “but a spirit and a fell
demon from hottest hell. “I am what you Orleanians, “and your foolish police call the Axeman.” End quote. – This guy’s a Poet Laureate. (laughing)
– I know. – It’s incredible. Is this Robert Frost? (laughing) – [Ryan] He also goes on to
insult and threaten the police. Quote, “they have been so utterly stupid “so as to amuse not only me, “but his satanic majesty. “But tell them to beware. “Let them not try to discover what I am, “for it were better that
they never were born “than for them to incur
the wrath of the Axeman.” End quote. – [Shane] This is very Old Testament. – [Ryan] It’s like most serial killers like to stroke themselves,
and this is just– – [Shane] He was writing
and he was like, “Ooh ooh, “Mm-mm, let’s see. “the devil is satanic majesty.” – Jesus Christ. – That’ll get ’em. “Time to go murder again.” (laughing) – [Ryan] He also goes
on to remind the people, that he could be worse. Quote “undoubtedly you
Orleaneans think of me as “a most horrible murderer, which I am, “but I could be much worse if I wanted to. “At will, I could slay
thousands of your best citizens, “for I am in close relationship
with the angel of death.” End quote. – [Shane] Not to, not to discredit him, but he is killing people
in their sleep with an axe. And, what’s his success rate? – [Ryan] I gotta say, your
striking power and aim isn’t Johnny-on-the-spot. – [Shane] Yeah, you should be batting a thousand at that point. – [Ryan] You should be batting a thousand. However, the most important clause, is a specific threat that would terrify the entire New Orleans community. Quote “Now, to be exact, at
12:15 o’clock, 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 the 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 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 the people. “One thing is certain, “and that is some of those persons “who do not jazz it on Tuesday
night, if there be any, “will get the axe.” – Jazz it. – Quote. – You better jazz it. – He turned jazz into a– – “Honey, we gotta jazz it.” (laughing) – He turned jazz it into a– – “I’m not gonna throw out this axe, “so we better jazz it.” He’s a bit like Santa Claus. – Okay, I’d like to hear how– – First of all, he says he’s
gonna pass over New Orleans. That’s a bit magical. – [Ryan] Sure. – [Shane] I can just imagine
him flying through the skies with his big axe riding a crocodile– – [Ryan] A crocodile. – [Shane] Or an alligator, whatever they– – [Ryan] Or a demon. – [Shane] Traveling on demon’s wings, just looking down at
all the little houses, listening for jazz. (laughing) – [Ryan] It’s like he’s like the Grinch, trying to listen to the
Whoville people sing. – [Shane] Exactly right. – I still don’t understand
how he’s Santa Claus. Santa Claus never bashed anyone’s head in, with a big sack of toys. – That’s true. But he does give them coal. – Wha-what? This letter would later spark the creation of a jazz song entitled
“Don’t Scare Me Papa”. Also known as the
mysterious Axeman’s Jazz. (jazz music) The Tuesday night mentioned in the letter was March 19th, 1919. It is said that the city
was truly alive that night, as people blasted jazz
music in their homes. And those who did not
have a record player, poured into local jazz clubs to stay clear of the Axeman’s wrath. It’s worth mentioning
that nobody was killed on March 19th, 1919. So, he kept his word. Apparently everyone was jazzin’ it. – [Shane] You know what, he was probably just gonna be out of town. – [Ryan] He thought,
“Wouldn’t this funny?” – [Shane] “I’ve got a
business trip that weekend.” – [Ryan] “Let’s see how
many of these fuckers “I can make dance.” – [Shane] Yeah. – [Ryan] On August 10th, 1919,
Steve Boca was badly injured in his home after he awoke to a man, next to his bed with an axe. Boca managed to survive the attack, reportedly staggering to a friend’s home, who then called the police. Boca did not regain his memory, likely due to the blows to the head. – [Shane] Yeah, that’ll do it. – [Ryan] Yeah, that usually does it. – [Shane] Yeah. – [Ryan] I once fell into a pile of bricks when I was a kid. – [Shane] What? – [Ryan] And I don’t remember
much of it after that. – [Shane] What? – [Ryan] Yeah, I was climbing because we were playing hide-and-seek. I was trying to hide, and I thought I had the best hiding spot. Turns out I was wrong, the branch broke and I just fell. – [Shane] This explains a lot. You fell into the– – [Ryan] And after that,
I could see ghosts. – I don’t think it gave you the vision. – It gave me my eyes. – I think it put a hole in your brain. (laughing) – [Ryan] Later that month,
