Everyone knows New Orleans can be a mysterious and sometimes dangerous city. While The Big Easy is known for Mardi Gras, jazz, and letting the good times roll, many unexplained and violent stories shroud the history of the Crescent City.
Strange goings on in The French Quarter in the middle of the night have led to murder and mayhem for years. New Orleans has been home to some of the most violent and bizarre mysteries of the last three centuries, from serial killers to vampire wannabes and everything in between. Join us as we count down the ten most bizarre and frightening mysteries to come out of New Orleans.
10 The Husbands of Minnie Wallace
At the age of sixteen, Minnie Wallace of New Orleans left her home to marry 49-year-old James Walkup, Mayor of Emporia, Kansas. They spent one blissful month as husband and wife. Then Walkup was found dead from arsenic poisoning. Minnie was tried for murder in a highly publicized trial but was acquitted. Five years later, in 1897, she married again. This time to Toledo millionaire John B Ketcham. Ketchem died shortly after that. Again Minnie was investigated for murder; this time, she wasn’t even indicted.
Then, during the nineteen-teens, she had an ongoing fling with De Lancey Louderback, a railroad tycoon. After a few years, Minne left him, moved to London, and married someone else. One month later, just after writing her into his will, Louderback died from drinking cyanide. Suffice it to say, Wallace left a trail of bodies in her wake. While this mystery seems easily solved, she was never convicted of any wrongdoings, making her husbands’ murders officially unsolved.
9 The Sultan of LePrete Mansion
In 1836, a Greek Revival-style mansion was built at 716 Dauphine St. in the French Quarter. The owner, a wealthy businessman from Philadelphia, sold the building just three years later. Jean Baptiste LePrete bought the home for $20,050 in 1839. However, the Civil War disrupted LePrete’s cash flow, forcing him to rent the property. The tenant would be a Turkish sultan and the brother of a man of Middle-Eastern descent who approached LePrete and signed the lease agreement.
Over the next few days, an entire entourage of women, servants, advisors, furniture, and art were paraded into the home. And then all the locks were changed. They partied every night in the Sultan’s House until one morning when a neighbor spotted blood trickling out of the house and down the steps to the sidewalk. When the police arrived, they discovered that all inside were killed; one person was buried alive with a hand sticking out of their fresh and shallow grave. It was the sultan.
The man was not actually the sultan but the sultan’s brother who escaped to New Orleans after stealing the real sultan’s women and possessions. The real sultan hired assassins to kill his brother and everyone in the house. The killer(s) were never found, and the building is still considered haunted by the victims of that night.
8 The Toddler Ramona Brown
A 1984 house fire in Algiers, New Orleans, was the scene where three-year-old Ramona Brown was last seen. It was Mardi Gras Day when the fire broke out. Six-year-old Simona Brown called the police and reported that two family members had already perished in the fire. While a fire blazed in what was the Brown family home, a couple pulled up in an unidentified car. They asked the children if they needed help, and little Ramona got in the vehicle, never to be seen again.
Simona said she told her mother about the alleged kidnapping, but Simona was only six at the time, and her mother had a nervous breakdown while trying to deal with the horror of it all. Now, almost forty years later, Simona is working with investigators from NOPD and WWL-TV to find out what happened to her sister all those years ago.
7 Eddie Wells
Seventeen-year-old Edward “Eddie” Wells was found dead and floating in the Mississippi River in 1982. At the time, the case was handled by Stanley Burkhardt, the NOPD’s child-abuse investigator. Burkhardt quickly closed the case. He publicly theorized that Wells was killed while selling sex to a man, although there was no corroborating evidence.
Over thirty years later, Burkhardt was exposed as a pedophile, and the NOPD is now closely examining all of Burkhardt’s cases. While strong accusations have been levied against Burkhardt in this case, no evidence has come to light. To this day, no one knows what happened to Eddie Wells other than he was fished out of the River one day, and no one knows how he got there.
6 Storyville Slayer
The Storyville Slayer is the name given to the unidentified murderer or murderers that carried out a string of homicides in the New Orleans area between 1991 and 1996. Several vital characteristics connected these murders. The targets were mainly women of African descent between 17 and 42. Most of them were strangled, although some were drowned. The victims were dumped in isolated swamps and canals. Their bodies were left in water for several weeks to several years, resulting in extreme decomposition and destruction of incriminating evidence.
