Two decades after the end of a brutal and bloody Civil War, the small frontier city of Austin, Texas was rapidly growing and modernizing. Despite that, Austin was still the Wild West by many standards, and the city was rife with outlaws, crime, and murder.
But in 1885, residents would face a new evil. Just three years before Jack the Ripper would terrorize Victorian London, an axe murderer hunted in Austin, murdering mainly Black women working as domestic servants for rich white Austinites. Named from a line in an 1885 article about the vicious killings, “Devilish Deeds” traces the steps of America’s first known serial killer.
“Devilish Deeds” is a new podcast from the Drag Audio Production House, which has also brought us podcasts like “Darkness” and “The Orange Tree.” This podcast was released at the start of May, and episodes are shaping up to be 45 minutes long a piece.
The host of this podcast, Megan Parker, is a journalism student at the University of Texas at Austin who can’t help but feel a connection to these women as a Black woman herself. Now, nearly a century and half later, she’s hoping that she can follow the trail of the unknown serial killer known as both the Servant Girl Annihilator and the Midnight Assassin.
In the wave of recent podcasts like “The Shadow Girls” and “Bad Women: Ripper Retold,” this podcast aims to showcase the victims over the mythologized killers that ended their lives. Much like Jack the Ripper, the identity of the Servant Girl Annihilator is unknown, and all of these murders are considered unsolved.
In “Devilish Deeds,” Megan speaks with experts on this case and does theorize the potential identity of the killer, but she’s mainly focused on Austin’s legacy and the lives these murdered women had ripped from them.
This podcast not only investigates this centuries-old cold case, but it also looks at Austin’s history during the Reconstruction Era. Namely, she tells us that Austin was a rather progressive city in a not-so-progressive state, which still remains the case today. While it was certainly progressive for the 1880s, the population was still deeply segregated, but the Black community was thriving relative to other parts of the country.
Megan digs through old newspapers and analyzes letters from prominent Austinites during the killing spree, trying to find how the murders were being reported in both Black and white newspapers. She considers how this serial killer may have used Austin’s racist sentiments of the time to keep suspicion far from his name, as police forces began rounding up Black men they suspected to be the killer.
The murders remain relevant in Austin today. In “Devilish Deeds,” Megan jumps back and forth between following the footsteps of a killer to present-day Austin, speaking with historians and experts on the killings. Focused on telling this story from the perspective of the murdered women, “Devilish Deeds” is thoroughly researched and phenomenally presented. Don’t miss this new addition to the true crime repertoire.