In a previous blog, I posted information about a visit to the house from Chad and Ryan - hosts of the show "Paranormal State." At the time of the post, I was under the impression that the visit was related to the show and that Villisca would be a feature. I've since discovered that the boys were actually in Villisca to film and research for a documentary they're doing on Haunted Places in the United States that is independent of the show.
Apparently, however, they did capture some excellent video footage. Since the boys are known to taunt and aggravate spirit entities I have to admit I was a little concerned about the visit. Apparently one of them did provoke a rather physical reaction from one of the spirits. If I hear any more, I'll keep you updated.
Ghost Adventures with the Travel Channel had also booked the house for the end of June - but cancelled their visit. Rumor is that they discovered Paranormal State had been on site before them. I guess I didn't realize that the ghost hunting industry was soo competitive. Hopefully, they'll reconsider and reschedule their visit.
Ragbrai will be in Red Oak for an overnight stop and will travel through Villisca on the 20th of July. Darwin has been hard on work putting little ghosts on bicycles and making signs to cheer the riders on. If you have a chance to get down there - it should be a fun day!
Thanks to all of you who responded to the invitation to the overnight event on July 30th! We sold out within just a couple of days. Sign up for the mailing list or subscribe to the blog and I'll let you know when we have another one planned.
Another thank you to all of you who joined me on the Anniversary of the Murders! Although the house was fairly quiet - we all had a great time and made some wonderful new friends. A huge thank you to Jason and Michelle with Nightwatcher's Omaha. They volunteered their time and equipment to give the entire group an opportunity to see the ins and outs of a paranormal investigation.
Although the spirits in the house seemed mostly interested in rolling balls and peeking out windows at those of us gathered in the barn - according to Jayden, a guest on the tour and clairvoyant and clairaudient, they had a lot to say to him. I have to admit I was a little jealous that he seemed to be carrying on conversations with those the rest of us couldn't see! While I have had tons of experiences with the spirits in the house - I truly crave the piece of mind that I believe would come quickly if I could simply see Sarah standing in the kitchen or hear the children speaking to me.
Intuitive? Yes - I believe I am. Capable of moving to the next level? sadly... probably not. I believe in Villisca, I believe Sarah is a strong force in what happens there and often provides me with direction but I have yet to find the missing piece that erases all doubt. It's a personal journey I suppose and one that brings me back month after month to the house and day after day to this ever growing website.
Speaking of personal journeys - I met a wonderful young woman several weeks ago who contacted me via email regarding a visit to the house. Her name is Emily and she lives in the mountains of North Carolina. Emily too has experienced a connection with Sarah and as we've compared notes - I've been mildly surprised to find some validation there. Emily plans to travel to the house in late September and has given us her permission to post her story on the website.
I've always believed that the mission of the house and the spirits there is to "heal" and Emily's story is one of healing. Watch the website for "Emily's page" and please - if you have a similar story, send it to me! I'd love to share it.
Have a happy and safe 4th of July,
Due to the overwhelming response to the Anniversary event scheduled in Villisca on June 10th, I've booked July 30th for a second tour. These tours are geared towards those of you who would love to visit the house but don't have a large enough group to make it affordable. Currently, there is a 300.00 per night minimum. When split up between the 5 people this price covers - the overnight is only 60.00 per person.
We realize, however, that we have many interested parties who don't have a group of five. On July 30th, I'll host another tour with a limit of 12 - 14 guests. If you'd like to reserve a spot on this tour - prepayment is required and the cost is just $60.00 per person.
We'll start the tour at the museum, visit the cemetery and a few other spots of interest and then spend the night in the house. I've got a couple special events planned and I'm sure no one will leave disappointed.
If you'd like to reserve a spot on this tour - email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On May 26th Ryan Buell and Chad Calek visited the house to film an episode for the new series on A&E, Paranormal State. Although I haven't had a chance to see it yet, Darwin tells me their visit made the front page of the Villisca review!
For those of you who don't know how Villisca has reacted to the imense popularity of the Axe Murder House, this might not seem to be a big deal - for those of you who do... you're probably thinking the same thing I am - have the citizens of Villisca finally realized they're sitting on a gold mine?
In the past, the only articles that have appeared in the paper have been those denouncing the opening and subesequent tours and events held at the site of the Villisca Axe Murders. As we move forward, I'm hoping that just maybe the tide is turning. I'm sure the respect that our visitors have displayed when visiting not only the house but the businesses in Villisca has helped, and I'd like to say thank you to those of you who have shopped the merchants in Villisca or eaten at the cafe.
We firmly believe that burying the past is not a way to change the future and are keeping our fingers crossed that as the house continues to draw more people to this small town, we'll start to see others move towards preserving the history instead of trying to hide or cover it up.
