Murder of 8 People
June 11, 1912 is a day in history that will never be forgotten. On this day, an innocent group of eight people were brutally bludgeoned to death in their sleep with no clear motive or murderer. A family of six and two friends of the children’s were staying in the home the night of the 10th after returning from church at 9:45-10 p.m. Similar to many of the people living in Villisca, Iowa at the time, the Moore family did not lock their doors when they were away for Church. This is possibly when the murderer entered their home awaiting their return. Police were led to believe that the killer was hiding out in the attic before the killings due to cigarette butts being found up there. When a neighbor realized the family hadn’t started their daily chores on the morning of the 11th, she called Russ Moore, Josiah Moore’s brother. Russ Moore went over to the home and checked the inside and found a horrific sight. He immediately called the police who figured out the series of events.
The first person who was bludgeoned that night was Josiah Moore, he was said to have been most brutally attacked with the blade of their family’s own axe. Next was Sarah Moore who was murdered with the blunt end of the blade like the rest of the victims. Their kids were killed next along with the family friends, Ina Mae Stillinger who was 8 and Lena Gertrude Stillinger who was 12. All of the victims were said to be asleep when they were attacked except for Lena who was found with defensive wounds on her and in a strange position on her bed.
There were a few odd things about the crime scene. The family’s axe was left on the ground in the guest room where the Stillinger sisters were staying, and next to it was a piece of slab bacon weighing four pounds. Also, the killer had covered all the of the mirrors in the home with blankets or clothes, what does that mean? It was found that after the murders the killer had cooked himself a meal but left it untouched. Near the plate of food was a bowl of bloody water in the kitchen. These strange details left many dumbfounded and confused.
Investigators were quickly called to the home after police saw the sight of the obvious homicide. They quickly ruled out a murder suicide because the wounds of each victim could not have been self inflicted. There were many suspects but the one that they honed in on was Reverend George Kelley. He was a traveling minister that had been in town for one night and performed the service the Moore’s had attended that evening. He was not able to explain what he was doing when he was out of town from 5-5:30 a.m. the next morning. He was reportedly very interested in the murders and had been in and out of trouble with the law in the past. He had sent obscene materials through the mail and had a stay at a mental hospital. In 1917 he was arrested for the murders and confessed but later recanted his confession. Eventually he was tried and acquitted for the murders as many people didn’t think he was mentally or physically capable of murdering the 8 people. No one else was ever convicted or tried for their murders, so the case went cold.
Similarly to many other houses with mass murder, there are people who believe ghosts are haunting this home. Families have tried to live in this home after the murders but never lasted long in it. In 1994 Martha Linn bought the home and restored it to use it as an attraction. You could visit the house for a tour or stay overnight in it. It was featured on many ghost hunting shows and has had every type of paranormal activity imagined. People have reported disembodied footsteps, voices and apparitions, strange shadows, things moving of their own accord, and overall just bad vibes.
Among the most mysterious events was a Ghost Hunter stabbing himself during an overnight stay in the house. He was rushed to the hospital on November 8, 2014 with a self inflicted stab wound to his chest. From what the police understand he had called for help from his friends on his mobile two way radio. The rest of his party had found him with the injury. The stabbing took place around the same time that the murders in 1912 had occurred. It’s such a popular destination for people to investigate the paranormal on their own, especially since it has the title of one of the most haunted places in America. Martha Linn has even said that she has seen guests interact with the spirits of the victims in the home.
In June of 2016 a photographer went to the home to take pictures for a sneak peek into the RAGBRAI route that cyclists go on. He took a picture in the attic which is where the killer was said to hide out. People that have seen it looked closely and noted that the front right leg of the chair seems to be floating, many people believe that this is due to the paranormal presence in the home. There is also another image of a board filled with pictures where people have claimed to see floating orbs around different rooms in the house, supposedly those of the victims.
Haunted Villisca House Tour