Unsolved Villisca Ax Murders At The Josiah Moore Residence

villisca-ax-haunted-houses-06The Unsolved Villisca Ax Murders occurred sometime between the evening hours of June 9 and the early morning hours of June 10, in the town of Villisca, Iowa in the year of 1912.

Six members of the Moore family and two house guests were all found bludgeoned to death in the Moore residence. All eight victims, including six children, had severe head wounds from an ax.

The Moore’s were an affluent family, all well-known and well-liked in their community.

The Moore family consisted of parents Josiah B., age 43 and his wife, Sarah, age 39. Their four children were – Herman Montgomery (11), Mary Katherine (10), Arthur Boyd (7) and Paul Vernon (5).

JUNE 9th 1912

On June 9, 1912, the Moore family went to an evening program at the Presbyterian church. There they participated in the Children’s Day Program, which Sarah Moore had coordinated. After the program, young Katherine invited two friends to spend the night at the Moore house. The family and the two house guests, Ina Mae (8) and her sister, Lena Gertrude Stillinger (12) walked to the Moores’ house, arriving between 9:45 and 10 p.m.

June 10th 1912

The next morning at 7 a.m. Mary Peckham, a close neighbor of the Moores’, noticed that they had not come out to do their morning chores as was their custom. She became concerned and decided to check on her neighbors. She knocked on the Moores’ door. When nobody answered, she tried to open the door but discovered that it was locked.

Mary Peckham first let the Moores’ chickens out and then called Josiah’s brother, Ross Moore, and discussed her concern with him. Ross headed to his brother’s home at once.

The Crime Discovered

Like Mary Peckham, Ross Moore tried knocking and shouting, but he received no response either. Using a spare key to the residence that he had, he entered the house.

Mary waited outside on the porch while Ross went into the parlor. He made his way to the guest bedroom and opened the door. There he found Ina and Lena Stillinger’s bodies on the bed.

Ross Moore immediately told Mary Peckham to call the law. Hank Horton, Villisca’s primary peace officer, arrived shortly thereafter.

Hank Horton’s search of the house revealed that the entire Moore family, and the two Stillinger sisters, had all been bludgeoned to death. The murder weapon, an ax belonging to Josiah Moore, was found in the guest room where the little house guests were found.

What Happened At The Moore House

It was concluded that the murders had taken place between midnight and 5 a.m. Two spent cigarettes in the attic suggested that the killer or killers patiently waited in the attic until the Moore family and their young guests were asleep. The killers began in the master bedroom, where Josiah and Sarah Moore were sleeping. Josiah received more blows from the ax than any other victim. He had been struck in the head and face with such force, and so many times, that his eyes were missing. The killers then moved on to systematically murder the rest of the victims on the upper floor in the same way. The killers then moved downstairs to the guest bedroom and killed Ina and Lena.

Investigators believed that all of the victims except little Lena Stillinger had been asleep when they were murdered. They came to the conclusion that she was awake and tried desperately to fight back. She was found lying crosswise on the bed and had what appeared to be defensive wounds on her arms. Her nightgown was pushed up around her waist and she was wearing no underwear. Law enforcement speculation is that the killer(s) sexually molested her.

Persons Of Interest

Over time, many possible suspects emerged, including Reverend George Kelly, Frank F. Jones, William Mansfield, Loving Mitchell and Henry Lee Moore. George Kelly was actually tried twice for the murders but was eventually acquitted. The case has remained an unsolved mystery and an unsolved mass murder for over a hundred years.

murdered-in-their-bedsThis book is available if you would like to read more.

It should be noted that the ‘Moore House’ has become a very active site for the supernatural.  It is reported that apparitions have often been seen. People have heard footsteps and voices. The sightings and sounds of young children are widely reported. Laughing and crying has also been reported, as well as the voices of children warning others to hide.



credit – wikipedia