Note: Various spellings are found in newspaper reports: “Barnabet,” “Bernabet,” Barnerbet, “Barnebat,” “Benrabet,” While “Barnabet” has been chosen for our listings, recently discovered newspapers from Lafayette, Louisiana indicate that “Bernebet” may be the preferred (correct) spelling.
Sep. 1909 – “1910” in Clementine’s confession; Rayne murders, mother, 3 children
Jan. 31, 1911 – Cowley (place) murders; Walter Byers, wife, son (6)
Feb. 25, 1911 – Andrus family murdered, Lafayette, Saturday night; Alexandre (“Timi”?) Andrus, Mimi (wife), Joachim (3 years), Agnes (11 mo)
Nov 26, 1911 – Norbert Randall family murders, Lafayette, 6 killed, Sunday night
Oct. 24, 1911 – Raymond Bernabet convicted of the Andrus family murders.
Nov. 27, 1911 – Arrest of Clementine the morning after murders discovered, claims innocence
Nov. 29, 1911 – Clementine’s hearing in court, confesses on witness stand
Early Feb. 1912 – Broussard family murdered, Lake Charles, Felix Broussard, wife, 3 children; while the Barnabets remain in jail
Apr. 4, 1912 – Grand jury indictment of Celementine
Oct. 25, 1912 – Clementine Bernabet convicted, sentenced to life
Other arrests in the case: Rev. King Harris of the “God Sacrifice Church”; Eliza Richards arrested; Mac Thomas.
FULL TEXT (Article 1 of 10): Lafayette, La. – Saturday night a negro family consisting of husband and wife, and two children were brutally murdered in the Trahan and Doucet addition just beyond the railroad-track where it crosses Vermilion street, the victims of the murderer being Alexandre Andrus, his wife Mimi, his son Joachim aged 3 years and baby Agnes, eleven months old.
The terrible crime was discovered at seven in the morning by the woman's brother, Lezime Felix, who gave the alarm. Sheriff Lacoste and other officers and Deputy Coroner Clark at once went to the scene. The man and wife and boy had been brained with an axe while sleeping in the bed, and then the baby, lying in its cradle was struck and its head crushed. The man and woman were taken up by the murderer and placed on their knees beside the bed, the woman's arm over the man’s shoulder, as if in the attitude of prayer. The baby was then placed beside the mother on the bed. Then the murderer escaped through the kitchen door where he had entered. The crime it is thought was commited [sic] after midnight, as an examination by Dr. Clark disclosed some slight warmth in the bodies. A coroner's jury was held which for want of evidence brought in a verdict of death by unknown party.
Sheriff Lacoste and the officers suspected an escaped lunatic from Pineville by the name of Garcon Godfry. They learned from the mother, whom they arrested, that Godfry was at Maurice. Deputy Peck and Officer Edwin Campbell went out and got him, but were unable to connect him with the crime as parties at Maurice testified to his having been there all the time. They brought him back and placed him in jail to return to the asylum.
Sheriff Lacoste and the officers are making every effort to discover the terrible criminal. Several arrests have been made in connection with the case, but the Sheriff has nothing positive to give out yet.
About two months ago a family of negroes consisting of father, mother, and child was murdered under similar circumstances at Crowley, and about a year and a half ago a negro family of four, man, wife and two children were killed [in the same] manner at Rayne. The crimes are so alike that they may be the work of the same terrible monster.
[“Horrible Crime. - Whole Negro Family of Four Brutally Murdered While Asleep in Their Beds.” Lafayette Advertiser (La.), Feb. 28, 1911, p. 1]
FULL TEXT (Article 2 of 10): Yesterday morning the town was again shocked by the discovery of the murder of an entire negro family Sunday night [Nov. 26, 1911]. The victims were Norbert Randall, his wife and three children and nephew. They occupied a three-room house in Mills addition just beyond the turn in Madison street going to Couvillon’s. The discovery of the murder was made by the oldest child of the Randall family, a girl about ten, who had spent the night at her uncle's house. She found the kitchen door open and upon entering saw her parents and the children in bed murdered. She gave the alarm and officers at once went to the scene of the murder and made every investigation possible. A considerable rain was falling, which removed any outside trace of the criminal. Inside nothing seemed to have been disturbed. The murder was committed with an axe, which was found in the house washed off.
