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As seen on Midwestern PBS stations & CourtTV's "Catherine Crier Live":
The only website and film dedicated to telling the true story of the 1912 Villisca axe murders.

 

 


 

 

Explore one of
America's Greatest Unsolved Mysteries:

the Villisca Axe Murders of 1912

 

Quick Stop

If you don't have time to sleuth, read the quick descriptions below for: VILLISCA Updates and Screenings, How to Buy the award-winning documentary on DVD, Books, and other DVDs about the axe murder mystery, Stores that carry VILLISCA: LIVING WITH A MYSTERY, Reviews of the indie documentary that has captured the interest of the "unsolved mystery" buff nationwide. Then come back later when you have time to play "Detective".

Official Poster of the award-winning documentary "Villisca: Living with a Mystery"
Copyright 2007. FWF.


VILLISCA: Living with a Mystery will be broadcast on KCPT-PBS in Kansas City in the Spring 2010.  It continues to air on Midwestern PBS stations.  It made its broadcast debut on Iowa Public Television (IPTV) in 2007.   The documentary feature film has continued to air on Public Television stations throughout the Midwest, including Kansas Public Television (KPTS), Missouri Public Television (KMOS-TV), Illinois Public Television (WQPT-TV) and more.  If you haven't had a chance to see VILLISCA: LIVING WITH A MYSTERY on television, call your local public television station to request it.  See why this unsolved mystery is as compelling as Lizzie Borden, and Jack the Ripper.  For more information about VILLISCA screenings, CLICK HERE.

One of America's greatest unsolved mysteries airs on KMOS-TV on October 27 at 8pm for Halloween.

KPTS televised VILLISCA in July 2007.

IPTV regualary airs VILLISCA to thousands of viewers.


Hundreds of visitors a day are keeping up with new findings, news, controversial issues, and events surrounding the tragic story of the Moore and Stillinger murders by visiting the new VILLISCA MYSTERY BLOG.   To read weekly posts about one of America's greatest unsolved mysteries, and add your feedback, CLICK HERE.

Psychic profiler Carla Baron, medium John J. Oliver, and paranormal investigator Patrick Burns revealed their findings, and we posted our reaction to Courttv's HAUNTING EVIDENCE where Villisca's alleged paranormal activity at the Villisca Axe Murder House was a featured story. We also responded to SCARIEST PLACES ON EARTH's Villisca axe murder segment, detailing the show's erroneous misinformation, phony photographs, and the use of actors for "interviews".

Investigators and detectives of the 1912 ax murder case
                                                                Copyright 2007. FWF.

Villisca, Iowa town Marshall Hank Horton (far left)poses with
detectives,amateur sleuths, and newspaper reporters investigating
the Moore and Stillinger murders in 1912.


More retail outlets are adding the VILLISCA: Living with a Mystery DVD to their shelves every day.  The DVD not only contains the feature-length documentary film about the murder mystery, but also 2 separate commentary tracks, and about an hour of additional supplementary features.  You can buy the critically-acclaimed documentary HERE.   In addition, the DVD is now available at Borders Book Stores, Barnes and Noble, and Best Buy.  If you don't see it on the shelves, ask for it at the counter, or order it online at their websites.   VILLISCA is also available at Family Video, NetFlix, Amazon, and Indiedocs.   For a complete list of outlets where you can pick up your copy of VILLISCA, CLICK HERE.

Buy the award-winning murder mystery that is capturing true-crime fans worldwide!


The famous unsolved axe murders of Josiah B. Moore, his wife Sara, and their four children: Herman, Katherine, Boyd, and Paul; and two young overnight guests: Lena and Ina Stillinger; is reaching national interest thanks to VILLISCA: Living with a Mystery being featured on programs like CourtTv (to see CourtTv's Catherine Crier interview Director Kelly Rundle and Historian Edgar Epperly, CLICK HERE), and True Crime Blogs like Laura James' CLEWS, and Steve Huff's TRUE CRIME BLOG.  To emerse yourself in this haunting true crime story, CLICK HERE.  

And, the winner is! VILLISCA: LIVING WITH A MYSTERY won the "True Crime Blog Capote Award" for BEST TRUE CRIME DOCUMENTARY 2007.  To keep up on the latest on true crime stories, check out IN COLD BLOG by CLICKING HERE.

Josiah, Sara, Herman, Kathering Moore. Four of the victims of the unsolved murders in Iowa in 1912.
                Photo Courtesy Robert Moore. All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2007.

Four of the eight victims found murdered with an
axe in their home on June 10, 1912.  The killer systematically
went through the home of Josiah B. Moore killing all sleeping
occupants, covered the mirrors with a torn skirt, pulled the
window shades, covered the faces of each of the victims' mutilated
faces with clothing, then covered each victim with bed clothing.  Unlit
lamps were found at the end of two of the beds in the house, and the
ax left in the downstairs bedroom where the two young guests,
Lena and Ina Stillinger were found.