Not surprisingly, some of the victims have never been identified. Two men, Victor Grant and Rusell Ellwood, were closely investigated, and Ellwood had a high-profile trial but was acquitted. As of November 2021, all the murders, aside from that of Cheryl Lewis, remain unsolved. Ellwood remains a suspect in several killings, but no charges have been filed against him.
5 Margaret Coon
In 1987, Margaret Coon, a wealthy lawyer from Mandeville, was stabbed in the back and left for dead. She was jogging with her dog in a gated subdivision, considered one of the safest neighborhoods in the area. Local authorities have been stumped for decades. As recently as 2021, New Orleans reporter Jed Lipinski has been taking a closer look into the case.
Coon left her home sometime after 8:30 pm. Her body was found the next day; the faithful dog was guarding her body. There were no signs of struggle or sexual assault. She was wearing roughly $100,000 worth of jewelry on her corpse. The security officer at the community gate reported no nonresidents entered the Beau Chene community that night.
Coon prosecuted sex offenders and child abusers, and speculation points to revenge murder. Her father, Webster Coon spent $200,000 on private investigations, trying to find out who murdered his daughter and why; he passed away in 2005. With Lipinski’s help, this unsolved case remains relevant in New Orleans today.
4 Jacques Saint Germaine
Jacques Saint Germaine arrived in New Orleans from France in 1902. He claimed to be a descendant of the Count Saint Germain. He was wealthy and affluent; he spoke a dozen languages and played as many musical instruments. He was known to throw extravagant parties and entertain New Orleans’ most influential citizens. Despite serving lavish culinary delights at his French Quarter mansion, he was never seen eating a single bite… of food.
One night, screams were heard coming from St. Germain’s home after he brought a woman home from the bar. The woman jumped from the second story of his house, telling bystanders that she had been attacked by her host, who had seized and bitten her on the neck. When police searched St. Germain’s home, they found bloodstains and wine bottles filled with blood. St Germain was never again seen in New Orleans.
3 Ursulines Convent Murders 1978
The Ursulines Convent in New Orleans’ French Quarter has a long history of bizarre and frightening happenings. The famed legend of “The Casket Girls” started the supernatural ball rolling early in the 18th century. For centuries, the convent has attracted visitors who investigate where rumors of vampires originated and enraptured the entire city.
In 1978, a group of Boston College students came to see for themselves. They set up a video camera across the street. They intended to film from sundown to sunrise for a week to see if any vampires or other paranormal activity did exist at the old convent.
The group consisted of two girls and three boys. On the third night, the three boys left the girls alone while they went for drinks. The boys found the girls’ bodies in front of the adjoining chapel just before sunup. They were drained of 80% of their blood and had strange bite marks on their necks. The killer was never found, and locals believe the place is haunted. The chapel has not held Sunday Mass since the murders.
2 UpStairs Lounge Arson
Perhaps the most lethal attack on the LGBTQ community in history occurred on June 24, 1973, when what was then known as the UpStairs Lounge caught fire. Now known as the Jiminai, 141 Chartres Street was once a popular French Quarter gay bar. “An unknown assailant started a fire using lighter fluid. About 30 people escaped, but another 30 were trapped on the second floor. The windows were covered with security bars, and the fire raged for sixteen minutes before help could arrive. Twenty-eight people died during the fire; four more victims died en route or at the hospital.”.
At the time, UpStairs was one of the few safe spaces for New Orleans’ gay and lesbian populace. Often referred to as the “forgot tragedy,” the culprit or culprits of this deadly fire were never found or brought to justice.
9 The Axe Man
While his reign of terror only lasted one year, New Orleans’ infamous Axe Man made a permanent mark on the city. He would chisel out the bottom panel of citizens’ backdoors in the middle of the night, creep into their bedrooms while they slept, and attack them with an axe. He targeted couples and specifically Italians; it is believed that he had ties to the mob. His first attack occurred in May 1918, averaging one episode per month moving forward.
The Axe Man sent a letter to the local paper on March 13, 1919. In the letter, he depicts himself as a demon who can turn into smoke and kill at will, with no regard for the police. He held the city hostage and demanded that everyone listen to jazz the following Tuesday night, or blood would be spilled.
While there are many theories concerning the Axe Man, including that he was killed by a victim’s widow in California, official records indicate that he was never caught. The Axe Man has been depicted in the popular TV series American Horror Story, and his story remains one of the most horrific crimes committed in New Orleans.