There are plenty of things to do and places to visit in Villisca, Iowa. However, it is most notable for the axe murder that took place in this town. The killer killed a family of four in a house known as the Josiah B. and Sara Moore House.
Downtown Villisca, Iowa. (Link: https://www.philandersonart.com/p440137016/h3108B64F#h3108b64f)
Many people tried to rent the house out but ended up leaving because of the paranormal activities that take place here.
The History Of The Josiah B. And Sara Moore House
The Josiah B. and Sara Moore House, which was not called that until the murders, was built in 1868.
The Moores bought the house in 1903 and lived there. Josiah was actually a successful businessman in the area as he operated a franchise. The family of Moore was well-liked in the community as they were also active in the Presbyterian Church they belonged to. They were even described by their neighbors as friendly and helpful.
However, on the night of June 19, 1912, the Moores, together with their four children, and two house guests who were also children, got killed by an unknown person. The two house guests were the friends of one of the children of the Moores. On the same day of the murder, the “Children’s Program” took place and so the house guests were in the same event so one of the Moore kids invited them for a sleepover. They got home around 9:45 to 10 P.M. It remains unclear what time the murders happened.
A photo of Josiah and Sara (top), their four children (middle), and the two house guests (bottom). (Link: https://www.pinterest.ph/mellytiel/true-crime/)
The following morning, one of the neighbors of the Moores, Mary Peckham, said that she noticed the family were not out doing their regular chores. It was very unlikely because the family always had busy mornings. Peckham then knocked on their door and no one answered. She tried to open it but it was locked. Peckham then called the brother of Josiah, Ross Moore.
Ross knocked loudly and even shouted but still they got no answer from anyone inside the house. Ross tried to peek into the windows but all the curtains were down. She then decided to open the door with his key. When he went inside, he quickly returned outside and told Peckham to call the sheriff’s office. Josiah and his wife were found in the master’s bedroom upstairs. The adjacent bedrooms were where the bodies of the children were found. In the guest room located in the main floor, the bodies of the house guests were found.
The tombstone for the Moore family. (Link: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/9484387/herman-montgomery-moore)
It is believed that one of the house guests was awake when she was killed because she received defensive wounds on her arms. The axe was found in the room where the house guests were so it is possible that they were the last to be killed. The axe used to kill the Moores and the house guests belonged to Josiah himself.
A photo of the tombstone for the house guests of the Moores that were likewise killed in the axe murder. (Link: https://adventuresincemeteryhopping.com/2019/01/)
The curtains were drawn by the killer. The windows that had no curtains were covered with cloth. The victims’ faces were likewise covered with bed linens or clothing. When the scene was investigated more, they found food that was uneaten and a pan of blood water.
The kitchen inside the Josiah B and Sara Moore House. (Link: https://www.360cities.net/en/image/villisca-ax-murder-house?pano_detail=true&portfolio_view=false&utm_medium=all_images&utm_source=google_earth)
Accordingly, all of them had serious wounds on their head due to the axe used to kill them. The murder was so gruesome that it took the front pages of many newspapers on the national scene. Accordingly, all their beds were soaked in blood and the ceilings showed gouge marks from the swinging of the axe. Many people volunteered to look for the murderer. Some rode their horses while some road their cars. Nothing was left unturned. Night felt but they found no one.
A photo of Josiah and Sara in the front page of a national newspaper. (Link: https://www.legendsofamerica.com/ia-villisca/)
Because of the incident, many stood guard outside their houses with their shotguns ready to go off. The locks from different stores were sold out in just days. The people in the town grew suspicious of anyone and rumours about the deaths were told.
Investigators believed that a serial killer might have done the gruesome crime. They linked the murders to the incident that happened the previous year. Accordingly, in 1911, in the Midwest area, families were killed every two weeks. They were likewise killed in their sleep. Just four days before the Moores were killed, a family in Paola, Kansas was also killed. The murders, however, were never resolved to this day.
Some of the beds where the Moore children were sleeping. (Link: http://www.slate.com/blogs/atlas_obscura/2014/06/05/the_villisca_axe_murder_house_in_iowa_lets_you_sleep_in_a_crime_scene.html)
There was one man who was initially accused of the killings. He was identified as Andy Sawyer. He just got a job at the Burlington Railroad on the morning of the murders. His co-workers testified that when Sawyer knew of the murder, he was very interested in them. He also slept with an axe near him. Because his employer got suspicious, he turned Sawyer in. However, it was later determined that he could not have been the murderer because he was in Osceola that same night and was arrested for vagrancy an hour before the supposed killings. Sara’s former brother-in-law and Josiah’s competitor in the business were also suspects but were later cleared. Reverend George Kelly, who taught at the Children’s Day, was also a suspect. He reportedly became obsessed with the murders so he was brought in for questioning. He was acquitted by two juries.
One of the suspects in the axe murder of the Moore family and their house guests. (Link: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-ax-murderer-who-got-away-117037374/)
After the murders, there were eight people who bought the house. The latest owner is Darwin Linn and his wife. They bought it in 1994 and restored it to its former glory. By 1997, the home was added to the National Register of Historic Places. It later became the Villisca Ax Murder House.
The Paranormal Activities At The Josiah B. And Sara Moore House
Because of the precedents in this house, it is quite expected that there are paranormal activities. Some include a shadowy figure of a man with an axe standing at the foot of the beds in the home, images of shoes that are bloody, the sound of children weeping, clothing taken from the dressers and closets and are found scattered around the room, and closet doors opening without anyone doing it.
One notable incident was when a man, who was sharpening his knife, suddenly got stabbed in his thumb. According to the man, he felt as if someone took hold of his wrist and that was when the knife stabbed his thumb. Another stabbing incident pertained to a Wisconsin man who conducted a paranormal investigation. Accordingly, he suffered from a self-inflicted stab wound in the chest. There were no information available regarding this incident but the man survived.
Another is a family who took possession of the home but one evening moved out because they found themselves running out of the house screaming.
Because the house is open for tours and overnight stays, Travel Channels’ Ghost Adventures Crew were able to have an audio recording taken during the time they stayed. Accordingly, when they played it, they heard a man’s voice saying, “I killed six kids.”
Others claim that the attic has an evil aura. It is believed that this was where the murderer hid while waiting for the family and their guests to fall asleep.
There were other accounts of unexplained activities in the Josiah B. and Sara Moore House but nothing was extreme. Would you ever visit the house and stay the night there?
The Josiah B. And Sara Moore House today. (Link: https://nonpareilonline.com/news/local/wisconsin-man-injured-in-stabbing-at-villisca-axe-murder-house/article_124b9052-6691-11e4-8216-63e1ab7fd055.html)