I have wanted to go to Villisca, Iowa and visit what is called the Ax Murder House for several years. It is widely believed to still be haunted by the ghosts of the eight people that were killed there and on occasion a figure that is believed to be the murderer makes its presence known. Now I will get my chance to visit the site of the heinous murders that to this day remain unsolved.
A Little History of the Murders
Sometime after midnight on July 10, 1912, six members of the Moore family and two young girls that were spending the night with the Moores were brutally murdered by an unknown person with an ax. The attack was brutal and the crime scene had been contaminated by a lot of people going through the house to see the bodies of the victims. There were a few suspects and one man was charged of the crime, though he was later acquitted. Some people thought it was the work of a serial killer since there were similar murders around the region at the time. Another belief is that there was more than one murderer in the house. There may never be a closure to this case given that so many years have gone by now. It was a tragedy that rocked the town of Villisca and even today the residents are still hotly divided on whom was truly responsible, however the story of the Moore family murders do not end there.
The house is now quite famous as a haunted tourist attraction for those that want to explore the supernatural side of the story, but there is also a lot of history about the crime, the town, and people involved to immerse oneself in. I personally am interested in the history of the case and the other stuff is secondary. But I think this is a good stop on the road to Halloween at the end of this month.
The tour starts at the museum where you can browse through many historical exhibits including tools and vintage vehicles, such as a Model T. Visitors will then follow the guide to the Villisca cemetery where you will see the resting places of all eight victims. It is a somber experience as the guide explains how each one came to the end of their life.
From there you drive to the actual house where the murders took place. On the outside it is an unassuming house and if you did not know the history and stories you would never know the horrors that took place there, nor would you know about the story that is still unfolding inside those walls.
Over the years many tales of experiences with unseen forces and disembodied noises have been on several television shows and written about in several blogs and websites. Names whispered from the dark, toys that move of their own volition, and confessions from unknown presences are just a few of the things people claim to experience in the Villisca Ax Murder House.
The history of the house was enough to bring me to Villisca but the chance of seeing something unexplainable added to the lure. While we were there, there were a lot of people in and around the house making it a bit difficult to get through the house at times. I can only say that I saw one thing that was not normal and experienced a slight dizzy spell when looking into the attic where the murderer was believed to have hid. While downstairs, the guide rolled a rubber ball across the floor that did seem to defy gravity and then proceeded to roll in a circle for several minutes without anyone in the room touching it.
Upstairs there was a closet that we all took turns going in and shutting the door. I did not feel anything and no one else commented about having any feelings or sensations. One lady did claim that her camera was vibrating even though her camera did not have that function. I did get the chance to go through the almost too small doorway to the attic and sat there for several minutes. Oddly that was the calmest place for me in the house.
Is the place truly haunted? I believe it is, going by the destruction of life in the house and the ball. I personally did not experience anything that would convince me 100%, but I must admit that with the number of people, especially the younger ones that were running around, it would be hard to hear faint sounds and to feel any distinct temperature changes. Would I recommend it? Definitely! Even if you are not interested in the haunted part, then the history of the crime and those involved are well worth the visit. The guides are very knowledgeable about the details of the crimes and all those in that were a part of it and are willing to answer any question related to the crime or the various paranormal investigations that have been performed there. I do hope to return there sometime when there may not be so many people. I may even front the $400 to get an overnight stay, even though they are booked several months in advance.
The Olson Linn Museum is located at 323 E. 4th St.
Tours of the house are available from 1pm – 4pm daily.
12 years and older are $10/person
65 and over $5/person
According to the website the museum will be closed for good in March 2012.