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Inside the Villisca Ax Murder House: A Paranormal Investigation

Updated on December 3, 2016
liladybugz26 profile image

Rachael has been passionate for the paranormal since an early childhood, unexplained experience. She enjoys investigations and research.

The Home of J.B. Moore was home to one of the most infamous mass family murders in American history. The house, now known as the Villisca Ax Murder House, is claimed to be one of the most haunted locations in America. Our overnight investigation has spawned evidence of these claims.

The Villisca Ax Murder House

Home of J.B. Moore and Family
Home of J.B. Moore and Family

June 9th, 1912

At 8:00 pm Josiah (J.B.) Moore, an affluent and well liked implement store owner, watched his wife Sarah direct the Presbyterian church's annual children's day program. His four children were included in the program: 11 year-old Herman, 9 year-old Katherine, 7 year-old Boyd, and 5 year-old Paul. This particular night all of the lights in Villisca were blackened due to a feud between Villisca and the electric company. Because of this, two of the children's friends, Lena and Ina Stillinger ages 12 and 8, were afraid to walk to their grandmother's house after the program for dinner. Following a call to their parents, it was agreed the Stillinger girls were to spend the night at the Moore's. At approximately 9:30 pm the program ended, and the Moore family and Stillinger girls walked three blocks along the dark streets to the Moore's home. They arrived at the house in Villisca, Iowa between 9:45 and 10:00 pm. After a snack of milk and cookies, the family and guests headed to bed.

J.B. Moore Family and Stillinger Girls

Left Photo | Josiah, Herman, Katherine and Sarah Moore | Upper Right: Boyd and Paul Moore | Lower Right: Lena and Ina Stillinger
Left Photo | Josiah, Herman, Katherine and Sarah Moore | Upper Right: Boyd and Paul Moore | Lower Right: Lena and Ina Stillinger | Source

Dead Person in Every Bed

The family tucked-in to sleep in the upstairs bedrooms of the house, and the Stillinger girls slumbered downstairs in the sewing/guest room. Josiah's backyard ax was taken by an intruder who entered the house before the family and Stillinger girls' returned from church. It was concluded that between the hours of midnight and 5:00 am, the intruder slipped out of the attic door connected to the parents room, and with the ax he struck Josiah and his wife multiple times, with exact blows to their heads. Next, he bludgeoned the heads of the four children in the adjoining room with ax. He continued down the stairs to the room where Lena and Ina slept, and took the ax to their heads, but not before the oldest Stillinger girl awakened. Her body was discovered pulled down on the bed with her underclothes removed, and legs posed in a sexual manner. She was also found with defensive wounds on her arms and body. Officials claimed she was the only person awake while murdered. After murdering every person in the house, the killer proceeded back up the stairs, and continued to systematically strike the heads of the deceased bodies. Physicians estimated the deaths to have occurred shortly after midnight.


Josiah's head was struck an estimated 30 times

All of the victims were left unrecognizable.

Thursday June 13, 1912 front page of The Villisca Review
Thursday June 13, 1912 front page of The Villisca Review | Source

The Crime Scene

  • Bedclothes were placed over what was left of Josiah and Sarah's heads. An undershirt made of gauze was placed over Herman's head, and a dress covered Katherine's. He also covered the remaining victims faces in the home with clothing.
  • The Moore's clothing was hung over every mirror in the home, hiding any reflection.
  • All of the curtains in the Moore house were drawn shut, and two windows without curtains were shaded with the Moore's clothing.
  • Ax marks were left in the children's and Moore's bedroom ceilings from the ax being swung at the victims. Ax marks were also found in the middle of the children's room ceiling from what is suspected was the killer swinging the ax in a circular frenzy.
  • A kerosene filled lamp sat on the floor at the foot of the Moore's bed. The chimney of the lamp was removed and placed under their dresser, and the wick was turned back. Another lamp of kerosene was placed at the foot of Stillinger girls' bed. It was also missing the chimney.
  • The ax was resting in the guestroom where Lena and Ina slept. It was found near the doorway, and was leaning on the wall. It was blood covered, but an attempt was made to wipe it clean.
  • The killer left a 2 pound slab of wrapped bacon in a towel next to the ax in the Stillinger girls' room. It was cut from a bacon chunk found in the icebox.
  • Next to the ax and bacon sat a short piece of keychain that did not belong to the Moore's.
  • An untouched plate of prepared food was resting on the kitchen table, along with a bowl of bloody water from the killer washing his hands.
  • All of the doors were locked behind the killer, and the Moore's house keys were taken.

The Funeral in the Park

Source

Moore Family Gravesite

The final resting place of J.B. Moore, his wife Sarah, and their four children. The two Stillinger girls are buried just a stone's throw away.
The final resting place of J.B. Moore, his wife Sarah, and their four children. The two Stillinger girls are buried just a stone's throw away.

