The True Story Behind the Hauntings at the Villisca Axe Murder House

Over a century later, the case is still cold —and the spirits still linger.

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The full story of the Villisca Axe Murder House is featured in episode 2 of House Beautiful’s new haunted house podcast, Dark House . Listen to the episode here .

When Darwin and Martha Linn bought the three-bedroom farmhouse at 508 East 2nd Street, in Villisca, Iowa, in 1994, they planned to turn it into a historical museum . Almost dollhouse-like in its simple layout, the home has the ubiquitous look of countless other cozy farmhouses across the country. The Linns wanted to revive the home and bring it back to its former glory (a status that came to an abrupt halt in 1912...more on that in a minute) to function as an interactive time capsule and a glimpse into what domestic life was like for the average Midwestern family in the early 20th-century. The walls had more to say though, and the Linns were ready to listen (I for one, haven't been able to get a good night's sleep ever since I heard the true story behind it—so reader, beware).

dark house podcast episode two

Soon after the Linns bought the home, they got an influx of requests from some unexpected inquirers: paranormal investigators who wished to visit the house to commune with the ghosts of the deceased victims who once lived there. While the couple hadn’t even heard of this profession, they quickly realized the little white Villisca farmhouse—possibly the most familiar-looking house in the most familiar-looking town in the country—was haunted, and that the museum should reflect its deep, dark history...

Over a century ago, on one terrible evening in 1912, eight people—the home’s occupants, Josiah B. Moore (43) and his wife Sarah Moore (39); their four children, Herman (11), Katherine (10), Arthur (7), and Paul (5); and their two young guests, Ina (8) and Lena Stillinger (12)—were murdered in the house in a grisly case that rattled the small but bustling town...and then went cold. Some of the most unsettling details about the crime scene, aside from the sheer brutality and tragedy of it, include a hidden attic, a door locked from the inside, and linens covering every window and mirror in the house.

And while every suspect and lead eventually turned into a dead end, the story of the Villisca House didn't actually stop there: The residual hauntings, whether understood as the actual spirits of the victims or the symbolic trauma of an unsolved tragedy, go on and on and on.

The house change hands a few times over the past 100 years, and the reported ghost encounters just keep accumulating. Things like disembodied giggles and screams, unexplained movements, a strange fog moving from room to room when the train passes through the town at the time of the murders, and strange behavior from visitors that indicate the possibility of possessions are just some of the activities that indicate a paranormal presence at the Villisca Axe Murder House. So while what happened there in 1912 makes it a terrifying place to be on its own, ghosts or no ghosts, it definitely continues to earn its title as one of America's most haunted houses.

.css-5r0fzd:before{content:'“';display:block;font-size:7.5rem;line-height:1.1;font-family:Apparel,Apparel-robotoFallback,Apparel-localFallback,Helvetica,Arial,Serif;margin-bottom:-4rem;letter-spacing:-0.015rem;background-image:none;} .css-1obaf1y{font-family:ApparelItalic,ApparelItalic-robotoFallback,ApparelItalic-localFallback,Georgia,Times,Sans-serif;font-size:2.0625rem;letter-spacing:0.015rem;line-height:1.1;margin:0rem;}@media(min-width: 48rem){.css-1obaf1y{font-size:2.625rem;line-height:1.1;}}@media(min-width: 64rem){.css-1obaf1y{font-size:2.625rem;line-height:1.1;}}.css-1obaf1y b,.css-1obaf1y strong{font-family:inherit;font-weight:bold;}.css-1obaf1y em,.css-1obaf1y i{font-style:italic;font-family:inherit;} “I don’t know if the murderer is still here, but things have happened that aren't exactly calming..." — Martha Linn

Today, the Villisca Axe Murder House serves as a paranormal hotel, where groups of six of fewer can pay $428 to book an overnight in the house. Accommodations are spare—in fact, it's recommended that guests pack their own sleeping bag (not that they'll be getting much sleep). When we spoke to Martha on the phone, she informed us that she simply hands the guests the keys when they arrive, and then leaves them alone for the night. But that's the real key: They probably won't be alone, if it really is as haunted as it's rumored to be.

inside the villisca axe murder house

As for Martha herself, she doesn't like to talk about her own ghost sightings in the house, as to not color the experience of the guests. She did, however, share this comment with us when we asked her who she thinks the ghosts are: "I feel like there's something there... If indeed there are spirits, you have to realize that six of them are children... I don’t know if the murderer still exists there, but there have been a few things that've happened that aren’t exactly calming... but I don't like to dwell on it." For anyone who isn't feeling quite as bold, tickets are available for daytime tours for $1o a person.

Curious to learn all the details of the Villisca Axe Murder House and why it's one of the most haunted places in the world? Listen to this week's episode of our haunted house podcast series, Dark House , for exclusive ghost stories and insights into the notorious home's haunted reputation.

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Hadley Mendelsohn is the co-host and executive producer of the podcast Dark House . When she's not busy writing about interiors, you can find her scouring vintage stores, reading, researching ghost stories, or stumbling about because she probably lost her glasses again. Along with interior design, she writes about everything from travel to entertainment, beauty, social issues, relationships, fashion, food, and on very special occasions, witches, ghosts, and other Halloween haunts. Her work has also been published in MyDomaine, Who What Wear, Man Repeller, Matches Fashion, Byrdie, and more.  

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The Villisca Ax Murders: 111 years later

Before their names were memorialized in true crime history, the Moores were your typical Iowa family.

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VILLISCA, Iowa — It's been 111 years since the tragic murders of eight people at a home in Villisca. To this day, the murders remain unsolved. 

Lora Castleman with Local 5's sister station in Arkansas learned more about the century-old mystery surrounding what happened on June 10, 1912. 

Before their names were memorialized in true crime history, the Moores were your typical Iowa family. 

"Everybody loved them," said Johnny Houser, a tour guide at the Villisca Ax Murder House . "Think of that family from your small hometown that everyone loves, everyone respects, nobody has a problem with." 

Josiah Moore, the patriarch of the family, was 43-years-old when he was murdered. His wife, Sarah, was 39. The couple had four children together: Herman (11), Mary (10), Arthur (7) and Paul (5).  

The night of the murder, Mary invited two of her friends, Lena Stillinger (12) and Ina Stillinger (8) to the home for a sleepover. 

What was meant to be a joyous night soon turned tragic. 

"Everyone's in bed, just like they went to sleep," Houser said. "Everybody loved them. And all of a sudden they wake up, and everyone's dead in bed." 

According to the Villisca Ax Murder House's website, it is believed that an unknown person entered the Moore's home sometime after midnight on June 10 and murdered all eight occupants. 

"All the blows were struck above the neck," said Edgar Epperly, author of Fiend Incarnate: Villisca Axe Murders of 1912. "That was true of all the victims. They had a face cloth over their face, which was a piece of clothing that the killer picked up. And they had the bed clothing pulled over that." 

Beyond the bodies, the scene left behind was full of chaos. 

"The ax was left downstairs, raw bacon laying on the floor, mirrors covered with sheets, food on the table, cigarette butts in the attic, bloody water," Houser said. "Just tons of crime scene, all destroyed by half the town wandering around looking at it."

Following the murder, many Villisca residents believed Iowa State Senator Frank F. Jones was the culprit. 

"[Josiah] had been a clerk for FF Jones in Jones's hardware and implement dealer," Houser said. "And about five years before the murder, [Josiah] left and became a competitor."

Meanwhile, authorities were looking into a different suspect: Reverend George Kelly, a traveling Presbyterian minister. 

"[He] was in Villisca the night of the murder," Epperly said. "He sent a bloody shirt to a laundry the week after the murder. It's a viable possibility that he was the killer. It can't be proven today, at least to my satisfaction." 

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Kelly was arrested and charged with murder in 1917. Kelly made a confession which was later withdrawn before his trial. 

Kelly's first trial resulted in a hung jury. He was acquitted at his second trial. 

Other suspects, such as William Mansfield and Henry Moore, were also considered. However, due to the lack of evidence, most of what historians know today is based on legend. 

"[It] comes down to small town gossip," Houser said. "I mean, it makes no sense." 

The memory of the eight victims lives on in Villisca, where the Moore home has been returned to its original condition at the time of the murders. 

The home is owned by Darwin and Martha Linn of Corning, Iowa, and is listed on the National Registrar of Historic Places. 

The house lives in infamy as one of Iowa's most haunted locations. The Villisca Ax Murder House has even been featured on the popular web series, Buzzfeed Unsolved . 

Brave souls can tour the Villisca Ax Murder House and even stay overnight, if they dare. For more information, click here . 

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Strange occurrences abound at the Villisca Ax Murder House more than a century after the infamous, unsolved crime

I didn't visit looking for proof of the paranormal—but I did discover a good ghost story

By Anna Hider

The Villisca Ax Murder House in Iowa is the kind of attraction that speaks for itself. It doesn’t need added kitsch or loads of billboards to bring in visitors. The name of the place says it all, and the gruesome legends surrounding the house are the only advertisements needed. The publicity comes naturally, mostly from true crime and ghost enthusiasts.

Eight people murdered in their beds

In the very early morning hours of June 11, 1912—sometime between midnight and 5 a.m.—eight people were bludgeoned to death with an ax inside the home of the Moore family, including all six family members and two friends of one of the daughters. Six of the victims were children.

An article on the murders in The Day Book, from June 14, 1912.

The night of June 10, mere hours before the killings, the family had gone to church, which ended at 9:30 p.m., and arrived back at the house around 9:45 or 10. Cigarette butts in the attic led investigators to believe that the killer snuck into the attic while the family was out and hid there until they fell asleep. Like most people in Villisca at the time, the Moore family didn’t lock the doors to their house when they went to church.

The parents, Josiah and Sarah Moore, were the first victims. The killer only used the blade of the weapon on Josiah, who received the most brutal beating; the rest of the victims were murdered with the blunt side of the ax, which had belonged to Josiah. The family friends who were staying in the guest room—Ina Mae Stillinger, age 8, and Lena Gertrude Stillinger, age 12—were the last to be killed. All of the victims except Lena appeared to have been asleep when they died. Lena was the only one who appeared to have defensive wounds, and was lying across the bed.

The guest room where the Stillinger girls were killed.

The ax was left in the guest room, next to a four-pound piece of slab bacon. At some point, the killer had covered all of the mirrors in the house with blankets and clothes, and cooked himself a plate of food, which was left untouched in the kitchen. He also left behind a bowl of bloody water. There’s something so hauntingly intriguing about little details like this in unsolved murders.

The gruesome killings were discovered the next morning, when Mary Peckham, the Moores’ neighbor, noticed that the family hadn’t started their morning chores around 7 a.m. She called Russ Moore, Josiah’s brother, who let himself in with his copy of the house key. After discovering the bodies of the Stillingers, he called the local peace officer, who called in investigators.

There were plenty of suspects, but the murder was never solved. One suspect, Reverend George Kelly, was actually tried for the murders. Kelly was a traveling minister who was in town the night of the crime. He was at the service the Moore family attended before their deaths, but inexplicably left town between 5 and 5:30 a.m. the next morning. He showed a suspicious interest in the murders, though, and after being in and out of trouble with the law for sending obscene material through the mail and a stint in a mental hospital, he was arrested for the murders in 1917. He confessed, then recanted, and was eventually tried and acquitted. It seems that most people didn’t believe that he was mentally or physically capable of the murders.

The room where the four Moore children were killed.

Ghostly encounters

Naturally, a house with such a dark and mysterious past quickly attracted rumors of a haunting. The house was lived in for years after the murder, although families never stayed for long. From what I can tell, there’s not a ghostly phenomena that hasn’t been reported at the house—disembodied footsteps, things moving, voices, apparitions, shadows, bad vibes. You name it, the Villisca Ax Murder House has it.

It’s been on basically every ghost hunting show, from Ghost Adventures to Scariest Places on Earth and all of the essential spooky podcasts, including Lore and My Favorite Murder . I became aware of the home in 2014 after a man staying there on an overnight ghost hunt inexplicably stabbed himself, an event that made national news .  

I love both a good unsolved crime and a bone-chilling ghost story, so on a recent road trip through Iowa, I decided to make a stop at the house for a bit of investigating of my own. The town of Villisca is small, but it’s a welcome oasis of civilization in an unending ocean of farmland. The Villisca Ax Murder House is right in the middle of a residential neighborhood, and its quaint and cozy exterior is a stark contrast to the legend that surrounds it. The house itself is kept in pristine condition, so the sales booth, gift shop, and bathroom are in the old barn on the other side of the tiny but tidy backyard.

