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When I was a child I lived not too far away from Villisca, Iowa. And growing up we always heard the stories from way back in the day. Even if a decade had passed, the tragedy of what had occurred between June 9th and June 10th, 1912 still haunted the town of Villisca as well as pretty much every single town that surrounded. Ghost stories spread among the children about what happened during those days. And parents would use the stories as a form of getting their children to behave. Well here is what really happened…
A person or persons entered a house in Villisca, Iowa and proceeded to bludgeon to death eight sleeping people – including two adults (which were the parents), and six children (aged 5 through 12). A few of the children belonged to the couple, but the others were just the children’s friends that were spending the night on those fateful nights. The killings were soon after infamously known as “The Villisca Axe Murders”. Easily still to this day the most notorious murders in Iowa history. After ten years of investigations, the horrific crime broke many political careers.
Let me paint a picture of the family. The day before the murders, the family attended a church service. The children’s friends accompanied them like it was any other day. Little did they know that it was going to be their last day together on earth as a family. Of course, they were walking which was normal for that time period and living in such a small community. That night the church service would have ended by 9:30 pm and the family left their friends and went home to turn in for the night. No one suspected that it would be the last time they would see the smiling faces of those children again; no one thought they would never see their friends again.
Sometime after midnight is when the killer or killers is suspected to have arrived at the family’s home…where an ax was picked up from the backyard, then the killer entered the house and bludgeoned to death the family as well as the children’s friends that were spending the night.
It was the next morning that the neighbor became suspicious of something being wrong because the family’s home was seemingly deserted. By 10:30 there were still no children outside playing and no one outside tending to chores because back then that was the normal thing to do. So the neighbor went over to scope things out (so-to-speak). The neighbor who was concerned went to get a family member of the murdered family who was able to enter the house and discover the chopped up bodies. The partially cleaned murder weapon was left leaning up against a wall.
All of the victims were found in their bed, clothed of course, with their heads covered (which is actually a sign of remorse), and they all had 20 to 30 whacks to their heads with the blunt end of the ax. All of the bedroom’s ceilings had gouge marks apparently from the upswing of the ax. And one of the children had been left exposed with her nightgown pushed up and defensive wounds on her. But it was concluded that she was not sexually assaulted. However, back then forensics were not all they were cracked up to be.
There were a few suspects. However, nothing could ever be completely proven without the kind of forensics that we have this day in age. Villisca has been the center of media attention for years since the murders. There have been documentaries and even an episode of Ghost Hunters filmed there. I think there was even an episode of Ghost Adventures filmed there.
The Villisca Axe Murder House is now open for ghost tours and they will also allow you to spend the night for a hefty price. It is reported that if you stand outside the house you can see the ghost of the murdered family members going about their daily lives inside. The original house still stands too, of course, it might have a new coat of paint, but it is still there. Check it out if you are not too scared.
This crime continues to and probably will always remain a cold case!