The Moore family

Villisca, Iowa, June 10
Twenty-four hours after the murder of the entire Joseph Moore [Josiah Moore] family and two young girl guests (friends of the Moore children), 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.

Marshal Hank Horton with detectives, sleuths and reporters
Marshal Hank Horton with detectives, sleuths and reporters.

Villisca, Iowa town Marshall Hank Horton (far left) poses with detectives, amateur sleuths, and newspaper reporters investigating the Moore and Stillinger murders in 1912. The crime involved the axe murders of Josiah B. Moore, his wife Sara, and their four children: Herman, Katherine, Boyd, and Paul; and Lena and Ina Stillinger.

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 timberland in the Nodaway bottoms.

Bloodhounds arriived by train and taken straight to the Moore House
Bloodhounds arrived by train and taken straight to the Moore House.

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.

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

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.

The Moore house
The Moore house

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 daughter. 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 absolutely the only clew the officers have to work upon. Blood stains were 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 deliberation 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
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.

Senator F.F. Jones
Senator F.F. Jones

Left to right: John Montgomery (Sara Moore's father), Laura Kelly (wife), Reverend Kelly, Joe Stillinger (father of Lena and Ina)
Left to right: John Montgomery (Sara Moore’s father), Laura Kelly (wife),
Reverend Kelly, Joe Stillinger (father of Lena and Ina).

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.

Victim’s Sister Talks
Omaha, Nebraska, 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 murdered in the Moore home in Villisca, Iowa, 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.

In Colorado Springs, Colorado, June 10, 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. The 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.

To immerse yourself in this haunting true crime story. Court TV’s Haunting Evidence featured the Official Site of the Villisca Axe Murders — The Villisca Axe Murder House, and the alleged paranormal activity there. Psychic profiler Carla Baron, medium John J. Oliver, and paranormal investigator Patrick Burns reveal their findings.

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.

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.

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 testimony, 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.”

The murder weapon
The murder weapon

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.

Special thanks to historian Roy Marshall, Villisca House owner Darwin Linn and The Olsin-Linn Museum. Photos Courtesy of Robert Moore and the Villisca Review, and FWF.

Front side of the infamous Villisca Axe Murder House

Front porch view of the infamous Villisca Axe Murder House.

Rear view showing entrance to the kitchen with cellar door at left

Rear view showing entrance to the kitchen with cellar door at left.

Side view with cellar door at center. Yes, at night it has that "spooky haunted house" look

Side view with cellar door at center. Yes, at night it has that “spooky haunted house” look.

Living room looking toward the front door.

Living room looking toward the front door.

The Moore parents with children

The Moore parents with children.

Sarah Moore with children.

Sarah Moore with children.

The living room piano.

The living room piano.

The living room's view of the heating stove and downstairs bedroom where Lena and Ina Stillinger were murdered.

The living room’s view of the heating stove and downstairs bedroom where Lena and Ina Stillinger were murdered.

The downstairs bedroom leading from the living room where Lena and Ina Stillinger were murdered. This room is known as the "blue room" due to its wall color.

The downstairs bedroom leading from the living room where Lena and Ina Stillinger were murdered. This room is known as the “blue room” due to its wall color.

The bed and window that faces the house's front.

The bed and window that faces the house’s front.

Facing the closet where some say the murder(s) may have hidden, waiting to attack.

Facing the closet where some say the murderer(s) may have hidden, waiting to attack.

To the left of the "blue room" entrance is the kitchen. Making a sharp left will find you at the stairs to the second story.

To the left of the “blue room” entrance is the kitchen. Making a sharp left will find you at the stairs to the second story.

Facing the stairs leading to the second story.

Facing the stairs leading to the second story.

Going up.

Going up.

Stepping down.

Stepping down.

This modest-sized loft style bedroom is what you reach once at the stairway's top. It is where the adult Moores slept and were axed.

This modest-sized loft style bedroom is what you reach once at the stairway’s top. It is where the adult Moores slept and were axed.

Passing by Joseph and Sarah's bedroom toward the children's room. The attic door can be seen at left.

Passing by Joseph and Sarah’s bedroom toward the children’s room. The attic door can be seen at left.

The attic. One spot where it is thought the Killer(s) hid as the family slept.

The attic. One spot where it is thought the Killer(s) hid as the family slept.

Looking into the kids' room. A bed and crib can be seen.

Looking into the kids’ room. A bed and crib can be seen.

Looking back toward the hallway and Paul Moore's crib.

Looking back toward the hallway and Paul Moore’s crib.

Live bats help set the mood for a paranormal investigation.

Live barn bats help set the mood for a paranormal investigation.

More bats. All team memebers left to change into turtleneck sweaters.

More bats. All team members left to change into turtleneck sweaters.

Villisca Cemetery

The above and following images are various of Moore and Stillinger plots located in the Villisca cemetery.

Villisca Cemetery
Villisca Cemetery
Villisca Cemetery
Villisca Cemetery
Villisca Cemetery
Villisca Cemetery
Villisca Cemetery
Villisca Cemetery
Anomalies within the windows as we arrive. Reflections or welcoming energies?

Anomalies within the windows as we arrive. Reflections or welcoming energies?
Strange anomaly resting atop the roofline.

Strange anomaly resting atop the roof line.
Mist appearing outside the back door.

Mist appearing outside the back door.
Strange streak of blue light.

Strange streak of blue light.
A moving orb in front of the blue room where the Stillinger girls were murdered.

A moving orb in front of the blue room where the Stillinger girls were murdered.
Little girl in the mirror.

Little girl in the mirror.
Face of a little girl.

Face of a little girl.
Man peering back from the mirror.

Man peering back from the mirror.
An odd shadow or mist located near the stairway to the second story.

An odd shadow or mist located near the stairway to the second story.
Moving orb passing by a mirror.

Moving orb passing by a mirror.
A black mass anomaly creeping by...maybe a shadow man?

A black mass anomaly creeping by…maybe a shadow man?
Two people started to appear on the wall.

Two people started to appear on the wall.
Can you see a face in the orb?

Can you see a face in the orb?
A man's face -- and someone else in the portrait.

A man’s face — and someone else in the portrait.
Weird floating light anamoly seen during our nite visit to the Villisca cemetary.

Weird floating light anomaly seen during our night visit to the Villisca cemetery.
Interesting image in the backgound in the same Villisca cemetary.

Interesting image in the background in the same Villisca cemetery.
In the woods behind Maritza's friend's home where a town used to be. She encountered a little boy and stopped to talk to him. He stayed around for a while as he was looking for his mom. She ended up crossing him over.

In the woods behind Maritza’s friend’s home where a town used to be. She encountered a little boy and stopped to talk to him. He stayed around for a while as he was looking for his mom. She ended up crossing him over.
An moving orb where we lodged during our investigation.
A moving orb where we lodged during the investigation.
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