Over several years of research into the historically bizarre, there have been many tantalizing mysteries and many unanswered questions. Many of these brought to my attention as I researched When Death Rode the Rails, Murderous Marriages, and the upcoming Into Oblivion. Some will forever remain unanswered and others, perhaps, are slowly being revealed. Full answers to many questions may continue to be an elusive dream but there is some hope.
The mysterious and mostly unsolved axe murders that swept the nation in the first two decades of the 20th century are one such topic. I have had the pleasure of being cited in two such works and am happy to say that the value of both works made me very happy to have been recognized in both.
The first is Murdered in their Beds by Troy Taylor (2012) and reviewed on my long time blog, The Paranormal Librarian from a few years back:
When the horrific and the unsolved are joined the result is sometimes too much to ignore. Author Troy Taylor spent decades in gathering bits and pieces of information into one solid and satisfying presentation of the facts of this 1912 Villisca, Iowa ax murders. Doggedly he hunted down other instances mirroring the details of that Iowa crime searching for answers.
The result of that work is a remarkable book linking murders spreading over at least three states and several years. Along the way a picture of the murderer is constructed with as keen an understanding of criminality as an FBI profile.
Placing all within the historical reality of the early decades of the 20th century a new understanding of the Iowa crime finally emerges. Filled with historic images and graphic descriptions of the crimes it will be greatly sought by all true crime sleuths.
In presenting this high level of investigation and research, Taylor has contributed greatly to bringing these crimes to light. The reasoning is logical, the thinking as he answers some lingering issues solidly holds together. It is entirely possible that learning the details found here may eventually lead to the discovery of a vital clue which might, just might, solve a century old series of crimes.
If that happens - tip the hat to author Troy Taylor and MURDERED IN THEIR BEDS (2012).
The second is a recent work by author Todd C. Elliot, Axes of Evil: The True Story of the Ax-Man Murders ( TrineDay, 2015). Previously on this blog there have been numerous posts and many informative comments that provided hints, information and leads on a variety of the axe murders hidden away in the pages of small local papers or in local legend. They have been some of the most popular posts read on this blog. Louisiana author Elliot, living in the epicenter of one of these murders, took up the challenge to get to the core of the tales. The result is the most detailed exploration of the murders of Louisiana and Texas circa 1910-1912 that has been produced to date.
So often, in exploring these oldest crimes, the researcher is confronted by lack of access to necessary newspaper, court records, and the supportive network to help drive the search. These challenges are compounded in cases where the victims are poor, minorities, or the location a 'backwater' where little remains to answer the many questions raised.
Elliot has accomplished in Axes of Evil a bringing together of vital strands of information by ferreting out newspapers in his region and bringing clarity to the blood muddied waters of lore and legend. He provides names of victims (often glossed over by mention of their race rather than name), good connections and timelines of events and potential links to similar crimes. Don't worry, although he does provide some solid theories as to who and why, there is are enough questions raised by his information as answers. The mystery will continue and this is good. That is the way the truth is always accessed; trial and error, questions and counter-points. Elliot's work, however, peels back the layer of mystery created by racial bias, economic limitations, and the limitations of early 20th century criminal investigations. What is revealed is fascinating, horrifying, and gripping.
I recommend these works to anyone fascinated by true-crime, by enduring mysteries, and the morbidly macabre. Read them and enjoy.