I'll try to get a copy of the paper and post it on the website when I visit the house for the Anniversary event next week.
In the previous post, we opened up a discussion regarding whether or not Rev. Kelly could have been the serial killer that Ed Epperly wanted him to be - while doing a little research on his background, I stumbled across an article posted on MainStreetMoments.com. Here's the link . In this article, the author recounts Kelly's supposed involvement in the Villisca Axe Murders and puts out a call to history buffs across the globe to track him down as well as folks in Winner to add addtl. information.
The tie is that the website features information on South Dakota and we all know that Reverend Kelly spent some time in a city there called Winner. "While preaching in Winner, he (Kelly) decided he needed a secretary—a naked secretary. In 1913, the Reverend Kelly placed an ad in the Omaha World Herald.. He received an application from a young woman living in Council Bluffs, Iowa. He replied that she certainly fit the bill, and, if she agreed to type in the nude, she was hired. The young woman notified the police, and postal authorities began a “sting” operation by sending him fake letters and leading him to believe that he was corresponding with an eager eighteen-year-old girl. His return letters became increasingly salacious and pornographic. He was arrested for sending obscene material through the mail and violating a number of Federal laws."
The author goes on to place Kelly in Kansas City, Connecticut and finally New York City. The article resulted in 6 comments from readers, this one was of particular interest and I've sent off an email to see just what Carolyn may have found:
Posted by: Anonymous on February 24 2009
Went looking for Rev. Kelly and found in NYC 1930-1942 (definitely him) but lost him after that. I also have some info about his England roots. Still looking. If interested in seeing photocopies of documentation email me at email@example.com Carolyn
Posted by: Anonymous on October 09 2008
Doing research in Winner SD newspapers I discovered a flaw in this story. Kelley was arrested for the postal charges in the 2-16-1914 local paper, and gained suspicion for the Iowa murders as early as 7-17-1914. The trial did not occur until 1917? Also an unsolved Murder did occur just outside of Winner shortly before Kelley's departure from Winner.
I did receive an email regarding Reverend Kelly and the murder that occurred in Winner, however, the historian that sent the articles to me - indicated he did not feel Kelly was responsible. Kelly was sent to a mental hospital in Washington D.C. as a result of the charges assessed against him in South Dakota. Here are the articles that appeared in the Winner paper regarding the postal incident and the Villisca murders.
For those of you who believe that the spitting, perverted preacher was responsible for the murders in the Moore house, you may want to check out this article in the Iowa Independent. In this article, long-time Villisca historian Ed Epperley actually told the reporter why he believed not only that Kelly was responsible for the Moore and Stillinger murders but that he also believed he was connected to more than 30 other axe murders that occurred between the fall of 1911 and the summer of 1914.
“That would be the Holy Grail, to show Kelly was a serial killer,” says Ed Epperly, a retired Luther College education professor who has studied the murders for 50 years since his own college days at the University of Northern Iowa. Epperly told me he can’t say conclusively that Kelly is the Villisca butcher, but he said, “I’ve been more inclined to Kelly.” Kelly would have been a psychopath,” Epperly said. “He didn’t have empathy for other people.”
The article also suggests that Kelly spent some time in a national mental hospital in Washington, D.C., as well as a facility on Long Island, N.Y., before he died. He is believed to be buried somewhere on Long Island, according to Epperly.
I found an interesting article today while doing a little research for the website in the NY Times archive. Despite the fact that the media today is constantly flogged for their sensationalism and propoganda, you have to admit when you read what was printed in the early 1900's, "we've come a long way, baby!" Here's the link if you'd like to see it for yourself, but I'm pretty sure you'll agree. The headline was:
EIGHT SLAIN IN HOME WHILE THEY SLEEP
Iowa man, His Wife and Children and Two Visitors Killed with an Axe.
NO ATTEMPT AT ROBBERY
Crime probably that of a Madman - fingerprints the only Clue - House Doors Locked
The murders, according to this article occurred in the home of "James" B. Moore (not Josiah) and included his family as well as Edith and Blanche Stillinger. (not Lena and Ina). Although there were no signs of a struggle, one of the girls had "apparently raised one arm in an appeal for mercy." Towards the middle of the article Lena was referred to as "one of the Spillinger girls"
The article goes on to say that the only clues to the "slayer" were "bloody fingerprints" found in different parts of the house, including near the knob of the front door which indicated the murderer had locked it upon leaving the house. When describing J.B. the newspaper states that "He was one of the most prominent men in the city. His home and family life were ideal. There was not a blot on the happiness of himself and his wife and his children."
