A Southern Feast of All Souls—Passover

Happy Halloween and a Blessed Samhain!

N. B. This article was updated 27 May 2023 to reflect new information.

Haunted Hotel
623 Ursulines Street
New Orleans, Louisiana

Exodus, Chapter 12
King James Version

21 Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel, and said unto them, Draw out and take you a lamb according to your families, and kill the passover. 22 And ye shall take a bunch of hyssop, and dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two side posts with the blood that is in the basin; and none of you shall go out at the door of his house until the morning. 23 For the Lord will pass through to smite the Egyptians; and when he seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the Lord will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come in unto your houses to smite you.

A dark lord passed over New Orleans on the night of March 18th, 1919. Instead of a demand that each home’s occupants paint their doors with lamb’s blood, he ordered that a jazz band be at full swing within each home. At fifteen minutes past midnight on this Tuesday night the city’s dance halls were filled to capacity while the strains of jazz poured out of homes throughout the city. Clarinets wailed while trombones tramped up and down scales stomping the precious blue notes that flavored this music. Crooners of all colors sang of love lost and regained against a backdrop of banjos, trumpets and tubas. Thousands of feet kicked up in time to the syncopated rhythms. This was a city at its most alive fearing the shroud of death that was lurking somewhere with axe and razors at the ready. Death did not sting that night. The dark lord would return in August to continue his spree.

The mysterious Axeman of New Orleans was never caught. Between May 1918 and October 1919, at least twelve people were attacked and killed at the hands of this heinous killer. As most of the victims were of Italian origin, many suspected that the crimes were associated with the Mafia that was active in the city. Someone claiming to be the killer wrote to The Times-Picayune:

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 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.

The Axeman


600-block of Ursulines
The 600-block of Ursulines Street looking towards the Haunted Hotel in 2008, to the left of the cream colored building in the middle. Photo by Infrogmation, courtesy of Wikipedia.

An article from the New Orleans ABC affiliate, WGNO, highlighted the possible, albeit tenuous, connection between the axe murderer and the Haunted Hotel. The hotel, which bills itself as the city’s “oldest and best-known Haunted Hotel” claims that the infamous axeman lived here during his murder spree, though his identity is unknown. During renovations, a bloody axe was found on the premises that may have been the weapon in one of the murders. The article’s sources is provided by a ghost tour company, which are often not reliable. In this case, the hotel was apparently investigated and something indicated that a particular corner of the courtyard had paranormal activity. The readings somehow indicated that the spirit may have killed someone and hid in that particular corner.

A 1919 newspaper map of the Axeman’s killings. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The 1919 map of the killings doesn’t show any murders taking place in the French Quarter, so there’s really nothing to connect the Axeman with this particular building, other than the bloody axe and some anomalous readings during a paranormal investigation. Ursulines Avenue, however, boasts a fairly unique roster of spirits as it slices through the famous French Quarter. As you stroll these ancient streets, think what it must have been like on the night of the Axeman’s Passover with jazz spilling from every open window warding off an axe bearing dark lord as he passes over.