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Mystery of the Axman of New Orleans

It’s still considered unsolved.  From May 1918 until October 1919, New Orleans residents lived in fear as a serial killer brutally murdered at least 8 people and may have attacked more. The victims included women and children.

In most instances, the back door of a home was smashed, followed by an attack on the residents of the home who were either killed with an axe or a straight razor.

Nothing was stolen from the homes and the only possible motive was that many of the victims were Italian descent. Reporters of the day began referring to the killer as the Axman of New Orleans.

On March 13, 1919, a typed letter that was supposedly sent to the newspaper from  the Axman was published to advise that he would kill again at 15 minutes past midnight on March 19. However, he advised that he would spare the occupants of any household where a jazz band was playing.


Once the letter was published in the newspaper, people rounded up every instrument in town, parties were planned and dance halls were filled to capacity. All professional and amateur bands were hired and played jazz at parties in hundreds of households throughout the city. Sure enough, the city awoke to learn that no murders had been committed that night.

The last attack occurred in August of that year. The Axman was never caught and brought to justice. Speculation was rampant that he had something to do with jazz and that he was a respectable citizen with an alter ego like a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde type.

Wikipedia lists the victims and also suggests why the killings may have stopped including the fact that perhaps the husband of the last victim exacted revenge by ultimately killing the serial killer.

One of the tunes that likely was performed on that fateful jazz night was The Mysterious Axman’s Jazz (Don’t Scare Me Papa) by local musician Joseph John Davilla.


The sheet music for that song became a “best seller” and still remains on display in a New Orleans museum.


The Axman’s letter stated that They have never caught me and they never will. His letter turned out to contain that truth.



The Cow Jumped Over the Moon

I was excited to lead the band. It was my big debut… musical coming out. Well, I didn’t really think of it like that but at age 6, you have to be excited about leading the band for the PTA/school meeting, with the whole elementary school student body and parents.

I was given a band director’s outfit that was creme with gold shoulder tassels. My mom thought it was “too see through”, so she made me a pair of pants to wear under the outfit. I think they were made from a sheet. Of course, at that age, you’re not concerned when the barber cuts your hair crooked or if you have different shoes on. It’s all about fun and a good peanut butter and jelly sandwich, every now and then.

At the time, I lived in a small town in Pennsylvania called Muncy. It’s the kind of town that has a “Welcome to Muncy” sign on the front of the tree; and on the back it said, “See you next time”. So, the local newspaper did a story on my selection as first grade band leader. It turns out that my dad had also been in the same position. Come to think of it, maybe the fix was in.

We practiced hours. I was to lead the band, baton style, for 3 songs and step aside for one song and play the “gong”. I’m not sure if that was part of the drum family or the lid top for a packing barrel.

My gong was important because I had a special part in “Hey Diddle Diddle”. When it came to the part of the song, “The cow jumped over the moon”, I took a something and hit the gong. Real Lawrence Welk stuff.

I’m getting carried away with detail. The reason I remember such detail is what occured as I stood to direct my first song. I had to lean over and pick up the baton because it had rolled off the easel and on to the floor. When I did, I heard a big rip.

Now, I realized that I had ripped my pants. Were they about to fall off? Did I even have a pants seat left, with that portion facing the crowd? Even at 6, I did not want to lose my pants. Plus, as band director, I had great pride.

After the first 3 songs, I sashayed over to the gong and used it as a shield, to determine how bad the rip was. The  cow jumping over the moon was a crowd distraction. Yep, the rip was pretty bad, although my mom reassured me when I got home that no one could see it. All was well then, when I had my post performance PBJ, but I still remember that event so clearly.

A few years back, I saw a Virginia Beach attorney that I had not seen for some time. Within the first couple of sentences, he reminded me of the time “that I beat him in Court”. Of course, he was being gracious to remind me of that good memory: but I told him that he is just like me. The good times are important to remember but it’s easier for me to remember the bad.

Time magazine did a story on why we remember the bad, more than the good. The scientific explanation is that we process the bad for experience to help us learn. Memories serve for future reference.

Almost on a daily basis, I see clients trying to overcome obstacles and get better. Defense attorneys and insurance companies try to claim that it’s just “secondary gain” as an explanation for why clients still hurt, and are not over their emotional and physical injuries. Sometimes they will even try to point out that their insured was not injured in the crash; as though that should have some relevance to my client’s claim.

Science explains why some injuries cause emotional and physical injuries for a lifetime. There’s no cow jumping over the moon as a distraction. To try to claim that a person is suffering continually because they have a pending case that should lead to a recovery as a money secondary gain, has no basis unless you are looking for an excuse to not accept responsibility for the damages caused.

Yes, I could get up on my soapbox and blog/lecture about insurance companies handling claims poorly….. “at the drop of a baton”. Just don’t want to rip the pants.

For pic o’ day, from Mom (by the way, I’d welcome some pic o’s)

The Sum of a Life

     The largest glistening Rhinestone Baldwin piano that is  in the world, a 1962 Rolls-Royce covered in mirrors, a hot pink turkey feather costume and a multitude of flashy capes, rings and matching shoes are just some of the items at the Liberace Museum. From room to room, there are bright items on display, that are collected from performances of the man that called himself  “Mr Showmanship”.

     Liberace turned piano playing into concerts where he ” played classical with all the boring parts left out”. Wikipedia describes his rise to fame and wealth, including  that he earned a record $138K in 1954, for playing one performance at Madison Square Garden.

     Critics would write about how simple his piano playing really was and that they could not understand anyone attending his show. He repeated that criticsm to a laughing audience on Johnny Carson, when he said that such reviews caused him to cry “all the way to the bank until he was able to buy the bank”.

     During the height of his popularity, he was earning large sums of money performing, while also selling such things as “Liberace Lasagna” and “Liberace Sticky Buns”. His television show regularly had over 30 million weekly viewers and he received in excess of 10,000 letters per week.

     Liberace had more money than he could spend and his possessions were only limited by his imagination. As a result, he opened up the Liberace Museum, in 1979, with his brother George serving as the Director.

     When I went to visit the museum, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I rode by taxi, with my wife, to a rundown strip mall on the outskirts of the Vegas strip. The tour guide told me that Liberace had wanted the public to share in his possessions. I felt like I was stepping back in time. The kind of feeling like I was living in black and white.

     The Museum had been endowed with 10 million dollars to make sure of its continued existence. There was a time that more people went to the museum than went to see the Hoover Dam. Now, few people speak of Liberace. Last year, less than 50K went to the museum. The endowment has shrunk to 1 million and last week, the museum announced that it was closing. After having gone to the museum a few years back, and now seeing this press release, caused me to blog about these events.

     If you go to the attachments to this blog, or google the many stories of Liberace, you will find a life lived in excess. Now, things are just left and apparently, people no longer want to pay to see those things.

     At the conclusion of a jury trial, the jury is asked to consider damages suffered and harms caused. Pain and suffering, mental anguish, inconvenience and loss of enjoyment of life are just a few of the losses considered. In a trial, the size of the verdict is usually not very large, when based on property damage or a loss of possessions. Liberace is an example of what happens when all is built on things. 

     Liberace owned 9 homes and bought anything he wanted.  Now, none of that matters. A personal endowment to his museum has no lasting impact.

     There is a movie in the works, that was to have featured Michael Douglas as Liberace. and Matt Damon was to have played his companion, Scott Thorson. The project is on hold until Douglas recovers from his current illness.

     You probably have the same reaction to this, as I do.  When was the last time that you even thought about Liberace or do you even remember him? It’s why Solomon wrote that “one generation passeth away and another generation cometh… and all is vanity”.

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