The Villisca Ax Murder House was repainted and even had the indoor plumbing removed to look as it did in 1912.

On my way out of the barn to the house itself, I noticed a cork board with some photos pinned on it. Upon closer inspection, I realized that the pictures were evidence of paranormal spookiness going on. There were lots of nighttime pictures with ghostly orbs and even a snapshot of someone whose back had been scratched, supposedly by an unseen entity.

I didn't see any floating orbs in any of my pictures, sadly.

I wasn’t the only one visiting the ax murder house that afternoon. There was a group of three women in their 20s winding down their tour when I opened the door to the house, which appeared to give them and the tour guide, also a younger woman, a bit of a scare.

I walked around the house while the women finished their conversation with the guide. It’s not a big place, and it’s hard to imagine that there were eight people sleeping here that night, let alone that a murderer would be able to hide out in here undetected. The place was furnished with a creepy mix of period antiques and modern kids toys, which—while anachronistic—definitely lent an unsettling air to the place, especially in the kids’ room upstairs. Particularly haunting was the attic space, where the murderer allegedly hid out while he waited for the family to fall asleep. It was oppressively hot, and the feeling I had while up there can only be described as “dark.”

The door into the attic was tiny, and hidden in a closet.

The other group left as the guide, a Villisca local, started to tell me the story of the murder and of how the house came to be a tourist’s destination. The house was slated to be torn down, but a local woman named Martha Linn decided that it was an important piece of town history that was worth saving. After she bought the house in 1994, she quickly realized that there was a ton of organic interest in opening it for tours and overnight ghost hunts. She did some work to take out the plumbing and restore the appearance of the house to look as it did back in 1912, and then added period-appropriate decor—and it’s been well worth the effort.

Other than the regular, daylight hour tours, you can also book an overnight stay in the house. Those will set you back just over $400, and have proved very popular with ghost hunters and paranormal enthusiasts. The guide said that, as a local, she knew that most people in town didn’t buy into the ghost stories, and that kids like to tap on the windows when overnights are going on.

The period-appropriate antiques help set the scene.

I didn’t come here looking for proof of the paranormal, just a good ghost story, but I was still curious. My last question to the guide was if she’d ever personally experienced anything weird now that she works here. Her answer was a resounding yes.

From things moving to the sound of footsteps downstairs while she was on the second level, she’d had a few experiences of her own. As proof, she pointed to a toy car sitting on the old stove behind me. A bit earlier, she said, it had been lying on the other side of the stove, upside-down. I can’t be too sure if it was her mind or a ghost playing tricks on her, but either way, I definitely got what I came here for.

Daytime tours are held at the Villisca Ax Murder House Tuesdays through Sundays between 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. No pre-booking required. Tours are $10 for adults and $5 for children and seniors. To book an overnight stay, call (712) 621-1530.

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Retro find: villisca ax murder house, ‘one of nation’s most haunted places,’ was scene of gruesome crime.

Eight people were murdered in the house in 1912. It remains the largest unsolved ax murder in American history.

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Once home to a family of six, the Villisca Ax Murder House is now rumored to be home to ghosts and spirits.

An unknown assailant killed eight people in the Villisca, Iowa, home in 1912 — the family and their two young guests. Though there were many theories and suspects, there were no convictions. It remains the largest unsolved ax murder in American history.

Perhaps it is the lack of justice that fuels the stories of hauntings and supernatural events.

Watch the video for more on the spooky history of the Villisca Ax Murder House and see what strange events were captured on camera.

If you enjoyed this video, here are a few more spooky stories from our archive.

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The Ghosts of Villisca Axe Murder House

Few murders have gained as much notoriety as the Villisca Axe Murder House. The unsolved case still haunts investigators and detective work enthusiasts until now. No one has solved the crime and until now people are still searching for answers.

More than 100 years ago, long before the age of serial killers and murderers, there was one event in Villisca, Iowa which shook the town to its core. It made headline news or quite some time and until now it still intrigues people.

The Villisca house has been investigated several times and various paranormal investigation shows have filmed there. Many teams have spent the night in the house and have reported the same experiences. They reported a feeling of heaviness from the main stairwell of the house up to the rooms upstairs. Various videos and pictures have been taken showing orbs. Numerous EVP or electronic audio phenomena have also been recorded.

At 2.00 am the train passes through the town of Villisca and it is thought that the whistle of the train triggers the residual events of the murder. Many people have noticed a light fog filling up the bedroom just after the train whistle. It moves from one room to another and once it dissipates, the sound of dripping blood can be heard.

Brief History

The Villisca axe murders happened between the evening of June 9, 1912 and the early morning of June 10, 1912. It happened in the southwestern Iowa town of the same name. Six members of the Moore family, as well as their 2 guests died that day. They were bludgeoned to death and they all had severe head wounds from an axe.

A lengthy investigation happened afterwards. There were several suspects rounded up, one of whom was tried twice and acquitted. The crime remains unsolved until now.

The Moore family consisted of the father, Josiah; the mother, Sarah; and their four children, Paul, Boyd, Katherine and Herman. The Moore family was a known, affluent family who were well-liked in their community. At 7am in June 10, one of the Moore’s neighbors, Mary Peckham became concerned after she noticed that her neighbors did not come out to do any of their morning chores.

She knocked on the door and when no one answered. The door was locked so she called Josiah’s brother. He opened the door with his copy of the house key. Ross Moore went inside the house while Mary stood on the porch. To his horror, Ross discovered the people in the house bludgeoned to death. He asked Mary to call Villisca’s primary peace officer. The search of the house revealed that the murder weapon, an ax, was in the guest room where the Moore’s guests, the Stillinger girls, were staying.

There were lots of accusations and intrigues thereafter. People started locking their doors started openly carrying weapons to protect themselves. Even bloodhounds were brought in and law enforcement agencies from nearby towns even helped in the search. Several movies and books have recently reignited interest in the unsolved crime.

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The Villisca Axe Murders

Villisca murder house

The Villisca, Iowa home where two adults and six children were slain June 10, 1912.

Montgomery County in Iowa

Multiple Murders

Josiah b. “joe” moore, 43 sarah (montgomery) moore, 39 herman moore, 11 katherine moore, 10 boyd moore, 7 paul moore, 5 lena stillinger, 12 ina stillinger, 8 508 e. 2nd st. villisca, ia montgomery county june 10, 1912, case summary compiled by jody ewing.

Josiah "Joe" Moore

Josiah B. “Joe” Moore

Sometime around midnight between Sunday, June 9, and Monday, June 10, 1912, a person or persons entered a modest house in Villisca, Iowa, and bludgeoned to death eight people sleeping there, including two adults and six children aged 5 through 12. The killings became known as the “Villisca Axe Murders,” and are easily the most notorious murders in Iowa history.

Sarah Moore

Sarah Moore

The murders spawned nearly ten years of investigations, repeated grand jury hearings, a spectacular slander suit and murder trial, and numerous minor litigations and trials. The horrific crime made and broke political careers.

Legislation was written in response to the murder, including the establishment of the current State Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s predecessor.

The Night Before the Murders

Herman Moore

Herman Moore

On Sunday evening, June 9, 1912, Josiah (Joe) Moore and his wife Sarah took their four children, Herman, 11, Katherine, 10, Boyd, 7, and 5-year-old Paul to the Children’s Day service at the Presbyterian Church. Accompanying them were Lena (12) and Ina Stillinger (8), neighbors who had asked their parents’ permission to stay overnight with the Moore children.

Katherine Moore

Katherine Moore

The Children’s Day service was an end-of-the-year Sunday school program. Sarah Moore was a co-director and her children performed their little speeches and recitations along with the other Sunday school members.

The service ended with a social mingling that lasted until at least 9:30 p.m. When parishioners left on that cloudy, damp and cool night, no one suspected that neither the Moores nor their overnight guests would be seen alive again.

Paul Moore

They walked the three blocks to their home. Cookies and milk ended the festive evening, and all went to bed.

Sometime after midnight, the killer or killers picked up Joe’s axe from the back yard, entered the house, and bludgeoned to death all eight of its occupants.

Lena and Ina Stillinger

Lena and Ina Stillinger

By 7:30 a.m. on June 10th, Mary Peckham, an elderly neighbor to the west, became concerned that the Moore house seemed quiet and deserted. She called Joe’s brother Ross, a local druggist, who arrived at about 8:00 a.m. to look around. His cautious inspection of the downstairs revealed two figures covered with a sheet in the back bedroom, and he also saw blood on the bedstead.

Boyd Moore

Ross stepped back and away from the crime scene and called Joe’s hardware store, telling employee Ed Selley to fetch Marshal Henry “Hank” Horton, because something “terrible had happened.”

Hank arrived about 8:30 a.m., went through the house, and found — as he told Ross when he came out — “somebody murdered in every bed.” The partially cleaned murder weapon was left leaning against the south wall of the downstairs bedroom where the visiting Stillinger girls were found.

“Bizarre” Murder Scene

The killer had added two bizarre touches to the murder scene. The first was a four-pound piece of slab bacon leaning against the wall next to the axe. The murderer also had searched dresser drawers for pieces of clothing to cover the mirrors in the house and the glass in the entry doors. On the kitchen table was a plate of uneaten food and a bowl of bloody water.

The funeral procession for the Moore family and Stillinger sisters. (Courtesy photo Ancestry.com - "The Funeral in the Park")

The funeral procession for the Moore family and Stillinger sisters. (Courtesy photo Ancestry.com – “The Funeral in the Park”)

All the victims were found in their beds, their heads covered with bedclothes, and all had their skulls battered 20 to 30 times with the blunt end of an axe.

The ceiling in the parents’ bedroom and the children’s room upstairs showed gouge marks, apparently made by the upswing of the axe.

Though Lena Stillinger’s nightgown had been pushed up and she’d been left exposed, doctors concluded she had not been sexually abused. Lena also had a bloodstain on her knee and an alleged defensive wound on her arm.

The Moore-Stillinger funeral services were held in Villisca’s town square on June 12, 1912, with thousands in attendance. National Guardsmen blocked the street as a hearse moved toward the firehouse, where the eight victims lay. Their caskets, not on display during the funeral, were later carried on several wagons to the Villisca Cemetery for burial.

The funeral cortege was 50 carriages long.

villisca haunted house

Rev. George Kelly

The Reverend

At 5:19 a.m. the morning following the murders, the Reverend Lyn George Jacklin Kelly left Villisca on board the westbound number 5 train and allegedly told fellow travelers there were eight dead souls back in Villisca, Iowa — butchered in their beds while they slept, he said — even though the bodies had not yet been discovered.

Kelly had arrived in Villisca for the first time the Sunday morning of the murders and attended a Sunday school performance by the Stillinger girls before departing early Monday. He returned two weeks later, and, posing as a detective, joined a tour of the murder house with a group of investigators.

Authorities first became interested in Rev. Kelly a few weeks after the murders after being alerted by recipients of his rambling letters.

villisca haunted house

The Moore family was buried at the Villisca Cemetery. (Courtesy Ancestry.com)

Kelly — the son and grandson of English ministers — had suffered a mental breakdown as an adolescent. Since immigrating to America with his wife in 1904, Kelly had preached at Methodist churches across North Dakota, Minnesota, Kansas and Iowa. He’d been assigned as a visiting minister to several small communities north of Villisca, where he developed a reputation for odd behavior. He’d also been convicted of sending obscene material through the mail and had spent time in a mental hospital.

A Grand Jury indicted Kelly for Lena Stillinger’s murder, and he was interrogated throughout the summer of 1917 while in jail awaiting trial.

lena-and-ina-stillinger-gravestone

Lena and Ina Stillinger are buried together at the Villisca Cemetery. (Courtesy photo Hiesela, findagrave.com)

On August 31 at 7 a.m., Kelly signed a confession to the murder, saying God had whispered to him to “suffer the children to come unto me.”

Kelly recanted his confession at trial, and his case went to the jury on September 26. The jury deadlocked eleven to one for acquittal. A second jury was immediately empanelled, but acquitted Rev. Kelly in November.

No one else has ever been tried for the murders, and the crime remains one of the most horrific, unsolved mass murders in American history.

Villisca: Living with a Mystery

On June 10, 2004, Fourth Wall Films released a documentary feature film, “Villisca: Living with a Mystery,” which first premiered in Des Moines. Filmmakers Kelly and Tammy Rundle combined period photographs, computer animation, original art, limited re-enactments, and interviews with historians, eyewitnesses, town residents, and forensic experts to shed light on the then-92-year-old mystery and to reveal the face of a new suspect.

