Each week, J.A. Lloyd will take readers through the secret and sometimes unexamined legends, myths, and folklore of New Orleans past. This week, learn about the star-crossed lovers of the French Quarter, Zack and Addie.
At first, the story of Addie Hall and Zachary Bowen begins like any other love story. They meet, they flirt, and they fall in love. They have their ups and downs and ultimately decide to weather the storm together in the face of adversary.
Bowen was not a native to New Orleans but he had been living in the area for an extended period before he met Hall. Originally from Los Angeles, California, Zachary was a military vet that according to those who knew him, served in both Afghanistan and Iraq before being discharged. Upon his return to the US Bowen chose to call New Orleans home and opted to leave California behind. He was considered a likeable man by those who knew him and most say he was the type of guy that would never give one pause. Some say Bowen changed after serving in the military which is to be expected; wars do change people.
Like Bowen, Addie Hall was a transplant living in the city as well, though it is unclear as to how long she had been considered a resident of the area. Hall relocated to the city from North Carolina and the extent of her history ends there according to individuals she knew within the city. Local friends agree that not much was known about the girl aside from the fact that she had an infamous temper which could, sometimes, turn violent.
The young couple met, by chance, while each worked as bartenders at separate bars in the French Quarter. The romance escalated quickly and soon Bowen and Hall were visiting each other at their places of work, exchanging notes, flirting. Dating ensued shortly after.
And then Hurricane Katrina hit, displacing 1.5 million residents and claimed the lives of nearly 2,000 as her own.
During Katrina, the two lovers decided to tempt fate, which ultimately led to them being claimed as local heroes. When the hurricane hit, they remained unwavering by choosing to stay in New Orleans and ride the devastation out. Bowen and Hall appeared to thrive in the wake of Katrina’s destruction. While others struggled to wrap their heads around everything that had been lost, they easily fell into a vagabond way of life The two gained some fame for being of the few who remained in the city and were known making cocktails for those who wandered into the neighbor. Additionally, Addie personally gained her own notoriety for flashing squad cars as they drove past.
Shortly after New Orleans began to regenerate itself and locals returned to the city, friends started to notice a shift in the couple’s relationship. While they were thriving in the broken down city, the exact opposite overtook them when New Orleans slowly began to rebuild. The first sign of the couple’s strained relationship appeared when both Bowen and Hall stopped showing up for work. Neither of them felt notification of their absences was necessary; they just disappeared. It is also said that the couple had fallen heavily into drug use and alcohol abuse following the storm. Reported fights between the two boiled over quickly often edging on the verge of violence.
Then, one early morning, a man was found on the roof of the parking garage at the Omni Royal Orleans Hotel, directly across from the Louisiana Supreme Court. Neighbors first assumed the man was a drunk hotel guest who somehow found his way to the roof. The reality was far grislier, as Zack Bowen had jumped to his death during the late night hours after steeling himself with drink after drink at the hotel's rooftop bar. In his pocket, investigators found the keys to his apartment, the contact information for his landlord and a ziplock bag that contained a disjointed suicide note which partially read:
This is not accidental. I had to take my own life to pay for the one I took.
Zachary’s note led police back to the apartment he shared with Addie located above a well-known Voodoo temple in the city. For those that discovered what wait them inside the dwellings of the couple’s home, the word horrific serves as a pale and weak depiction.
A woman’s body had been strangled and then later dismembered in the bathtub, Bowen leaving little to no mess behind. The woman’s body parts were then moved to the stove. Her head found in a pot, hands and feet were placed in an additional pot, while her arms and legs were found cooking in the oven. The remainder of her body was left in the fridge. The woman was Addie Hall.
Next to Hall’s dismembered corpse Bowen had left another note, further explaining the perverse situation to police:
I scared myself not by the action of calmly strangling the woman I've loved for one and a half years, and then desecrating her body but by my entire lack of remorse. I've known for ever how horrible of a person I am — ask anyone — and decided to quit my jobs and spend the 1,500 cash I had being happy until I killed myself. So, that's what I did: good food, good drugs, good strippers, good friends and any loose ends I may have had. I didn't contact any of my family. So that'll explain the shock. And had a fantastic time living out my days … It's just about time now.
Rumors about Bowen’s motive spread shortly after news broke nationwide reporting the murder/suicide. Many believed the couple’s locale, living above a Voodoo temple played a part in the tragic events. Some say that Zack had become possessed by an evil spirit attached to the temple below the couple’s apartment. However, this is a matter of opinion as the renowned temple’s status has always been held in a high regard of respect within the French Quarter. Others simply blame the event on the couple’s excessive use of drugs and alcohol, believing that it eventually consumed them in the worst way possible.
While there will never be answers to the motive of the crime, another likely theory does exists. Few speak about the dark depression that fell over many of the city’s inhabitants in the wake of Katrina’s destruction. In general, reports on mental health after a natural disaster are often resilient and enduring with the majority of those affected recovering from the trauma within a time span of a few weeks to a few months. Regardless, an alarming spike in depression and anxiety does occur in many of those who have experienced a natural disaster. As for the city of New Orleans, the number of residents showing possible signs of mental illness supposedly doubled after Katrina.
It is not outside the realm of possibility to assume both Hall and Bowen were part of this 50 percent and the assumption becomes even more plausible when considering the couple weathered the storm and witnessed the city at its worst. It is conceivable that Bowen had simply reached his mental limits. A man who returned from war possibly suffering from PTSD was suddenly thrown into another horrible situation that would likely heighten any psychological issues already present. In the end, perhaps Zachary just couldn’t take, not the demons that people claim lived below in the voodoo temple, but the ones that existed inside his own head.
The house in which the grisly crime took place is now known as the Rampart Street Murder House and the Voodoo temple has since relocated. To this day, the murder remains one of the most appalling in New Orleans history.