The Villisca Axe Murder Haunted House

When it comes time to explain why some homes are priced below $50,000, OHU50K often sees comments like, “Look at those orbs in the photos,” or “It must be haunted.” Whether one believes in ghosts or not, most everyone loves a good haunted house story.

In celebration of Halloween, this month we are featuring some of the most famous haunted houses stories in the country. We begin with what is perhaps the most tragic. (This home is NOT for sale.)

Related: Haunted Houses

Villisca Axe Murder House, Villisca, Iowa








On a dark spring night in June of 1912, eight people, the entire family of Josiah Moore, including his wife, four children ages 5-11, and two of the oldest daughter’s overnight guests, were murdered in this Villisca, Iowa, house by an unknown assailant. Reminiscent of Lizzie Borden, in a gruesome attack, the assailant bludgeoned to death the whole household with an axe.

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The evening before the murders seemed like any other for the well-to-do family.  They all had attended the Children’s Day program at the Presbyterian Church and had arrived home around 10 p.m. When a neighbor noticed none of the family had arisen for their morning chores the next day, she became concerned and called Josiah’s brother. He was able to unlock the door, where he discovered all eight bodies in their respective bedrooms.



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Two cigarette butts were found in the attic, which led investigators to believe the assailant or assailants were waiting until the family had gone to sleep. They used the blade of the axe on Josiah such that his eyes were missing, while the blunt end inflicted the fatal blows to the rest of the family.

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Forensics definitely were not what they are today. Below is a 1912 article that suggests the killer might be revealed by looking into a photograph of one of the victims, 12-year-old Edith Stillinger (the article misspells her name).


The case made national headlines, and while many suspects were questioned and even tried – twice – the mass murder remains unsolved to this day.Screen Shot 2019-10-27 at 2.31.43 PM

Today, the house may be booked for overnight tours (Covid may have paused this). Personal accounts indicate cold spots, disembodied footsteps and voices as the common occurrences. Audio and visual of the children are also widely reported, with guests most often reporting laughing and crying. Some have even heard the voices of children telling others to hide, and in one instance when asked, an apparition turned a flashlight on and off several times.



  • Jeff Huxton

    These murders were finally solved. The killer was a German (yes, from Germany) named Paul Müller, who murdered people all over America, each time escaping by hopping a train. He began his murders in the late 1890’s and murdered from the East Coast to the West Coast. He is estimated to have slaughtered upwards of one hundred victims – men, women, and children, over a period of a dozen or so years. Then he fled back to Germany were he has been traced to old, unsolved murders over there, of the same kind and method as he used in America. Why did he murder? The best guess was the most chilling: simply because he liked it. The researchers even believe he might have been triggered by the infamous Lizzie Borden Murders, which had shaken the nation just a few years earlier, in 1893. Müller himself is believed to have murdered his first victims in the same state as Lizzie Borden in 1898. Even so, he was never caught and vanished long ago, likely somewhere among the mist-shrouded forests of Germany.

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