Jan. 27, 2023

A Haunting In Villisca: The Axe Murder House

A Haunting In Villisca: The Axe Murder House

On a quiet residential street in Villisca sits an old white frame house. On a dark evening, the absence of lights and sounds are the first indication to visitors that this house is different from the other homes that surround it.

Upon closer inspection, you'll notice it's doors and windows are tightly closed and covered. An outhouse in the backyard suggests that this house does not occupy a place in the 21st century but somehow belongs in another era or another story.

A weather-beaten sign hanging from the decrepit front porch warns rather than welcomes.

It is the "Murder House."

The walls still protect the identity of the murderer or murderers who bludgeoned to death the entire family of Josiah Moore and two overnight guests on June 10th, 1912. 

To some, it seems to be speaking.

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Speaker A: Hi everyone, and welcome back to Haunted History Chronicles. Before we introduce today's podcast or guest, if you like this podcast, please consider leaving a review.

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Speaker A: And gain access to additional blogs, news and updates. And now let's get started introducing today's episode.

Speaker B: On a quiet residential street in the.

Speaker A: Small town of Veliska sits an old.

Speaker B: White frame house on a dark evening. The absence of lights and sounds are the first indication to visitors that this.

Speaker A: House is different from the other homes that surround it.

Speaker B: Upon closer inspection, it's clear the doors.

Speaker A: And windows are tightly closed and covered.

Speaker B: An outhouse in the backyard suggests that.

Speaker A: This house does not occupy a place.

Speaker B: In the 21st century, but somehow belongs.

Speaker A: To another era or another story.

Speaker B: A weather beaten sign warns rather than welcomes, this is the murder house.

Speaker A: The walls still protect the identity of the murderer or murderers who bludgeon to death the entire family of Josiah Moore and two overnight guests on June 10, 1912.

Speaker B: All these years later, her secrets continue.

Speaker A: To draw many visitors to her door.

Speaker B: To some, it seems to be speaking.

Speaker A: Visits by paranormal investigators have provided audio, video and photographic proof of paranormal activity.

Speaker B: Tours have been cut short by children's.

Speaker A: Voices, falling lamps, moving ladders and flying objects. Psychics have confirmed the presence of spirits dwelling in the home, and many have actually communicated with them. And skeptics have left believers. In today's podcast, we explore the haunted history of the Velliska house.

Speaker B: And in the process of researching for.

Speaker A: This podcast, I have to highlight two books that I found so incredibly insightful and thorough. And those are firstly, a nightmare in Velisca by Richard Estep.

Speaker B: He's previously featured on a podcast where.

Speaker A: We touched upon some of his experiences at the Velisca house and more.

Speaker B: The second book I have to highlight is Fiend incarnate the Veliska Axe Murders.

Speaker A: Of 1912 by Edgar V. Epilee.

Speaker B: So get comfortable and let's journey back.

Speaker A: To Velisca of 1912.

Speaker B: On April 15, 1912, the RMS Titanic.

Speaker A: Would sink in the frigid waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

Speaker B: It would dominate headlines across the United States until another tragedy supplanted it.

Speaker A: Long before, serial killers and mass murders.

Speaker B: Had become a way of life, two.

Speaker A: Adults and six children were found brutally murdered in their beds in the small Midwestern town of Veliska, Iowa on the night of Sunday the 9 June 1912. During the weeks that followed, life in this small town changed drastically. Residents of this small town reinforced locks.

Speaker B: Openly carried weapons and huddled together while sleeping newspaper reporters and private detectives flooded the streets.

Speaker A: Accusations, rumors and suspicion ran rampant among friends and families.

Speaker B: Bloodhounds were brought in.

Speaker A: Law enforcement agencies from neighboring counties and states joined forces. Hundreds of interviews filled thousands of pages.

Speaker B: And yet the murders remained unsolved. The Murderer Unpunished mary Pekham would begin.

Speaker A: Her morning that day with a sense of unease.

Speaker B: As she stood with her scrub brush.

Speaker A: In hand looking over at her neighbour's house. She couldn't help but notice and be concerned that the house stood eerily dark.

Speaker B: And silent, the children nowhere to be.