The man and wife and little baby girl were found in one bed and the three boys in another and all struck in the head. All must have died instantly. Sheriff Lacoste has arrested Clementine Bernabet, daughter of Raymond Bernabet now under conviction of having killed the Andrus family the same way last February . Clemintine [sic] is living now within a block of the Randall cabin and certain things led the sheriff to arrest her on suspicion, also her brother, the chief witnesses against their father at his trial.
[“Negro Family Murdered.” Lafayette Advertiser (In.), Nov. 28, 1911, p. 4]
FULL TEXT (Article 3 of 10): District Attorney Robira received a telephone message Wednesday from Chemist Metz of New Orleans, to whom the bloody clothes of Clementine Bernabet had been sent for testing, she claiming that the blood was from herself. Chemist Metz declares the blood is not menstrual, but that both the white and blue shirtwaists and the skirt had pure human blood and brains on them.
Clementine is now in jail charged with the murder of Norbert Randall, his wife and four children, who were brutally killed with an axe last November, while asleep. She was arrested the morning the murder was discovered and the clothes, which were submitted to Chemist Metz, were found locked up in a closet adjoining Clementine’s room. The clothes were proven hers and she owned they belonged to her.
[“Chemist Metz Says Blood on Clothes of Clemintine Bernabet [sic], Charged With Murder of Randall Family, Pure.” Lafayette Advertiser (La.), Jan. 19, 1912, p. 4]
FULL TEXT (Article 4 of 10): La Fafayette, La., Nov. 29. – This little parish witnessed a legal proceeding that for years will be the subject for round fire tales by toothless grandmothers and will form the nucleus for legendary tales of horror for generations to come. Clementine Barnabet, a Louisiana creole, 18, tall straight limbed and only one eighth negro confessed on the witness stand in the tiny parish house here that she had split open the heads of a negro, his wife and four defenseless pickanninies one Sunday night and that further she had assisted in the murders of four members of another negro family at a remote corner of the parish previously.
~ Laughs and Screams. ~
With screams of hysterical laughter the girl rocked back and forth in the witness chair her great eyes rolling into the back of her head barely any of the pupil showing Amidst sharp commands from the court and quick questioning of the prosecutor the woman told of how because the Randall family had refused to obey church orders she had crept upon their cabin late on Sunday night with a keen edged ax concealed in the folds of her cotton wrapper.
She told of how after she had thrown open the door of the tiny cabin she crept upon the sleeping husband and wife and before either could arouse had split their skulls in twain with her death dealing implement. She told how the four pickininnies on the floor started to cry out and how with stealthy tread she approached their trundle beds and swing her ax killed two with one blow and then lay about her with quick swings hacking the bodies of the two remaining children until they were scattered in bits about the room.
As she completed the awful tale she rocked to and fro and then said:
“An’ judge thet ain’t all either.” [Colloquial spelling in original.]
~ Court Attaches Horrified. ~
The girl continued to tell how when a family by the name of Andrus living in an isolated section of the parish near the Mississippi river had refused to obey the message from God supposed to be the utterings of a voodoo doctor who has been lately seen in this district she with other religiously crazed negro fanatics went to the Andrus cabin in the dead of night and there with axes hacked the sleeping members four in number to pieces ending their bloody orgie with weird prayers and incantations.
At the conclusion of the awful tale the court room attaches stood aghast hardly able to move. Finally the woman was taken in hand by an officer who plainly showed his half fear of the female monster and led her to a cell where she will be held for the higher courts on her own confession of the ten time murder.