The documentary, now available on DVD, features Dr. Edgar Epperly, the historian considered the foremost authority on the Villisca murders.

Ten years in the making, the documentary explores the possibility that the Villisca crime and similar murders in Monmouth, Illinois, Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Ellsworth, Kansas, may have been the work of one of America’s first serial killers.

CourtTV reporter Catherine Crier interviewed Kelly Rundle and Dr. Epperly for a program that aired November 21, 2006. The interview is shown below.

“Villisca” director Kelly Rundle and historian Dr. Edgar Epperly are interviewed by Catherine Crier November 21, 2006 | CourtTV

The 100-Year Anniversary

On June 10, 2012, a number of Iowa newspapers covered the 100-year anniversary of Iowa’s most highly profiled crime. KCRG-TV9’s piece featured an additional video with a tour inside the notorious home. Both videos may be found below.

100 Years After Iowa Ax Murders, Case Remains Unsolved — KCRG TV-9, Airdate June 10, 2012

Villisca Murder House Tour: 100 Years After Iowa Ax Murders, Case Remains Unsolved — KCRG TV-9, Airdate June 10, 2012

New documentary coincides with 101st anniversary

A new documentary about the slayings made its debut Monday, June 10, 2013, on Facebook. Rockford, Ill., filmmaker Stuart Wahlin premiered The Ax Man Enigma: The real-life inspiration behind “Slay Utterly” to coincide with the Villisca murders’ 101st anniversary.

“Villisca is the most well-known in this series of crimes, largely attributable to the popularity of paranormal TV shows that have featured the house where the murders occurred,” Wahlin said in a Rock River (IL) Times article published June 7, 2013. “But what few people realize is that the Villisca crime scene was not unique.”

During a two-year period (1911-1912), a rash of eerily similar ax murders swept across the Midwest. Leaving unique crime scene signatures in his wake, it is believed the “Ax Man” may have been responsible for at least two-dozen murders, said Wahlin. No one was ever brought to justice.

“The documentary is really aimed at educating people about the case, while also generating interest in our upcoming feature film,” Wahlin added, noting The Ax Man Enigma’s release also coincided with a Kickstarter fund-raising campaign for Slay Utterly , a modern crime thriller inspired by the case. That film is slated for a 2014 release.

Wahlin, a former Rockford journalist, was awarded Best Director at the Prairie State Film Festival in Chicago last year for his film, Hand of Glory .

Other Updates

In June 2017, the new fictional horror film, “The Axe Murders of Villisca,” was released on the popular streaming site Netflix. A Daily Nonpareil article published June 12, 2017, said Netflix describes the film as, “Three ghost-hunting teens get more than they bargained for when they break into a historic home where eight people were murdered over a century ago.”

KCCI.com ‘s Damond Fudge reviewed the film, and said the incident is used as a springboard, of sorts, for the film’s story, which is set in the present day and “more interested in being a standard haunted house tale than a study of a tragic small town horror.”

Fudge said of the film:

While there are some good things to be found during the short, 74-minute runtime, they’re outweighed by a lot of awfulness. The movie, as a whole, is a jumbled mess that leaves a lot of unanswered questions. . .

Read his deftly written review here .

Sources and References:

  • Villisca Axe Murders Official Website
  • “ Villisca Axe Murder House focus of new movie on Netflix ,” by Krystal Sidzyik, The Daily Nonpareil, June 12, 2017
  • “ Review: Is ‘The Axe Murders of Villisca’ worth your time? ” by Damond Fudge, KCCI.com, June 11, 2017
  • “ This movie shows just how creepy the Villisca Axe Murder House really is ,” by Aaron Young, The Des Moines Register, January 12, 2017
  • “ What makes the Villisca Ax Murder House so spooky? ” Des Moines Register VIDEO, July 16, 2016
  • ‘Ghost Hunter’ stabs himself at ‘Ax Murder House’ during paranormal investigation, by Ben Axelson, November 10, 2014
  • Wisconsin man injured in stabbing at Villisca Axe Murder House , by John Schreier, The Daily Nonpareil, Friday, November 7, 2014
  • Stabbing reported at Villisca Axe Murder house, KCCI.com, November 7, 2014
  • New Indie Film ‘Slay Utterly’ Explores the Uncaught Ax Murderer of Iowa – HorrorMovies.ca , January 2014
  • TV series will revisit Villisca ax murders | The Des Moines Register | desmoinesregister.com, by Melanie Lageschulte, Nov. 24, 2013
  • The Ax Man Enigma: The real-life horror behind ‘Slay Utterly’ from Stuart Wahlin on Vimeo , June 10, 2013
  • “Local award-winning director to release documentary exploring murder case,” The Rock River (IL) Times , June 7, 2013
  • “100 Years After Iowa Ax Murders, Case Remains Unsolved,” KCRG-TV9, June 10, 2012
  • “ Ax Murder House ,” The Sioux City Journal, Sept. 22, 2010
  • “Villisca: Mass Murder in Iowa,” TruTV Crime Library, By Katherine Ramsland
  • “ The Odd Little Preacher ,” The Daily Kos, May 24, 2009
  • “Restored House reminiscent of old Villisca slayings,” The (Council Bluffs) Daily Nonpareil, Nov. 3, 2008
  • “Mahaska County Reads” visits ax murder house in Villisca, The Oskaloosa Herald, Oct. 15, 2008
  • “Axe Murder Mystery: Interview with “Villisca” director Kelly Rundle and historian Dr. Edgar Epperly,” by Catherine Crier, CourtTV, November 21, 2006
  • “ Murder Axe Used in Iowa’s Worst Mass Homicide to be Donated to Historical Society on Halloween Night – Crime is as Intriguing as the Black Dahlia ,” PR.com Press Release, October 29, 2006
  • “ Iowa murder documentary coming to Sioux City Theater ,” The Sioux City Journal, March 20, 2005
  • “ Press Release: VILLISCA – Living with a Mystery ,” villiscamovie.com, January 7, 2005
  • “ Unsolved Iowa Murders Defy All Probe Efforts ,” by Pat Curran, The Centerville Iowegian, May 26, 1965
  • The New York Times, Sept. 2, 1917: “Says He Killed Eight at God’s Command: Iowa Preacher Studying Sermon on “Slay Utterly” When Impulse to Slay Seized Him
  • Villisca: Living With a Mystery (movie site at villiscamovie.com)
  • Villisca Axe Murders, 1912 (Compilation of newspaper articles at iagenweb.org)
  • Cold Case: Murders of 1912 (voices.yahoo.com)
  • Josiah B. “Joe” Moore (1868 – 1912) — Find a Grave Memorial
  • Sarah Montgomery Moore (1873 – 1912) — Find a Grave Memorial
  • Herman Montgomery Moore (1900 – 1912) — Find a Grave Memorial
  • Mary Katherine Moore (1902 – 1912) — Find a Grave Memorial
  • Arthur Boyd Moore (1905 – 1912) — Find a Grave Memorial
  • Paul Vernon Moore (1907 – 1912) — Find a Grave Memorial
  • Lena Gertrude Stillinger (1900 – 1912) — Find a Grave Memorial
  • Ina May Stillinger (1903 – 1912) — Find a Grave Memorial
  • Ancestry.com
  • Josiah B. Moore, “Iowa, Deaths and Burials, 1850-1990” — FamilySearch.org
  • Person Details for Josiah B Moore, “BillionGraves Index” — FamilySearch.org
  • Josiah B Moore | Billion Graves Record , billiongraves.com
  • Iowa Gravestone Project

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206 responses to villisca axe murders.

I’ve always had my own theory. People ask how no one woke up? I have always believed. They invited someone they knew over for dinner. Or they were hiding in the attic. Thus the uneaten food. And they had some how drugged everyone in the house. Through their food. Therefore they never woke during the attacks. This happened way before forensic science. So who knows.

They had a little museum at knotts berry farm when I was a kid in the 1970s they had the axe from this crime at there museum it was shut down years ago wonder what happend to the axe!

I heard the axe is on display at the Iowa Historical Museum in downtown Des Moines.

I want that axe!

i most deff think that this is the weirdest crimes iv heard it kinda makes no sense to me,what did he have agianst them? what was his motive where would he have hid if you can hear every tiny thing like a sneeze it blows my mind the things people do to others

I was reading this and realized that there had to be more than one murderer and if not why didn’t anyone hear? Especially those in the same room. The oldest guest did have defensive wounds on her body and while she was fighting off the attacker, did she scream? Why didn’t others hear? If the two guests were killed last how come they didn’t hear anyone else scream? Even if all were asleep. You would of had to hear the ax.

My first reaction when hearing about this. It has been stated that the first blows rendered all victims practically motionless so I wouldn’t be surprised to hear it made them inaudible as well, if only long enough for the second blow. Fortunately we can not test this theory. Still I can’t imagine a killer EXPECTING no one to make a sound as they attempt to kill 8 people. And this brings up the questions: 1. Was only one person the intended victim? 2. If so then who was killed first? After watching “Villisca: Living With A Mystery” I’ve come to the conclusion that it was a psychopath/serial killer. Most probably Henry Lee Moore. If any one specific person was the victim then it appears they could have easily committed the deed and left but to go after 8 people in 3 different rooms and on 2 different levels tells me that all of them were intended to die. I can’t state it enough. WATCH THAT MOVIE So many repetitive questions here a answered in it PLUS you learn so much more. A GREAT documentary.

I would love to know if there is anything left that was collected from the crime scene. As big of a case that this was nationaly you would think they might have some left. As we all too well now know, when you have a scene this bloddy and physical, the murderer most likey left some of himself at the scene along with his victim. If evidence still existed it would be a great chance to see what these experts we have today could maybe find…….just a thought

ya – test dna from the crazy preacher

Whatever happened to Pastor Kelly! My mother was raised in Villisca and her brother-i-law was a private detective from the railroad on the case. My mother is no longer living nor any of her family that I can inquire with.

I heard that dogs had tracked the murderer to the river and lost the scent!

Does anyone know the bedroom ceiling height?

In Dec 1904..a very pregnant Ella Fox Barrett with the homeowner and wife were killed before house set ablaze…the two ladies were beaten to death and laid very respectfully on a bed while the man of the house was beheaded and axe was left on the floor next to his body…axe was always left in out house…so killer retrieved it from there…this happened in Monticello Arkansas. Today that site remains one of the most haunted places in America.

I really enjoyed reading all of these comments, scenarios, and opinions. Thank you all.

I don’t know how relevant this is but it is sure an entertaining video I found on YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fugiTaeVC_4

sorry .. it’s been taken down. It was a video trying to link all the axe murders so prevalent at the time. Wish I could find it again.

When I went there the tour guide that lived next door at the time stated that a family of there came there the week prior and the daughter was autistic or special and when she went into the attic (where they think the killer or killers hid) she began hysterically – saying bad man bad man in white. Many wondered if a doctor or someone who would have access to chloroform – could have committed the murders.

family of three (typo)

If G Kelly was in that attic space, at 5’2″ and thin, and emerged around midnight, he might have been identified by either of the Moores in wakefulness in the dark as one of the children.

They had no indoor plumbing, in the way of a bathroom. Perhaps it is plausible to imagine that during warmer months, the kids created late night traffic through the house to visit the outhouse in back, and as such, create a routine background noise during sleeping hours, never considered suspicious at all by the sleeping adults.

Kevin Colston: “They has no indoor plumbing; it’s plausible… the kids created traffic to the outhouse and back…” I also considered this, but in a house with that many children (4 not counting the Stillinger girls) there were closets in each room, and they would likely have had bed pans. It’s possible they didn’t, but when you have small ones you don’t want to get up with them several times a night. You would probably have a water pitcher and basin, with a cup that older children can help the youngest with and, a few chamber pots inside their closet. I don’t know if this is true, but I heard that they had milk and cookies before bed. A mother as experienced as Sarah was, would not have given them milk immediately before bed, if she wasn’t assured that they would be able to access the toilet quickly. The youngest two were ages 7 and 5. Just a practical mom’s point of view. It still doesn’t necessarily rule anything out.

Good theory about the chamber pots. You wouldn’t want your young children running about outside early morning to use the outhouse. But then again, perhaps there wasn’t the fear we have today about our children’s safety. Who’s to know. Very tragic……very interesting.

