American Horror: Coven features a supernatural being based the Axeman of New Orleans. The Real Axeman’s identity is still unknown, but he (or she) murdered at least eight people from May 1918 to October 1919, usually using their own axes.
In 1919 local New Orleans musician Joseph John Davilla wrote a song called “The Mysterious Axman’s Jazz (Don’t Scare Me Papa,)” which was apt because the unknown assailant had a penchant for jazz music. In fact, jazz music could save potential victims’ lives.
In March, 1919, a letter from the Axeman was published in local newspapers where he promised to spare anyone who had a live jazz band playing in their house at 15 minutes past midnight (earthly time, of course.)
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.
There was a lot of speculation about who the Axeman was, and the bizarre details of the crimes make everything stranger. Most of the victims were Italian, so some thought they may have been hate crimes, or had something to do with the mafia. Then there’s the thing about jazz music. Was he a lunatic jazz enthusiast trying to promote the music by murdering people? Some even believed he was a supernatural being or demon, which he implied was the case in his letters.
A man named Joseph Mumfre was shot to death in December 1919 by the widow of the Axeman’s last victim. She dressed in black and sprang out of him because she believed he was the man who killed her husband, Mike Pepitone. “Was Joseph Mumfre really the Axeman of New Orleans? There is some reason to believe so,” serial killer expert David Everitt writes in his book Human Monsters. “A habitual criminal, Mumfre had been in and out of jails for the past ten years, and all the periods he had been at large coincided with the times of the Axman attacks . . . the epidemic of New Orleans ax murders came to a halt after his death.”