Reverend Lyn George Jacklin Kelly

Source

Who was the Killer?

There were several suspects following the murders including the state senator. William Mansfield was another suspect who was thought to be paid to construct the murders, and the most likely suspect a reverend, Lyn George Jacklin Kelly, who was found to be a sexual deviant, and sat just behind J.B. Moore at the children's program.

Reverend Kelly was a mid-west preacher who drifted in and out of Iowa and the surrounding states. In the early morning following the murders, Kelly boarded the train out of Villisca to Macedonia. He told other passengers on the train of the murders before they were discovered. After arriving in Macedonia he sent blood filled clothing to be laundered. He returned to Villisca one week following the murders, and entered the Moore's home posing as a detective. He also inquired about suspects at this time. Kelly confessed to the murders years later, but it was found to be a coerced confession. He was tried two times for the murders, and both times he was acquitted. At this time there were several serial murders in the midwest that fit the Villisca description. Was the Reverend Kelly responsible for them all? No person was ever convicted, and nobody will ever know.

Says He Killed Eight at God's Command

Kelly confessed he was studying sermon on "Slay Utterly" when the impulse to slay seized him.

Ageless Children

At least three of the Moore children were captured in this 2005 photo taken in the Villisca Ax Murder House kitchen.
At least three of the Moore children were captured in this 2005 photo taken in the Villisca Ax Murder House kitchen. | Source

The Haunting

For years, the Villisca Ax Murder House has had claims of being haunted. Nearly every night different paranormal teams fill the home waiting to capture evidence from the other side, and reveal the unknown mysteries surrounding the murders. A slew of evidence has come to the surface based on these investigations. Are the spirits of the Moore children trapped in the house? Could J.B. or Sarah still be lurking in the home searching for them, or is the killer's spirit basking in his demented glory?

From apparitions, EVPs (electronic voice phenomena), being touched, and even scratched, it has been said that the Villisca Ax Murder House is the most haunted location in America. On May 30, 2014, our paranormal investigative team took our turn with an overnight stay in the house. We were able to capture an incredible 19 EVPs in six minutes, along with an impressive full spectrum video still featuring several unique anomalies including an unknown shadowy face complete with visible pupils, ears and hair. I have also included two additional photos from other teams that have investigated the home.

Window Spirit

Bottom left window corner spirit of Boyd or Paul Moore captured by a paranormal team at the Villisca Ax Murder House, and re-photographed.
Bottom left window corner spirit of Boyd or Paul Moore captured by a paranormal team at the Villisca Ax Murder House, and re-photographed.

Full-Spectrum Camera Still

We captured this full spectrum photo still in the parlor of the home. It reveals a face along with eyes and pupils above what appears to be a smaller headed body.
We captured this full spectrum photo still in the parlor of the home. It reveals a face along with eyes and pupils above what appears to be a smaller headed body.

Initial Walkthrough EVPs

The following video features 19 EVPs I captured on an Olympus FE-360 digital camera during our initial walk-through of the home on May 30, 2014. No children were present during this recording. The video includes bubbles where the EVPs exist, or you can skip to the following video counters to hear the voices from beyond:

0:23 A child's voice.
0:53 A female voice saying "Ah ha ha ha".
1:00 A faint voice.
1:54 A female saying, "Somebody needs their mom and dad...".
2:05 An older male voice says, "Who are they".
2:13 A child says "Mommy".
2:28 A small girl's voice.
2:36 A growl.
2:52 A voice appears to say, "Somethings funny".
2:53 Whistling .
3:16 Two male soft spoken words.
3:23 A growl.
3:38 After the beeping phone there is a raaa sound.
4:14 A large exhale.
5:13 A full female voice says a complete sentence.
5:32 Another large exhale.
5:56 A loud, scary laugh.
6:22 A scream.
6:23 Following the scream is an evil male voice that says, "Tell them".

19 EVPs Captured During Our Initial Walkthrough

The Children Speak

PRISM Paranormal EVP Compilation

The following video is a compilation created by PRISM Paranormal. It features the history of the house, and compares EVPs captured of the Moore and Stillinger children. Included in the video is my recording, and recordings from several different paranormal groups from the years 2004 to 2014. Be warned, some of the EVPs are disturbing.

Is it Really Haunted?

My conclusion after reviewing all of the evidence we captured is this is a hot paranormal spot. I believe it is filled with a variety of entities, some of which may have been conjured by other members of the public who have visited the house on pretenses of evil including the use of Satanic rituals.