or in early September, on 2128 Second Street,
19-year old Sarah Laumann, was reportedly attacked by someone who entered
through an open window. When she regained consciousness, she could not recall
details of the attack. So this is the site of
the second to last attack. And apparently, the house is gone. – [Shane] Yeah. – [Ryan] About two months later, on October 27th, 1919, at the corner of South
Scott and Ulloa Street, the suspected Axeman attacked Esther and Mike Pepitone. Esther reportedly awoke around 1:00 a.m. to her husband screaming,
and ran to the bedroom. Her husband’s head was struck 18 times, and died two hours later. Esther saw two figures in the bedroom, but could not identify them
as they fled the scene. By the way, two figures. – Razor Boy. (laughing) – Oh my god no. – He’s back. – No, we’re not– – He’s back from boarding school. (laughing) – [Ryan] A bolt with a heavy nut, something used to secure a circus tent, was one of the apparent weapons. There was a circus on the
nearby two-lane avenue that weekend. – [Shane] Was this the last one? – [Ryan] Uhhh, yes. – [Shane] If this guy
survived for two hours after getting struck 18 ties, the Axeman probably wasn’t used
to that kind of resilience. He probably hit him once, and the guy was like, “Oh boy, what a bump.” And he was like, “Alright,
I guess I’ll hit you again.” He was like, “Oh my goodness,
that didn’t feel much better.” He was like three, four, five. – [Ryan] This takes us to the supposed end of the Axeman’s killing spree. And with that, let’s
get into the theories. The first theory, is that
perhaps not all of the killings were the work of the Axeman. Some speculate that the
Axeman’s presumed final killing of Mike Pepitone, was
actually a mafia killing. Due to Pepitone’s father
killing a man in the past. Another Axeman attack that is scrutinized is the second attack on
Louis Besumer and Anna Lowe. If you’ll recall, Louis
Besumer was severely injured, and his partner Anna Lowe, was
killed in that same attack. However, Besumer was charged
with the murder of Anna, in bizarre fashion. Police found that Besumer
had written letters, back and forth, in Yiddish and Russian. They eventually came to the conclusion that Besumer was part
of a German spy ring, or spymaster for the Kaiser. And the attack had nothing
to do with the Axeman. – A spy’s not gonna bash
someone’s head in with an axe. – And then bash his own head in. – Right, he’s gonna,
he’s gonna lower a string from the ceiling, and put
a drop of poison on it, and let that poison fall into
a sleeping person’s mouth. Right in there, they’re dead. – Well, if they’re sleeping, then why don’t you just drop it into their mouth with
like a little droplet thing. – I don’t know. It’s what spies do. That’s just what they do. – I’ve never… That’s the first time I’ve heard that. – Everybody does that. – I think you made it up. – I did not make it up. It happens in a James Bond film. – Which one? – Um, the racist one. (laughing) Where he’s in Japan. – [Ryan] Before dying, Anna Lowe allegedly blamed her partner Louis Besumer, and said that he was a Nazi spy. They also theorized that this case was a domestic dispute that
ended with Louis attacking Anna. Nonetheless, Louis Besumer was acquitted. There were definitely
things that suggested this was the work of the Axeman. Mainly the fact that it
happened at home at night, while they were sleeping with an axe. – That would take such an
enormous amount of fortitude to be able to, you know,
really smash someone. And then also… Like, I have a hard time
pulling off a bandaid. – Though, you are a wimp. And if anyone would have mental fortitude to do something that would
painful, it would be a spy, wouldn’t they? – I just think it’s very rich that you’re calling me a wimp. – Yeah. – Because you hear a footstep, and you go into, “Oh I
better hide under the bed.” – [Ryan] In vain with this theory, it’s also speculated on the internet that some of the killings of the Axeman could have been the work of a copycat. The second theory, is that given the context
of his bizarre letter, some believe the Axeman to
be a supernatural figure, that could slip through tiny entranceways, and become the large man that witnesses described the killer to be. – No, no, no, no, no. – Just a theory. – Well, it’s dumb. (laughing) He shrunk down like a little mouse? Is that what you’re saying? – I, at what point did I– – He’s like Ant Man? He’s like (mimics button) woo. (laughing) “Now I’m big, time to die.” – At what point… (laughing) The last theory is actually
