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Villisca Axe Murders: The bloody murders remain unsolved and the hauntings live on

The gruesome Villisca Axe murders have baffled authorities for over a century, two trials, a confession and numerous suspects and the case is still open and the victims are still said to roam the area.


The victims of the Villisca Axe Murders
The eight victims of the bloody Villisca Axe Murders

Situated at the end of a quiet street in Villisca, Iowa, there stands an old white framed house, just a short walk up the street are a group of churches and a children's play park and middle school.


The old white house is similar in appearance to many other old buildings that fill the neighbourhood, however, it lies their abandoned and holding an utterly disturbing story.

A small sign outside of the front of the house stands to this day, "Villisca Axe Murder House."


Although it may lay abandoned today, this little white house once gleamed with life. On one tragic summer night back in 1912 this life was gruesomely brought to a harsh ending, when a mystery stranger broke in, and viciously bludgeoned its right sleeping residents to death. This disturbing event would come to be known as the Villisca Axe Murders, and would leave authorities still scratching their years for over a century.


June 10th, 1912, the Moore family lay peacefully sleeping in their beds. Joe and Sarah Moore were asleep upstairs, while their four young children were asleep in a room just down the hall. Sleeping in a guest bedroom on the first floor were two young girls who had come over for a sleepover, the Stillinger sisters.


Just after midnight, an unknown stranger let themselves into the family home through the unlocked front door, they picked up an oil lamp that was on a table and rigged it to burn as low as possible, they used the lamp to make their way through the home whilst holding an axe in their other hand.


The intruder made their way upstairs and into Mr and Mrs Moore's bedroom, then into the children's bedroom before going back downstairs.


Then, as quickly and silently as he had arrived, the stranger left, taking keys from the home, and locking the door behind him.


The following morning the Moore's neighbours became concerned as the house was unusually quiet. Joe's brother was contacted and came around to take a look and check on the wellbeing of his brother and his family. He let himself into the home with his own key, what he saw upon entering was to make to make him physically sick.


Every person in that house was dead, all eight of them had been bludgeoned to death in their sleep, the authorities said that had been beaten so badly that their bodies were unrecognisable.


The police determined that the parents had been killed first and with horrific force. They said that the axe that been used in the murders had been swung so high above the killers head that it gouged a chunk out of the ceiling above the bed. The authorities stated that Joe alone had been hit with the axe at least 30times. They gruesomely made a statement saying that the heads of both the children and the parents had been left as nothing but a bloody pulp.


The horrifying state of the bodies was bad enough, however, an even more concerning twist to the story came after the police had searched the property. After murdering the Moore family, the killer had held a ritual of some sort. He covered the Moore parent's heads with bed sheets as well as the Moore children's faces with clothes. He then proceeded to go through each room in the home, covering all the mirrors and windows with clothes and towels, there was also a piece of uncooked bacon that had been taken from the fridge and placed in the living room, along with a keychain.


A bowl of water was found in the house with spirals of blood in it, the police believed this is where the murderer had washed his hands before leaving the property.

Villisca Axe Murder House
One of the bedrooms in the Villisca Axe Murder house

Word of this horrific crime quickly spread throughout the town and a large crowd outside, authorities warned the townsfolk not to enter the property, however, the moment the police left the crime scene over 100 people traipsed through the murder house.


It is said that one of the townspeople even took a fragment of Joe's skull from their bedroom as a keepsake.


With the huge public interest the police quickly became under pressure to find the murderer, they surprisingly had very few leads. A few efforts to search the town and the surrounding countryside were made with no success. The police believed the killer had an approximate five-hour head start on the authorities. The townspeople entering the property had also destroyed a lot of vital evidence to progress the investigation.


Over time the names of several suspects came out, although nothing materialised from them.


The first suspect was Frank Jones, a well known local businessman who had been in competition with Joe Moore. Joe had worked for Jones previously for seven years in the business of farm equipment sales before he left and set up his own rival company.


It was rumoured that Joe had been having an affair the daughter-in-law of Frank Jones, the locals insisted that the Moores and the Joneses had a deep hatred for each other, no one admits that it was bad enough to create this brutal murder.


The second man that was named seemed a much more likely suspect and even confessed to committing the murders - his confession was later recanted claiming police brutality.


Villisca Axe Murders killer
Lyn George Jacklin Kelly had a past history for mental health issues as well as a track record of strange behaviour towards the Moore's

Lyn George Jacklin Kelly, he had a history of sexual crimes and suffered from mental problems. He admitted to being in the town on the night of the murders and confirmed he also left early in the morning. He was a small statured man and known for his meek personality which led for doubt to be cast over his involvement, the police did state that there were certain factors that made him a prime suspect.


The police had determined from the blood splatters that the killer must have been left-handed, Kelly was left-handed. He had some history with the Moore family, many locals confirmed they had seen him standing watching the Moore's whilst at church and out in the town. A dry cleaner from a nearby town also told police that they had received a batch of bloody clothing from Kelly shortly after the murders. Kelly was also reported to have requested access to the Moore home shortly after the murders took place whilst claiming to be a Scotland Yard police officer.


Kelly was interrogated for a long time, eventually signing a confession detailing the murders. Almost immediately he recanted on his confession and the jury refused to indict him.

For years, police looked into every possible scenario that could have culminated in the Villisca axe murders. Was it a single attack, or part of a larger string of murders? Was it likelier to be a local perpetrator, or a traveling killer, simply passing through town and taking an opportunity?


Soon, reports of similar enough crimes happening throughout the country began to pop up. Though the crimes were not quite as gruesome, there were two common threads – the use of an axe as the murder weapon, and the presence of an oil lamp, set to burn extremely low, at the scene.


Despite the commonalities, however, no actual connections could be made. The case eventually ran cold, and the house was boarded up. No sale was ever attempted, and no changes were made to the original layout. Now, the house sits at the end of the quiet street as it always has, while life goes on around it, undeterred by the horrors that were once committed within.


Over the years proceeding the brutal murders the Villisca Axe Murder house has been opened up as a museum and guest house, there have been a large amount of paranormal activity reported within the property and it is strongly believed by the locals that the Moore family still remain in the property to this day.


There have been reports from many guests of hearing screams in the middle of the night coming from the bedrooms whilst others have claimed to have witnessed white apparitions of children walking down the hall ways.


If you believe the ghost stories or not, there is no denying that this house is a true house of bone chilling history that would terrify even the hardiest of non-believers. Let us know your thoughts in the comments and don't forget to follow us on Facebook