Speaker A: Seen or heard as they went about their usual morning chores milking the cow, tending to the horse or gathering eggs. Nervously, Mary made her way over to the More house and would attempt to peer through a window to see if anything was amiss. Finding her view blocked by a tightly drawn shade, she next made her way to the kitchen door only to find it locked.

Speaker B: The house was not yet ready to.

Speaker A: Reveal its macabre secrets.

Speaker B: Mary let out the chickens and proceeded.

Speaker A: To call Ross Moore, brother of Joe Moore, her neighbour, to see if he.

Speaker B: Knew of the family's whereabouts, hoping to.

Speaker A: Be reassured all was well.

Speaker B: That call that morning triggered a flurry.

Speaker A: Of activity, beginning with Ross calling Moore's Hardware and Implement store to see if his brother was at work. Discovering he was not was particularly alarming.

Speaker B: As it was especially out of character.

Speaker A: For his brother to not be there on a Monday morning.

Speaker B: And so Ross set off to the.

Speaker A: More home, arriving at about 815.

Speaker B: Like Mary, he began to attempt to.

Speaker A: Peer through and tap on windows.

Speaker B: The house remained just as silent and still. Next he would move to the front of the house where he began to.

Speaker A: Try and gain entry using a set of skeleton keys.

Speaker B: Eventually Ross would find a key that.

Speaker A: Fit the west parlor door and made his way inside his brother's home. He was met with darkness.

Speaker B: All the blinds appeared to be drawn. Glass in the front room was covered. Making his way through, he would move.

Speaker A: To a door leading to the back parlor.

Speaker B: Pushing it open and peering inside, he.

Speaker A: Could just begin to make out two.

Speaker B: Covered figures, pillows and bedding soaked in blood.

Speaker A: Ross Moore quickly exited the house.

Speaker B: By 830, Marshall Horton and Ed Shelley.

Speaker A: From the Moore shop would arrive at the home.

Speaker B: Like Ross, they too would soon find.

Speaker A: The two bodies, their faces covered with blood soaked clothing. Marshall Horton would remove these to find the bludgeoned faces of two females.

Speaker B: Laying against the south wall in the.

Speaker A: Same room was a large single axe. At the foot of the bed a.

Speaker B: Disturbed oil lamp, its chimney laying under a nearby dresser. It was apparent to the marshal that.

Speaker A: The smaller figure belonged to a young.

Speaker B: Child, but at this point, identification was impossible.

Speaker A: Their heads having been so badly mutilated with repeated blows.

Speaker B: Making his way up the narrow stairway, the marshal soon reached the bedroom of Joe and Sarah Moore, where they, too, sadly lay in lifeless repose, their faces.

Speaker A: Battered and covered with clothing.

Speaker B: It was a horrific assault, blood having.

Speaker A: Sprayed over the bedstead covering the wall behind. Heading next to the south room, marshall Horton made his final grim discovery.

Speaker B: The bodies of the four Moore children.

Speaker A: Bludgeoned also to death in their beds. Herman Moore, aged eleven, was lying on his stomach in a cot in the northeast corner.

Speaker B: His sister Catherine, aged ten, on a couch. Boyd, aged seven, and Paul, aged just.

Speaker A: Five, shared the bed in the northwest corner.

Speaker B: Toys lay scattered on the floor, a.

Speaker A: Grim reminder that no one would be playing with them that day. This room, like that of their parents.

Speaker B: Bearing haunting marks in the ceiling from.

Speaker A: Each backswing of the axe.

Speaker B: Word quickly began to spread through the.

Speaker A: Town of Veliska that morning and crowds soon gathered around the Moore house, hopelessly contaminating the scene.

Speaker B: An examination of the bodies by Dr.

Speaker A: Cooper would place the time of death.

Speaker B: At around midnight, eight or 9 hours.

Speaker A: Prior to their discovery.

Speaker B: It was clear that the killer had.

Speaker A: Spent some time in the house and had spent some time ensuring complete privacy. In the kitchen sat a basin of ****** water where he'd likely washed himself.

Speaker B: In the downstairs bedroom, a union suit.

Speaker A: Stained with blood had been used in an attempt to wipe the murder weapon.