Visit THE EMPORIUM for a complete selection of Villisca-related merchandise.  Murder mystery students and true crime fans alike can purchase books like the 1912 Villisca Axe Murder CORONER'S INQUEST, DETECTIVE WILKERSON'S DOPE SHEET, THE 1912 SIGNED STATEMENTS, Roy Marshall's VILLISCA: THE TRUE ACCOUNT OF THE UNSOLVED MASS MURDER THAT STUNNED THE NATION, or Stephen Bowman's fictional MORNING RAN RED.  In addition to the VILLISCA: Living with a Mystery DVD, take a tour of the Villisca Ax Murder House with Edgar Epperly featured on the DVD, EXPLORING VILLISCA'S AXE MURDER HOUSE, which includes the Reverend Kelly's infamous confession.  Epperly, considered the foremost authority on the unsolved axe murder case, also gives a compelling presentation at the Rialto Theater in Villisca on the DVD, VILLISCA, IOWA'S 1912 AXE MURDERS.  To peruse "The Emporium", CLICK HERE.

The Villisca ax murder house as it appeared on the day the murders were discovered on June 10, 1912 .
                                                                     Courtesy Villisca Review. Copyright 2007.

The brutal axe murders of the Josiah B. Moore family, and overnight guests
Lena and Ina Stillinger, is still on the books as Iowa's worst mass murder. 
This photograph of what is now known as the Villisca axe murder house
was taken on the day the murders were discovered--June 10, 1912.


In an effort to help those interested in separating facts from flights of fancy regarding the Villisca axe murder case, this website offers the popular HIT AND MYTH section. Read up on interesting trivia--like how Villisca's story has a connection to the famous murder case of Lizzie Borden, and the history of the ax murder house.

Other sites that offer an historical, factual approach to Villisca's tragic story are: the Villisca Historical Society's www.VilliscaHistory.org; the town's website: www.Villisca.com; and the town newspaper, the Villisca Review at www.VilliscaReview.com.

Separate the unsolved ax murder story's fact from fancy by visiting "Hit & Myth"


VilliscaMovie.com offers murder mystery and true crime fans the opportunity to read the Coroner's Inquest pertaining to the famous unsolved murder.  Dr. Edgar Epperly, who has studied the axe murders of the small Iowa village over 50 years and is considered the foremost authority on the topic, wrote in his Introduction to the publication:

"Sometime during the night of June 9, 1912, a killer or killers unknown entered the home of Josiah B. Moore.  Bludgeoned to death were Joe, his wife Sara, their four children: Herman, Katherine, Boyd and Paul; and two visiting neighbor girls, Lena and Ina Stillinger, who were visiting overnight.  Known ever since as the Villisca axe murders, this is easily the most notorious crime in Iowa history... Tuesday, June 11, 1912, a day after the discovery of the murders, the coroner's inquest began in Villisca.  Recorded verbatim by a court reporter, it contains the first official testimony regarding the event... Fourteen witnesses formed their impressions of the scene before they had an opportunity to be influenced by rumor and public opinion.  The murder was fresh in their minds and their tesitmony undistorted by the passage of time.   The document is particularly useful in forming impressions of the scene and the condition of the victims... The Inquest transcript is a compelling document to read and certainly the starting point for anyone who would truly understand the Villisca axe murders."

To read or order the rare and fascinating 1912 Villisca Axe Murder Coroner's Inquest, CLICK HERE.

The Coroner's Inquest of the 1912 Villisca, Iowa Axe Murders of the 6-member J.B. Moore family, and 2 young Stillinger girls.
                             Copyright 2007. FWF.

On Tuesday, June 11, 1912, the day after
the grisly murders of the Moores and Stillinger girls
were discovered, a Coroner's Jury began its investigation
into the tragic case.  The Coroner's Inquest is a must read.


The Villisca (or incorrectly spelled in some newspaper coverage as: Vilisca, Vallisca, Vellisca, and even Valiska) axe murders is considered one of America's greatest unsolved mysteries, and stumps even the sharpest sleuther.  Start with the DVD, Villisca: Living with a Mystery, to put the puzzle together.  The documentary continues to receive excellent reviews and has been Officially-selected at numerous film festivals, including:  The Landlocked International Film Festival, The Iowa Independent Film Festival, Max Allen Collins Film Expo, New York City Rural Route Film Festival, The Cedar Rapids Independent Film Festival; and in 2005 it qualified for the Academy Award™ Competition in the documentary feature category.   Read the Reviews by CLICKING HERE.