“They have”, not “They has” – excuse the typo, lol

Good theory about the chamber pots. Wonder how strict parents were back then as far as any of the children using the outhouse at night? Everyone was so much less fearful back then.

These events obviously took place after the 2200 dismissal at the church. Maybe midnight? How dark was it? How does a killer navigate a dark house with no light, without waking someone? That house is small. One sneeze after bedtime would certainly be heard. Moore had enemies, competitors in business. Is it possible there were two killers?

He used an oil lamp with the chimney removed and the wick turned low. Same MO he used in other crimes. This was one of his signatures.

I believe it was a person that was very religious I say this because of the bacon wrapped in a towel in the kids room and i believe this person went to there church the old saying about pig in a blanket was said to be pretty much about wrapping the meat to hide that your eating it as a religious point when your not supposed to I’d look back in to all the people who went to there church I believe that’s were they would find the one responsible

Theres a new book called The Man from the Train. The author went thru old newspapers and found there were more than 20 killings like this near railroad tracks. The authors theory is that the man was a pedophile who killed families with little girls. Its gross but there was often bacon found at the crime scenes. The author thinks the killer used the bacon fat to masturbate. The killer may have been a lumberjack who traveled by train.

I’m going to put forth my theory, crazy as it may sound. I think the father did it.

Look at it with forensic psychology. Of all the victims, the adult male’s face was completely demolished. This happens for two reasons – 1 – the killer is in a rage, or 2 – the killer is trying to obscure the identity of the body. The whole house speaks of cool calculation, not a crazy rage.

And there is this – how could so many people be killed quietly with so much violence? My answer is that they were drugged. Something slipped into a bedtime glass of milk, say?

Now the obvious question is where did the dead man come from? The same source where most of the suspects come from – the train, and the transients who walked through town. The father could have offered him a job, some charity like new clothes, or food. The father might have killed him in advance (since time of death determination was really crude at that time) or arranged for him to come to the house late at night. The man could have been poisoned in the kitchen (the uneaten meal) or with blunt force that was then obscured by the axe blows. The father dressed him in his clothes and finished the job.

For a few loose ends, the food and bacon left the impression of an outsider. So did the cigarettes, though those might have been smoked while the father waited for, you guessed it, the train. He slipped out into the dark and went to start a new life.

Makes sense. They could exhume and compare dna.

I’m not gonna lie, I just started doing deep research on this murder case and all of these replies and comments have me thinking! This case and all of the conspiracy theories are crazy!! I wish I could see the actual legal reports and the evidence so I could look at it! It would be super cool to have an actual answer to the biggest US crime case of “WHO DONE IT?”!

I agree very much with you Serena. I have also been looking into it and the world needs answers.

Cannot help but think this has a connection to the 1904 Ella Fox murder done with an axe…too much in common. If someone was to do the research, think it would be discovered that many other cases exist….this is the kind of thing that CANNOT be a solo act…just has to be others….this kind of Psycho doesn’t stop at one or two….

What an interesting theory! I personally keep thinking it was the father too, or perhaps a teenage boy close to the family or part of the family.I get a sense of a secret and pain perhaps abuse and the need to cover it up or to end it. What if the preacher witnessed it (just a thought), What if someone committed the act but someone with their own issues went in the house after?I also feel have this feeling the mother might of been a main target out of anger and hurt. Was the father having relations with Lena? So many thoughts.

The house is close to a train track you can hear it from the ghost hunting videos.

It also states there have been 2 dozen similar murders throughout the Midwest, did the father do these as well?

A new book titled The Man from the Train makes a good case for whodunit, saying this wasnt an isolated case….

who want’s to go their

Meeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!!! AND the Lizzie Borden bread n breakfast!!!

I always wished some one could provide a map of the Stillinger place to the Moore house.

Jim Farrell, I have maps…jynnxter – at – Hotmail – dot – com

why did family?. were the girls sexually messed with?. nice looking family. good people.

One would have to understand the religious climate of the day. The Stillinger children did not attend public school, and one map from 1912 places the Stillinger school on their property. The church service the two attended with the Moore’s was Christian…and in those days, Amish, Mormon, Mennonite and other sects separated themselves because of their ‘different views’ regarding proper treatment of girls and women. Lena was the object of the event, and the scene found in the morning, was exactly according to the ”Blood atonement ritual” practiced by the fundamentalist Mormons. The ‘hints’ were all documented in the first few days after the murders took place. You’ve never heard this before because it has been the missing piece of evidence that no one noticed…. and of course the fact that they were all ‘knocked in the head’ and placed in their beds before Lena was forced to witness what had to be done to protect their community of brothers and sisters.

Watched the movie, hence, googled the incident. Creepy and unsettling. Made me appreciate the movie, which I thought was a little cheesy, not so bad.

There are murderers who cover the face of the victims they know and murderers who cover all mirrors to ensure they don’t see themselves because in their mind, it’s not them commiting the crime. There was no evidence of sexual assault on the girl but there was evidence of defensive wounds. Could it be possible that she’s the only one who saw the killers face and recognized them and she was left in a sexual pose to shame her so she wouldn’t be believed or even heard in the spirit life so that when the killer died, there would be no judgement from her words?!? Remember that this was 1912 and an unmarried female who wasn’t a virgin would be prosecuted in heaven and on earth. Also think about the fact that in the old testament it is a sin to eat pork because it’s a white meat, the same as humans. If the murderer actually took the large slab of bacon out of the house freezer, maybe they were murdered for the sin of eating pork ?! I believe that anyone capable of commiting a crime like this has to be mentally ill; even psychotic, which means they wouldn’t think the same as someone without mental illness. Therefore, possibly making all reasons for why/how things were done totally impossible to figure out. Just my thoughts !

Very analytical response. Thank you for educating me on the values and consequences of that era

The very first fact that your comment twisted is why many have followed false leads and gossip…that’s a shame. Do you know that in 1912, penetration was the gauge for ‘assault’ of a GIRL, but a married woman could not accuse anyone of rape…no matter what the circumstances or the perpetrator. Children had less… no rights. No voice…they worked without pay, and were subjected to any condition at the will of their ‘father /provider’. Women were considered as valuable as livestock and married for the dowry to enhance the position in the community, and would lose title to their ‘joint’ property when the husband died for any reason.

Ever think it might have been the neighbors son? He was mentally I’ll and she could have came over and covered their faces and the mirrors…she could have been the one to clean up the mess. She was up early washing clothes and why did she call the brother instead of walking over there and knocking on the door? We will never know….

Who ever did it, died many years ago. I’m just saying

Malinda Maria Sharp 104 years and 1 day

Iowa Public Television has been showing the documentary about it, which is also available on Netflix. Very good movie, and also names the most likely culprit.

What is the title of that Sarah? Thanks

Villisca: Living With A Mystery. Watch the extras if you get the DVD. http://www.villiscamovie.com/

Is that the same title on Netflix? I don’t have it on mine unless I’m looking up a wrong title. But searching I can’t find anything that has to do with Villisa.

Thanks, Sarah Rushton! I didn’t know it was on Netflix now. :-)

It was back when I watched it. I just looked and you are right – it’s not on their list, at least for Instant Watch. Ask about it at your local library; if they don’t have it, they can order it or get it through interlibrary loan.

I did a Halloween tour – VERY interesting!!

Spent the night at that house. Pretty crazy.

Sorry to find no one reads these comments anymore. As in 1912, and thru the hundred years since, thousands of people have learned of this tragic event, but must have moved on, as each piece of evidence and theories were dis-proven. The right evidence has been overlooked or otherwise discarded, in the interest of public decency. The key to this case is child sexual abuse within the Stillinger family, and the eldest sister orchestrated the murders, after the Lizzy Borden event, 20 years earlier…using the slab of bacon as the purpose for going to the Moore’s home, late that night. She created the opportunity whereby Mr and Mrs Moore were murdered first, by masquerading as Lena in the closet to use the ‘pot’. Determined to protect her family name, there was only one way to keep secret (the ‘unmentionable behavior) of sibling incest’. But if Josiah hinted or even explained the reason he would keep Lena and Ina overnight, Edith was the one person of interest, and the only person to hear what was discussed in the call. Despite laws, the silent crime continues in families today (as prison inmate statistics support), it is the one secret that explains clearly, why they all had to die…including Lena and Ina) who had told their ‘secret’ to Sarah and Josiah on the walk home, that night.

i apologize for possibility the name used in my previous comment…it may be incorrect

Joyce, I’m curious here. This is the first time I’ve read about this scenario anywhere and I’ve done a lot of reading up on this case. Where is this information coming from?

What Angela said! I’ve been studying this case for years & have NEVER read this “incest” scenario. Sounds pretty far fetched to me!

There was No Evidence of sexual abuse

According to reports the killer used a side of bacon found near the body of one of the children. The implication was that some sort of perverted act was performed. If you Google this case, you find that there were at least four other cases or murder in the mid-west and west coast that had the same MO as the Iowa murders. Forget all this hoo-hah about the “Reverend”. He was demented and neurotic, but he did not do it. You’re dealing with a serial killer who rode the rails.

The reason for the murders was “unmentionable’ in those days…which allowed the truth of the matter to go ‘un-exposed’. All investigations have tried to connect the event to the Moore family, when all they did was protect the 2 little neighbor girls from walking home with their abusive brothers…

I’ve always had a theory that Josiah and/or Sarah called out the name of the murderer during the attack which prompted him(her?) to murder everyone else in the house for fear of being found out. This of course would mean they knew the murderer.

The flaw in your theory is that the person or persons unknown found the children asleep. There was no need to worry about anyone having heard anything. The murderer(s) would have got out of Dodge (quietly) as soon as it was ascertained that the children were still asleep.

It actually increased the risk of someone being awakened when the killer(s) bludgeoned the children. No, the culprit(s) wanted everybody dead.

I just read a book about this recently, called Morning Ran Red! The author, Stephen Bowman had some interesting ideas. https://www.amazon.com/Morning-Ran-Red-Villisca-Murders/dp/0595131085/177-6659822-2489616?ie=UTF8&*Version*=1&*entries*=0

Was a very interesting experience! Totally spiritual…Believe it or not.

Found a link about Henry Lee Moore being a strong suspect in this case: http://murderpedia.org/male.M/m/moore-henry-lee.htm

I cannot figure out how they were all murdered without awaking some of them. I visited the inside of the house and the parents bedroom really wasn’t that far away. Could they have been poisoned before being axed? And if Mansion or someone was hired to do it, why would they kill the whole family and two neighbor children? They could have found Mr. Moore alone and knocked him off. ???

Josiah was not the intended victim! But the murderers could not be sure who else had heard what was said in the conversation from the Moore’s home to the Stillinger’s home. The Stillinger girls knew the people they let into the house that night…they all recognized their assailants, and would have exposed the ‘unmentionable’ secret, (child abuse)

Much of the evps, pics and testimonials validate this POV

Joyce, what you said does make sense.But still, how do all these people get murdered without awakening someone. I read the book (Murdered in Their Sleep). I still think about the whole thing a lot and cannot help to believe from everything I read that the crazy perverted preacher wasn’t involved.

Joyce, appreciate you for speaking up for abused children and understand your agenda. That is commendable. Respectfully disagree with you in this case.

Richard, believe you are correct. This has the hallmarks of a serial killer. It “fits the profile”.

Many serial killers have a history of “porn” aka “obscene material”. The “perverted preacher” had such a history. Another common behavior among serial killers is returning to the scene of the crime. Again, the “perverted preacher” did so. They also leave “signatures”. The crime scene had many: the lamp, the clothing over the windows, covering the faces, locking the doors from the inside, time of crime, etc. Serial killers repeat their crimes. There is evidence this one repeated similar crimes at least three times in the region.

If the younger children heard anything, like most frightened children, they probably would have cowered under their sheets in hopes of becoming invisible. They weren’t killed because they could identify anyone. They were killed for the thrill of it.

The eldest daughter had no need to kill any of them as she could have simply said, “No” to the Moore request on the phone and not have had a “problem”. One can imagine throughout the remainder of her life, she suffered the guilt of having sanctioned the overnight stay.

That would be imagining on my part and not fact; just as accusing the grieving Stillinger family of child sexual abuse is imagining. It’s something Stillinger descendants might find offensive. There is no conclusive evidence of the preacher having harmed anyone either nor is there evidence of the girls having been abused at home or anywhere else for that matter.

There is evidence of a serial killer.