Speaker B: Despite this effort, blood and hair remained.

Speaker A: Adhered to the handle of the axe.

Speaker B: Throughout the course of that morning, a.

Speaker A: Constant stream of interested parties paraded through the Moore home.

Speaker B: Preservation of evidence hardly a concern.

Speaker A: Suspicion also gathered momentum over the course.

Speaker B: Of that morning that the victims discovered.

Speaker A: Downstairs with the daughters of a local.

Speaker B: Farmer, Joe Stillinger, two personal Bibles with.

Speaker A: The names of Lena and Ina Stillinger in the fly leaves having been found on the dresser. Both girls, aged twelve and nine, had planned to stay overnight at their grandmother's house in town after attending Sunday church.

Speaker B: After discovering their grandmother unwell, they instead.

Speaker A: Had spent the afternoon with their friends.

Speaker B: Catherine and Herman Moore, and had hatched.

Speaker A: A plan to stay with them overnight.

Speaker B: By 10:00 a.m. That Monday morning, joe.

Speaker A: And Sarah Stillinger were becoming increasingly alarmed because their daughters had not returned home.

Speaker B: They made frantic and panicked calls to the more home.

Speaker A: Central operators would not ring the number through.

Speaker B: On the third attempt, an operator would.

Speaker A: Blurt out that they were all dead.

Speaker B: To a shocked Mrs. Stillinger, the thought.

Speaker A: Of a murderer still hiding somewhere in the town, ready to strike again, gripped its residents.

Speaker B: Pet dogs were used as bloodhounds and.

Speaker A: Began searching alleyways, barns and outhouses until trained search dogs arrived and joined the efforts.

Speaker B: The search continued until they could go no further. Nobody had been found. Beliska could not rest easy. Neighbors took to sleeping together. Sales of locks soared.

Speaker A: Crude alarms and trip wires were fashioned across doorframes.

Speaker B: Gossip and speculation surrounding possible suspects was fiercely discussed on people's lips. A sensational crime led to nearly ten.

Speaker A: Years of investigations and trials.

Speaker B: The small southwest Iowa town of Veliska.

Speaker A: Split over the guilt or innocence of a local businessman and state senator.

Speaker B: A traveling minister from England with a.

Speaker A: History of window peeping was charged and tried. Investigators and reporters across the country speculated that the axe murders were the work.

Speaker B: Of an early serial killer, similar crimes.

Speaker A: Having been committed in Colorado Springs, Ellsworth.

Speaker B: Kansas and Monmouth, Illinois to this day.

Speaker A: Events during that dark early morning of.

Speaker B: The 10 June 1912 were a person.

Speaker A: Or persons unknown bludgeoned to death josiah.

Speaker B: Moore, his wife Sarah, their children Herman.

Speaker A: Catherine, Boyd and Paul, and two overnight.

Speaker B: Guests, Lena and Ina, Stillinger remain one of America's greatest mysteries, the crime scene.

Speaker A: Itself only able to convey so much.

Speaker B: Competing theories surrounding the case suggest that.

Speaker A: The killer broke in while the malls were at church, hiding in the attic.

Speaker B: Or in a closet for several hours.

Speaker A: Until the lights were extinguished and they were safe to embark on a killing spree. Others believed they entered much later, after the residents were asleep.

Speaker B: Whatever the means of entry, the killer.

Speaker A: Dispatched the adult threat first before moving on, as most believed the more children.

Speaker B: And finally moving downstairs and killing the Stillinger girls. Before we head back to the podcast, if you haven't already visited The Haunted.

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Speaker B: And now let's head back to the podcast. The house today has a fearsome reputation, with many visiting, seeking an encounter with something otherworldly drawn for the history as well as the ghosts, sometimes getting more in the process. It is a location that has been.

Speaker A: Explored by many investigators and TV shows from Ghost adventures Kindred Spirits to the Dead files.

Speaker B: Amy and Ryan from Full Dark Paranormal.

Speaker A: Have an incredible episode on their channel which I highly recommend to help get a feel for the atmosphere of this location.

Speaker B: I'll make sure to share their link.

Speaker A: In the notes for the podcast to watch, as they had some fascinating experiences during their overnight investigation.

