On May 22, 1918, Joseph Maggio and his wife Catherine, would meet gruesome fates at the hands of a fledgling serial killer: The Axeman of Louisiana. The Maggios’ were asleep in their home, on the corner of Upperline and Camp streets, when their murderer broke in and sliced their throats with a straight razor. Catherine’s lacerations were so deep that her head was nearly severed. Dissatisfied with his handy work, the Axeman decided to add his very own special touch by bashing in the heads of his victims with an axe.
The fledgling serial killer, now having committed the first of many heinous acts, found himself longing for the taste of blood again, just a few short weeks later. During the wee hours of June 27, the Axeman would strike again. Louis Besumer and his mistress, Harriet Lowe, were bludgeoned with an axe while they slept, ironically with the very axe that Besumer owned. Both survived the attack, Lowe died in August due to complications during surgery in attempt to repair damage done during the attack.
On the same day that Harriet Lowe passed, the Axeman sought out another victim. 28 year old, pregnant woman, Elmira Schneider, woke to a dark figure looming over her. She was then bashed in the head repeatedly with a bedside lamp.
Just a few days after on August 10, Joseph Romano, an elderly man that was living with two of his nieces, was attacked in his sleep with an axe. Romano survived for a couple of days before dying from his injuries.
It seems that our mysterious Axeman had had his fill. Several months passed without incident; the streets of New Orleans had settled into a false sense of security. On the night of March 10th, 1919 screams racked Jefferson Avenue as the Cortmiglia family woke to discover an intruder inside their home. Charles, Rosie and their young daughter had all been attacked with an ace. Charles and Rosie would survive but their young daughter died on the scene.
It seems, at this point, that our Axman was more than amused with himself. Three days after the Cortmiglia attack the infamous “Axeman Letter” makes it’s appearance:
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.
One would imagine that the Axeman passed the next few weeks hidden in plain sight, observing the chaos that he had created among both the community and law enforcement. Giddy with his handy-work, his thirst for violence peaked once more. On August 10th 1919 the Axeman broke into the home of Steve Boca then attacked him while he slept with of course, an axe. Boca also survived the attack but because of his injuries, could not recall any of the details.
Sarah Laumann, another of his victims who would recover with no recollection of the event, was attacked just a few weeks later. On the night of September 3rd, neighbors of Laumann who had come to visit, broke down the door when she did not respond. Laumann was found unconscious in her bed with sever head trauma and missing several teeth; a bloody axe was discovered on the front lawn.
On the night of October 27, 1919, the Axeman would commit his last “verified” attack, resulting in the murder of Mike Pepitone. Pepitone had been asleep in his bed, next to his wife, who was spared from the attack. Mrs. Pepitone awoke during the attack and witnessed the assailant flee from the scene but could give no definite description.
Many have both analyzed and speculated the identity and motivation of the Louisiana Axeman. Regardless of his methods or madness, his identity and motivations remain a mystery.
Among one theorist is a dear friend of mine, Todd C Elliott. Todd published a well researched, factual timeline of the true Axeman murders. Elliott manages to bind the loose strings of this Louisiana mystery as he investigates all victims and suspects. “Axes of Evil” is an insightful view of this well known, unsolved “Urban Legend” Check out his book here!
ARMED RADIO GLOBAL and TUNEIN Satellite Networks presents, Southern Horror Queen; Author Lyn Gibson.
Author and horror enthusiast, Lyn Gibson has joined the ARMED RADIO GLOBAL Network and will be launching her premiere show September 19th at 7:00PM Central time. Lyn is the author of “The Adrian Trilogy” a top selling vampire series based in Southern Louisiana and her more recent release, “Short & Gory” a compilation of uniquely twisted and macabre short stories. Lyn is also an avid blogger who shares with her followers, dark tales, horrific urban legends, oh and let’s not forget, Vampire history from around the globe.
“I’m excited to have been given this opportunity” Gibson states. “We were supposed to launch the premiere show several weeks back but because of the massive flooding event here in Louisiana, we had to postpone for a while in order for me to begin recovering from damages.”