The Barnebat girl until recently was a member of a small organization at Sacrifice, this state, under the name of the Flame of God Church.
[Spelling in original “Barnebat” corrected to “Barnabet”; the location “Sacrifice” appears not to exist, and is probably a misunderstanding resulting from another name for the cult, “Church of Sacrifice.”]
[“Creole Tells Of Murdering Ten - Eighteen-Year-Old-Girl Admits Splitting Open Victims Heads With An Axe - Laughs While Relating Acts - Confessed Criminal Declares She Slew Because People Refused to Obey Message From God - Alleged Utterings of Voodoo Doctor.” The Mahoning Dispatch (Canfield, Oh.), Dec. 1, 1911, p. 2]
FULL TEXT (Article 5 of 10): Lafayette, La., April 4. – Acting on her own amazing confession that she killed 17 persons with her own hands and directed the killing of 23 more that she might gain immortality by sacrificing human life, a grand jury will at once return an indictment against Clementine Barnabet, 19 years old, a half-blood negress. Furnished with convincing clews, the authorities, are now investigating one of the most astounding series of crimes ever committed.
For weeks past the authorities of Southwest Louisiana and Southeast Texas have been completely baffled by murders of the most brutal description. Whole families were slain in their homes, the assailants invariably using axes and apparently always making the slaughter a bloody orgy. No less than 40 negroes have been murdered in this manner.
To-day Clementine Barnabet, suspected of having been implicated in the most recent killing, confessed that it was she who directed the slaughter. By her own admission she is the head of a cult known as the “Church of the Sacrifice,” which is composed of negro religious fanatics, she believes that by taking human life alone they can reach immortality.
The cult has no regard for the law.
“We weren’t afraid of being arrested,” said the negress to-day, “because I carried a ‘voodoo,’ which protected us from all punishment.”
From the woman’s story it was apparent that there never was any motive but fanaticism behind the murders. The homes of the victims were seldom robbed, and many of the victims were not known personally to the assailants. As many women belonged to the cult as men, and they shared equally with the men in the sacrifice of human lives.
It is regarded as significant that most of the murders were committed on Sunday nights, presumably after the negroes had worked themselves into religious frenzy at their meetings.
It is believed that the victims were chosen indiscriminately.
Usually the head of a family would be marked for slaughter and every person found in the house when the members of the cult descended upon it would be killed. All the victims wore horribly mutilated. Heads and limbs would be separated from the torsos and strewn over the house. From the Barnabet woman’s story. It is evident that whenever every spark of life in the cottage bad been extinguished and the degenerates had completed their work of dismemberment, the slayers participated in a “sacrificial ceremony.’”
In no incident were the police able to find substantial clews. Nothing was left behind by which the murderers could be identified; there never was a clew to indicate why the murder had been committed. The killings presented a new problem to those familiar with negro criminology. Killings among negroes in this section are frequent, but the act is almost invariably preceded by a quarrel, and the work of detection, heretofore has never been difficult.
How many negroes belonged to the cult, Clementine Barnabet did not know, but she did recall the names of many besides herself who had participated in the crimes, and these she gave to the police.
The round-up of members of the cult will begin and with the aid of the Barnabet woman the police believe they will be able to arrest and convict at least 50 negroes.
The confession of the head of the cult has caused great rejoicing among the negroes in this section. Prayer meetings were held in hundreds of cabins to-night to offer up thanks for the solution of the mystery.
It is the first night in months that the black communities have been able to sleep without the horrible fear of a visitation by the “death hand.”
