On Friday, March 14, 1919, while Axeman panic in New Orleans was at an all-time high, the editor of the New Orleans Times-Picayune received a letter, purportedly written by the Axeman himself. The letter stated:
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 andthat 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.
As you might expect, the people of New Orleans took this letter to heart. Memories of the 1888 Jack the Ripper killings in London were still relatively fresh and newspapers were already commenting on the similarities, letters to the press included. On the night indicated in the letter, restaurants and clubs all over town were flooded with people doing their best to show that they loved jazz music. Joseph Davila, a popular New Orleans composer, even wrote a special theme song tiled "The Mysterious Axeman's Jazz" or "Don't Scare me Papa" which became a hit. The sheet music, which was published by World's Music Publishing Company of New Orleans, even had a cover picture showing a terrified family huddling in their home playing musical instruments to keep the Axeman away. Whether the letter was a hoax or the Axeman was genuinely satisfied by the terror his letter generated, no attacks took place that night.
The next attack occurred on August 10 when grocer Steve Boca stumbled out of his Elysian Fields home with axe wounds to his skull. A friend managed to get medical attention and police found all the familiar Axeman signs at the Boca home: a bloody axe left lying on the floor and a chiseled door panel. Another incident occurred on September 10 when a druggist believed that he heard a noise in his back yard. After getting no answer when he called out, he fired several shots through the back door but saw no one when he looked outside. Though police found what they believed to be chisel marks on a rear door panel, there was little real evidence that anyone had ever been there.
Finally, on October 21, the Axeman struck one more time. A woman awoke on hearing the sounds of a struggle coming from the room next to hers where her husband was sleeping. On investigating, she spotted what appeared to be the silhouette of a man rushing out of the room through another door. She also found her husband, grocer Mike Pepitone, lying on his bed, soaked in blood. His attacker had struck him repeatedly with an axe with enough force to spray blood onto the ceiling, walls, and floor. Though Mrs. Pepitone and her six children had all been asleep in their own bedrooms down the hall, they had been left unharmed. Police investigators found all the hallmarks of the Axeman: a discarded axe and a chiseled door panel but no other clues. One interesting detail turned up in this case however: Mike Pepitone's father had been attacked in his own home several years earlier and had managed to fatally shoot one of his attackers. While police at the time suspected a Mafia connection, this didn't seem to be the case for Mike Pepitone. It also meant that the Axeman was back after months of lying low.
Or so it seemed. Though no one realized it at the time, Mike Pepitone's death would be the last one linked to the Axeman's reign of terror. As the hysteria died down, the legend of the Axeman became part of local lore with the mystery of the Axeman's identity remaining unsolved.
Or did it?
To be continued