Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Mystery of Lot 310

Magnet # 78: Pastoral Iowa Photo

Material: Metal, Paper, Mylar Shell

Purchased By: The Kibby Family

Ahh, Iowa - yet another peaceful, seemingly innocent location with some deep, dark moments in its history. Yes, the state of Iowa has its own sinister haunted sites, but none measure up to the town of Villisca and a spot there that has come to be known as the Axe Murder House. It's notorious and supposedly haunted enough to receive national attention, bringing in droves of curious tourists and paranormal experts to its remote location every year.

It all began in June of 1912, when successful, local businessman J.B. Moore, his wife Sarah returned home one night with their four children and two overnight guests. They had been at their church, involved in a successful Children's Day Program, and their mood was light as they headed off to bed. Of course, they would never be seen alive again. By morning, their neighbor, Mary Peckham, had realized something was wrong. She'd neither seen the Moores nor heard any sound of the usual cacophony that resulted from so many young children. After failing to rouse the family herself, she called Mr. Moore's brother, Ross. When he arrived, all of the doors were locked and he had to use his own keys to enter. And that's when he made his gruesome discovery. Some say he ran out of the house, crying "there's a person dead in every bed!" Yes, all eight persons in the house had been bludgeoned to death by an axe, even the youngest child, who was five years old at the time.

Although fingerprinting technology was in its early stages at the time of the murder, the scene of the crime was so compromised that no expert could have made any sense out of it. Around one hundred locals soon found out about the crime, mobbing the area and touring through the house, some even grabbing mementos.  Almost all of the victims' faces had been covered with bedclothes after their murders, but there is a rumor that one person took a particularly disturbing souvenir - a part of Mr. Moore's skull. Finally, the National Guard arrived and kicked these ghouls out, but the damage had been done. Although the blood-stained axe had been left in the house, with fingerprints, and there were other kinds of evidence, such as a large slab of bacon that was removed from the freezer and left to thaw near the axe, the murderer - or murderers - were never caught.  Several theories exist as to who could have perpetrated the ghastly act.  Some said another local businessman and Senator who loathed Mr. Moore had, along with his son, hired a man to kill him alone, but that, once inside, he'd dispatched of the entire family.  A shady traveling minister was also in town at the time of the killings, who may have confessed to the crime, and was tried, but was acquitted.  By all accounts, he was mentally unstable.  And there is the possibility that a true serial killer slaughtered the family.  A string of murders had occurred during that time frame when several Midwest homes had been broken into at night and all of the occupants had been killed with an axe.  So there are a few possibilities as to the perpetrator of this crime, but one fact is almost certain - that individual (or individuals) is surely dead by now.

Yes, it would seem the matters behind the Villisca Axe Murder House, or Lot 310, as some locals call it, now solely regard the spirits, as many now claim the home is one of the most actively haunted spots in the country.  Of course, the living can visit, and even spend the night if they dare.  People claim they hear children's voices there when there are none around, that objects move on their own, and that photos taken there turn out strangely.  The current owners have stated that when they place balls on the floor, they will move on their own, in paths that are impossible to recreate.  Perhaps the most interesting tales come from the stream of renters that have lived there since the Moores perished.  One pregnant woman claimed to wake one night to a vision of an axeman at the foot of her bed, and when her husband heard noises himself, like someone inexplicably walking on the stairs, the couple fled.  Another tenant avoided the house so much that he began sleeping in the barn.  A family later lived there, and the two daughters insisted strange events were occurring, like all of their clothes being tossed out of the dresser when the room was empty.  Their father ignored them.  But, supposedly, one night he was sharpening his pocketknife when it flew out of his hand and stabbed him.  They vacated that night.  Yet, one resident who lived there over twenty years adamantly denies anything out of the ordinary is going on there.  So I suppose it's anyone's guess as to what is going on at Lot 310 in Villisca.

At the time of the murders, Villisca was flourishing.  It was on the railroad tracks, and businesses were coming to the town, bringing families and continued development.  Nowadays, however, it is described as forlorn and mostly abandoned, as the majority of what was once over two thousand residents have left.  Did the murders play a part in this?  Did people consciously leave after the community's innocence had been shattered, or was it a less subtle departure from its former time of promise?  Whatever the matter, Villisca will go on, a shadow of its former self, and a more unusual variety of tourists will continue to visit, ones that either wish to see the site of one of the twentieth century's most notorious unsolved crimes or those that hope to have an encounter with the supernatural, or, in some cases, maybe a little of both.


  1. Creepy things happening in Iowa!?! I always think of Iowa being so wholesome.

  2. Me, too - guess it shows creepy spots can be lurking in even the most unsuspecting locales.