My friend Chris recently spent the night at the Villisca Axe Murder House in Villisca, Iowa. In 1912, somebody bludgeoned to death the entire family of Josiah Moore and two overnight guests. Two adults (the mom and dad), their four kids and two neighbor kids. After the bludgeoning, there was some axing for good measure.
No one was ever convicted of the murders, despite some prime suspects. You can read all about the crime on the house’s official website.
Here is Part 1 of Chris’s account of his stay in the house with two of his bestest friends and his sister. The house is operated as a kind of tourist/hotel destination. The cost to stay in the Murder House is now $400 per night. So, yes, the owners are making quite a bit of money from the place and they do have a vested interest in people remaining interested and scared. That being said, people do feel and experience strange things in the house.
Rebecca: Why did you decide to go to the Murder House?
Chris: I guess the short answer is curiosity and the prospect of *feeling* something. I was first made aware of the house by my friend Joel. He and a couple friends found out about it and went and had some… experiences. Having grown up in the age of Ghostbusters I’ve always been interested in the paranormal. Supposedly this house, a mere 6 hours and a few Target stops away, was a hotbed of activity. People settled in Villisca thinking it meant “pleasant land” only to get there and learn it was actually native for “evil spirit” (Oops! That’s a hell of an error). If ever there was a chance to explore the paranormal, it sounded like that was it. Also, I could go anywhere with Sophie (my sister), Matt and Ryan (my two non-biological brothers) and have a blast.
R: What was your initial impression of the house?
C: By the time we got to the house it was already getting dark. My initial impression was, “Huh…that’s it?” It’s just this old house in a neighborhood. It wouldn’t look much out of place if not for the giant hand painted sign in the front yard that reads “The Villisca Axe Murder House” in blood-drip, 80’s carny style letters.
[Editor’s note: I’d like to point out that the sign actually says “The Villisca Ax Murder House.]
R: Here’s something I want to know – what did you bring along to eat while at the Murder House?
C: When staying in a murder house one must be ready for anything. When running from phantoms the last thing you want is a cramp. Bananas, check. No electricity? Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Potential life sucking entities? Monster Java Energy Drinks. We grabbed some Pink Lady apples too but Target is no Trader Joe’s. Their apples sucked.
R: What were the bathroom conditions like? Did you go to the bathroom alone?
C: The barn behind the house had a bathroom in it that was equally as horrifying as anything in the house but it was better than an outhouse. Once the sun went down I don’t think anyone was ever more than 3 yards away from another person.
R: Could you give a quick summary of the strange things that happened while you were in the house?
– A framed picture falling over
– How do I say I got my ass poked without it sounded weird? What? Too late? I felt something poke my right cheek.
– Possible footsteps
– Possible door moving
– Something touching my feet, pulling the blanket on my feet
– Something touched Ryan, running from his ankle up to his neck (while he was in his sleeping bag)
– Lantern shaking
– Loud bang
– Strange breathy noise
– Everyone had nightmares they needed to be woken up from except me
R: Do you really believe you were poked in the ass by a ghost child?
C: I don’t know. I believe I was touched and it felt like when a child is trying to get your attention. So, sure, let’s go with ghost child poking me in the ass.
R: My understanding is that there is a period of time overnight when the house is more “active.” Can you recount what happened from the time you all got into your sleeping bags on the living room floor all the way through the loud BOOM that came from upstairs?
C: We all decided that we were going to spend the night in the house. Why travel all the way there just to back out and sleep in your car or the barn? We all brought blankets and pillows and basically lined up like sardines in a tin, one next to the other, on the floor of the living room. Nobody was eager to be on the end, exposed to the kitchen and bedroom. So, Matt was next to the piano, Ryan next to him, then Sophie, then me…the bait. The sacrificial lamb. 4 spoons.
The noises started straight away. Who knows how much of this is just stuff we hear all the time but it doesn’t bother us? But there, in that house, there is nothing else to distract you. All your senses are keyed in on every shadow, every noise. Not a heater or air conditioner turning on, no phone ringing, no TV or radio…no traffic outside your window. So you try and rationalize what you’re hearing in an effort not to go nuts.
But the noises don’t really bother you anymore once you start feeling shit. I started to feel something touch my feet. And then the blanket over my feet started getting tugged. My first thought was that it could be one of my floor mates shifting. I looked to my left only to see that Sophie was asleep. OK, right. So on the way to the house I wondered how the hell 8 people were murdered with an axe in this place and not a single one got away. At that moment I had my answer. For whatever reason, even though I was at this point officially spooked, I didn’t move. I held as still as possible. Crazy.
Shortly after that Ryan broke the silence, going mental, because something had just touched him. He claimed it felt like a hand rubbing from his ankle to his neck. Again, we all stayed put and tried to calm each other down. Then our lantern started to shake. Ryan and I both saw that happen. It was easy to see the light play across the ceiling. Then we heard a loud BOOM upstairs.
This is how I remember it happening but I question the time line a bit. This is my best recollection. I imagine we will all get together and watch our footage soon and discuss what happened now that we’ve had a little time to process what went down.
R: Did Ryan feel that the “presence” or “ghost” touched him in a playful, sexual or sinister way? In other words, was it moving up his neck to strangle him or to give him a hickey?
C: Ryan didn’t say. It’s difficult to gauge something like that, no doubt. At the time he was certainly, and understandably so, freaked-the-FUCK out.
Stay tuned for more about the Murder House in Part II. Want to plan your own journey to a creepy, haunted, murder-y kind of place? Check out 10 Creepy Places In America.