The paper also reports that "authorities are working in the dark. It is believed that the madman - and it is thought he must have been insane - entered the house through the downstairs window. The screen was apparently removed and the intruder, tiptoeing his way through the first floor, must have come upon the Stillinger girls first. Apparently he raised the axe and brought it down first upon the head of one girl and then upon that of her sister. It is surmised that neither girl cried out, as there is nothing to indicate the victims upstairs had any warning."
I hesitate to think of how much money an accused murderer could sue the Times for today if they suggested in print that he was "a madman" as aptly fitting as the title may be. The article, despite it's obvious attempt to stir it's reader. does, however, bring up an interesting possibility that I've never really heard anyone discuss much. I think we all assume that Josiah and Sarah were murdered first simply because J.B. would have posed the biggest threat to the murderer but it also doesn't make much sense to most people that the girls downstairs could have slept through what was happening upstairs. If you've been in the house - you know every sound filters down. I do know, however, that children sometimes sleep like logs and my house could probably burn down around mine and they wouldn't wake up.
I'd be interested to hear your thoughts... shoot me an email or tag the board with your comments on this one.
I've gotten several emails lately from Villisca Visitors who want to create their own websites to feature their paranormal experiences either at Villisca or other haunted locations. I highly suggest the Bravenet site. I am a self-taught web designer and this site offers some pretty functional and FREE web tools. As a matter of fact, they've got a deal going on now that includes a hosting account, domain name and all of the tools you see on the Villisca site plus a ton more. Hosting starts at about $4.99 a month.
So.. for all of you who have asked, here's my recommendation:
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If you're planning a visit to Villisca, there are a few things you need to know. First and foremost - please understand that this house was once a home and the spirits (namely Sarah) expect you to respect that fact.
It is extremely important that you bring positive energy into the house. As a matter of fact, Sarah's message to all visitors is that "negativity begets negativity." Villisca is a place that can and will help you move forward in your life and will definetely give you a totally new perspective on life after death. Visitors, however, also need to realize that there are spirits that sometimes inhabit the house that are not so nice. I would strongly suggest that you avoid taunting the spirits. I've personally witnessed situations in which visitors to the house decide to "call out" or threaten the "murderer" and in all honestly it doesn't usually end well.
I'd also suggest that you pay close attention to your "gut". In other words, if you have a feeling that you should leave the house, I'd suggest you do so. The barn makes an excellent retreat and if the energy in the house seems to turn negative, you might want to take a break until it shifts.
The Villisca Axe Murder House is not a hotel. There are no amenities. If you're planning on getting any sleep, I'd suggest a sleeping bag and a pillow. Although there are beds in the house, I have yet to hear from anyone who's ever spent the night in one. As a matter of fact, a friend of mine and I settled into the bed in Josiah and Sarah's room one night hoping to witness the residual that occurs there and after about 15 minutes, the bed slats slammed to the floor and the mattress went with them. It took us about 2 seconds to get downstairs and back to the barn!
There is no electricity in the house. Although Darwin supplies extension cords that will reach into the house, plan on bringing extra batteries for flashlights, cameras and anything else that requires it. The house drains your batteries very quickly. In the past, the house was lit with antique kerosene lamps. After the fire last fall, however, Darwin removed the lamps and replaced them with lanterns. When it gets dark outside, it gets very dark inside the house.
There is a modern bathroom in the barn with a toilet and sink but other than that there is no running water. There is no refrigerator so bring a cooler. There is no stove - so don't plan on cooking yourself breakfast. There is an excellent restaurant on the town square for dinner and breakfast and Casey's is open until 11 pm and has great pizza!
The Villisca house does not sit in the middle of nowhere. As a matter of fact, the old Peckham house is right next door. Please be respectful of the neighbors and when you're outside the house in the middle of the night, keep the noise down. We don't want to give the residents of Villisca any reason to attempt to stop the overnights in this unbelievable place.
Due to the fact that the house in not actually inhabitated, rodents can be a problem if food is constantly available to them. Please do not take food or beverages into the house - the barn provides an excellent place to take a break and have a snack. Many visitors also leave gifts for the children, however, we'd appreciate it if candy or other edible items were not included. Martha cleans the house regularly but if candy is left lying around for more than a few hours - it's definetely an attraction to mice and bugs.
We strongly suggest that visitor's do not bring any type of alcoholic beverages onto the property. Trust me - you will want to be of a clear head to truly experience the house and what it has to offer.
Given the fact that most visitors to the house are extremely responsible, overnight stays remain unchaperoned. After your initial introduction to the house, Darwin will hand over the keys and leave you to yourselves for the night. We would hate to have to change this so please take your responsibility seriously and take care to return the house in the condition it was when you arrived.
If you'd like any additional information or have any questions about your visit or the house itself, you can contact me via email .
If you're planning a visit and looking for great prices on ghost hunting equipement, check out the Villisca Online Store .