I agree with you G.S. Also the book said that the perverted preacher would walk around at night and chant “slay and slay again”. Everything indicated that he was definitely at the house that night. Why was he on the train leaving town ? This guy was insane and I believe you’d have to be insane to commit this gruesome mass murder. Also in court his defense attorney claimed he was too small of a person to swing an axe high enough to commit the murders. A ten year old could wing an axe. On top of everything else he admitted to the murder. This perverted preacher is still my prime suspect. I am still puzzled as to how he did it without awakening the others. Perhaps he murdered the parents first.

For people who have spent so many years trying to make sense of the crime using the ‘wrong pieces’, it is understandable that resorting to the ‘deranged murderer or serial killer’ would be all you are left to think. But, you have to use the religious and social climate and conditions of that day, not today. Many people are in love with the mystery, but not with exposing what took place after dark one night in 1912. My comment was not up for approval…. merely to show the event thru the eyes of the innocent who experienced life and death, at a time when children were expendable and abuse undefined. I have given what I came here to leave with others…. thank you, Jody Ewing for giving me the time and place to deliver these thoughts over the expanse of time.

I have visited this house. It don’t believe it is the traveling preacher. I believe it was someone else in the town that had a vendetta. From what I understand, it’s possible that Josiah had an affair and had another child.

And ghost hunters

They do tours and I believe overnights. Ghost Adventures did an episode there too.

haunting murders.

Kayla Ceniseros

Kalli Lyman

Joshua Allan Felkins

Loved doing a investigacion on this place!! Got tons on evidence back!! Going to go again this year!!

Mike Wilwol

Heather Cramblit Whitmore

I think it was Jeremy Draman!

People still call it the Villisca Axe Murder House

Tracy Walbert

Anna Bierman De Leon

Wasn’t me.

Crista Davis

Karisma Sullivan

I have read about this case (very interesting) and have a couple of DVD’s about it.

Interesting!

Lorie Nash Hawks

If you’re so sure the reverend did it because “There was no possible way he could’ve known all that information without being there”, you’ve obviously never lived in a small town where everyone knows everybody. The reverend may have been perverted and mentally ill, but that surely doesn’t automatically make him a killer. In all honesty, we have the technology to find out who truly committed the murders, but we never will because they’re too busy making money off of the house, the case, and the story. The way they look at it: if they leave the case unsolved, it keeps people interested and gives them more time to make more money. Just saying. Mason is right: Unclean, Unseen, Modesty. The killer was more than likely brought up in an unsanitary/unclean environment, and was surrounded by abuse (it doesn’t necessarily mean he/she was the one abused. It could just mean they were forced to witness it). The covered mirrors, being unseen…This could mean that maybe he/she had a deformity or was shamed and forced to stay hidden from the public.

He probably just forgot to take the bacon with him when he left, as to the covers over the mirror that was a common practice when there was a death, as well as stopping the clocks. They would not be restarted until after the funeral. Henry Moore, not related to the family was a transient who rode the trains. He was thought to have committed similar murders by creeping in while the owners were sleeping and killing them in their beds.

I thought covering mirrors was a Jewish tradition as they sit Shivah after a death?

According the time frame, Kelly left and told people on the train, before anyone went to go check out the family. So how would he have known about it before anyone else in town knew?

He could have taken a confessional from someone else in town on the evening late that it happened before leaving town the next day.

This had been disputed and the elderly couple who made the statements later stated they couldn’t remember, as I recall. I still lean towards Henry Lee Moore as the suspect.

I agree, Makayla….covering the mirrors was customary, to keep the soul of the departed safe…but in this case, the windows were likely covered at the time the windows were closed and blinds were pulled. It is likely, too, Lena was made to look at all the people who were killed because she told Sarah the secret behavior that they feared, if they walked home with their brothers that night.

I’m confused so when was Sarah Moore told anything about secret behavior and who would have known about it if she was murdered too. I don’t argue if that’s the case it might very well have been the brothers who committed the crime and being youth of the community were protected and harbored from being suspects.

The Bacon represents Unclean! The ccovered mirror means Unseen! Which means the whole exsposed girl means modesty

was he mentally impaired

why did he kill the family

Are you fucking kidding me? He admits to doing this, leaves that same morning and tells people what happened BEFORE anyone knew it had happened, and he STILL gets acquitted TWICE?? Get the fuck outta here. He either did it, or the police did, and tried to pin it on him for propaganda. It WAS election time, smh.i hope whomever did this,dies. Im suspicious about this coroner who denied sexual assault to Lena, even though she was exposed. FBI/cops do so much dirt, i believe they have alot of blood on their hands

There was no FBI involved. There was a man named Henry Moore who is also considered a likely suspect. He is accused of at least two other murders with the same MO. There is a paper written by relative of his.She believes he was the killer. Check it out.

Really? You hope who’s responsible dies? No shit Sherlock! The murders happened over 100 years ago! It might be safe to say they’re dead! God, I hate stupid people!

One thing that I found interesting is the senator at the time had taken the ax and left it at a masonic temple and a fake one was in use at the trial

Interesting to know… Masons seem to leave their calling card behind many dark events. I believe they are also connected with the non-Christian cults. Hmmm!

so i went and investigated the villisca iowa house november 12th 2014 , and im just curious about what all did people catch threw the spirit box or on a digital recorder ,im not going to say what my group caught until i hear other peoples feed back just because maybe someone will hear a name or something we caught and say they caught the same thing and maybe it was completely different, i dont know im really curious so , if your willing to inform me or conversate about your experience or information , anything please give me an email _ [email protected] . our group is also called TCPRI , visit our website _ tcpri.webs.com. – Thank you.

thank you all good things come at their own time. Looking forward to joining your group.

that was fucking wrong to judge the lady Owen that house she didn’t make money off if it the thing is u need to be burn to the ground

I agree. It should be burned down.

What is your problem? Who are you to judge? And that's nasty of you to say you hope she burns in hell. SHAME on you, jerk

its is obvious that a member of the church, that was present that night, committed the murder. the Rev's activities and actions were very suspicious but i think a tall man in their mid to late 30s that was present at the church that night, not necessarily having close relationship with the family, was at fault. the attack didnt seem to have been committed by someone that knew the family well… likely a new member of the church that recently joined within the last month or two…

The two littlee girls that were not related that were neighbors We're my bffs family

Me to I want to stay in it with my mom and friends.

Jane Arenholz

My husband and I stayed the night there overnight and got a ton of evidence that it haunted. Such a sad story

Kesha Kaufman

I love this case and the Villisca Axe Murder House so so much.

Nick ; I really can’t see the house good, but to me, it looks like your house

Ryan Arenholz

Oooo spooky

I’m sorry but this is making me I’ll.

That house is beautiful but eerie. And the land surrounding it is amazing.

This is really sad! It is a horrific murder, & dad it was never solved!

Dan Brewster

Jennifer Moore

Heather Mesmer Amber L Harrington

It was a one of a kind experience staying here…wish we could have gone up tonight. Such a terrible tragedy

Carrie Cusher i want to go so bad

Miranda Suwyn

Loved doing an investigation there!! So awesome!!

Jessica Freeburg

Why did it happen? What did the Moore family do to be murder? Was the girls sexually absurd? And who ever did that, killed everyone to keep them quite patty hellums

Did that ever find out the murder of the boy in the box?. 1959. Who had killed him only the one or persons involved did that.

Chris Brees

this case has always intrigued me..read several books on the matter…. this along with all of the other midwestern ax murders

Jennifer Edge Taylor Edge Tori Nicole Cooper

Amanda Welter we need to plan a trip to go :)!

Jessica Hendrikson today would have been awesome to go!

Justin David Cramer

Natasha Otterbeck

Caitlin Mabee! :)

Tawny Ann Walker

Uh no Haley Moritz.. I have enough nightmares!

Alex Ahart we should have went today ;)

Emmanuel De Leon

Makynna Harrington

Amber Babcock

they were relatives

relatives of the Stillinger girls coaxed them to open the screen door to the front porch…they knew the killers and the reason all died that night. Lena was the last one alive and her dress held the evidence. I DO hope someone kept it.

David Wildeboer i was told that they did know and the wife left a symbol that she knew there was an intruder–her wedding ring, under her pillow

was my grandmothers family

Have you had déjà-vous moments that give you any insight? I believe that it is because I, too, am blood related, and see the event, motive and the commission of the secret ritual that has allowed the event to remain unsolved.

I am a sensitive at least that's what they call me. My friends called me one night and said they were going to spend Halloween in this house and wanted me to come, since I can feel, see, and communicate with the dead. As soon as I stepped out of the car I was consumed by death. The house gave me images I wish I could wash away. The killers face was never clear. Yet I felt like I was struck with every blow of the axe that night. I stayed until morning but will not go back into that house again. It was the most unnerving thing I have ever felt and I have felt a lot of things.

I hate when people say they can communicate with the dead. It’s ridiculous and it’s simply not true. Stop with the lies.

I would not stay there, The woman that bought the house is not because of the historical value but to make a meant off the tragic deaths of this family and no justice was done for this family. That woman claimed she has not felt a thing in the house that own's it, She should be made to stay in the house for a whole weekend. She is getting rich off this poor family's murder. Shame on her. I hope she burns in hell for this.

Thank you! I have always 100% agreed with what you say, Becky. The current owner is a heartless vulture.

Sad I wish it didn’t happen poor kids

I’m watching the episode of Ghost Adventures that covers this incident. It prompted me to look it up and I came across this site. I believe it may lead to some answers from that sad and fateful night.

For real? That's crazy. Idk if I would be emotionally stable or mentally stable to have dreams like that.

Misty Darst i would love to spend the night at that house

I’ve done that. It’s rather creepy since there is no electricity in the house. If you do an overnight there you’ll have to use the old kerosene lights. We paid I think either $35 or $50 for a night there with my old paranormal group.

Its only a half hour from me. I've taken a tour in it.

i would love to go in that house i heard stories about it

I also thought , they thought there was a butcher involved and possibly his competition. When i went there , we were told he ran a store and had an argument with the person who was his friend also running a store. Also being the mayor or something of the town he hired someones to kill and they killed everyone. Thats missing in the various stories and documentaries that are out there .

He was the senator at a time and he was a mason and he took the murder weapon to a masonic temple at the time of the trial and another one was used while the trial was going on.

Yep, that explains it then…they were sacrificed by the illuminati. So sad

I visited the house and listened to the stories by the person giving the tour I really think the reverend did it how would he know this type of info if no one new about it that time no one knew the neighbour called the brother so it was told. but it broke my heart to hear that innocent lives were taken…. I heard he was a real pervert and they way he treat his female employees

Likely drinking, and wandering in an unfamiliar town, Kelly was confused. Deprived of sleep, accused of things he couldn’t remember… Luckily he had JTStillinger by his side for the next five years, to keep his facts straight. Odd that the father of the two murdered girls from down the road was SO committed to justice that he helped the only accused man. I believe Mr Stillinger KNEW Kelly was innocent, because he also knew who (all) was responsible for the ritual that took place.

I agree to the point it must have been trusted friend(s) or neighbor(s), possibly even the stillingers themselves. Ritualistic with misleading deaths to confuse the investigation. Only person who was not found in the bed, was noted to have defensive wounds and was in such an exposed state was the one stillinger girl. This may have been some form of ritualistic sacrifice staged at the entire communities expense simply to throw off the scent of the actual perpetrators. Maybe even a first time event they felt the need to complete but orchestrated through careful planning and very frightening lengths. I mean who blacks out the power of a whole town, gives permission for their kids to have a sleepover during said blackout, and then carries out the most vicious form of human sacrifice of multiple victims in such a methodical approach then simply walks away without any guilt or even blinking an eye. Demons and eery things aside I have a gut instinct this event was a once in a lifetime unrepeatable occurrence. No facts to prove it except for the ones I would connect from the very depraved experiences I myself have witnessed firsthand. Anything is possible even among the ones you love the most.

I lived in Boone, Iowa my entire life and only heard about this murder after I moved away to England! Had no idea this had taken place.

I THINK THAT THE CLUES THAT THE MURDERER LEFT,ARE IMPORTANT.tHE PIECE OF BACON,THE COVERED MIRROR,THE GIRL EXPOSED.mAKE ME THINK OF A SORT OF A RITUAL,OR,WHO KNOWS…A PIECE OF BACON,THERE IS A SPECIFIC MEANING TO ALL OF THESE.iT’S A TERRIFYING STORY,HAUNTING…

I agree with you Delia. Although i have just discovered this there is no such thing as a perfect murder. I also believe that the had interviewed the murderer at least once.