Evidence photo of the murder ax used in Iowa's worst mass murder, the Villisca axe murders.
                                Copyright 2007. FWF

Evidence photo of the actual murder weapon--
the ax used to murder Josiah B. Moore, his wife and
children, and Lena and Ina Stillinger.  The ax, which belonged to Joe,
was placed leaning against a log in front of the  Moore coal shed.


 

The 1912 Villisca Ax Murders

~ Featured Historical Article ~

We will feature national news coverage of the Villisca ax murder story regularly.  Readers will find the yellow-journalism and sensational writing of the time fascinating, and Villisca ax murder experts will easily find errors and misinformation in many of the stories.  Can you find the errors? We have noted obvious mistakes in brackets. 

                               

From the June 11, 1912 edition of the Kansas City Journal :

MAN WHO HAD KEY MURDERS 8 IOWANS

JUNE 11, 1912

Ax Used in Killing Found,
but No Trace of Slayer.
Militia on Guard.


___

TWO VICTIMS GUESTS

___

Others Are Four Children
and Parents--Dogs Go
to River Bank.

___

FOOTPRINTS ARE SEEN

___

Sister of Dead Man Not in House as Was Thought.
She is Divorced.

___

 

VILLISCA, IA., June 10.--Twenty-four hours after the murder of the entire Joseph Moore [Josiah Moore] and two young women guests, eight in all, which occurred Sunday night, the authorities have been unable to get a single trace of the murderer and have little or no clue to his identity.  The murderer killed every person in the house with an ax and escaped without discovery.  It is apparent he had a key to a door of the Moore home, because all doors and windows were found locked.

     Herman Moore, age 11.   Katherine Moore, age 9.   Boyd Moore, age 7 and Paul, age 5. This photo is the only exisiting photo of the two youngest Moore boys, taken 4 years prior to the murders.    

Lena Stillinger, age 11.   Ina Stillinger, age 8.
Courtesty Robert Moore & the Villisca Review. Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.

Top row: Herman, Katherine, Boyd and Paul Moore.
Bottom row: Lena and Ina Stillinger.

A revised list of the victims follows:

JOSEPH B. MOORE [Josiah B. Moore]
MRS. JOSEPH B. MOORE [Mrs. Josiah B. Moore, or Sara Moore]
HERMAN MOORE, aged 11.
CATHERINE MOORE, aged 9. [Katherine Moore, aged 10]
BOYD MOORE, aged 7.
PAUL MOORE, aged 6. [aged 5]
LENA STILLINGS, aged 15. [Lena Stillinger, aged 11]
INA STILLINGS, aged 9. [Ina Stillinger, aged 8]

The Misses Stillings [Stillingers] were over-night guests at the Moore home.

___

The Noffsinger Bloodhounds of Beatrice, Nebraska hot on the trail of a mass murderer.
                          Courtesy Villisca Review. Copyright 2007.

Dramatic photograph taken on June 10, 1912 by the Villisca Review of the famous
Noffsinger Bloodhounds of Beatrice, Nebraska.  Two bloodhounds
jumped off of the Moore house porch with their handlers close behind.   Hundreds of

spectators followed the dogs through the streets of Villisca, across fields to the banks
of the Nodaway River, while the victims' bodies lay inside the murder house awaiting official
release by authorities.  What did the bloodhounds find?   Buy the DVD and find out!

DOGS TAKE TRAIL.

Bloodhounds arrived here on a late evening train and were immediately taken to the Moore home.  Within ten minutes they found a scent which took them over a circuitous route to the edge of the town and thence to the banks of the Nodaway river.   They were followed closely by their keepers.

Entering a deep woods along the river, the hounds led their followers over several miles of rough timber land in the Nodaway bottoms.

After an hour the hounds returned to the river where those following the dogs found fresh foot prints in the soft muddy bank and leading to the river.  Those following the trail took the hounds across the river, but were unable to find any trace of the fugitive on the other side.  At midnight the posse returned to town and will start afresh in the morning.

The bodies of the eight murdered persons were viewed late tonight by a coroner's jury and turned over to an undertaker.  They were removed to the city hall to be prepared for burial.  A detailed [detail] of militia guarded both the Moore home and city hall all night.

The first intimation of the crime was given when a clerk in the implement house of Mr. Moore went to the Moore home to ascertain the cause of the employer's delay in reaching business.  Finding the house locked, the window shades all down and no one about, he notified the neighbors and, with assistance, forced entrance to the house.

The dead, with one exception, were found in their beds in natural attires of sleeping and until the crushed condition of their heads and the soaked pillows were discovered, it was impossible for the searchers to believe that anything was wrong.

An ax showing without doubt it was the weapon used, was found in an upstairs room where it was left by the assassin after he had completed his deadly work.

___

BEDS NOT DISTURBED

Mr. and Mrs. Moore were in one bed, the clothing of which was not the least disturbed.  In another bed were two of the boys.  The sister occupied a third bed and the youngest boy was alone in a smaller bed.  In neither instance was the bedding of the children disarranged.

