Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Villisca: Mass Murder in Iowa

The Moore House Today

A recent photo of the ax murder house
A recent photo of the ax murder house

Over the 90-plus year span since the Moore-Stillinger murders, it has gone through at least eight different owners. Some rented out the building, and it deteriorated over the years, until 1994, when Darwin and Martha Linn purchased and renovated the place to resemble how it had looked on the fateful morning of June 10, 1912. They already ran the Olson-Linn Museum, so they had a clear interest in local history. "If the Linns had not purchased it," says Taylor, "it's likely that it would have been destroyed." Even so, the original furniture was long gone, so the Linns purchased antiques to provide a semblance of the place from long ago.

A mist over the ax murder house
A mist over the ax murder house

Now on the National Register of Historic Places, the J.B. Moore house is open for tours. Called the Villisca Ax Murder House, it draws many people interested not only in history or crime but also in the paranormal, and one can pay for an overnight tour — with the hope of having "an experience." Supposedly one can hear children's voices or banging sounds, be in the presence of falling objects, and feel a sense of someone there who can't be seen. Oil lamps blow out, though there's no breeze, and many people claim to have photographic evidence of something paranormal that hovers in the air. The tours start at the Olson Linn museum on the Town Square, and the invitation drew at least one ghost hunter who documented his findings.

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