Actually there is more significance to the fact there were two slabs of bacon…. one that Mrs Moore put in the icebox BEFORE the kid’s church program, and the one someone used as an excuse to ‘deliver’ bacon to the Moore’s later that evening… placing someone else in the house after dark…the cloth wrapping was one overlooked clue.

i can’t imagine someone would even think about killing a person, let alone, two adults and children… and for that matter! someone they trusted!

i can understand your feelings angela, i could not imagaine how that night went in that house, i feel they know who did it, i would really like to visit that house and i plan on it soon.

rev. kelly looks like a pedophile and crazed killer!

interesting…

Nope, they went before I started going, but hope to go yet this year, cause I had to work on the last big trip 2 months ago

thought you went to this one already? with the tripp'ses's lol

Gotta check this out real soon

I've been to the house and it really consumes you. I've had numerous dreams that I'm in the house alone, sitting in the childrens room in the rocking chair. Reverend Kelly is just standing in the doorway stairing at me with this sinister grin and tells me he did the murders and got away with it. Creepy!

what that person said in that comment its true you can spell legion…

When the people say Legion did the killing, look at the reverends name, LyGeIn, that’s Lyn George Jacklin, all in 1 word

I believe that it’s Legion that stays in the attic. He had nothing to do with the murders. The demon was brought to the attic about 10 years ago.

Ummm, sorry to burst your bubble, but there are no friendly demons, they are all sent out to do satans work…KILL STEAL AND DESTROY. Please dont applaud the devil by putting things past him. That would make you a fool

well, i worship the devil, so i believe that all the things they do it nothing but right.

may God have mercy on your soul

More wars have been wages in the name of God than in the name of Satan. Satan killed 6 people in the bible; God killed off his entire worldly creation save 2 of everything and some humans. Yup. Satan’s the bad guy.

Well of course you worship the devil. That’s nothing special Most people do since most people do not know the Lord Jesus Christ. See John 8:44. If you want to change that see John 3:3, 14:6, 3:16.

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Villisca Axe Murder House

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Villisca Axe Murder House - All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go (with Photos)

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Villisca Ax Murder House – The Scene Of A Brutal Mass Murder In 1912

Not many people will have heard of Villisca, a small town in southwestern Iowa about an hour or so south-west of Des Moines. This sleepy-town back in 1912 was home to just 2,039 people and no more than two square miles in size. However, this house in Villisca (now known as the Villisca Ax Murder house) would become the location of one of the most brutal mass-murders in the history of the United States.

Villisca Ax Murder House 1

In the early hours of June 11, 1912, sometime between midnight and 5 am, eight people were bludgeoned to death inside the home of the Moore family. This included all six family members and two friends of one of the daughters. Six of the victims were children.

Villisca Ax Murder Victims

The eight victims of the Villisca Ax Murders. The entire Moore family and two friends who were staying at the house.

Josiah Moore and his wife Sarah Montgomery had four children, Herman (11), Mary (10), Boyd (7), and Paul (5). Josiah was a local businessman with his own hardware store in Villisca, Iowa. His wife, Sarah, when not looking after four children, was active in the local church.

THE NIGHT OF THE MURDERS

On the night of June 10th, the Moore family spent the evening at the Presbyterian church where they took part in the Children’s Day Program. This was an event Sarah had helped coordinate. Mary, who was 10 years old, invited two friends, sisters Ina Mae (8) and Lena Gertrude Stillinger (12) to stay over for the night. The family and the two sisters would arrive back at the Moore home at around 10 pm.

That evening, nobody heard any kind of disturbance coming from the Moore house. However, the next morning, neighbor Mary Peckham noticed the family hadn’t come outside to do any of their usual chores. Mary knocked on the door of the house, but nobody answered and it was locked. After letting their chickens out, she rang Ross Moore, the brother of Josiah.

Mary Peckham

Neighbor Mary Peckham was the first to notice something wrong at the Moore home. She was said to have acted like a grandmother figure to the Moore children. She died later the same year after a nervous breakdown, aggravated by the murders.

Like Mary Peckham, Ross Moore got no answer when knocking the door, so let himself in using his own key. While Peckham stood on the porch, Moore went into the parlor and opened the guest bedroom door. Inside he found Ina and Lena Stillinger’s lifeless bodies on the bed.

Moore and Peckham contacted Hank Horton, Viscillia’s primary peace officer who arrived shortly after. The officer’s search of the house would reveal all six members of the Moore family, and the two Stillinger girls had been murdered. All of whom were bludgeoned to death using Josiah’s own axe. The axe was left behind in the room with the Stillinger sisters.

Hank Horton

Hank Horton (far left) with investigators and newspapermen.

Doctors concluded that the murders took place between midnight and 5 am. Two cigarettes found in the attic suggest the killer, or killers, waited in the attic for the family to come home. Waiting for the family to go to sleep before making their move.

Villisca Ax Murder House Attic

The attic in which the killer(s) are thought to have waited in for the Moore family to fall asleep.

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 to such an extent that both of his eyes were missing. While they used the blade of the axe on Josiah, the rest of the victims were killed using the blunt end.

After killing the parents, they proceeded into the children’s rooms and bludgeoned Herman, Mary, Arthur, and Paul. The killer(s) then returned to the master bedroom to inflict more blows on the parents Josiah and Sarah. While doing so the killer(s) knocked over a shoe that had filled with blood. The killer(s) then moved downstairs to the guest bedroom, where they killed Ina and Lena.

Villisca Ax

The murder weapon was left leaning against the wall in the bedroom of the Stillinger girls. The killer had attempted to clean the blade, however, blood could still be seen on it.

Investigators believed that all of the victims except for Lena Stillinger had been asleep when murdered. They believed that she was awake and tried to fight back, as she was found with a defensive wound on her arm. Lena’s nightgown was pushed up to her waist and she was wearing no undergarments. This led to police believing that the killer(s) sexually molested her or attempted to do so.

Moore Family Grave

The Moore family grave at the Villisca Cemetery.

THE SEARCH FOR THE KILLER

Over time, many residents of Villisca were suspected in the murder of the Moore family and the two young Stillinger girls. However, it was Reverend Lyn George Kelly who police got closest to nailing for the Villisca Axe Murders.

Reverend Lyn George Kelly

Traveling minister, Reverend Lyn George Kelly was one of the main suspects.

Reverend Lyn George Kelly was an English-born traveling minister. He just so happened to be in the town on the night of the murders. Kelly was described as peculiar, reportedly having suffered a mental breakdown as an adolescent.

As an adult, he was accused of peeping and several times asking young women and girls to pose nude for him. On June 8, 1912, he came to Villisca to teach at the Children’s Day services, which the Moore family attended on June 10, 1912. He left town between 5:00 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. on June 10, 1912, hours before the bodies were discovered. Reverend Kelly had confessed to the murders in court, but the jury didn’t believe his confession.

Five years later, in 1917, Kelly was arrested for the Villisca murders. Police obtained a confession from him; however, it followed many hours of questioning and Kelly later recanted. After two separate trials, he was acquitted, and the Viscilla Ax murders remained unsolved.

Villisca Ax Murder Suspects

The Ax Murder suspects – Frank Jones, William Mansfield, Rev Kelly, Henry Moore.

While Reverend Lyn George Kelly came closest to being convicted of the murders, there were plenty of other suspects.

Frank F. Jones was an Iowa state senator and a prominent member of the town. Josiah Moore worked for Frank Jones at the Jones store for several years until he opened his own company in 1908. According to Villisca residents, Jones was extremely upset that Moore had left the company. While also taking the very lucrative John Deere franchise with him.

William Mansfield , who also went by the names of George Worley and Jack Turnbaugh, was believed to have been hired by Frank F. Jones to carry out the murders. Payroll records, however, provided an alibi that placed Mansfield in Illinois at the time of the Villisca murders

Henry Moore  was convicted of killing his mother and grandmother in Columbia, Missouri just months after the Villisca Ax Murders. He carried out the murder is a similar fashion to the Villisca Ax Murders, brutally murdering them with an ax. Twenty-two other ax murders had been committed in the mid-west during this time period. It was suggested that Moore was a serial killer who had a hand in all these killings. Despite the same surname, he was no relation to the murdered Moore family.

Villisca Murders Paper Article

Local newspaper article from a few days after the murders took place.

Now, more than 100 years later, it’s unlikely we will ever find out who committed the crime. The Villisca Axe Murder house will remain a mystery, never to be solved. Whether it was one of these men we will simply never know.

THE HISTORY OF THE VILLISCA AX MURDER HOUSE

The Villisca Ax Murders house was built in 1868 by George Loomis. The house was purchased by the Moore family in 1903. They lived there for 9 years, up until the day the murders occurred.

Three years after the murders the property was sold to J.H. Geesman. Over the past 90 years, the property had numerous owners up until 1994, when Rick and Vicki Sprague bought the property. However, after only a few months, the Sprague family sold the property to Darwin and Martha Linn.

At some point between 1936 and 1994 the house underwent a large refurbishment. The front and back porches were both closed in, plumbing and electrics were added and outbuildings were removed and replaced.

Ax Murder House Refurb

The house before being restored to its former glory. Notice both porches are closed in and the chimney stack between the windows is missing.

Using old photographs the Linn’s began to reverse the refurbishment. They removed the plumbing and electrics as well as the front and back enclosures and a number of other jobs.

Using testimonies given during the coroner’s inquest, the Linn’s also placed furniture in the same places it occupied at the time of the murders. Restoring the property as close to its original state as possible.

THE VILLISCA AX MURDER HOUSE TODAY

Today, the town of Villisca is home to less than 1,200 people. However, somewhat surprisingly, the Villisca Ax Murder house still stands and is often visited by tourists and ghost hunters. Those fascinated with the case regularly flock to see the house in person. Others simply want to see the crime scene of one of America’s most brutal unsolved murders.

Villisca Ax Murder House 2019

The house today, restored to look just like it did in 1912, with open porches and a new chimney stack.

While the Villisca Ax Murder house still stands, it is no longer lived in. The Linn family keep the property as a time capsule and museum to remember the crimes that took place there. Unlike what we have seen at other crime properties such as 10050 Cielo Drive , the Manson Murder House, which was demolished.

While the house may be empty much of the time, the public can view the home with a tour guide . you can even stay in the house over-night!

Villisca Ax Murder House 1

The Villisca Ax Murder House today, restored to how the house looked in 1912.

Villisca Ax Murder Kitchen

The kitchen of the Villisca Ax Murder House as it looks today, returned to its former state.

Villisca Ax Murder Children's Bedroom

The children’s bedroom in which two of the murders occurred.

Naturally, the Villisca Ax Murder House, with such a dark past, quickly attracts ghost hunters. There is not a ghostly phenomenon that hasn’t been reported there. Things moving, voices, apparitions, shadows, bad vibes. You name it; the Villisca Ax Murder House has had it.

The Villisca Ax Murder House has also been featured on popular ghost-hunting shows and podcasts. Ghost Adventures , Scariest Places on Earth , My Favourite Murder , and Lore all discuss the crime.

Paranormal investigators claim the house is incredibly active…..if you believe in that sort of stuff.

MORE TROUBLE AT THE HOUSE

However, in 2014 something very strange did indeed happen. A ghost hunter staying overnight at the Villisca Ax Murder House needed to be rushed to the hospital. The 37-year-old man was found with a self-inflicted stab wound to the chest. Why he stabbed himself we simply don’t know, it does, however, add to the intrigue of the house.

If you want to visit the Villisca Ax Murder House, but simply can’t make it to Iowa, then there is one other option. A virtual tour ! While it might not be the same as visiting in person, you can get a real feel for the house.

Ghost Hunters

A team of ghost hunters at the Villisca Ax Murder house using cameras to monitor each room.

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Villisca Axe Murder House Ghost Hunt

Very limited guest numbers.

The notoriously haunted Villisca Axe Murder House is a dream that can quickly turn into a nightmare!

The Villisca Axe Murder House is one of the most legendary hauntings within the state of Iowa.

Activity reported at this location includes footsteps, giggles, noises, shadows, and objects moving.

Villisca Axe Murder House Ghost Hunt

Event Start Time: 8:00pm

Event Finish Time: 4:00am

Your ghost hunt at Villisca Axe Murder House includes the following:

Exclusive Access to the most haunted areas.

Ghost Hunting Vigils.

Structured Vigils.

Ghost Hunt with experienced Ghost Hunting Team.

Use of our equipment which includes, trigger objects and EMF Meters.

