From the soon to be released..."When Death Rode the Rails"(c) by Marilyn A. Hudson.

The Axe Man Cometh
There was a time when every home had one staple tool used to chop wood, kill a rooster for Sunday dinner, or several other tasks. The axe was so useful and used by every member of a household: men, women, and even children. That such an instrument might be used in murders was not a surprise - murders often use what is handy, weapons of opportunity or convenience. Husbands went after wives and wives attacked husbands with a emphasis on single victim attacks. In some cases youth went after parental figures. Sometimes, a stranger came to town and struck in the shadows of night leaving blood and tragedy behind them before leaving once more.

The Crimes
What is more noticeable was that between 1909 and 1919 there were numerous axe murders of families or groups. These occurred across the country. Some were solved, some were merely officially closed by finding a local scapegoat, whole some remain a mystery to this day. To further confuse the issue an ax could be welded as easily by a woman or youth as a grown man. All were family units, killed in their sleep, with a blunt object such as a hammer, axe, pick, etc. or a sharp object such as an axe or a knife.

Although these could all be unrelated, except as copycat style crimes, the possibility remains that there could have been more crimes of a serial nature going in early 20th century America than previously supposed.

If all these incidences were the work of one killer, the person obviously had issues with families and families where there was some potential or perceived problem as seen in the number of wives living apart from husbands, mothers living apart from fathers, etc. The killer may have seen, even in healthy families, some dysfunction he had to eradicate. He may have even seen himself as fulfilling some mission. In at least two cases, there is the hint that it was the woman who was the recipient of the most severe attack supporting the theory the killer may have been substituting someone else for his victim. Was he lashing out at a substitute for some woman in his life? Was he killing the children to ‘protect’ them in some perverted reasoning?

Note, that many of these just might be the work of one man. A serial killer might go one for decades, uncaught, as has been proved many times over around the globe. The crime scenes were so contaminated by sight seers and investigators that valuable clues linking a perpetrator were lost almost before the story hit the news wire.
It would be interesting to determine how many of these cases saw the woman as the primary, or first, victim? How many had items thrown over clocks, telephones, and windows? How many left notes or had letters sent to the town reciting scriptures? These may all be the signature calling cards of the person responsible for these ghastly murders.

