Over several years, across several towns in Louisiana, there were multiple cases of entire families found murdered in their sleep by someone wielding an axe. The horrific murders began around 1909 and continued through 1912. A man was arrested, but another murder occurred while he was in jail. Police turned their attention to his 19-year-old daughter, Clementine Barnabet. A few months later, Barnabet confessed to 17 murders.
The El Paso Gazette was one of many to run with the Voodoo angle. After their story hit newsstands, several local papers also printed the possibility that the murders were connected to Voodoo. Around the same time, rumors were swirling that Clementine was the leader of some kind of cult called the “Church of Sacrifice,” which was supposedly led by one Reverend King Harris, a Pentecostal revival preacher with a small congregation connected to the Christ Sanctified Holy Church. Police took Harris in for interrogation after rumors of religious involvement ran rampant, but the reverend had never heard of a “Church of Sacrifice,” and was visibly shaken to think that his sermons could have possibly inspired a series of bloody ax murders.
There are problems with Barnabet’s confession. Her story changed constantly, possibly reflecting the publicity and moral panic surrounding the murders. And the murders did not stop when she was arrested. There was also scant evidence that the sacrificial Voodoo cult even existed. But there was physical evidence, such as Barnabet’s blood-soaked clothing. Read the mysterious story of Clementine Barnabet at Mental Floss.