It is easy to forget the horrors the demented mind is capable of. Sometimes, however, there is an act committed with such monstrosity that it forever slips its way into the here and now, even decades after it occurred. Imagine now, if you will, human nature at its most foul and barbaric of states, and the effects wreaked upon others by such savage souls as those who would prey upon their neighbors for sheer indulgence of an abominable will. This particularly brutal case will live on in infamy: The Villisca Axe Murders.
The Villisca Axe Murders
Early one morning on June 10, 1912, the town of Villisca, Iowa hosted one of the most gruesome crimes in American history. Josiah Moore, his wife Sarah, their two children and their two friends were all found dead in their beds. With a death toll of 8, the crime gets grislier still, as the victims were bludgeoned to death dozens of times in the head with the blunt side of Josiah's axe, which the killer found in the family's back yard. The killer used so much force he damaged the ceiling on the upswing, and there are several bizarre details that have confounded curious parties for over 100 years.
This article from The Day Book, a newspaper in 18th century Chicago, shows Josiah and Sarah Moore, and three of their four children: Herman, Katherine, and Boyd. Herman was 11 at the time of the murders, Katherine was 10, and Boyd was 7. Not pictured is Paul Moore, who was only 5, and the visiting Stillinger sisters, Lena and Ina, who were 12 and 8 respectively.
The perpetrator crept silently through the halls of the Moore residence and, starting in the master bedroom, began the systematic slaughter of everyone in the house. Only 12-year-old Lena Stillinger had any defensive wounds, and the gored faces of the victims were covered with various cloths. There was a basin of bloody water in the kitchen where the killer is thought to have cleaned himself up.
All the window curtains were closed, and for reasons unknown every mirror in the house was concealed behind blankets and aprons. Since the murders, people have been wary of occupying the residence, and it has been turned into a local attraction, promising those who stay in the house a haunting experience.
With how grisly and bizarre the crime was, you couldn't expect the investigation to be anything less than unconventional. In all, there were 3 devious suspects, any of which could have committed this crime and numerous others like it. Pictured here is Henry Moore. While being of no relation to the aforementioned Moore family, he was suspected in the murders and then convicted several months later for the slayings of his mother and grandmother with an axe.
There were a slew of other murders carried out with an axe, before and after the events of June 1912. They shared many details with the Villisca case, and Henry Moore was suspected in as well. The crimes were largely committed along the Southern Pacific Railroad, and although police forces at the time found it unlikely to be the same perpetrator, it remains a possibility. Also suspected for the crime at Villisca and others like it was William Mansfield. Mansfield's wife, infant child, and his wife's parents were hacked to death with an axe two years after the Villisca murders. Just like the Villisca case, bedclothes were laid over the victims' faces and the windows were covered. A third possibility still is the Reverend George Kelly, who boarded a train from Villisca at 5 a.m. the morning of the murders, and allegedly told fellow passengers there were murders committed back in Villisca before the bodies had yet been found. He would later return to the crime scene impersonating an officer of the law, and then actually confessed to the 8 killings, saying that God had told him to slay the family. The jury was unconvinced by his confession, and Kelly was acquitted.
Why were these people killed? Why did the murderer not have an axe of his own to commit this crime with? Did he commit this crime on a whim? How did only 1 victim show any signs of putting up a struggle? There are so many questions still circling this atrocious event that it’s hard to keep them all straight. What do you think happened on that dreaded night? Share your theories and this article with your friends!