• In November of 1901, the Wilcox family of Los Angeles was 'knifed horribly' while they slept. (“Horrible Crime”, Oklahoman, Nov. 29, 1901, pg. 1).
• In Nov. 1904 an entire family was shot and the house burned in Auburn, Ca (Oklahoman, Nov. 12, 1904, pg. 1).
• In March 1905, San Rafael, CA a man “Murdered His Entire Family”, Oklahoman, May 25, 105, pg. 7).
• In October 1909, James McMahon confessed to killing the Van Royen family in Kansas City. (“I Killed Them” Yells Murderer”, Oklahoman, Oct. 27, 1909, pg.11).
• In November of 1909 in Bluefield, W. Va. a family was killed and the house burned down to try to cover the deed. (“Charred Bodies of Four found in Ruins of House.” Oklahoman, Nov.2, 1909, pg. 10).
• December 1909, Cleveland, OH woman Josephine Mangero and her two children fatally stabbed. (“Mother and two children Slain”. Oklahoman, Dec.5,1909, pg. 1.).
• In 1909-1911, the New Orleans and Teas areas saw the murders of numerous families. It was assumed a sacrificial cult or sect was responsible and one young woman ‘confessed’ to such (“How the Cruel and Gruesome Murder of Africa’s Serpent Worship Have Been revived in Louisiana,” Oklahoman, Feb.18, 1912, pg. 38). Such stories were often printed to stir things up among the fearful whites and to create environments where mob rule could function without too much complaint. The scope of these stories, despite the attempts to marginalize the killings as a racial issue, indicate a killer was prowling the area and using the rails to move about.
• In December 1910, Savannah, Georgia a race war almost ensued after the deaths of Mrs. Elizabeth Gribble, Mrs. Carrie Ohlander, and Mrs. Maggie Hunter. The local police rounded up over a hundred local African Americans to be 'questioned'. (“Woman Slain by Fiendish Negro.” Oklahoman, Dec.12, 1909, pg. 18).
• In January 1911, Rayne, LA a mother and her four children were killed.+
• In Spring 1911, Lafayette, LA the Norbett Randall family was killed.+
• In September 1911, Colorado Springs, Co. People in several neighboring houses were discovered dead with crushed heads while they slept. Victims were a H.C.Wayne, his wife and child; a Mrs. A. J. Burnham, two children (including a one year old).*
• In October 1911, in Monmouth, IL a William E. Dawson, his wife, and daughter were killed.
• In October 1911, in Ellsworth, Kansas a William Showman, wife, and three children were killed as they slept.* (“Showman Family of Five Murdered.” Ellsworth Reporter, Oct.11, 1911).
• In 1912, Crowly, LA a family was killed as they slept. + (+=Some assume these LA and TX murders to be racially motivated as they are all African-American family units. Some included 'Mulatto' or mixed race children which further complicates and confuses the matter. The simple truth might also be that these families were convenient kills providing a prey separated from the major part of the society by racial prejudice thus making them targets of ease. Others suggest some obscure church of sacrifice was involved yet the evidence appears weak to non-existent for this line of reasoning.)
• In 1912, Lake Charles, LA, a family was killed as they slept.+
• In April 1912, San Antonio (Police suspected the man was using the Southern Pacific Railroad since November 1911. It was suggested if the theory of the killer using the rails was correct he would next hit there and he did).
• In February, 1912, in Beaumont, Texas a family was killed. +
• In June 1912, in Paola, Kansas a Rollin Hudson and wife were murdered. (“Murder Came in the Night”, Western Spirit, June 14,1912).
• In June 1912, in Vilasca, Iowa, eight were murdered as they slept. Victims: J.B. Moore and wife, four children, and two local girls, guests of his children.* (“Recent Ax Murders”, Oklahoman, July, 14, 1912, pg. 1). Many suspects .
• In December 1912, two women were killed in Columbia, Missouri. (“Horrible Murder Committed”, Columbia Herald, Dec.20, 1912).
• In 1913, in Muskogee, Oklahoma several lone people were murdered by an axe welding killer (“Second Hatchet Murder Mystery Stirs Muskogee”, Oklahoman, Nov. 29, 1913,pg. 1).
• In July 6, 1914, Blue Island (Chicago), IL a family was butchered as they slept. Victims: Jacob Neslesla, wife, daughter, and an infant grandchild.* (“Axe of Assassin Deals Death to Sleeping Family,” Oklahoman, July 7, 1914.)

-In Nov. 1917, Virginia, Minnesota, man, wife and boarder killed with ax and knife.
• In 1919, New Orleans, more axe murders thought to be the work of gangs but also as likely a serial killer. Perhaps even the same killer?
• In 1920 in Turtle Lake, N.D. eight are killed on the Jacob Wolf farm. (“Police Seek Clues in Dakota Murder”, Oklahoman, April 25, pg. 2, and April 26, 1920, pg. 33).
• In January of 1922, a mother and son are killed in Chicago. (Oklahoman, Jan. 23, 1922, pg.12.)
• In November 1928, Omaha was stricken by a 'hatchet slayer' kills three. (Oklahoman, Nov. 21, 1928).

As the Texas and Louisiana authorities noted, the killer(s) were never far from a railroad line in all of these murders. In fact, in several cases the trail died at a rail line indicating a killer might have hopped a train to escape. Several books, Serial Killers: The Methods and Madness of Monsters (Peter Vronksy) and Still at Large: A Case book of 20th Century Serial Killers (Michael Nicotan) mention these Louisiana and Texas slayings.

It should be remembered that all we know about serial killers and their conduct, motives, and methods is fairly recently learned. What was said to be ironclad just 10 years ago is already being tweaked based on new research showing that the hard and fast "rules" of criminal profiling have been extremely useful but they have to be subject to revisions based on new data.

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