Gibson, shortly after having her home devastated by 83 inches of water, upheld her commitment to the American Cancer Society and attended a benefit in nearby Covington Louisiana. “Things were definitely screwed up for us here but my husband and I discussed it and decided to uphold our obligations. Though things were really bad for us at that time, we knew that 6 months from now we would have recovered; we could not say the same for some of these kids. John worked feverishly to repair damage to the dragster by flood waters and as promised, the “Adrian’s Fury” dragster was present and accounted for at the event!”
“I’m looking forward to launching the show with ARMED RADIO GLOBAL” she said grinning broadly. “I’m hoping that everything flows smoothly. On the first episode I think it best to introduce myself, you know, give the listeners some idea of what and who I am. ARMED RADIO has been promoting the show for a while now, I’m certain that there are folks who will be tuning in just out of curiosity to find out what kind of twisted individual I am!”
Author Lyn Gibson is no stranger to the bizarre and terrifying world that exists just outside of mankind’s grasp. Her research and writing has intrigued a new generation and resurrected the minds of those who have been numbed by recent horror movie/literature releases. Ms. Gibson thrives on sharing her dark tales, she welcomes followers new and old to tune in this Monday Evening at this link:
Built between 1847-1852 this lovely Gothic styled monument was not exactly welcomed with open arms. Baton Rouge residents were appalled by the structure as it was not similar to other traditional Southern Louisiana structures. The building was also immortalized in a negative light by none other than Mark Twain who referred to it as “A little sham of a castle.”
Originally constructed to act as the throne of Louisiana’s Government, the building is now a museum containing both political history and artifacts, but that’s not all it contains. It is a well known, and documented fact that there are ghosts within the Old State Capitol Building.
One of these ghosts is said to be Pierre Couvillion, a congressman who died at age 47 of a heart attack during the midst of a heated political debate about gambling . Having unfinished business at the Capitol Building, Couvillion can be seen, heard and sometimes felt walking the hallowed halls. There is a tale of a security guard making his rounds one evening that was “bumped” into by a unseen passer-by. The jolt was enough to turn his body. Couvillion is also blamed for setting off motion detectors inside of the building. On one account, a female night guard states that detector alarms were going off in sequence starting from the dining room, through the baby’s room and ending at the Governors’ room. Once the alarms had settled the guard went to investigate, she discovered that the bed in the Governors’ room had been mussed, as if someone had been laying on top of the blankets.
Couvillion is not the only political figure to have perished in the Old State Capital, and perhaps he continues his unfinished debate with Louisiana Governor and United States Senator Huey Long who was assassinated. Long was shot while tending to political business and died 31 hours later at a medical facility. Long is said to be guilty of following visitors throughout the building, the smell of cigar smoke is a indication that he is near by.
Along with these two political figures is also the spirit of a woman. Sarah Morgan can be seen wandering the halls at night as well. Sarah is a remnant from the Civil War era, one of the few that adored the magnificent castle like structure. Better known posthumously for her publication “The Civil War Diary of a Southern Woman.” Sarah wrote of the horrors and tribulations endured by she and her family as the Union soldiers stormed Baton Rouge. Perhaps, she saw the Capitol building as a safe haven and felt peace within it’s realms as she is noted as a peaceful spirit that can be seen from time to time wandering about or standing in front of one of the upper level windows, peering out onto the grounds.
As if there isn’t enough activity on the upper levels of the building, it is a well known fact that most of the happenings occur in the basement. Utilized as both a hospital and a jail during the Civil War, a visit to the basement will likely be the most advantageous to ghost hunters. Many reports have been documented concerning physical contact, evp’s and full bodied specters whilst investigating this area of the building.
Today the Capitol Building (Museum) can be toured, there is even a 12 minute adventure for guests to experience where Sarah Morgan, in 4 D form, tells the history of the building and of those that both lived and died therein.
