Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Villisca: Mass Murder in Iowa

The Ghost that Likes Candy

Troy Taylor's intent when he documented the Villisca tragedy was to add a story to his collection of tales of haunted places. He'd heard the many stories about the place, from banging sounds to a guest who awoke in the night to the sound of a child's voice, although a check in the morning told him that no children had been in the house. Yet people who had lived there over the years insisted it was not haunted.

Taylor went to see for himself in May 2005 when he scheduled an overnight investigation for a group, including it in So, There I Was. First, they went to the cemetery where the victims had been buried, the monuments for which had been purchased from reward money that was never paid out. Seeing their graves grounded the experience in the sense of an actual tragedy.

Inside the house, Taylor noted that it lacked electricity and plumbing, and described his awareness of the echoes of the successive murders. Appropriately for ghost-hunting, a thunderstorm gathered in the distance. One of the people hoping to see or hear a ghost had brought along candy as enticement for a child.

A camera was set up in the children's bedroom, with a video feed to the kitchen. That night, everyone involved witnessed a phenomenon: when candy was offered in exchange for closing a specified door, the door would close on its own. "It did not slam closed," Taylor writes, "but rather seemed to just gently close, as though someone was pushing it. There was absolutely no one near it at this time." Taylor examined it for wires, a draft, a slope to the house, and any other natural or manipulated explanation. They left it standing for two hours without the sugary inducement and it did not close. Then they offered candy once again. The door closed and latched.

Taylor took this as pretty fair proof that the place was haunted — or at least, that some force had been disturbed by the recent renovations. He tried everything he could think of to prove that the closing door had a reasonable explanation, but came up empty-handed.

Whether one's interest is history, crime, or the possibility of a ghostly manifestation, the Moore house in Villisca apparently offers quite a lot.

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