Iowa’s most haunted house, the Villisca Ax Murder House in Villisca, isn’t some seasonal haunted house run by actors covered in fake blood. It’s a real house, with a real history – one so bloody and haunting that it’s sure to give you nightmares.
On the evening of Sunday, June 9, 1912, Josiah Moore and his wife Sarah took their four children and two neighbor children to a service at the Presbyterian Church, where the children performed little speeches with other Sunday school members.
After the program, the family mingled with others until around 9:30 p.m., then walked the three blocks home in the damp, cool, and cloudy night. They went to bed after milk and cookies, completely unaware that no one in the house would ever wake up the next morning.
The next morning, an elderly neighbor became concerned after noticing that the Moore’s house seemed quiet and deserted. She called Josiah’s brother, who quickly came over and went inside to check the house. What he found was straight out of a nightmare.
Josiah, Sarah, their 11 year old son Herman, 10 year old daughter Katherine, 7 year old son Boyd, 5 year old son Paul, along with the neighbor girls, Ina, 8, and Lena, 12, were all dead; brutally murdered.
When the sheriff went through the house, the scene he found was truly haunting. An entire family, including six children, murdered in their beds; bludgeoned to death by the blunt side of an ax, which was found partially cleaned, leaning against the wall of the downstairs bedroom.
The killer added two particularly puzzling touches to the crime scene. The first was a four-pound slab of bacon lying against the wall next to the ax. The murderer had also searched the dresser drawers for pieces of clothing to cover the mirrors throughout the house, and the glass in the front door. On the kitchen table was a plate of uneaten food and a bowl of bloody water.
The Moore’s were a well-liked family in the small community of Villisca, and their murder shocked the town the core. The Moore’s had no known enemies, and there seemed to be no motive for the murders.
The morning after the murders, around 5 a.m., a man named Reverend George Kelly boarded a train, telling other passengers about a family in Villisca who had been brutally murdered... hours before the family had been found.
Kelly had first arrived in Villisca on Sunday, when he attended the performance that the Moore children took part in before heading out of town early the next morning. Two weeks later, he returned posing as an investigator, where he drew police attention.
Kelly, who had been preaching at churches around the Midwest, where he developed a reputation for odd behavior. He suffered a mental breakdown as an adolescent, had spent time in a mental institution, and had been convicted for sending obscene material through letters. A grand jury indicted Kelly for Lena’s murder, and he was interrogated as he awaited trial in August of 1917. On August 31 of that year, he signed a confession to the murder, saying God had whispered to him to “suffer the children to come unto me.” At trial, though, Kelly recanted his confession and the case went to a jury, who ultimately acquitted him of the murder. Since Kelly’s acquittal, no one else has ever been tried for the murders. Over 100 years later, the case remains one of the most terrifying unsolved murders in Iowa history.
For a more in depth look at the spooky history of the Villisca Ax Murder House, check out the video below:
If you want to find out more about this haunted location, check out the Villisca Ax Murder House website,