How Jazz Stopped a Murder - Ooh, Interesting! Fascinating Facts

July 06, 2018

Jazz music is a hugely popular request at events; we often book a jazz band to provide background entertainment for corporate events, private parties and weddings. But did you know that it also has the power to stop even the worst crimes? How so? Today's blog will explain all.

Many cities can lay claim to being the place where certain genres of music began but none are as synonymous as jazz and New Orleans. Jazz clubs in that particular part of North America were absolutley everywhere from the late 19th century onwards as African-Americans - just one generation from slavery - combined classical music with slave folk songs to create an easy-listening experience that everybody loved. As a result, it was a truly wonderful place to live until 1918 when a murderer started terrorising the city and began striking fear into all members of the public.

The Ax Man of New Orleans (as he was known by the press) first struck in May 1918 before committing another five killings over the course of ten months. He was terrifying thanks to his largely random approach to victims; he never stole anything from their homes and almost always used an axe that belonged to the homeowner. In short, he was not a nice man (for witnesses and survivors to his crimes confirmed it was a 'he') and for ten months he had everybody looking over their shoulder.

In March 1919, just a few days after another attack, the murderer sent a letter to the local newspaper, The New Orleans Times-Picayune, which outlined his next movements. Although the letter couldn't be proven to have come from the Ax Man himself, residents of New Orleans weren't about to question its authenticity. Part of its contents stated:

"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 (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."

The residents of New Orleans in March 1919 did not need telling twice. On that Tuesday evening, jazz was heard to be blasting out all over the city. Those who owned a radio tuned into stations that had committed to playing nothing but jazz all evening whilst those who didn't own a wireless headed out for the night to a jazz club or held block parties to ensure that everyone was safe. There was no part of the city where you could escape jazz and if you wanted to find a club that were playing a different style of music, you were completely out of luck. For one solitary night, an entire city came to a jazz-infused standstill.

The result? The evening passed without incident. Nobody fell prey to the Ax Man of New Orleans on that particular night. Sadly the serial killer struck three more times over the next six months, killing one of his victims. From October 1919, the attacks came to a standstill and the two years of terror were over. The Ax Man was never caught and speculation as to the man's identity continues to this day. 



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By Henry Fosdike