Private time to explore this location and to undertake your very own private vigils.

Unlimited refreshments available throughout the night including: Coffee, Coca Cola, Diet Coke, and Bottled Water.

Location History

Sitting quietly on East 2 nd street in Villisca, Iowa is an old, white-frame house. As you pull up, the only indication that this small house holds the story of brutal axe murders is the sign standing out front.

You can think about what Villisca looked like more than a century ago. A quiet, small-town that never had much trouble. That is, until the fateful day a killer found an axe and left eight victims in his wake.

You’ve heard about it but now you’re finally here! This is a dream location that can quickly turn into a nightmare! You’ve arrived at the infamous Villisca Axe Murder House! Now get ready to step inside!

The Villisca Axe Murder House was built by George Loomis in 1868. In 1903, the house was sold to the Josiah Moore family. The Moore family remained in the the house for 9 years, until one horrific night.

On June 10, 1912 The Moore family (Josiah, Sarah, and their children Herman, Mary, Arthur, and Paul) attended a program at the local Presbyterian Church. The family then arrived home around 10pm.

Staying at the home with the Moore family on this night were sisters Ina Mae (8) and Lena Gertrude Stillinger (12). They were friends of Mary Moore (8) and were permitted to stay over after church.

The next morning, neighbor Mary Peckham noticed the family had not come outside to do any of the usual chores. Mary knocked on the door, but no one answered, and  she discovered the door was locked.

Mary Peckham took care of the Moore’s chickens, then contacted Josiah Moore’s brother Ross. Ross Moore also received no answer when knocking on the door, so he used his own key to get inside.

As Mary Peckham stood on the porch. Ross Moore walked through the parlor to the guest bedroom. Upon opening the door, he found the murdered bodies of Ina and Lena Stillinger lying on the bed.

Ross Moore and Mary Peckham contacted Hank Horton, who served as a peace officer in Villisca. Horton conducted a search of the house to find all members of the Moore family were also murdered.

The axe that was used to commit the heinous crimes had been left behind in the guest bedroom where the bodies of the Stillinger sisters were found. The axe was found to have belonged to Josiah Moore.

Medical staff and law enforcement began to piece together the events of June 11. The best estimate of the time of death was somewhere late into the night, most likely between midnight and 5:00am.

Two cigarette butts were found in the attic. It seemed that the killer (or killers) waited in the attic until the Moore family and their guests went to sleep before coming downstairs to commit the murders.

It was believed that Josiah and Sarah Moore were murdered first in the master bedroom. Josiah was hit so many times with the blade end of the axe that his eyes were missing. Sara was hit with the blunt end.

After the murders of Sarah and Josiah, the children were all bludgeoned to death in their rooms. The killer(s) then returned to Sarah and Josiah’s room and committed further violence to their bodies.

The return to Sarah and Josiah’s room resulted in a shoe filled with blood being knocked over. The killer(s) went to the guest bedroom to kill Ina and Lena before dropping the axe and fleeing the home.

Investigators determined that Lena Stillinger had been awake during the murders. In spotting a wound on her arm, it was believed she tried to fight back and may have suffered a sexual assault.

Due to the horrifying nature of the crimes in the otherwise sleepy town of Villisca, the town sought suspects for the murders. Reverend Lyn George Kelly was considered to be the most likely culprit.

Reverend Kelly was a traveling minister who was considered quite peculiar. He had previously been accused of several lewd acts involving young women and girls before arriving in Villisca on June 8, 1912.

Reverend Kelly taught Children’s day services at the same church the Moore family attended. Curiously, he also left town sometime between 5am and 5:30am on June 10, before the murders were discovered.

Reverend Kelly confessed to the murders in court, but the jury refused to believe him. Five years later, Kelly was arrested. Kelly confessed to the murders, then recanted, and was then acquitted twice at trial.

Reverend Kelly was the most likely suspect, but he wasn’t the only one. Senator Frank F Jones employed Josiah Moore until Moore opened his own store in 1908, taking the John Deere franchise with him.

William Mansfield was believed to be hired by Frank F Jones to commit the murders. However, Mansfield (who also went by George Worley and Jack Turnbaugh) had a solid alibi placing him in Illinois.

In Missouri, Henry Moore was convicted months after the Villisca crimes for murdering his mother and grandmother with an axe. It’s thought that in the Midwest Moore may have murdered 22 others.

Today, the Villisca Axe Murders remain officially unsolved. It’s unlikely anyone will ever know who the killer was. The house today has been restored and is often open for tours throughout the year.

The Paranormal

The Villisca Axe Murder House has long been considered to be a “paranormal investigator’s dream”. This reputation may help explain why no family after the Moores ever stayed in the house for very long.

Take a few minutes to stand inside the house and get acquainted with the energies that exist. If you’re lucky to hear a train pass by, you may see a fog that has been reported to move throughout the house.

Equipment batteries drain inside the home, and disembodied footsteps and giggles are often heard. The attic has a dark feel and heaviness to the air as you stand in the area where a killer once waited.

The Villisca Axe Murder house may also have a strange effect on behavior. An investigator who spent the night in November of 2014 inexplicably stabbed himself in the chest while investigating activity.

The Villisca Axe Murder House is imprinted with the energy from those who were brutally murdered inside the home more than a century ago. Will one of the victims finally tell who was responsible?

Does this infamously haunted location serve as a place for the spirit of a killer to return? Perhaps he still drops by to admire his handiwork from a hundred years ago. Or maybe he’s looking to confess his crime.

When you join us for a night at the Villisca Axe Murder House, you will step inside the home with a legendary haunt. Be warned, this “paranormal investigator’s dream could quickly turn into a nightmare!

Villisca Axe Murder House Ghost Hunt  Villisca, Iowa  Monday June 27th 2022

Villisca Axe Murder House Ghost Hunt Villisca, Iowa Monday June 27th 2022

Villisca axe murder house driving directions.

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Top 13 places in Russia where you may face a ghost

villisca haunted house

1. Kusovnikov House in Moscow

villisca haunted house

In the 19 th   century house № 17 on Myasnitskaya street in central Moscow was inhabited by a rich, but very greedy couple – Pyotr and Sofya Kusovnikov, who scrimped on almost everything. Extremely suspicious, they used to hide money from their servants in different places. Once they hid some in the fireplace, but the janitor accidentally burned it when lighting the fire. When she found out, Sofya died instantly of a broken heart, her husband passed away a little later. Since then, the ghost of a hunched old man in a coat has routinely appeared on the street near the house – this is Pyotr Kusovnikov mourning his lost money.

2. Sokol metro station

villisca haunted house

During WWI, not far from the modern Sokol station of the Moscow metro, a cemetery for fallen soldiers was located. In 1918, mass executions of White officers and priests by the Reds were held there. All this led to the appearance of ghosts in the dark tunnels of the station. Early in the morning diaphanous figures with festering wounds can be seen there.  

3. St. Michael’s Castle in St. Petersburg

villisca haunted house

This castle was a royal residence built by order of Tsar  Paul I. On March 21, 1801, he was killed there by a group of conspirators. It is considered that the restless spirit of the tsar was unable to leave the castle. It appears there in the corridors with a burning candle in its hand.

4.   Znamenskaya Tower in Yaroslavl

villisca haunted house

During the Civil War in Russia (1917-1922), a group of White troops held positions in the Volkovsky theater in Yaroslavl. The Red commissar in command of the siege promised to spare their lives. However, he lied and all the Whites were executed at the Znamenskaya Tower. Since then, the ghost of the commissar who didn’t keep his promise has been seen at the place of his crime.

5. Igumnov House in Moscow

villisca haunted house

The house at 43 Bolshaya Yakimanka Street in Moscow, also known as “Igumnov House,” serves today as the residence of the French ambassador. It was built at the request of the industrialist Nikolay Igumnov in the late 19 th   century. He settled his young mistress here, but one day caught her with a lover. The lover was kicked out, but the girl was never seen again. It is believed that the outraged Igumnov bricked her up in a wall. During Soviet times, people often saw the ghost of a young girl walking through the walls with deep, plaintive sighs.     

6. House of Rasputin in St. Petersburg

villisca haunted house

The flat on the second floor at 64 Gorokhovaya street in St. Petersburg is today a usual residential apartment. However, in the early 20th century it was home to one of the most mystical figures in Russian history – Grigory Rasputin. His ghost sometimes appears here, scaring inhabitants with its clunking steps and grunting in dark corners.

7. House on the Embankment

villisca haunted house

This house at 2 Serafimovicha Street, simply known as “House on Embankment,” is among the most famous in the Russian capital, known as the place of residence for the Soviet   crème de la crème : writers, artists, actors, generals, athletes. However, it also has a dark history. During the Great Purge, a campaign of political repressions in the USSR, dozens of the house’s inhabitants were arrested and executed. Today, the house is full of the ghosts of those victims, who sometimes appear in their old dwelling place. 

8. Tower of the old hospital in Ryazan

villisca haunted house

Among the high-rise modern buildings at 15 Gorky Street in Ryazan is an old tower – all that remains of the old hospital. At night, a lonely dark figure can be seen walking in this tower. This is the ghost of Alexander Smitten, who administered the hospital more than a century ago.

9. Griboyedov Canal in St. Petersburg

villisca haunted house

During a misty night in March, one can see the ghost of a young girl near the Griboyedov Canal in St. Petersburg. Her face is blue because of asphyxiation, and there is a big red mark on her neck caused by a rope. This is famous revolutionary Sophia Perovskaya, who assassinated Tsar Alexander II and was hanged for her deed. To meet this ghost is a bad omen, and can cost nocturnal pedestrians their lives.

10. Nizhny Novgorod Kremlin

villisca haunted house

There is a legend that when the Kremlin in Nizhny Novgorod was being built, the constructors were unable to finish one of the towers. It kept falling down. In the end, they decided to make a sacrifice and to build the tower on the blood of the first person who passed by. It happened to be a pregnant woman hurrying to the river for water. She was seized and bricked up in the tower alive. The ghost of a pale woman holding a baby has appeared near this place ever since.

11. Oldenburg Palace near Voronezh

villisca haunted house

Built in the late 19th century, the palace belonged to Princess Eugenia of Leuchtenberg. Today her ghost rises from the deep casemates of the palace to wander through its rooms and corridors. There is also another ghost there, much older — the ghost of a young peasant girl. It is even said that Princess Eugenia saw it when she was alive.

12. Stalin’s country house near Sochi

villisca haunted house

Stalin’s ghost can be seen at his country house, located today within the Green Groove hotel near Sochi. The “father of the nations” walks in his white jacket, smoking his trademark pipe.

13. Psychiatric hospital near Nizhny Novgorod

villisca haunted house

Near the modern psychiatric hospital in the village of Lyakhovo near Nizhny Novgorod, one can see an abandoned old building. Several dozen years ago a young girl hanged herself there because of unrequited love. At night it is possible to see a white silhouette and hear the moaning and cries of the “love-stricken schoolgirl” as the locals call her.

And if you want to see a UFO, here are several places in Russia where you will have a chance.

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J. V. Stalin

A Paper Coalition

September 30, 1917.

Source : Works , Vol. 3, March - October, 1917 Publisher : Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1954 Transcription/Markup : Salil Sen for MIA, 2008 Public Domain : Marxists Internet Archive (2008). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit "Marxists Internet Archive" as your source.

Economic disruption is talked about. Economic disruption is written about. Economic disruption is used as a bogey, frequently with an allusion to the "anarchistic" sentiments of the workers. But nobody wants to admit openly that the disruption is frequently engineered and deliberately aggravated by the capitalists, who close down factories and doom the workers to unemployment. Birzhovka has some interesting information on this score.

"At the mills of the Russo-French Cotton Spinning Corporation in Pavlovsky Posad, Moscow Gubernia, a conflict arose over non-observance of the contract drawn up by a commission of the Orekhovo-Zuyevo district under the chairmanship of Minister Pro-kopovich. Some four thousand workers are employed at the mills. The workers' committee informed the Ministry of Labour that a grave situation had arisen owing to the refusal of the employers to submit to a decision of the arbitration court, and owing to their deliberate reduction of productivity of labour. Negotiations had been going on for four months, and now there was a danger of the mills being closed down. The management of the Russo-French mills, on its part, made representations to the French Embassy, affirming that the workers refused to obey a decision of the arbitration court and were threatening excesses and destruction of property. The French Embassy requested the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to assist in settling the dispute."