Speaker B: It's a location if you're interested in.

Speaker A: Seeing the wealth of reports at the house, then I highly recommend reading a copy of Richard Estepp's book A Nightmare in Veliska as he chronicles and writes about a lot of the activity experienced by others before writing about his own investigations and experiences from spending time there.

Speaker B: It's one as I mentioned at the.

Speaker A: Outset, I enjoyed briefly chatting to Richard about a few weeks ago for the podcast.

Speaker B: One of the aspects that Richard covers.

Speaker A: Are the four possible explanations surrounding the activity experienced at the house and neighboring home.

Speaker B: The first school of thought being activity.

Speaker A: Is linked to the victims still lingering inside the house.

Speaker B: Richard himself recorded childlike giggles.

Speaker A: Others believe that the killer or killers or some kind of energy associated with him are responsible.

Speaker B: And this would explain many of the.

Speaker A: More violent events which have taken place.

Speaker B: Inside the house, some of which have.

Speaker A: Included injury to investigators who have reported physically being attacked or causing self harm.

Speaker B: Theory number three holds that a nonentity is drawn to the location because of.

Speaker A: The negative energy generated by the murders.

Speaker B: It's a theory that requires you to.

Speaker A: Believe in such entities and so therefore, if you don't may not be one that you hold true.

Speaker B: The fourth theory is that the house is haunting itself. The idea that an entity has somehow.

Speaker A: Been created out of the many energies and thoughts which have passed through the property. It's one I'd like to explore a little bit further.

Speaker B: A thought form is a mental image.

Speaker A: That you are consciously creating in your mind.

Speaker B: In spiritual circles, it's said to exist.

Speaker A: In both the mental and astral plane.

Speaker B: They are generally placed in three categories the image of the thinker, which is.

Speaker A: Simply the appearance of an individual in two places simultaneously.

Speaker B: An image of a material object associated with a thought an independent image expressing.

Speaker A: The inherent qualities of the thought.

Speaker B: People often use meditation or even hypnotherapy.

Speaker A: To create a thought form.

Speaker B: It's thought that people can also manifest.

Speaker A: A thought form when you have a group of people concentrating on the same thing. Thought form is not something you can see physically with your own eyes.

Speaker B: Only the person manifesting it can see.

Speaker A: It in their mind as if they've.

Speaker B: Created it spiritually as it exists in the astral plane. Some psychics or clairvoyance are said to.

Speaker A: Be able to detect this thought form in the form of energy.

Speaker B: They see it present itself as energy.

Speaker A: Waves within a person's aura.

Speaker B: A thought form is a more temporary.

Speaker A: Manifestation of this created item or person.

Speaker B: And in a lot of ways is.

Speaker A: Still controlled by your thought as it doesn't have its own will.

Speaker B: The more permanent version of this is known as a tulpa. A tulpa comes from Tibetan Buddhism, where.

Speaker A: It'S a consciously created being or object.

Speaker B: In the same way it is consciously created. It is thought that a person can.

Speaker A: Also unknowingly create a tulpa.

Speaker B: When you look at the meaning of.

Speaker A: The word tulpa, it means to build or construct.

Speaker B: There's a much more complex version of.

Speaker A: A thought form as it develops its own sentience and own will.

Speaker B: In modern day society, people commonly will.

Speaker A: Use lucid dreaming to create their own tulpa.

Speaker B: They think of it almost as an imaginary friend.

Speaker A: They can communicate with at will and help them through certain things in life.

Speaker B: A tulpa is thought to always be growing and learning. In the same way our dreams can.

Speaker A: Turn bad, so can a tulpa. Many people report their tulpa has turned on them and caused a lot of trouble in their life.

Speaker B: In some cases, it's taken years to.

Speaker A: Get rid of them.

Speaker B: On an interesting level, when you think.

Speaker A: Of a group of people somehow manifesting a form of tulpa just by thinking.

Speaker B: About it, some people believe that a.

Speaker A: Lot of religious figures or creatures are actually a form of tulpa.

Speaker B: A famous creature such as bigfoot could.

Speaker A: Be a type of tulpa. Sightings of nessie, the Loch ness monster, again, could, in theory, be a form of tulpa.