[“Forty Murders Charged To Her - Negro Fiend Makes Startling Confession. - Admits Killing 17 Persons - Fanatic Says She Sought in This Way to Gain Immortality. – Heads ‘Church of Sacrifice,’” The Hartford Herald (Ky.), Apr. 10, 1912, p. 2]
FULL TEXT (Article 6 of 10):
VOODOO’S HORRORS BREAK OUT AGAIN. – How the Cruel and Gruesome Murders of Africa’s Serpent Worship Have Been Revived in Louisiana by a Fanatic “Sect of Sacrifice”
VOODOO’S HORRORS BREAK OUT AGAIN. – How the Cruel and Gruesome Murders of Africa’s Serpent Worship Have Been Revived in Louisiana by a Fanatic “Sect of Sacrifice”
ALL sacrifice of human life, been revived here by fanatical negroes of the rice-belt in
whom atavistic tendencies have for some reason become rampant. The authorities confess their inability to cope with the situation. Twenty-six persons have already been murdered in the rites of the Sacrifice Sect, as the new high priests of voodooism are known.
Infants in arms, older children and adults have been butchered in cold blood and the fact that in many oases the victims have apparently acquiesced in their slaughter makes the tragedies none the less horrible while it only emphasises the intense fanaticism of the benighted voodoo-worshippers.
This outbreak is regarded as the worst in the whole history of voodooism. Never before has the cult obtained such a hold upon its follower or provoked them to more heinous excesses than in the present instance.
For twenty years or more voodoism has been practised in the United States only in the mildest sort of way. The older negroes down here, have always recognized and feared the power of voodoo the cult of the sacred serpent but in recent years it has not led them to serious excesses.
Apparently, however, the only effect of this long respite has been to increase the susceptibility of those to whom the mystic cult naturally appeals, for now that the smouldering embers of fanaticism have at last been fanned into flame, they are burning with a fierceness never before equalled.
The latest outrage laid at the doors of the Sacrifice Sect was the murder of the five members of the Broussard family at Lake Charles two weeks ago. This tragedy was typical of the methods followed by the voodoo worshipers.
Felix Broussard was a good type of negro. He was industrious and intelligent and lived happily with his wife and three children. Although none of the family was sick, be is said to have remarked to a friend the day before the tragedy that “they were all going home to glory, and going mighty soon,” a circumstance which is pointed out as indicating that although he was aware of his impending fate and that of his family, he either acquiesced in it or was too terror-stricken to avert it
The morning following, the bodies of the five victims were found stretched upon their beds. Felix Broussard and his pretty wife were found In one room brained with an axe. which was found under the bed. The blade was clean, indicating that the blunt head had been used to crush the skulls of the victims. Strangely enough, as it seemed at first, the investigators found little blood to mark the scene of this butchery. The explanation was apparent, however, when a visit to the children’s room disclosed that the blood of the victims had been caught in a huge bucket which, having dose service at the slaughter of the parents, had then been removed to the children’s room to perform a similar office there.
Perhaps the strangest feature of this tragedy was the fact that the fingers of each hand of the victims were stretched apart by the murderers, those of the children being wedged open with paper and fastened with pins! The significance of this discovery became more apparent when it was found that above the door of the Broussard house the words “Human Five” had been inscribed, and suggests that the Sacrifice Sect shared the belief in the has always been held by primitive people.
But even more marked evidence of the importance attached to this figure by the voodooists lies in the fact that in every case of human sacrifice perpetrated during the present outbreak, there seems to have been an effort to stay just five persons. At Lafayette, it was five members of the Andrus family who were sacrificed.
At the same place a few months later five members of the Randall family had evidently been marked for slaughter, but a sixth, appearing upon the scene unexpectedly, met the fate of his kinsmen.
At Crowley, last June, five members of the Warner family had undoubtedly been doomed to perish, but one, a child, escaped, and only four went to their death. Two months ago six members of the Wexford family perished at the hands of the fanatics, but one was an infant who had been born only the day before the tragedy and in all probability had not been taken into consideration when the plans for the human sacrifice were consummated. Now comes the Broussard tragedy with its five victims, thus completing a series of sacrifices of five separate families. each evidently intended to have involved five victims.
It is hoped by the authorities that the evil significance of the figure five has now been thoroughly worked out in all its various combinations to the satisfaction of these and yet there is nothing, of course, to indicate that the series will not be augmented into one of five twenty-five’s!
