House Crazy Sarah has long felt an affinity for this unfortunate little Victorian cottage.
The Villisca Ax Murder House in the rural southwest Iowa town of Villisca, is one of the most fascinating places she has ever visited.
Ever since House Crazy Sarah discovered this house about 15 years ago, she has felt a strange connection to the place. And here’s why…
On June 10, 1912 (House Crazy Sarah’s birthday! Well not the 1912 part, but the June 10th date), Josiah and Sarah (Sarah!!!) Moore, their four children and two visiting guests were bludgeoned to death inside this quiet home for no apparent reason.
The heinous crime remains unsolved to this day and the home has been restored to exactly as it was on that fateful June night.
Does that not send shivers up and down your spine?
House Crazy Sarah stopped by this macabre tourist attraction one very hot, humid August day a few years back on a sojourn from Colorado to Canada.
Unfortunately, the house was not open for tours on that particular day, but that didn’t stop House Crazy Sarah from prowling around the exterior of this exquisitely haunted little Victorian.
Here are more details about the crime: between the evening of June 9, 1912, and the early morning of June 10, 1912, this little white house on the eastern edge of town witnessed one of the most vicious & inexplicable crimes ever committed in the United States.
Inside the Moore residence, six members of the Moore family (parents Josiah & Sarah, and their four children: Herman, Mary Katherine, Arthur, and Paul) and two child house guests who were sleeping over (Ina & Lena Stillinger), were found by a relative drenched in blood after being axed to death.
The murders were so horrifying, it is said that they took the sinking of the Titanic (April 15, 1912), off the front pages of newspapers!
After a lengthy investigation, a handful of suspects were identified, but none were ever convicted. The crime continues to remain unsolved over 100 years later.
The tragic incident later became a immortalized in books, televisions shows, and even a movie.
The fascination with this unfortunate house endures to this day.
Built in 1868, the corner lot home was purchased by business man Josiah Moore in 1903. The Moore’s lived here for the next nine years.
After the murders, the home eventually sold and became a rental property. Over the decades, it passed hands eight times and became rather run-down as evident in the photo below:
However, in 1994, Darwin and Martha Linn of Corning, Iowa purchased the former home of the Moore family.
The couple had the house restored to its original condition – how it appeared on June 10, 1912. It was also listed on the National Registrar of Historic Places in 1997 and opened for public tours.
The restoration job is stunning! This place is now a time capsule of early Twentieth Century Iowa small-town life, frozen sadly in time.
Apparently, the owners stripped the house of all plumbing & electrical wiring to make it more authentic.
No detail was forgotten, right down to the vintage dishes and hymn books on the piano.
The shades are always drawn – to keep the sun at bay since there is no AC, and out of respect for the cruel fate of the victims, but also to keep un-paying prying eyes out. (Like House Crazy Sarah!)
One day, she will return to the quaint farming town of Villisca and actually go inside the house.
In the meantime, we can appreciate these online photos that give us a good idea of the layout and period décor.
Below (to the left of the pot-bellied stove) is an old photo of three members of the Moore family.
In the bedrooms, the home’s caretakers have tried to recreate how the Moore family had the spaces furnished in 1912 from the few existing crime scene photos:
All of the victims were found in their beds with severe head trauma. The youngest victim was only 5 years old.
How could such a thing happen in a quiet, rural town, to a well respected family with no known enemies?
The mystery endures and confounds to this day.
Note that the vanity mirror is covered, a Victorian death custom:
A popular theory is that the killer (or killers) lay in wait in the attic, having snuck inside earlier in the day when the Moore’s were away at a church function. Two cigarette butts were found there, and no one in the Moore family smoked.
Once the Moore’s and their two child house guests were asleep, the assailant commenced his evil work, then slipped out into the hot June night, never to be found.
While the tragedy that occurred within the walls of this folk Victorian cottage cast a dark shadow on its existence, it has also ensured that the home is well cared for and respected.
When House Crazy Sarah visited this house, she sat on the porch and oddly, felt a deep sense of calm and peace. Perhaps it was the home’s way of saying it is content in keeping the memory of its former owners cherished and protected within its walls.