Villisca, Iowa Heritage Days, July 1, 2000

Setting up the room in Villisca, Iowa's Community Building took several hours on Friday, June 30, 2000.  We started out with 100 chairs and hoped we'd be able to fill the room twice on Saturday.  The preview was shown on a single 27" monitor up front and two additional 19" monitors on stands, provided by Villisca High School, were placed about half way down on each side.  Our display was set up around the seating area in a horseshoe pattern.
Jerry Dietz from KCSI 95.3 FM Radio in Red Oak, Iowa did a live broadcast from Villisca.  He talked with members of the Chamber of Commerce and others.   The Chamber sponsored and planned Heritage Days and was a great help to us as we planned our presentation.  Mr. Dietz (left) interviews us (Kelly and Tammy Rundle) about our documentary and the Preview.
Dr. Epperly takes his turn at the microphone.
Looking south on Third Avenue, the street has been blocked off and the parade will soon begin at 10:00 a.m.  The bell at the left used to sit atop the old City Hall/Firehouse on the north side of the square.
Meanwhile, people took advantage of our free display in the Community Building.  Someone (left) looks through a viewer at one of our featured Stereoptican (3-dimensional) views of 1890s Villisca. The unique photos were provided by Robert Shrimpton.  Mr. Shrimpton also allowed us to display his grandfather's Villisca Marshal badge and "billy" club. Our display was also open for an hour after the parade. 
Our preview of "Villisca" featured about 5-minutes of computer animation progress, 3-minutes of projected unedited 16mm color workprint, and about 20-minutes of the rough-cut with temporary sound and music.

The second part of our program featured a talk by Dr. Ed Epperly (front-center), the foremost authority on the unsolved Iowa case, entitled "The 1912 Villisca Axe Murders: History vs Folklore." Ed's talk was followed by a vigorous question and answer period.  A total of 248 attended our 1:00 and 3:00 p.m. programs and another 100-150 just visited our free display of historical materials, artifacts, and documents.

The event was a great success!

Take the tour!

It begins with military history displays on loan from the Villisca Armory.  The Armory, active since it was built with public donations in 1912, closed recently and was sold to the high school.  The 1913 high school has been demolished and part of the school reestablished in the Armory while construction is completed on the new school.

This display was created for the first Heritage Days weekend in 1987 (I think).  It depicts the chronology of the 1912-1917 axe murder story with photos, text and news clippings.  It hung in City Hall until a couple of years ago when it was moved to the Public Library basement.
Newspaper reproductions report the sinking of the Titanic in April of 1912 and the Borden murders in Fall River, Massachusetts.   "Villisca" will contain a chapter on the similar 1892 crime that compares the community reaction in each case.  Lizzie was charged, tried, and acquitted for the murder of her father and step-mother.  The board on the right, "The Good Old Days?" compares life in 1912 to the present day.  Also featured here: a calling card tray and calling card, a Chicago-Burlington-and Quincy Railroad stock certificate, and two photos of Villisca's square (1912 and 1935?).
On the right, a board regarding Josiah Moore his wife Sara (victims), a photo of their house, and a reward ad from the newspaper.  In the middle, an example of artist Suzy Bradleys work in creating aged color portraits of the victims.  The only available photos were taken about five years prior to their murders. On the left artist Diane Sutherland's illustration of the Curtis house.  It depicts one of the many posses that combed the city of Villisca after the discovery of the murders.
On the right, a board outlining the bloodhound trail from the Moore house to the Nodaway River and photos of some hounds used in a documentary recreation.  In the center, two photos of the Moore-Stillinger funeral in the town square along with three pages of "Villisca's" script describing the event.  On the left, photos of Frank and Maude Jones and their children Letha and Albert.
On the right, a photo montage of our 1994 documentary shoot and script.  On the left, a board depicting information about detective James Wilkerson and his allegations against F.F. Jones. Wilkerson held a number of public meetings in farm fields and meeting halls to gather support for his conspiracy theory.  Jones was eventually cleared by a state and county investigation.
On the right, a letter signed by F.F. Jones.   Next a board regarding William Mansfield, the man Wilkerson claimed Jones hired to kill the Moore family.  Mansfield had an alibi and was cleared of any involvement.   Hard back and paperback copies of "Morning Ran Red" are on the table. The novel, written by Stephen Bowman, is a fictional account of the axe murder story. On the left, a board regarding the only person indicted for the murders: Reverend George Lynn Jacklin Kelly. Kelly was tried twice and acquitted.
"The Work of a Serial Killer?" board explores the possibility that the Villisca crime may have been connected to similar crimes in Colorado Springs, Ellsworth, Kansas and Monmouth, Illinois.  It also includes 1912 articles about the Villisca murders from the Los Angeles Times and New York Times newspapers.
The board on the right shows the chronology of the murder weapon and its migration to and from Villisca.  The actual axe (not pictured here) was displayed under the plexiglas and the 1912 Marshal's badge was displayed on the far right.  A photo of Villisca's Marshal Hank Horton from the 1911 "Villisca Review" shows him wearing an identical badge.
On the way out, visitors were able to purchase or order our historical document reprints, videotapes, or "Villisca Review" reprints.

The entire event could not have gone more smoothly nor could it have received a better reception.  It was great to visit our friends in Villisca and to visit the site of America's greatest unsolved mystery.

It won't be long before we return to Villisca to present the southwest Iowa premiere of Villisca: Living With a Mystery.


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