The first years after Hurricane Katrina were fraught with devastation, loss, depression, and uncertainty. Homes were gutted and abandoned. Long-standing businesses shuttered. Many people weren't sure if they were going to return to New Orleans since they lost so much. Two young French Quarter bartenders seemed to be defying the pain that most people were going through, and they became known across the country for their unlikely love story in the face of extreme adversity. That love story eventually became a horror story that still haunts those who knew them and those who have learned about them.
Addie Hall came from an abusive home, and she found herself in abusive relationships as an adult. Despite her rocky relationships and heavy drinking, she was beloved by the patrons at the French Quarter bars where she worked and came across as a free spirited-person.
Zackery Bowen was a former military police officer who had been stationed in Iraq. He received a NATO Medal and Presidential Unit Citation for his service, and his commanding officer recommended him for an honorable discharge. Zack was only given a general discharge, which disqualified him from receiving education benefits, which bothered him greatly. According to his friends, Zack was also haunted by some events that occurred while he was stationed overseas. In particular, a young Iraqi boy that he befriended was killed in a mortar attack along with his family. Several people would go on to suggest that Zack suffered from PTSD, which went untreated.
In August of 2005, Hurricane Katrina was quickly approaching Louisiana, and people were scrambling to evacuate at the last minute. Many New Orleanians decided to stay home and ride it out, not knowing how bad things were about to get. Addie decided to let Zack stay with her in her apartment.
The French Quarter was spared from major damage, but the power was out for weeks. Zack and Addie, however, seemed to thrive in this strange environment. They sat on the stoop of the apartment-located above the Voodoo Spiritual Temple on Rampart-making cocktails and speaking to media that came down to document the devastation. Addie was even known for flashing police officers that drove by. The young couple stayed together as the city very slowly came back over the next few months. But those close to them eventually watched their relationship spiral downward.
According to Zack and Addie's friends, they argued constantly and complained about each other. Their habits of binge-drinking and drug use seemed to help fuel their fury. Finally, Addie claimed that she had enough when she caught Zack cheating on her. She went to see her landlord on October 4, 2006, and asked him to take Zack off of the lease so that she could evict him. The landlord said that she should just try to work it out with him instead. It was the last time he saw Addie alive. Just over two weeks later, Zack's mangled body was found on the roof of the parking garage of the Omni Royal Hotel. The suicide note in his back pocket detailed what happened after Addie tried to evict him.
On October 5, 2006, Zack strangled Addie to death in her apartment. He wrote, "I killed her at 1 a.m. I very calmly strangled her. It was very quick." Throughout his eight-page suicide note, he explained that he had sex with her dead body several times before passing out next to it. He got up and went to work the next day as if nothing happened. After some time, he dismembered the corpse in the bathroom using a hacksaw and a knife so that he could more easily dispose of it. He left the parts in the bathroom for a few days before he decided to cook the parts on the stove and in the oven.
During the weeks before his death, he filled his free time with "good food, good drugs, good strippers," and he claimed that it was a very enjoyable time for him. He was still wracked with guilt over his horrendous crime. He wrote, "I scared myself not only by the action of calmly strangling the woman I've loved for one and a half years, but by my entire lack of remorse. I've known forever how horrible a person I am (ask anyone)." Zack also burned himself with cigarettes, one burn for each year he had
been a failure.
Security camera footage would show that Zack arrived at the Omni Royal Orleans Hotel terrace on October 17, 2006, around 8:30 p.m. He approached the edge of the building several times before drinking one last drink and jumping to his death. He died on impact. Police searched his pockets to find identification and found the long, rambling suicide note that said in part:
"This is not accidental. I had to take my own life to pay for the one I took. If you send a patrol to 826 N. Rampart, you will find the dismembered corpse of my girlfriend Addie in the oven, on the stove, and in the fridge along with full documentation on the both of us and a full signed confession
Units were immediately sent to the apartment, and it looked like the set of a scary movie. The A/C was set to 60 degrees, and the walls were spray painted with phrases like, "I'm a failure," and instructions to call his ex-wife to tell her that he loved her. Some messages on the wall said to look in the kitchen for the remains of Addie Hall.
Addie's burned head was in one pot on the stove, and her hands and feet were in another. Her arms and legs which seemed to have seasoning on them were in the oven, and her torso was wrapped in plastic in the fridge. Zack had chopped carrots and potatoes which were next to the stove as if he was planning on making a meal of her body though no human flesh was found in his system.
The story shocked the citizens of New Orleans who were still reeling from the chaos of the aftermath of the storm. It was such a terrifying tale that media outlets across the country picked up the story for articles and true crime shows. Journalist Ethan Brown wrote about Zack and Addie in his 2009 book Shake the Devil Off: A True Story of the Murder That Rocked New Orleans. In 2014, Rob Florence composed a documentary entitled Zack and Addie, which was shown at film festivals and on small screens locally.
The story of the ill-fated couple has also been utilized for other money-making ventures that many people call exploitative. Tour guide Mary Millan set up Bloody Mary Haunted Museum & Tour in the building where the crime took place after Priestess Miriam of the Voodoo Spiritual Temple moved out in 2016. The fridge and stove remain in the place where they were when Addie's body was dismembered, but there have been fake blood stains added for effect. Addie's friend Capricho DeVellas said, "It's pretty despicable and atrociously exploitative," which summed up the feelings of many of their remaining friends as well as locals who didn't know them personally. Mary said of her tour, "It'd be stupid to pretend they weren't here. [People] are jealous they didn't do it first."
The story of Zack and Addie is one of extreme lifestyles, mental health issues, domestic violence, and a massive natural disaster with unnatural infrastructure failures that nearly decimated the city and its inhabitants.