The police have no clue as to the actual perpetrators of these crimes. Such is the fear in which the average negro down here holds the awful powers of the voodoo that ft la absolutely impossible to obtain from any of them regarding the practices in which they indulge in common.
The cross appears above the churches attended by these voodoo worshippers, but it is put there not because of its Christian significance, but because, with its four points and centre, it symbolises the fateful figure five.
At the regular services conducted at these churches, the rites celebrated are of the most weird character and involve considerable shouting and frenzied declamation, but, obviously, the sacrifice of human flesh is reserved for celebrations of a lees public nature.
Voodooism, or voodoo, as it is more properly though less commonly referred to, is based upon the worship of the snake-god, represented at the rites of the sect by a live python or other large serpent. In Africa, where the cult originated, the serpent is held sacred and human sacrifices are constantly offered to him.
In this country, fortunately, human sacrifice has been comparatively rare, even amongst the most rabid of the believers in voodoo, the fanatics contenting themselves with self-inflicted tortures of various degrees and descriptions.
In Cuba and Hayti. however, where belief in voodoo is very prevalent, there is no limit to the excess in which these fanatics indulge at their orgies. Just how far the programme followed at these celebrations is being followed in the rice halt here during the present outbreak is doubtful, but it seems probable that the order of ceremonies is not very dissimilar.
In Hayti, the voodoo ceremonies begin with a bath of goat’s blood. Then the sacred serpent is brought out in a cage, and the candidate for high office mounts the box for inspiration, holy recognition and acceptance. The virtue of the serpent is supposed to ascend through the bare feet into the body of. the candidate.
While the priest is getting wisdom the serpent in the cage is poked with a stick from behind and made to go through unusual contortions to the wonder of the spectators, who gaze with awe and feel that the candidate is really receiving divine power.
Following this ceremony, atrocious vows are made and the final compact with the voodoo is ratified, when the worshippers drink bleed from a vase.
After the blood drinking, the assembly is ready for the culminating orgies. Between dances, white rum, mixed with blood, is served is gourds to the frenzied dancing multitude and in a few moments pandemonium reigns. In their paroxysms they tear off clothing, bite, scratch and mutilate. Drinking and dancing continue until the participants fall about the arena senseless from exhaustion.
Where human sacrifices form a part of the ceremony, the tragedy is usually preceded by the killing of a white cock and a white goat, whose blood, mixed with rum is served in gourds.
Then the announcement is made that a “goat without horns” is to be sacrificed. Presently a little white goat of five or six years of age is brought to, bound hand and foot and fastened to the end of a rope running over a pully in a tree top.
There is a hush an awful pause for a moment and then at a signal up goes the child and off falls its head at a single blow from a machete wielded by a young negro fanatic.
The child’s head falls into a basket, and the maniacs begin drinking its blood. The head is eventually boiled and forms a fitting climax to what is undoubtedly the most horrible rite practised anywhere in the world in the name of religion. Such is the sacrifice of the “goat without horns!”
In the rice belt here, the life of a negro is held rather cheap, but nevertheless, the authorities are determined to stamp out this trash outbreak of voodooism before it becomes so deeply rooted that it will defy their efforts.
[“Voodoo’s Horrors Break Out Again.” El Paso Herald (Tx.), Mar. 14, 1912, p. 13]
FULL TEXT (Article 7 of 10): LAFAYETTE, La. , Oct. 26.— Clementine Barnabet, self-confessed “ax woman of the sacrifice sect,” was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. The woman confessed to 17 murders and testimony introduced in her trial showed that she had slain 22.
The testimony was not all in when the state rested, deciding they had presented enough.
[Spelling “Barnambet” has been corrected to “Barnabet”]
[“Murderess Of 22 Is Given Life,” The Lacrosse Tribune (Wi.), Oct. 26, 1912, p. 2]
Another article which overlaps a bit with the above but gives a direct quotation by Barnabet.
