Villisca “Axe Murder” House

villisca 1Located in the town of Villisca in southwestern Iowa, U.S.A., the home was residence to the Moore family. Between the late evening of June 9, 1912, and early morning of June 10, 1912, six members of the Moore family and two house guests were found bludgeoned in the house. All eight victims, including six children, had severe head wounds from an axe. A lengthy investigation yielded several suspects, one of whom was tried twice and acquitted. This heinous crime remains unsolved.

villisca 2The Moore family consisted of parents Josiah B. (aged 43), Sarah (née Montgomery) (39), and their four children: Herman Montgomery (11), Mary Katherine (10), Arthur Boyd (7), and Paul Vernon (5). An affluent family, the Moores were well-known and well-liked in their community. On June 9, 1912, Katherine Moore invited Ina Mae (8) and Lena Gertrude Stillinger (12) to spend the night at the Moore residence. That evening, the visiting girls and the Moore family attended the Presbyterian church where they participated in the Children’s Day Program, which Sarah Moore had coordinated. After the program ended at 9:30 p.m., the Moores and the Stillinger sisters walked to the Moores’ house, arriving between 9:45 and 10 p.m.

At 7 a.m. the next day, Mary Peckham, the Moores’ neighbor, became concerned after she noticed that the Moore family had not come out to do their morning chores. Peckham knocked on the Moores’ door. When nobody answered, she tried to open the door and discovered that it was locked. Peckham let the Moores’ chickens out and called Ross Moore, Josiah Moore’s brother. Like Peckham, Moore received no response when he knocked on the door and shouted. He unlocked the front door with his copy of the house key. While Peckham stood on the porch, Moore went into the parlor and opened the guest bedroom door, where he found Ina and Lena Stillinger’s bodies on the bed. Moore immediately told Peckham to call Hank Horton, Villisca’s primary peace officer, who arrived shortly thereafter. Horton’s search of the house revealed that the entire Moore family and the two Stillinger girls had been bludgeoned to death. The murder weapon, an axe belonging to Josiah, was found in the guest room where the Stillinger sisters were found.

Doctors concluded that the murders had taken place between midnight and 5 a.m. The killer or killers began in the master bedroom, where Josiah and Sarah Moore were sleeping. Josiah received more blows from the axe than any other victim; his face had been cut so much that his eyes were missing. The killer(s) went into the children’s rooms and bludgeoned Herman, Katherine, Boyd, and Paul in the head in the same manner as their parents. Afterward, the killer(s) moved downstairs to the guest bedroom and killed Ina and Lena.

villisca 3Over the years, this location has been purported to play host to haunts of the spirits of the tragic victims. Claims of phantom noises, disembodied voices, EVP, as well as object manipulation and spectral apparitions are among the ongoing paranormal activity reported at this location. It is one of the most sought after locations in the nation, with several well known paranormal investigation groups conducting televised investigations at the home. Much speculation surrounds the mystery behind the killer’s identity, leaving the haunts of the Villisca house to continue their tragic search for solace.