From left to right: Monica Ware; Harlie “Harlie Quinn” Jones; me; Charles Naylor; and Joleene Naylor. Photo taken by Joleene’s brother Chris Harris, offscreen.

You’ve been waiting patiently for this post. Now here it comes. My recap of our amateur investigation of the Villisca Axe Murder House! Or at least part one of it (what can I say, a lot happened in two days!).

Now, a little refresher for those of you not up on your macabre American history. In June 1912, the Moore family–Josiah Moore, Sara Moore, their three sons and daughter–plus two friends of their daughter were murdered overnight at the Moore residence with an axe. The crime is currently unsolved and is Iowa’s oldest cold case. The house where the murders happened still stands, and is available for tours and for overnights, and is reputed to be haunted.

The Villisca Axe Murder House has been on my list of haunted places to visit since 2015, and my friend/colleague Joleene Naylor lives right by the house, so it was inevitable that I would someday visit. And when an opportunity afforded itself earlier this year, we reserved the house for a night with the hopes of experiencing paranormal activity.

Before we visited the house itself though, Joleene and Charles showed me around their hometown of Villisca. And I have to say, it’s a beautiful little town. There’s a central square where most of the town business and activity takes place. Some buildings are closed down, but others are in the process of being remade into new businesses, even in the midst of a pandemic. What really surprised me, though, was the business on one of the main streets.

Yeah, you’re seeing that right. That’s Needful Things, as in the shop from the Stephen King novel of the same name. Trust Leland Gaunt to find a town with dark history to set up shop in! Joleene, if you and Charles are reading this, your family better be prepared to save Villisca from itself!

After that, we headed out to the town cemetery to see the actual graves of the Moores and the Stillingers, the two girls who were murdered alongside the Moores.

Front entrance to the Villisca Cemetery.

The Moore family tombstone.

The Moore children’s tombstone. Many people leave toys and, for some reason, coins on the graves.

Me at the Stillinger girls’ graves.

Yeah, sobering reminder that the only reason this house is known is because of a grizzly murder. One involving six children. Doesn’t stop me from wanting to find ghosts and interact with them, let alone the ones in that house, but it’s something to think about before you go into that house.

We also passed by the Senator’s House, pictured below. Named after its famous former owner, Senator Frank Jones, who was rumored to be involved somehow in the murders. It’s a beautiful old house, though one with a history. Which might explain why it’s currently unoccupied, if I remember what Joleene and Charles told me.

The Senator’s House

After seeing those sights, we went through the suburbs of Villisca, allowing me to see my first view of the Axe Murder House, and Joleene’s beautiful home, featured below. I loved seeing the many homes in Villisca. Most of them are beautiful Victorians, the kind of home that I would love to live in (no surprise there). And apparently it’s very affordable to live in Iowa, which tempted me to buy a house or at least put down a down payment. I had to really think about that before I did, though.

Hilariously enough, Joleene said many people prefer the ranch houses, which I saw fewer of but were present in the neighborhood. I don’t know why. Yeah, Victorians are a lot of work to maintain, but they have such beauty and history!

Now, onto the investigation of the Axe Murder House! Joleene, Charles and I arrived a little before four o’clock, and our guide came by a little while later. And after I signed the papers and set up my new GoPro, we got started on the tour, which you can find in this video.

Yeah, I figured out how to turn the video off. And I don’t know if you noticed, but there are a ton of coins around the home. I know the parents’ room was rather dark, owing to my GoPro not having night vision, but they were there too. We think that might be from people hoping the ghosts will knock the coins off surfaces or move them. Nothing like that happened while we were there, but other stuff did.

More on that in a bit. First, let me make a few observations about the house. As I said, it’s a lot smaller than I expected. But it differs in other ways from expected. I think part of me expected it to be like the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast, recreated to look very close to what it looked like back in the day, though with a few modern amenities. In actuality, it’s been mostly preserved in the same state it was in when the house was turned into a museum. In addition, the house is also full of toys, dolls and other knickknacks. It feels more like it was decorated to be more pleasing to the spirits living there, especially the children. And you know what? I kind of like that.

Also, it’s not a bed and breakfast, and the only amenities are the air conditioning units on both floors.

After the tour guide had left and we got settled into the house, we decided to pass the time waiting for our two other companions for the night, Joleene’s friend Monica Ware and her stepdaughter Harlie Jones–the little girl mentioned by Joleene at the end of the video–by doing a dowsing rods session in the girls’ room. You know, the room where those two girls were killed and where a dude stabbed himself a few years ago?

Here’s that video for your viewing terror.

We cut the session short because Monica and Harlie arrived and we wanted to get them up to speed. After another quick tour through the house, during which Harley refused to check under the bed where, as a toddler, she saw those “weird kids,” we had a little fun locking Joleene in the upstairs closet.

Yeah, we’re still laughing about that one a week later. Especially now it’s on the Internet forever.

After the fun and games were over though, I somehow managed to convince Harlie to do a dowsing rods session in the girls room downstairs. I figured that since she was around the same age as the older girl, Lena Stillinger, and had seen the kids’ spirits when she was younger, she might have better luck than me in communicating with the spirits. And although she was a little too freaked to actually ask the spirits to manifest (understandable, I guess), she did a very good job drawing them out and asking questions.

Forgive how dark the video was. We were working with what daylight we had, and it appeared brighter when we were filming. Also, if you’re wondering why we didn’t explore the basement of the house, it’s because while we could access it, the door needed repairs, and we didn’t want to worsen that.

After that session, Joleene’s brother Chris, who took the photo at the top of this post, arrived. We then locked up the house and left for dinner in town, unaware of what would occur while we were gone.

But that will have to wait until Part 2 of my recap.

That’s Part 1, my Followers of Fear. I’ll hopefully have Part 2 up very soon. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

Comments
  1. I’m glad you got to visit the house. Harlie did a great job with the dowsing rods. I don’t know if I’d be that composed at that age. If I didn’t know the history of the house, I’d think it was a beautiful old house.

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