Who brutally murdered the entire Moore family in Villisca, Iowa on Sunday, June 9, 1912?
No one knows. The killer or killers were never found.
The eight victims were bashed to death by the murdered father’s own axe which was kept near the outdoor wood shed. The bloody weapon was found in the guest room where two bodies lay, their heads covered with their own bed clothing.
It’s important for everyone to remember the names of the dead: Josiah Moore (49), Sarah (30), Herman (11), Mary (10), and Arthur (7). Two young guests also died horribly: sisters Ina (8) and Lena (12) Stillinger. The killer butchered the hard working parents and innocent children sleeping in their beds.
Picture the family and their guests in rural Villisca at 508 East 2nd Street enjoying that sunny Sunday afternoon. After eating dinner the children went to bed. The adults stayed up for a while before retiring. None of them ever woke up. A terrible cold case, the mutilated bodies remain silent and still in their graves in the town cemetery.
Ross Moore, Josiah’s brother, found the grisly scene after a neighbor worried when the family didn’t come outside to do morning chores. What a horrible sight awaited him. The police determined that direct blows from the axe’s blade to Josiah’s head killed and mutilated him. The blunt force of the handle killed the others.
Blood was everywhere turning the cozy wood framed old house into an ocean of blood and gore. The town of 2000 reeled from the ghastly crime. Fear quickly spread throughout the entire mid west. If such a heinous crime could happen in a Villisca, could similar deadly deeds take place elsewhere? Curiosity seekers streamed into the house. One local even removed a piece of Josiah’s skull to keep in his pool hall. Talk about a gruesome souvenir!
The intense hunt for the killers began immediately. Many thought a passing vagrant was the murderer. Others insisted that an eccentric local did it. Bloodhounds arrived from Nebraska to help. The dogs found nothing. Neither did the human searchers.
The investigation continued. The police suspected many including Reverend George Kelly, a travelling preacher, who had just arrived in town but left the morning after the crime. He was arrested and put on trial but was acquitted. Afterwards, similar crimes were reported around the country from Colorado Springs, Colorado to Aurora, Illinois. Officials then accused local politicians, businessmen, and others who were seen as possible serial killers. All named suspects eventually were declared innocent.
Books and films produced include: “Morning Ran Red” a book by Stephen Bowman, a podcast “Lore” from the TV series “Ghost Adventures,” and a 2016 horror flick “The Axe Murders of Villisca,” .” Here’s the trailer for the movie: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f3nbF855Sfc
The house stayed mostly empty and abandoned. Several owners and renters later lived there. In the late 1990s, Darwin Linn bought the property to create a tourist attraction. He restored the home to its 1912 condition by removing bathrooms and electricity and bringing in antique furniture. He installed a window air conditioner in an upstairs bedroom for the comfort of hoped for paying guests.
After Linn died in July 2011 his wife, Martha, continued to run the house as a tourist attraction. However, weird things still took place. In 2014, an overnight guest intentionally stabbed himself. No one knows why. Fortunately he survived.
Do the spirits of the dead linger while hoping for revenge? Some think the killer is stuck there too.
The grisly axe murder of the Moore family in Villisca is one of the worst unsolved crimes of the past century.
So, would you stay there? For $428 a night you can celebrate your birthday with friends or maybe hold a group yoga retreat. If you prefer, day tours are offered, but hauntings occur 24/7.
This is the link to make reservations http://www.villiscaiowa.com/
Luckily, you have the choice to stay or go. The Moores didn’t.