Early on a Monday morning in 1912, Mary Peckham went outside her home to hang clothes on the line to dry. She noticed that her neighbors, the Moore family, didn’t seem to be up and about yet, which she found to be very odd indeed. Usually the Moore children were out playing by now, and no one in the family was out taking care of the animals or performing any other chores. All the windows appeared to be tightly closed, and covered, and the house was unnaturally quiet.
Mary had no inkling that the entire Moore household had been brutally murdered during the night. The six members of the family, and the two Stillinger girls spending the night, were all lying dead inside the house next door, in the little town of Villisca, located in southwestern Iowa.
Mrs. Peckham went to the door, but no one answered. She tried the door and found it locked. The chickens needed to be let out, the cows needed to be milked, and the horses needed to be fed. Something was definitely not right.
The resourceful Mrs. Peckham called for the Moore’s hired hand, Mr. Selley, to come to the house to take care of the animals.
Mary then telephoned Mr. Moore’s brother’s home and asked his wife to send him to the house to check things out. When the brother, Ross Moore, a local druggist, arrived at about 8:00 a.m. with a set of keys to get into the house, Mary accompanied him inside.
Ross walked back into the home through the kitchen, and the parlor, and the little bedroom off of the parlor where he found a horrific sight: the room was covered in blood.
Ross Moore told Mary Peckham that he was “afraid there is something awful happened, there is blood in the beds.”
The frightened couple left the house immediately, and called the Marshall, Hank Horton. Unfortunately, the house was not secured properly, and perhaps as many as 100 people traipsed through the home before any evidence was collected. Some of the bone fragments from the scene were even taken as souvenirs!
A dead body was found in every bedroom. Josiah Moore, age 43; and his wife, Sara, age 44, were found in their upstairs bedroom with their heads “chopped and pounded” according to one of the doctor’s testimony. The four Moore children (Herman, age 11; Katherine, age 10; Boyd, age 7; and Paul, age 5) were found in the same ghastly condition in their bedrooms. Ina Stillinger, 9; and, her sister, Lena, 12, were found brutally murdered in the only downstairs bedroom, off of the parlor. The axe was found in the room with the Stillinger girls. On the floor next to the axe, a slab of bacon was found. The only mirror in the house was covered by articles of clothing.
Interestingly, all of the victims were discovered with their bodies and faces covered with bedding. The only part of any victim that was exposed was one of the Stillinger girl’s blood-stained arms. The two girls had been “entirely disfigured.”
The victims had last been seen walking the three blocks home from church the previous evening at about 9:30 p.m. The townspeople suspected a “deranged tramp” must be responsible. Bloodhounds were brought in to the scene, and posses were sent out to search every “barn, shed, and privy in town.” They found nothing.
Very little usable evidence was collected at the scene. The upstairs ceiling did have some axe cuts from the “violent backswing of many axe-blows” indicating to the investigators that the killer “had been in a frenzy” while murdering the children.
The stiffening bodies lay in their deathbeds throughout the entire ordeal until late that night. No one could imagine who the killer might be…at first. It didn’t take long, though, before the town was torn asunder with speculation.
Was the killer someone who had it in for the Moore family? Was the killer the same one who was responsible for a rash of murders throughout the Midwest that had begun the previous autumn? There were many similarities in the modus operandi.
Several individuals were suspected in the crime, and one man even confessed to the murders. He was subsequently acquitted. No one has ever been convicted for murdering the Moore family and the two Stillinger girls.
Paranormal activity first occurred in the early 1930s to a young couple, Homer and Bonnie Ritner. Nightly, Bonnie would awaken to the sounds of someone walking up and down the stairs, and she would “see an image of a man with an axe at the end of their bed.”
One owner, John Geeseman, slept in the barn because of the activity occurring in the home. The front door kept opening by itself. Early one morning John and his wife, Allie, “were seen flying down the sidewalk with their nightshirts blowing out behind them.”
Sometime “between 1963 and 1971,” a family with children who were living in the home experienced paranormal activity fairly often. The girls would find their belongings tossed around their room, and would hear “children sobbing and crying in the night.” On the night their father’s knife flew out of his hand and “stabbed into his palm,” they packed all of their things, and left immediately!
Activity reported recently in the renovated house includes sightings of “little girls in white dresses,” and the sound of children laughing. Much audio and video evidence indicating activity in the house has been collected. Objects moving around inside the home is also a common occurrence.
My sister works with a lady whose husband bought her a night at the Villisca Ax Murder house next fall for a gift. I’m so envious! That is definitely on my list! If you would like to spend a night there, just check out their website: http://www.villiscaiowa.com/tours-overnights.php
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