Speaker B: One of the more popular theories at.

Speaker A: The moment is that of slenderman.

Speaker B: It's a fictional figure that was created.

Speaker A: As a part of a photoshop competition.

Speaker B: And soon found its own law created.

Speaker A: On the storytelling website creepy pasta.

Speaker B: Even though this is an entirely made up creature, people claim they have seen.

Speaker A: This figure in real life.

Speaker B: Could widespread belief in something form its own tulpa? What if you apply this train of.

Speaker A: Thought to modern day paranormal investigating?

Speaker B: When you have people going to a.

Speaker A: Location, thinking in detail about what something.

Speaker B: Looks like and how it moves, could.

Speaker A: You manifest it into existence?

Speaker B: To test this theory, there was a.

Speaker A: Parapsychology experiment in the early 1970s which set out to do exactly that.

Speaker B: This would become known as the Philip experiment.

Speaker A: In 1972, a group of Canadian parapsychologists came together to create a ghost to prove that the human mind could conjure a spirit through expectation, imagination, and visualization.

Speaker B: There was even a movie made inspired.

Speaker A: By this case called the quiet ones.

Speaker B: The experiment was led by a world.

Speaker A: Renowned self proclaimed expert on poltergeists, dr. A-R-G. Owen.

Speaker B: His goal was very simple gather a group of people, none of which were mediums or sensitive to the paranormal, and.

Speaker A: Have them use their collective thought to see if they could conjure a ghost to appear.

Speaker B: The Philip experiment was born.

Speaker A: The first phase of the experiment was to create a fictional character who would become the ghost.

Speaker B: To do this, a backstory needed to be created. Dr Owen came up with the name.

Speaker A: Philip Ailesford and gave him a very tragic backstory.

Speaker B: Keeping in line with a lot of.

Speaker A: Ghost stories tended with the sad and tragic end.

Speaker B: The story they created says that Philip.

Speaker A: Was an Englishman from the 16 hundreds.

Speaker B: He was a supporter of the King.

Speaker A: And of the Catholic religion, which was very common for that period of time.

Speaker B: He married the daughter of his neighbour, who was a very attractive woman but.

Speaker A: Had a very cold and frigid personality called Dorothea.

Speaker B: One day, Philip went out riding his horse near the boundary of his property. He came across a gypsy campsite where.

Speaker A: He met and fell in love with a beautiful gypsy girl with dark enchanting eyes.

Speaker B: Her name was Margot and it was.

Speaker A: Love at first sight.

Speaker B: He secretly brought her back to live.

Speaker A: In the gatehouse near the stables of.

Speaker B: Diddlington Manor, which was the home he.

Speaker A: Shared with his wife.

Speaker B: Dorothy, however, would go on to discover.

Speaker A: Margot and accuse her of witchcraft in stealing her husband.

Speaker B: Margot was subsequently put on trial and.

Speaker A: Philip was too scared to defend his beloved Margot and speak the truth. He feared losing his possessions and damaging his reputation.

Speaker B: Margot was found guilty of witchcraft and burned at the stake. Not long after the trial, Philip was overcome with remorse, unable to forgive himself. Each day he would pace up and.

Speaker A: Down along the battlements of his castle in despair.

Speaker B: One day his body was found at the bottom of the battlements, where he had thrown himself in an act to.

Speaker A: Forever rid himself of the guilt he carried.

Speaker B: The story itself is a summary based.

Speaker A: On the extract created by a participant.

Speaker B: Of the experiment named sue, who was.

Speaker A: A former nurse for the Canadian Armed Forces.

Speaker B: Now that the story was created, the.

Speaker A: Next step of the experiment was to choose the people who would make Philip's story literally come to life.

Speaker B: There was a total of eight participants.

Speaker A: Selected who were a part of this conjuring experiment.

Speaker B: Sue was one of those involved, as.

Speaker A: Was Iris M Owen, the wife of Dr Owen.

Speaker B: She would go on to author the book Conjuring Up Philip An Adventure in Psychokinesis in 1976, which is where the.

Speaker A: Majority of the information from this experiment was referenced across the many publications and.