Our story begins in 1796 when General David Bradford, aka “Whiskey Dave” of the Whiskey Rebellion, obtained a 650 acre land grant from Baron de Corondelet. Bradford had fled the United States to avoid arrest and imprisonment for his involvement in the Rebellion, he would land in Bayou Sarah which, at that time was still a Spanish colony. Bradford would later be pardoned for his actions by President John Adams.
When construction began on the original home it was said that workers had unearthed a Native American burial ground. Bradford would order the remains burned thus initiating over two centuries of hauntings that endure to this day. Bradford experienced great losses during his time at his family home. One of his sons would fall into the river while working one day, his body was never recovered.
After having received his Presidential pardon, Bradford, his wife Elizabeth and 5 children would move to Pennsylvania where he would pursue his political career resulting in him being appointed Deputy attorney-general for Washington County. The mansion would remain in his ownership until 1820 when it was purchased by his son in law, Judge Clarke Woodruff. The Woodruff era would produce one of the Myrtles’ most well known ghosts; a young Creole slave girl named Chloe.
Woodruff took Chloe on as his Mistress. She was moved into the main home to live with his family while caring for his children. Chloe, however, yearned for more than just the position of Mistress. In an attempt to gain leverage, Chloe would often eavesdrop on family conversations as well as debates held amid the many prominent guests that frequented the mansion. After several warnings she was caught one evening eavesdropping on a heated conversation between Woodruff and some of his more affluent visitors, Bradford ordered her left ear to be cut off and banished her from working within his home.
Chloe, devastated by the terms of her punishment, devised a plan to see her way back into the home. She would bake a cake laced with poisoned herbs and when the family became ill, it would be she that would care for them and bring them back to good health. A good plan, but unfortunately Chloe would lace the cake with lethal doses of her herbs; Woodruffs’ wife and two of his children died.
Now Chloe was even further distraught. She had cared for and loved his children for years, as if they were her own. Chloe, no longer able to bear the guilt, would confess to her actions. Woodruff, in response, ordered for her to be hung just outside of the mansion, her body would then be weighted down and thrown into the Mississippi river.
Woodruff and his last remaining child would then move to Covington Louisiana, the house would be sold in 1834 to Ruffin Gray Sterling. Sterling and his wife would remodel the homestead, it would nearly double in size to become what we know as the 11,000 square foot Myrtles Plantation.
The Sterling era would bring about even more of the frequently seen apparitions. Four years after completion of the renovation, Sterling would succumb to Consumption. Further tragedies struck the family throughout the years as only 4 of their 9 children would live long enough to marry.
The Plantation suffered along with the family as it had been looted and vandalized many times by soldiers during the Civil War. Many rogue soldiers had lost their lives by charging onto the estate grounds as both the family and slaves had been armed to protect their home. It was during one of these looting sprees that Sterling’s son-in-law, William Winter, was shot on the front steps as he tried to defend the family’s interests. After crawling into the house and halfway up the stairs, he died in the arms of his frantic wife.
Many guests have reported the loss of just 1 earring while visiting the Plantation. Later earrings will turn up in the oddest of places, discovered by staff as they clean and organize. Perhaps this is the work of Chloe as she would only require the one earring!
There are reports of bloodstains on the parlor floor which will appear and disappear on their own accord, no matter how often the floor is cleaned. These stains are said to appear where Union soldiers met their demise as they attempted to loot the mansion during the Civil War.
An apparition is seen frequently on the stair case and at some times the sound of fleeting footsteps will accompany him. It is said to be that of a man dressed in his Sunday best. Many suspect the apparition to be remnants of William Winter as he met his demise on those very steps.
In this picture there is the apparition of a young slave girl just in between the two buildings. This photograph has been researched and debunked by many well-known paranormal investigators. National Geographic has used this photograph in a documentary of the Myrtles’ Plantation. It was also researched by Mr. Norman Benoit who performed a shadow density test, thus proclaiming that all of the physical measurements of the apparition were of human dimensions and proportions. The circumference of the head, the length of the shoulder to the elbow and the length of the elbow to the wrist were all indicative of a human.
