|Servant Girl Annihilator|
|Also known as:||Servant Girl Annihilator
Austin Axe Murderer
|Number of victims:||7|
|Span of killings:||December 30, 1884–December 24, 1885|
It is thought that at least seven women, mostly servant girls, died at the hands of the killer, who typically dragged his victims from their beds and raped them before slashing or axing them to death. Several victims were stabbed by some sort of spike in the ears or the face. His first victim was Mollie Smith on New Year's Eve, 1884.
Many people were arrested for the crimes, but none were convicted. The last killings were a year after the first, ending with the murder of two wealthy white women, Eula Phillips and Sue Hancock, in downtown Austin on December 24, 1885.
The crimes represented an early example of serial killer in the United States, three years before the Jack the Ripper murders in London. Some have even attempted to prove that the Annihilator and Jack the Ripper were one and the same.
Additional officers were hired, rewards were offered and people took more precautions at night. Taverns were also forced to close at midnight. The Austin Moonlight Towers were erected a decade later, partially in response to the actions of this serial killer.
The crime spree was depicted in fictionalized form in the Steven Saylor novel A Twist at the End, published in 2000. William Sydney Porter, better known as the short story writer O. Henry, was living in Austin at the time and is presented as the protagonist. Though the murders are depicted accurately, there is no evidence that Porter was involved or knew the victims. Porter did, however, make one real-life contribution to the story: he coined the term "Servant Girl Annihilators" in a May 10, 1885, letter addressed to his friend Dave Hall and later included in his anthology Rolling Stones: "Town is fearfully dull," wrote Porter, "except for the frequent raids of the Servant Girl Annihilators, who make things lively in the dull hours of the night...."