FULL TEXT (Article 8 of 10): Lafayette, La., Oct. 25.— Clementine Barnabet, self-confessed “axe woman of the sacrifice sect,” was found guilty of murder today and sentenced to life imprisonment. The woman confessed to seventeen murders, and testimony introduced in her trial showed that she had slain twenty-two.
The testimony was not all in when the state rested, deciding they had presented enough. The jury agreed that the woman was responsible for her crimes, even though a degenerate. It is said 300 persons have been slain by the “sacrifice sect” within the last six years. “I am the axe woman of the sacrifice sect,” She shouted from her prisoner’s stand, where she is guarded by three deputies. “I killed them all, men, women and babies, and I hugged the babies to my breast. But I am not guilty of murder.”
[“Seventeen Murders Were Confessed To – By Clemintine Barnabet, Of The “Sacrifice Sect,” The Fort Wayne News (In.), Oct. 25, 1912, p. 17; “Clemintine”: incorrect spelling of Clementine in original]
FULL TEXT (Article 9 of 10): La Fayette, La., Oct. 26. – The negress, Clementine Barnabet, who in a period of several months butchered nineteen persons with an ax, each as they slept, was convicted today and sentenced to life. She was found guilty of killing the wife of Norbert Randall. All her victims were negroes. What disposition will be made of the other cases is not known, but it is assumed they will be dropped.
For several months negroes of southwest Louisiana and southeast Texas almost feared to sleep because of the butchery of the Barnabet woman. In some instances whole families were exterminated in a night as they slept, and altogether victims of such butchery number twenty-nine. Clementine confessed to killing nineteen.
The woman’s father and brother were arrested more than a year ago, charged with murder, but later Clementine confessed to the crimes charged to her relatives.
A strange religious fanaticism seems to have prompted the woman to slaughter. She claims she is a follower of the “Church of Sacrifice.” Negroes of La Fayette lived in deadly fear that Clementine might be acquitted. They say she possesses an evil eye that would wreak destruction to any negro upon whom it might be cast.
[“Negro Woman Who Murders Nineteen Sentenced for Life,” the Omaha Sunday Bee (Ne.), Oct. 27, 1912, p. 6-A]
FULL TEXT (Article 10 of 10): Lafayette.- Following the recent confession of a white prisoner in the Jefferson City, Mo., penitentiary that he murdered about twenty-five persons in various Western cities with axes anti remembering a postcard received by Clementine Barnerbet [sic] during her trial from a negro at that prison offering help, Chief Chargeois and his force have renewed investigation of the ax murders of 1911. The black who sent the card was incarcerated during the time of, the murders and could not have been a party thereto. The man who confessed to the crimes at the Missouri prison was Henry Lee Moore and the authorities here think that perhaps he is implicated with the murderers, for they remember a man reporting at the prison here in 1911 who gave his name as Moore. The Missouri officials are also working on the clew.
[“Working On Axe Murders - Confession of Missouri Convict May Lead to Solving of Mysteries.” (Western Newspaper Union News Service.) The Rice Belt Journal (Welsh, Jefferson Davis Parish, La.), May 23, 1913, p. 2]
An excellent essay on the Moore case shows that there is no reason to suppose that Henry Lee Moore committed the murders Clementine Barnabet had been accused of. Moore did indeed commit axe murders, yet he was not responsible for the numerous cases he had at the time been thought to have committed as a “roaming murderer.”
Beth H. Klingensmith, “The 1910’s Ax Murders: An overview of the crimes and the McClaughry theory,” HI815XA – Research Seminar: 20th Century Topics, Professor Schneider, Emporia State University, July, 2006
For more cases of this type, see: Occult Female Serial Killers
For more Violence by Women cases involving axes and hatchets, see: Give ‘Em the Axe
For more Violence by Women cases involving axes and hatchets, see: Give ‘Em the Axe
More cases, see: Female Serial Killers of Africa & the African Diaspora