By J.S. O’connor
When thinking of a “Spooky Location”, it’s easy to think of the paranormal. However, a real-life tragedy can be more terrifying than the paranormal. The Axe Murder House of Villisca, Iowa is both – a paranormal location as well as a real tragedy that took the lives of eight people and still remains unsolved over a hundred years later.
Villisca, Iowa is a small town with a population just over one thousand located in southeastern Iowa. It fits the definition of a “blink and you’ll miss it” town. It’s a peaceful-looking town with the exception of one house with a bad reputation.
The story of the murders is as follows: Lena and Ina Stillinger spent the night at the Moores’ house after church on a Sunday. The next morning, the Moores’ next-door neighbor, Mary Peckham, had not seen the Moores and placed a call to the brother of Joseph Moore. When they entered the home, they discovered the bodies of Joseph Moore, his wife Sarah, and their six children: Herman, Katherine, Boyd, and Paul, and the Stillinger Sisters. The children were between six and twelve years of age, with the murders estimated to have taken place after midnight. All had been brutally butchered with Joseph’s own axe. The murderer has never been found. The list of suspects for the murder is long, including a serial killer Henry Lee Moore to a State Senator Frank F. Jones, who may have hired someone to carry out the murders, and everyone in between.
Even though the house has been renovated a number of times since 1912, the current owners have been hard at work returning the house to its former self. Currently, the owners offer paranormal tours and overnight stays to the curious. Some may say that turning a tragic murder into a paranormal tour is an insult to the people who tragically lost their lives. Others would say that it is a way of keeping the memory of the Moore family and Stillinger sisters alive and never forgotten. Whichever you believe, it’s important to remember and honor the people who have lost their lives.
The Official Site of the Villisca Axe Murders of 1912, https://www.villiscaiowa.com/index.php.