The ghosts of children are often captured in photographs all about the interior of the Plantation as well as it grounds. So many children have perished on this property it would be quite difficult to accurately identify any one of them. As records were not kept on the slave population and waves of plagues were rampant during this era, there is no way for anyone to know exactly how many children passed away on this property over the past 212 years.
This photograph was taken by a teacher on a school field trip. The figure of the little girl in the window was not discovered until some time after. Note that the child appears to be looking directly into the camera.
Owners and staff have reported hand prints on mirrors and windows for centuries. The infamous mirror which hangs near the staircase is a prime target. Previous owners have gone as far as replacing the actual glass to rid themselves of the nuisance, but to no avail; the hand prints would only return.
As the Myrtles have been visited and investigated frequently through time, reports range from the inconspicuous to the insane. Guests have had many encounters with the ghostly inhabitants. Many items have gone missing and some overnight guest complain of their difficulties in getting out of their beds in the mornings after having been tucked too snugly into their sheets while they slept.
The Myrtles offers guided tours and is currently in operation as a bed and breakfast where many paranormal enthusiasts have conducted their own private investigations. The Myrtles Plantation is definitely a destination for anyone seeking a ghostly encounter.
The Castle Inn stands fully restored to it’s original glory at 1415 Prytania street within the Garden District of New Orleans. The Inn was constructed on a site that had formerly been a plantation during the early 1800’s. In 1848 a town home was constructed on the same property. The home was owned by a prominent local business man who would die just a few short years upon the town homes’ completion. In 1891 the property was purchased by Alva Schnitt, a German gentleman who was in charge of the New Orleans school district and the leader of a organization known as “The White Men’s League” somewhat similar in ideals to what we now know as the Ku Klux Klan.
Originally constructed as a gift to his new wife, Schnitt oversaw the construction of the three story mansion personally. He too would succumb to some strange illness and would die in the home just a few years later. The mansion would remain within his family until the onset of the 1920’s depression. The financial burden of large New Orleans estates became too much for many to handle. Some of these home owners, including the owners of this home, would convert the property into a transient rooming house.
The property would change hands several times until the 1950’s when purchased by the Allison family. It would remain within their family until 1998 when purchased by Andrew Craig and Karen Bacharach who would upon renovations, rename the property The Castle Inn.
Several spirits are said to haunt the property some having a history with the original structure, others that are said to be connected to the properties which formerly graced the grounds. One is said to be seen and heard most frequently. A young girl that was said to have drowned in a pond that had been on the grounds of the plantation. She reportedly enjoys shaking the beds to keep the guests awake at night. There are claims that she touches female guests to get their attention. She can be both seen and heard giggling as she frolics about on the grand staircase.
Another of the spirits is said to be a former paid servant who had resided in the quarters behind the mansion with the other slaves. He is said to be light skinned and dressed in the finest clothes available in his era. The Servant was said to be a flirt and a bit of a prankster. He was know to drink heavily and was a smoker. Legend states that he fell asleep while smoking in bed. He was too drunk to escape the flames when his bed caught fire consequently, he perished on the grounds within the slave quarters. Many say that this is why he haunts the mansion, the man felt that he did not belong with the slaves, but that he deserved to reside within the mansion itself.
There are other reports of a carriage driver that could have been associated with the town home owned by Schnitt. He is said to appear on the front stoop as well as walking around in the surrounding neighborhood.
There have been many reports made of encounters experienced by guests. Shaking beds, items disappearing and electrical devices turning off and on by themselves. There was one report of a complaint that the ceiling fan would not turn off. The “fan” was a dormant fixture, never wired to be used; its purpose was cosmetic in nature only.
Missing room keys were reported found inside a second floor microwave and reports of showers and faucets running while in the “off” position are common as well. One guest claims that the spirit of the servant man had climbed in bed with her and was smoking a cigarette. Others claim that they hear the sound of a music box playing.
The Castle Inn is a must for seekers of the paranormal. Just blocks away from Mardi Gras parade routes and a short walk from the streetcars, the Inn should be added to your list if you plan on visiting new Orleans!