The Misses Stillings [Stillingers] occupied a room in another part of the house.  One of the girls has a cut on an arm and was in such a position as to indicate she had awakened before the attack, and that there was a short struggle.

The tragedy is one of the most mysterious the officials of Iowa have ever had to deal with.  There is absolutely no clue upon which to warrant an arrest and the utter absence of a possible motive has left the authorities in a maze of perplexity and doubt.

Early identification of the two young women who were slain, owing to the terrible condition of their faces, led to a report that they were Mrs. Van Gilder and her duaghter.  Mrs. Van Gilder is a sister of Mrs. Moore.  It was understood they were to b the guests of the Moores last night.

Blood stains, which will require the work of experts to handle in relation with the crime, including finger prints of the murderer, are absolutley the only clew the officers have to work upon.  Blood stains wre found on the front door near the knob and finger prints were found in the house.

___

LIGHTED LAMP FOUND

A feature of the tragedy which indicates that possibly the murderer left the house quickly, was the finding of a lighted lamp upon the floor of the Moore bed room.   All the blinds of the house were closely drawn, the doors were all locked and all the windows locked but two opening from the room which the Spillinger [Stillinger] girls occupied.

As one of the posses were hunting in the railroad yards this evening, a tramp, becoming alarmed, gave himself up to the leaders for protection, fearing he might be a victim of the wrath of the people before they had had time to examine into his identity.  He later was identified by the railroad men and released, badly scared and quickly left town.

Feeling is high and few persons slept in Villisca tonight.  News of the crime traveled fast and there are hundreds of country people who soon came to the village.

___

MURDER DELIBERATE

One puzzling feature of the crime which serves to heighten the mystery surrounding it, is the apparent deliberatation which the murderer went about committing the crime.  All indications are that he entered the house by the front door and with a key, that he left by the same way and locked the door behind him.  Dust upon the sills of the two windows left unlocked shows he did not enter that way.

After pulling down all the blinds in the house, a thing which the Moores never did, the murderer hung dress skirts, which he took from the closets, over each of the doors leading to the south side and also over windows where a flash of light might have penetrated.

The Suspects.

Suspect Frank Fernando Jones, State Senator of Iowa during the Moore and Stillinger murders of 1912.
Courtesy Jill Goos. Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.

Senator F.F. Jones would later become a suspect
in the murder of his former implement employee
Joe Moore, and his family.  Moore was thought
to be having an affair with Jones' daughter-in-law,
Dona Bentley Jones.  His son, Albert, was also
accused of involvement in the horrific crime.

 

 Suspect Kelly poses with his wife, Sara Moore's father John Montgomery, and Lena & Ina Stillinger's father, Joe Stillinger.
Courtesy Edgar Epperly. Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.

Suspect Reverend Lyn George Jacklin Kelly was tried twice for
the murders of the Moore family, and the Stillinger girls.
It was believed that Lena Stillinger was the motivation
for the crime.  In the photo, left to right: John Montgomery (Sara

Moore's father), Laura Kelly (wife), Reverend Kelly, Joe Stillinger
(father of Lena and Ina).

___

VICTIM'S SISTER TALKS.

OMAHA, NEB., June 10.--Miss Minnie Moore, sister of Joseph B. Moore [Josiah B. Moore], who, with his wife and four children and two young women, were murdred in the Moore home in Villisca, Ia., last night, is employed in a local woman's wear establishment.  She said today that John Van Gilder, who several years ago married a sister of Moore and herself, had left the city after trouble with his wife.  She said he had been gone for years.

___

MANY CRIMES SIMILAR

Colorado Springs Authorities Will
Investigate--Other Murders
Committed With Axes.

___

COLORADO SPRINGS, COL., June 10.--Colorado Springs police authorities are not inclined to think that there is any connection between the murder of the Moore family at Villisca, Ia., and the Burnham-Wayne murder mystery of September 17 last in this city, in which six persons lost their lives.

It is admitted, however, that there is a striking similarity in the crimes.  In both cases the victims were killed with an ax while asleep and no apparent motive for the deed was found.  Local authorities will make a careful investigation of the Villisca mystery in the hope of finding some clew to the crime here.

___

The slayer of Rolin Hudson and wife at Paola, Kas., on the night of June 5, used as his weapon a pick.  Tha Barnhart [Burnham] tragedy had for its central figures four victims of a mysterious axman.  At Ellsworth, Kas., an ax was used to slay the Showman family, the crime of which Marzck, recently apprehended in Canada, now is charged.

The Showman children murdered with an ax in Ellsworth, Kansas in 1911.
Courtesy The Ellsworth Historical Society. Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.

Three of the five victims in the 1911 Showman axe murders
in Ellsworth, Kanas.