Speaker B: Websites where you can read about this story.

Speaker A: The participants included Al and Lawn, who were both engineers, a student called Sydney.

Speaker B: Lawn's wife Andy, housewife Dorothy and accountant Benice. It wasn't their careers, however, that defined them. Their selection had more to do with.

Speaker A: Their collective interests, which ranged from philosophy through to astronomy, making the group a diverse one.

Speaker B: The panel was overseen by Dr Owen.

Speaker A: And Dr Joel Whitten, a psychologist. Margaret Sparrow, a former chairperson of Mensa, was also involved in the project. In September 1972, the experiment officially began. In the beginning, the group would meet informally.

Speaker B: They would sit together with the lights.

Speaker A: On and talk about Philip in great detail.

Speaker B: By using meditation techniques and focusing on a drawing of Philip, they tried to.

Speaker A: Imagine him in their mind to see if they could make him appear.

Speaker B: They tried this for a full year.

Speaker A: With no results apart from a couple of members saying they felt his presence around them. After reading the work of psychologist Ken Barchelder, which discussed 19th century seance type settings, iris Owen thought this sort of approach could help.

Speaker B: It was also thought at the time.

Speaker A: That some of the group were having a difficult time meditating on Philip, knowing that in fact he didn't exist. Each member also began bringing a trigger object of an item they thought the character of Philip might have liked. One of the most important changes they.

Speaker B: Felt were successful in the experiment was.

Speaker A: That they duplicated what would be a.

Speaker B: Typical seance like atmosphere by dimming the lights, lighting some candles, and calling upon.

Speaker A: Philip to come forward.

Speaker B: They found this new method of communication seemed to work. While Philip did not come forward as.

Speaker A: A full bodied apparition that they could.

Speaker B: See, they appeared to receive intelligent knocking responses known as wrapping, on the seance.

Speaker A: Table they were using.

Speaker B: The first time it happened, it was.

Speaker A: Described as a vibration on the table.

Speaker B: When one of the group members questioned if maybe it was Philip, they received.

Speaker A: A knock in response to indicate he was there.

Speaker B: They then established and asked Philip to.

Speaker A: Use the one knock for yes and two for no method to answer their questions.

Speaker B: After the initial contact, it seemed with.

Speaker A: Every session Philip's communication became stronger.

Speaker B: They felt they learned a lot about.

Speaker A: Philip from his knocking responses.

Speaker B: What they found to be interesting was.

Speaker A: That Philip did not seem to know.

Speaker B: The questions to answers that they as.

Speaker A: A group did not know or had yet established as part of his character.

Speaker B: This convinced them that it was indeed.

Speaker A: Philip they had conjured from their collective consciousness.

Speaker B: Simply put, if they didn't know the.

Speaker A: Answer, Philip wouldn't either.

Speaker B: As Philip became stronger, he was able.

Speaker A: To start moving the table and was said to be capable of levitating it as well. Sitters also reported seeing a mist over the table that would move across the room when someone entered as if it was greeting them.

Speaker B: You would also dim the lights on command to prove Philip's existence to the world. There was a final seance held in.

Speaker A: Front of a live audience of 50 people. A documentary was also broadcast on national television. Supposedly the table levitated during the session. However, it was not caught on camera.

Speaker B: The Philip experiment itself highlights for a.

Speaker A: Lot of people what they believe a haunting truly is.

Speaker B: Maybe a lot of what we experience.

Speaker A: In terms of paranormal phenomena is really just our very own Philip experiment.

Speaker B: We are just unaware that we are the participants. If we can unknowingly cause these events.

Speaker A: To happen, can us changing our thought process change the environment around us?

Speaker B: Is this something that could be relevant.

Speaker A: For the Velisca house?

Speaker B: With thousands having entered the property over.

Speaker A: The years, fueled by ghost stories, TV shows, books, podcasts and other sources, it's a valid question to consider and ask whether all of that has created a thought form that has grown and strengthened.

Speaker B: It's certainly a theory that, to me.

Speaker A: Holds a lot of weight and intrigue.

Speaker B: That all of us could partly be.

Speaker A: Responsible in some way.

Speaker B: Thank you for listening. See you next time. Bye for now.