a legitimate suspect. A man names Joseph Mumfre. To start on Mumfre, let’s return
to the Axeman’s last crime. The attack on Esther and Mike Pepitone. If you’ll recall, Esther
survived the attack, and her husband did not. Esther later moved to Los Angeles, and remarried to a man
named Angelo Albano. However, on the second anniversary of her former husband
Mike’s death by the Axeman, her current husband Angelo disappeared, and was never found again. Esther recalled that
before their marriage, Angelo had ended business
relations with a man who went by many names. Including Joseph Mumfre. On December 5th, 1921,
Mumfre visited Esther’s home at 5554 East 36th Street in Los Angeles. He demanded $500 and Esther’s jewelry. Threatening that he would quote, “Kill her the same way he
had killed her husband.” End quote. But, like a badass, Esther then
killed him with a revolver. – [Shane] Whoa! Good for her. – [Ryan] We’ve had two
badass ladies in this story. The girl who got whacked over the head, still gave birth and survived. And then, this girl who got threatened, and was like, “Uh, fuck that.” – [Shane] “Well, you know what I’ll do “is I’ll shoot you.” (laughing) – [Ryan] This is the
spot where Esther shot Joseph Mumfre to death. Kinda crazy to think that
this may be the location where the Axeman actually was killed. Good for you Esther. Shoot him in the face. – [Shane] Yeah, I mean, what more can you do. – If he actually, indeed,
killed two of her husbands. Whether or not he’s the
Axeman, shoot him in the face. – [Shane] Yeah, face full of bullets. He had it coming. – Give him the bullet sandwich. Now, what does this have
to do with the Axeman? Given the fact that Esther was present for the Axeman’s slaying of
her husband Mike Pepitone, when Esther was arrested
for shooting Joseph Mumfre, she claimed that Mumfre was the Axeman, and had seen him run from her bedroom, the night her husband was slain. The LAPD noted that there was evidence linking Mumfre to the
death of Mike Pepitone. And Esther was acquitted
for for Mumfre’s death. Here are some other things that seem to suggest Joseph
Mumfre was the Axeman. Upon investigation, the police found that Mumfre lead a blackmailing
gang in New Orleans, that preyed on Italians. And almost all of the Axeman’s
victims were Italians. – [Shane] This guy’s a racist? – [Ryan] Most of them
were Italian grocers. – [Shane] Whoa, fuck this guy. (laughing) – [Ryan] This is what made you turn? – [Shane] If there’s already the basis that he’s gonna be killing,
I do not approve of that, but if he’s gonna do it,
then at least do it randomly. – [Ryan] I think, just, how
about don’t kill people. – Look Ryan, what are we here for? – I’m just– – I thought we were here to get into the mind of a serial killer. – I know, I’m just saying, what if they all just happened
to be Italian grocers? – Oh, that’s rich. It all just happened to be… Yeah. That’ll hold up in court. – [Ryan] Mumfre was in and out
prison for the past 10 years. And his time outside of prison coincided with attacks by the Axeman. That being said, there
was not enough evidence to directly link Mumfre to the crimes. And eyewitnesses can be wrong. Only circumstantial evidence
lead people to believe Mumfre was the killer. If you’ll recall, Esther Pepitone originally said there were
two men in her bedroom the night her first husband was killed. So, either she’s lying, or is the Axeman, perhaps multiple people? What do you think? – I think– – That’s it, by the way. – I think, it very well could be him. I know it says there’s
not a lot of evidence. But that was sort of the sweet spot for serial killers, right? – I think it may have been
a series of copycat killers. – Yeah, that sounds likely. – Leading a blackmailing
gang in New Orleans that preys on Italians. What a strange thing to– – I’ve never even heard
of a blackmailing gang. – What does a blackmailing gang do? – They just get together and they’re like, “I saw this guy fucking a goat.” (laughing) – [Ryan] In the end,
there aren’t many leads on the identity of the
notorious New Orleans Axeman. Was this the work of a series of copycats, or was this the result of
one troubled individual? For now, the case remains unsolved. (eerie music) If someone started
bashing people’s heads in in Los Angeles, it was like, “If you don’t play Bruno
Mars every Tuesday.”– – “You better play Bruno.” – “I’m gonna be very angry.” – “If you’re not Bruno’ing
on Tuesday night.” – “If we don’t Bruno it…” – “Me and the devil
are big fans of Bruno.” (eerie music)