And what do we find? It appears that the "management of the mills" and the "French Embassy" have both libelled the workers in an effort to whitewash the lockout capitalists. Listen to this:

"The case was submitted to the Moscow Commissar of the Ministry of Labour, who, after investigating the conflict on the spot, informed the Minister of Labour that the factory management had systematically evaded carrying out decisions of the arbitration court. The report of the Ministry of Labour's Moscow Commissar has been transmitted to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs."

As we see, even a commissar of a counter-revolutionary Ministry had to admit that the workers were right.

Nor is that all. Birzhovka reports another and even more interesting case.

"The Ministry of Labour has been informed from Moscow that the management of the A. V. Smirnov factory had announced that the plant, which employs three thousand workers, would be closed down owing to lack of raw materials and fuel and the need for capital repairs. A commission, consisting of representatives of Moscow Fuel and the Moscow Factory Conference, together with the workers' committee of the factory, instituted an inquiry and found that the reasons given for closing down the factory were baseless, since there was sufficient raw material for operation and the repairs could be effected without suspending work. On the strength of this, the workers arrested the factory owner. The Zem-stvo Assembly has recommended the sequestration of the factory. The Pokrovsky Executive Committee and the Provisional Government's uyezd commissar are assisting in the settlement of the conflict."

Such are the facts.

The Socialist-Revolutionary and Menshevik compromisers cry from the housetops that a coalition with the "virile forces" of the country is essential, and they definitely point to the Moscow industrialists. And they constantly stress that what they mean is not a verbal coalition in the Winter Palace, but a real coalition in the country. . . . We ask:

Is any real coalition possible between factory owners who deliberately swell unemployment and workers who, with the benevolent assistance of Provisional Government commissars, arrest them for this?

Is there any limit to the stupidity of "revolutionary" windbags who never tire of singing the praises of coalition with lockout criminals?

Do not these ridiculous trumpeters of coalition realize that no coalition is possible now except on paper, a coalition concluded within the walls of the Winter Palace and doomed beforehand to failure?

Rabochy Put No. 24, September 30, 1917

Collected Works Index | Volume 3 Index Works by Decade | J. V. Stalin Archive Marxists Internet Archive

DEATH, HORROR, CORPSES, MORGUE

DEADHOUSE

Migrants scalped a young guy

The incident occurred because a guy with green hair asked migrants for a cigarette, who did not like his appearance.

19-year-old Yury Markov was thrown to the ground, beaten and cut off part of the skin from his head along with his hair.

In the photo Yuri Markov

Currently, one of the participants in the execution has been detained; he turned out to be a native of the Komi Republic. At the same time, some media reports that the guy was attacked by the so-called ‘Sharia patrol’ – outcasts professing Islam.

UPD: In an interview with journalists, Yuri Markov confirmed that he himself approached two citizens of Caucasian appearance, one of whom said that he was an ethnic Azerbaijani.

UPD 2: Both attackers were detained, one of them was born in Tajikistan.

Detained criminals

Elektrostal, Moscow region.

Related posts:

villisca haunted house

10 Comments

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‘We can’t restore our civilization with someone else’s babies’ -Steve King, former Iowa representative.

' src=

im no racist but the only clear-thinking people are us BORN westerners…

' src=

Define that term in more detail. EVERY single Westerner? If that was the case, we wouldn’t be complaining about anything now would we? Have you seen US? Cities that were once great, now crime-ridden nigger-infested shitholes. Who let them in? Not the fucking Asians or Russians or Brazilians that’s for sure

' src=

Mr. Solution, when was the last time you actually visited America? My charming small town here is 82.4% white. Very little crime. One time these Latino guys and gals stabbed their rival a bunch of times a few years ago. And a black man shot someone in the head in 2021. And last year a young white man stabbed his female roommate to death. But that’s it.

' src=

Ok, so, one day you complain about shitskins, the next day you say it’s not so bad. Are you just arguing to disagree with me? I visited the US 10 years ago actually, and I’ve seen what I’ve expected, a land of mutts and people from all over the world. Instead of being ethnically homogenous, you got ethnic and cultural enclaves everywhere. Your little town of “whites” is statistically speaking probably a bunch of sheep who would vote for their own destruction tomorrow because they don’t know shit. Never picked up a history book in their life, has no identity, no national or ethnic pride, has their soul crushed within them by white-guilt psyops and what not. You may as well write 82.4% traitor sleeper cells. Just waiting to be activated.

What about Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia? Detroit where the US autoindustry is based, now a shithole where you don’t dare look out the window in case you get your head blown off by Lil Tick from the 123rd St. Shitskin Squad.

And in general, is the white population not decreasing and the shitskins increasing in the US? Tomorrow, it’s your little town that’s next to be die-versified.

This is highly reminiscent of the Roman Empire. They weakened internally, then the barbarians flooded the gates. If you have a negative view of Nazi Germany or Hitler, you and me are not on the same side despite our identical skin color.

' src=

Should line all three up and execute. 2 for being nasty niggers, 1 for being faggot with colored hair.

' src=

Westerners are the clowns of a big country of a circus.

' src=

countries you mean western civilization isn’t just one country you know

' src=

At least his attackers were of “Caucasian appearance”. I would love for the migrants here in the US to be of Caucasian appearance. Sadly, that’s not the case in the West.

' src=

Caucasians? Why would you want Armenians, Georgians, Chechens in the US?

I hate stupid people

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  1. The True Story Behind the Haunted Villisca Axe Murder House

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  2. This movie shows just how creepy the Villisca Axe Murder House really is

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  3. Horror and Haunting of the Villisca Axe Murder House

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  4. Discover the Haunting Tale of the Villisca Ax Murder House

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  5. Horror and Haunting of the Villisca Axe Murder House

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  6. Was geschah im Axtmörder-Haus von Villisca?

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  6. HAUNTED HOUSE

COMMENTS

  1. The True Story Behind the Haunted Villisca Axe Murder House

    The full story of the Villisca Axe Murder House is featured in episode 2 of House Beautiful's new haunted house podcast, Dark House. Listen to the episode here. When Darwin and Martha...

  2. The Official Site of the Villisca Axe Murders of 1912

    The history of the Villisca Axe Murder house is detailed in this section with recollections of the crime, the town, the victims, inquest and suspects. Find truth against the folklore. Read More Tours/Overnights

  3. Villisca axe murders

    Coordinates: 40.9308091°N 94.9739235°W The Villisca axe murders occurred between the evening of June 9, 1912, to the early morning of June 10, 1912; in the town of Villisca, in Iowa, United States. The six members of the Moore family and two guests were found bludgeoned in the Moore residence.

  4. Villisca Axe Murder House, one of Iowa's most haunted locations

    VILLISCA, Iowa — It's been 111 years since the tragic murders of eight people at a home in Villisca. To this day, the murders remain unsolved. Lora Castleman with Local 5's sister station in Arkansas learned more about the century-old mystery surrounding what happened on June 10, 1912.

  5. Strange occurrences abound at the Villisca Ax Murder House more than a

    In the very early morning hours of June 11, 1912—sometime between midnight and 5 a.m.—eight people were bludgeoned to death with an ax inside the home of the Moore family, including all six family members and two friends of one of the daughters. Six of the victims were children. An article on the murders in The Day Book, from June 14, 1912.

  6. Villisca Ax Murder House is 'one of nation's most haunted places'

    Updated: 7:42 AM MDT Oct 31, 2023 Eric Jones Eric Jones VILLISCA, Iowa — Once home to a family of six, the Villisca Ax Murder House is now rumored to be home to ghosts and spirits. An unknown...

  7. Villisca Axe Murders, The 1912 Massacre That Left 8 Dead

    On June 10, 1912, all eight people inside the Moore family's house in Villisca, Iowa — including two adults and six children — were murdered by an axe-wielding assailant. Jo Naylor/Flickr The Villisca Axe Murders house where an unknown attacker committed one of American history's most disturbing unsolved murders of all time in 1912.

  8. History of Villisca Axe Murder House

    It is the "Murder House". The walls still protect the identity of the murderer or murderers who bludgeoned to death the entire family of Josiah Moore and two overnight guests on June 10,1912. Almost 97 years later, her secret continues to draw many visitors to her door. To some, it seems to be speaking. Visits by paranormal investigators have ...

  9. Inside the Villisca Axe Murder House: A Paranormal Investigation

    Jun 21, 2022 9:50 PM EDT. Josiah "J.B." Moore and his wife Sarah (Montgomery) raised their four children in a modest, white-framed house located at the end of a quiet street in Villisca, Iowa. The home, now known as the Villisca Axe Murder House, is the site of one of the most infamous mass family murders in American history; and is claimed to ...

  10. Villisca Axe Murder House Ghosts, Villisca, Iowa

    Villisca Axe Murder House Ghosts, Villisca, Iowa | Haunted Rooms America The Ghosts of Villisca Axe Murder House Few murders have gained as much notoriety as the Villisca Axe Murder House. The unsolved case still haunts investigators and detective work enthusiasts until now.

  11. The Villisca Axe Murders

    Josiah B. "Joe" Moore. Sometime around midnight between Sunday, June 9, and Monday, June 10, 1912, a person or persons entered a modest house in Villisca, Iowa, and bludgeoned to death eight people sleeping there, including two adults and six children aged 5 through 12. The killings became known as the "Villisca Axe Murders," and are ...

  12. Villisca Axe Murder House

    12:00 AM - 11:59 PM Write a review See all photos About The Villisca Ax Murders of June 1912 remain an enduring and unsettling enigma in American criminal history, leading this house to be regarded as one of the most haunted houses in the United States.

  13. Why Did a Ghost Hunter Stab Himself Inside a Famous Ax-Murder House?

    November 18, 2014, 9:00am Photo via Flickr user Jennifer Kirkland On November 7, a visitor to the world-renowned Villisca Axe Murder House in Villisca, Iowa, was rushed to a nearby hospital...

  14. Villisca Axe Murder House

    The Villisca Ax Murders of June 1912 remain an enduring and unsettling enigma in American criminal history. In this quaint small Iowa town on a pleasant summer's night, eight unsuspecting victims - including six children - were bludgeoned to death as they slept following a church service.

  15. Villisca Ax Murder House

    It was the summer of 1912, June 10th to be exact, when a stranger broke into the sleepy Villisca, Iowa home and bludgeoned its eight sleeping inhabitants to death. Joe and Sarah Moore were asleep upstairs, while their four children were in a room just down the hall. In a guest room were the two Stillinger sisters, there for a sleepover.

  16. The Crime of the Villisca Axe Murder House

    The Villisca Review ~ Villisca, Iowa, Thursday, June 13, 1912. Long before serial killers and mass murders had become a way of life, two adults and 6 children were found brutally murdered in their beds in the small mid-western town of Villisca, Iowa. During the weeks that followed, life in this small town changed drastically.

  17. Villisca Ax Murder House

    In the early hours of June 11, 1912, sometime between midnight and 5 am, eight people were bludgeoned to death inside the home of the Moore family. This included all six family members and two friends of one of the daughters. Six of the victims were children. The eight victims of the Villisca Ax Murders.

  18. USA's Demon Houses

    Delve into an unexplored link that connects two of the most haunted houses in the USA, the Villisca Axe Murder House and the Sallie House. Two places where e...

  19. Villisca Axe Murder House Ghost Hunt

    The Villisca Axe Murder House is one of the most legendary hauntings within the state of Iowa. Activity reported at this location includes footsteps, giggles, noises, shadows, and objects moving. Event Start Time: 8:00pm Event Finish Time: 4:00am Your ghost hunt at Villisca Axe Murder House includes the following:

  20. Yuzhny prospekt, 6к1, Elektrostal

    Get directions to Yuzhny prospekt, 6к1 and view details like the building's postal code, description, photos, and reviews on each business in the building

  21. Top 13 places in Russia where you may face a ghost

    During Soviet times, people often saw the ghost of a young girl walking through the walls with deep, plaintive sighs. 6. House of Rasputin in St. Petersburg. Tourprom. The flat on the second floor ...

  22. A Paper Coalition

    Source : Works, Vol. 3, March - October, 1917 Publisher : Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1954 Transcription/Markup : Salil Sen for MIA, 2008 Public Domain : Marxists Internet Archive (2008). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works.

  23. Migrants scalped a young guy

    Migrants scalped a young guy. The incident occurred because a guy with green hair asked migrants for a cigarette, who did not like his appearance. 19-year-old Yury Markov was thrown to the ground, beaten and cut off part of the skin from his head along with his hair. Currently, one of the participants in the execution has been detained; he ...