Monday, March 30, 2015

Villisca Axe Murders

On our drive out to Omaha, I happened to notice a sign for the small Iowa town of Villisca which for older history inclined Iowans brings back images of axe murders. I remember reading about the famous unsolved axe murders in a Iowa history book that I had in 5th grade and from which are teacher Mrs. Bradfield made us copy down huge portions into a notebook as assignments. I'm not sure if it was meant to improve our handwriting or a learning tool to make us remember the subject matter but if it was the latter, it worked.

While in Omaha, I looked it up online and saw that the house was still standing and there was a museum there. Not expecting much from the museum, I thought it would be neat just to stop and view the house to possibly spark conversation in our car on the remainder of our journey home. We pulled into Villisca and found the house without problem and saw that it and the museum were closed for the season. It is probably just as well because the museum didn't appear to have much of anything in it except for some lawn care items and the house turns out to have a virtual tour online in which you can visit it from the leisure of your home.

As for the murder, an unknown person sneaked into the house on June 9, 1912 after grabbing an axe out near the woodpile and killed prominent businessman Josiah B. Moore, his wife, four children and two visiting girls as they slept. There was a whole list of people suspected of the crime, several that were tried but nobody was ever convicted and the crime remains unsolved to this day. For historically inclined Iowans, the house is distinctive much like the one Grant Wood used in his painting 'American Gothic' and very recognizable.


Anonymous said...

There's something about staid and safe communities that are bread and butter to the horror and crime writers. But when there's a real life gruesome horror the stories gain a frisson of reality.

Ed said...

Vince - The book that I first read of this story contains many unique stories about Iowa's early history and is on that is dear to me. I'm pretty sure it is the only book from school I kept until my second year in college.

Bone said...

Well I was going to go take the virtual tour, but apparently the stupid firewall has it blocked.

Guess I'll have to do that when I get home.

At least I can Wikipedia the story for now.