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Axeman of New Orleans: A Century Old Unsolved Case

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On March 19, 1919, New Orleans held its biggest party, as every bar, restaurant, club and even house blasted jazz music so loudly that it could be heard from miles away. This may seem as a very joyful night where people danced and enjoyed their lives. Sadly, it was a morbid party, one that they were forced into to stay alive. A party hosted by none other than the serial killer later called « The Axeman Of New Orleans ».From the 23rd of May 1918 to 27th of October 1919, this cold blooded killer terrorised the peace and tranquility of N.O and he was roughly responsible for 12 attacks and 6 murders. What made this case more puzzling was the fact that the killer left no evidence nor led to his identity and the case remains unsolved to this present day.

The axeman or boogeyman only strikes at night , lurking in the shadow, infiltrating his victims’ houses in their sleep. Eerily, he never uses his own weapons, he attacks with what he can find in the household, mainly axes. Thus he became known as the axeman. After finishing his demonic deeds, he leaves the bloody tool in the crime scene.

The crime weapon would be solid evidence nowadays since fingerprinting can easily unmask the murderer, but back in 1918 this procedure was still new and was not considered as standard procedure so it was discarded. The question that comes to mind is why would people in 1918 keep their axes in their houses. Well, as World War I was nearing, people kept axes in their house as a precaution for what may happen. Little did they know that someone with murder tendencies would take advantage of this fact and go on a killing spree.

On the night of May 22nd, 1918, the first victims were Joseph Maggio, an Italian grocery store owner, and his wife Catherine were found dead in their house. The murder scene was quite gruesome as the couple were found in a pool of blood, bashed to death with an axe and their heads nearely severed. Nothing unusual was heard or seen that night and no valuables were taken from the house so theft was discarded as a crime motive. No one suspected it would be the beginning of a gruesome series of murderers. Then, on June 27th, the next attack occurred. The victims were Louis Besumer and Harriet Lowe. Both bashed in the head with an axe and were found unconscious unlike the Maggios. They were both left with major skull fractures but thankfully nothing lethal. But even with the survival of these two key witnesses, the police couldn’t get closer to the identity of the Axeman as Harriet was throwing accusations at Besumer. The closest they ever got to him was on the 10th of August after the Joseph Romano attack. Joseph’s encounter with the axeman alarmed his two nieces who got to the crime scene shortly as the Axeman left but were able to distinguish him and described him as « Tall, heavy set, wearing a dark suit and black slouch hat ». Just like the previous victims, Joseph took a serious blow on his head and died two days after the attack from his severe injuries. At this point, armed men decided to keep watch at night outside while their families slept to ensure their safety while the police tried to get to the bottom of this case.

Then, the killer broke his silence and sent a peculiar letter to the New Orleans press “The Times-Picayune”:

Hell, March 13, 1919

 Esteemed Mortal of New Orleans:

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.

Undoubtedly, you Orleanians think of me as the 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 (and the worst), 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 out on that specific 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.

–The Axeman

And so, everyone « jazzed it up » and played jazz music all night long and as promised, no one was killed that night.

The killings surprisingly stopped in 1919 and the identity of the killer is still unknown leaving people to speculate about the hand behind these grizzly murders to our present day.

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The Loving Mother Who Fed Her Children Human Blood Cakes

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1939, in the quiet Italian town of Correggio, your affectionate neighbor hands you some delightful crunchy homemade cakes and a well-put-together set of soap cubes as a sign of their appreciation. Only for you to find out that the « special  » ingredient for these gifts was humans and your friendly neighbor was actually a murderer with a twisted mind. This is the story of Leonarda Cianciulli, the human soap maker of Correggio.

Born in 1893, Leonarda had a very disturbing upbringing in a household built upon pure resentment and toxicity. Her mother, a hateful and abusive woman, was constantly lashing at her filling her innocent mind with absurdities such as being a cursed child and no good will come from her. As she was growing up, these hurtful words kept pilling up pushing her to attempt suicide twice, convinced she truly was a curse who brought tragedy and misfortune to her mother.

Her sorrowful childhood left her scarred and resentful towards herself.

Despite the refusal of her mother, Leonarda married Raffaele Pansardi in 1914 but demise kept following her as she witnessed the death of 10 of her children at a young age, had 3 miscarriages, and left with only 4 children she deeply loved and protected, but that doting and her belief of being a malediction pushed her to commit grisly murders that shook the entire world in the name of love for her children.

In 1939, when her favorite son was chosen to join the army and fight in WW2, Leonarda’s twisted mind was determined to protect her son most absurdly. Just like how the Aztecs were offering sacrifices to appease the Gods, Leonarda killed 3 women “with the good intentions “ of protecting her child from the claws of war.

First, she lured her victims into her shop, promising them job opportunities abroad with stable salaries, offered them drugged drinks to make them pass out, and proceeded to kill them with an ax. She didn’t stop there as she boiled the remains of her victims in caustic soda, making soap with the fat and “sweet cakes” with the blood she gathered. She even thoughtfully shared her creations with her children and neighbors, occasionally offering them sweet pastries and homemade soap. A thorough description of the process and different ingredients she used to make her “human cakes” in her diaries as she carefully wrote the steps to get the perfect results and her observations.

Leonarda finally caught the eye of the police when a relative of her third victim reported that the loving mother running the shop in the neighborhood was the last person to see the unfortunate woman before her disappearance. Leonarda would deny the fraud and kidnapping accusations but then admitted everything including the killings and cakes when her son was facing the accusations instead of her. 

She was sentenced to spend the rest of her life behind bars but was sent for the last years to an asylum where she died in 1970 from cerebral apoplexy leaving behind a chilling legacy of brutality and barbarity.

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