The Crime Scene
Once the murderers were discovered, the news traveled quickly in the small
town. As neighbors and curious onlookers converged on the house, law
enforcement officials quickly lost control of the crime scene. It is said
that up to a hundred people traipsed through the house gawking at the bodies
before the Villisca National Guard finally arrived around noon to cordon off
the area and secure the home.
The only known facts regarding the scene of the crime were:
Eight people had been bludgeoned to death, presumably with an axe left at
the crime scene. It appeared all had been asleep at the time of the murders.
Doctors estimated time of death as somewhere shortly after midnight.
Curtains were drawn on all of the windows in the house except two, which did
not have curtains. Those windows were covered with clothing belonging to the
All of the victims faces were covered with the bedclothes after they were
A kerosene lamp was found at the foot of the bed of Josiah and Sarah. The
chimney was off and the wick had been turned back. The chimney was found
under the dresser.
A similar lamp was found at the foot of the bed of the Stillinger girls, the
chimney was also off.
The axe was found in the room occupied by the Stillinger girls. It was
bloody but an attempt had been made to wipe it off. The axe belonged to
The ceilings in the parent's bedroom and the children's room showed gouge
marks apparently made by the upswing of the axe.
A piece of a keychain was found on the floor in the downstairs bedroom.
A pan of bloody water was discovered on the kitchen table as well as a plate
of uneaten food.
The doors were all locked.
The bodies of Lena and Ina Stillinger were found in the downstairs bedroom
off the parlor. Ina was sleeping closest to the wall with Lena on her right
side. A gray coat covered her face. Lena, according to the inquest testimony
of Dr. F.S. Williams, "lay as though she had kicked one foot out of her bed
sideways, with one hand up under the pillow on her right side, half
sideways, not clear over but just a little. Apparently she had been struck
in the head and squirmed down in the bed, perhaps one-third of the way."
Lena's nightgown was slid up and she was wearing no undergarments. There was
a bloodstain on the inside of her right knee and what the doctors assumed
was a defensive wound on her arm.
Dr. Linquist, the coroner, reported a slab of bacon on the floor in the
downstairs bedroom lying near the axe. Weighing nearly 2 pounds, it was
wrapped in what he though may be a dishtowel. A second slab of bacon about
the same size was found in the icebox.
Linquist also made note of one of Sarah's shoes which he found on Josiah's
side of the bed. The shoe was found on it's side, however it had blood
inside as well as under it. It was Linquist's assumption that the shoe had
been upright when Josiah was first struck and that blood ran off the bed
into the shoe. He believed the killer later returned to the bed to inflict
additional blows and subsequently knocked the shoe over.
National Registrar of Historic Places
In 1994, Darwin and Martha Linn of Corning, Iowa purchased the former home
of murder victim J.B. Moore and his family. The house was returned to it's
original condition at the time of the murders on June 10th, 1912. It was
listed on the National Registrar of Historic Places and opened for tours.
Films and books on the murders have recently captured the interest of an
audience who had never heard of this horrendous crime. Psychics claim
they've identified the murderer and history buffs continue collecting piles
of documents they say point to the truth.
In all honesty though, we will never really know what happened on that dark
night inside the home of J.B. and Sarah Moore. The murderer or murderers
were never caught and given the many years that have passed, their dark
secret was obviously carried with them to their own graves.
For some, the speculation was almost too much to bear and in 1912,
townspeople began to distinguish and identify themselves by who they
believed committed the crime. Friendships became strained and in many cases,
irretrievably broken. The town stood then and in many cases still stands
Spending the Night in 2015
Want a date in 2015? They will be available for booking starting OCT 15!
Overnights at the Villisca house typically begin at 4:00pm. After a
walk-thru tour of the house and grounds, we will simply turn over the key
and head on home. You will be asked to leave the key in a predetermined
place when you leave no later then 9:30 am.
Overnight tours are by reservation only and we suggest that you limit your
group to ten or less. Any more than that and the small house gets even
smaller. Bring your sleeping bags and pillows so you will be comfortable
sleeping in the house. The barn is located a few feet from the house and has
restroom, water, and electricity. If it's spring or early fall, a blanket
and heavy coat are a good idea. Photographs, videotapes and audio recordings
are encouraged, however, we would appreciate it if you'd share anything you
may capture on film or tape.
To book an overnight tour - call Martha at 712-621-1530 or email her at
Villisca Axe Murder House
508 E 2nd St
Villisca, IA 50864