The Murders Keep Villisca Alive

The murders that once tore this town apart, are now holding it together. Much of Villisca's businesses sit empty, but the Villisca Ax Murder House provides a steady stream of tourist revenue to the town. In 1994 Darwin Linn purchased the property, began conducting daytime tours, and allowing overnight guests to stay in the home. Since his passing in 2011, Darwin's wife Martha took over, and still allows guests.

Left to Right: Natas, Jay, Rachael, Kristine, Kelly
Left to Right: Natas, Jay, Rachael, Kristine, Kelly

Where is the Villisca Ax Murder House?

A marker508 E 2nd St, Villisca, IA 50864 -
508 East 2nd Street, Villisca, IA 50864, USA
get directions

Home of J.B. Moore and the infamous Villisca Ax Murders

Share Your Voice

Is the Villisca Ax Murder House really haunted?

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© 2015 Rachael Jones

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    • profile image

      Lee Cloak 2 years ago

      Very interesting hub, great pictures, scary stuff indeed, Voted up, thanks, Lee

    • liladybugz26 profile image
      Author

      Rachael Jones 2 years ago from Cambridge

      Thank you Lee! It was indeed very creepy to say the least.

    • asmas profile image

      Asma Shaikh 2 years ago from Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

      extremely creepy video and article...sure of getting goosebumps..:D

    • liladybugz26 profile image
      Author

      Rachael Jones 2 years ago from Cambridge

      I still get the goosebumps thinking of the investigation, and I can no longer even listen to the EVPs because I get so creeped out, but I honestly don't think I could resist another trip back!

    • profile image

      Flo Shaugobay 2 years ago

      David Shaugobay my husband says he would sleep in the house , well heck I think he could sleep anywherewhereas he falls to sleep so fast and in bed early. As for me not sure and find it interesting ,but not sure just how much I believe in ghosts. Won,t say it is not true as I have not went to a haunted house to check out ghosts. Great job Rachael Stein Jones.

    • liladybugz26 profile image
      Author

      Rachael Jones 2 years ago from Cambridge

      Thank you so much Flo!

    • Kristleangel profile image

      Crystal Myers 2 years ago from Flagstaff

      That was a great article!!!!!

    • liladybugz26 profile image
      Author

      Rachael Jones 2 years ago from Cambridge

      Thank you so very much Kristleangel!

    • DarkestDreams profile image

      Darkest Dreams 2 years ago from East Coast, USA

      I've heard about this house before on different shows. It is such a sad story. For some reason, it really bothers me so much about the two children that were friends with them spending the night there. It was bad enough for an entire family to be killed, but then two more innocent children were killed too just because they happened to be there that night. So sad!

    • liladybugz26 profile image
      Author

      Rachael Jones 2 years ago from Cambridge

      I know DarkestDreams. It's such a sad story.

    • NightDude profile image

      Frank McCrary 2 years ago from Tampa, Florida

      Awesome article!!!

    • liladybugz26 profile image
      Author

      Rachael Jones 2 years ago from Cambridge

      Thank you so, so very much NightDude! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 2 years ago from Oklahoma

      Always fascinated with this sort of thing. Very in depth analysis.

      As to the haunting of this place, I am skeptical, but the existence of ghosts is not something I've ruled out.

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 2 years ago from San Diego California

      Creepy for sure. I got the chills reading this. Very well written and researched.

    • liladybugz26 profile image
      Author

      Rachael Jones 2 years ago from Cambridge

      Thank you Mel for the very nice compliment!

      And, thank you for your comment Larry.

    • Sharlee01 profile image

      Sharon Stajda 23 months ago from Shelby Township Michigan

      Very well written and put together. You certainly did your research. This article is compelling and gives good evidence of a haunting. The EVP's were very clear, and relevant to the location. Good work...

    • liladybugz26 profile image
      Author

      Rachael Jones 23 months ago from Cambridge

      Thank you so much Sharlee01!

    • kittythedreamer profile image

      Nicole Canfield 18 months ago from the Ether

      Very creepy! I'd never heard of the Villisca Ax Murder house before. What a sad story. I wouldn't be surprised at all if other entities have been attracted to the house because of all the negative energy lingering there. Thanks for sharing your story.

    • liladybugz26 profile image
      Author

      Rachael Jones 14 months ago from Cambridge

      Thank you so much kittythedreamer. It is indeed a very sad story.

    • profile image

      Scott Westin 6 months ago

      I was skeptical before hearing the audio of the "spirts" but after listening to those sounds, and the eerie meanings like "tell them", "who are they ?" I firmly believe they are supernatural voices from the damned & tortured. Good Work Rachel.

    • liladybugz26 profile image
      Author

      Rachael Jones 6 months ago from Cambridge

      Thank you so very much Scott!

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