Villisca Ax Murder House: From Horror to Haunted

Chasing Shadows by Larry WilsonFrom Chasing Shadows by Larry Wilson.

Villisca, Iowa is a small town located 60 miles from Omaha, Nebraska. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, Villisca has 636 housing units, but none are more famous than the one located at Lot 310, now known as the “Villisca Ax Murder House.” For those not familiar with the history behind the Villisca house, here is a brief summary of its incredible and horrible story.

On Sunday evening, June 9, 1912, Joe Moore and his wife Sara took their four children, Herman, Katherine, Boyd, and Paul, to the Children’s Day service at the Presbyterian Church. Accompanying them were Ina and Lena Stillinger, who had asked their parents’ permission to stay overnight with the Moore children.

The Moore family and their two guests, the Stillinger girls, returned to the Moore residence that night never to be seen again. During the night of June 9, 1912, an unknown individual entered the Moore home and bludgeoned to death the eight people sleeping there. On June 10th, when residents discovered the eight victims inside, the small town of Villisca was changed forever.

Since the time of the murders, the house has had several families live there, but in 1994, it was in danger of being torn down. Local residents Darwin and Martha Linn, owners of the local Olson-Linn Museum, decided to buy the historic home rather than see it demolished. Darwin and Martha were instrumental in having the house put on the national historical register. They believed that the mystery of the crime would attract tourists to Villisca and its “Ax Murder House.” Little did they realize that its reputation for the paranormal would attract more interest than the infamous murder!

The new owners restored the house to its original appearance as it was in 1912. Darwin Linn replaced electric lights with oil lamps. Using old court documents and newspaper articles, the Linns decorated the rooms as they might have looked at the time of the murders. Many local residents are not happy with the Linns, claiming that Darwin and Martha remodeled the house in order to capitalize on its gruesome history by allowing ghost hunters to lease the home to conduct investigations.

I know, however, that this was not the case. The Linns’ intention was simply to preserve an important part of the history of Villisca. Like it or not, and as gruesome as the murders were, they are a part of the town’s legacy.

Darwin explained to me that he had never heard the term “paranormal” until after the remodeling on the “ax murder house” was completed and he was contacted by a man asking how much it would cost to conduct a paranormal investigation there. Once the man explained what a paranormal investigation was, Darwin saw no harm in it and agreed. So as they say, the rest is history. Due to the interest in the house by paranormal investigators, the Linns allow groups and individuals to conduct overnight investigations there for a reasonable fee.

This is where my story begins…

Copyright 2014 Black Oak Media, Inc. You do not have permission to copy this post.


  1. My favourite


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