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  1. #1
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    IA - Villisca Axe Murders of 1912

    This case will probably never be solved but I found it to be very interesting. I saw a documentary once about the house where the murders were commited.
    Supposedly some paranormal activity in the house.

    http://www.villiscaiowa.com/Mystery.htm


    Over ninety years ago, long before serial killers and mass murders had become a way of life, two adults and 6 children were found brutally murdered in their beds in the small mid-western town of Villisca Iowa. During the weeks that followed, life in this small town changed drastically. Hardware stores ran out of locks and weapons as townspeople armed themselves against an unknown assailant. Newspaper reporters and private detectives flooded the streets.
    Accusations, rumors and suspicion ran rampant among friends and families. Bloodhounds were brought in. Law enforcement agencies from neighboring counties and states joined forces. Hundreds of interviews filled thousands of pages. And yet, the murders remained unsolved, the murderer unpunished.

    Renewed interest in the Axe Murders and the house in which they were committed has been sparked recently by reports of paranormal activity in the recently renovated house. New owners restored the home to it's original condition at the time of the murders. Some say it is this restoration that brought the spirits of the victims back home. It is now open for tours.
    Films and books on the murders have captured the interest of an audience who had never heard of the crime. Psychics claim they've identified the murderer while history buffs are collecting piles of documents they say will eventually point to the truth. In all honesty though, we will never really know what happened on that dark night inside the home of J.B. and Sarah Moore. For some, the speculation is almost too much to bear. I have visited the home, read the newspaper articles of 1912, pored over the grand jury testimonies and the coroners inquest. I have spent hours looking into the eyes of the victims in the few tattered photographs that remain.

    ......
    more at link above
    The above post is as always MY OPINION ONLY!

  2. #2
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    I heard about this on the A&E channel and i was so interested in it. I wonder what happened in that house....

  3. #3
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    Villisca Axe Murders of 1912

    Hi - I have only posted on here a couple times but am a frequent visitor. I wanted to post another website for the Villisca Axe Murders.

    www.villisca.com

    This website was created by the filmmakers of the DVD that was released last fall called Villisca - Living with a Mystery. There is some interesting info on this website also concerning the murders in Villisca, Iowa in 1912. Also, it's one of several places where the DVD can be purchased. The filmmakers spent nearly 10 years making this DVD and it was very well received.

    I agree with georgiagirl it will probably never really be solved. But it's a very interesting case and there is also LOTS of reading material regarding it on both websites.

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    Its pretty creepy, would make for a good horror film though, sort of how the Amityville Horrors were...... That movie always scared the crap out of me!!!

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    Villisca Axe Murders of 1912

    Its pretty creepy, would make for a good horror film though, sort of how the Amityville Horrors were...... That movie always scared the crap out of me!!!

    It's VERY creepy, and horrible, especially given the fact that out of the 8 people slain that night in Villisca, 6 were children! Very sad....

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    I know its sad.....Poor Family never had a chance..

  7. #7
    gaia227's Avatar
    gaia227 is offline I have never taken any exercise except sleeping and resting - M. Twain
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    Hoping to give this case some new life so I am bumping it out of the ice age. It was mentioned on another thread and is a pretty fascinating case.

    An entire family plus two additional little girls were found murdered viciously by an axe in their beds. The subsequent investigation resulted in some colorful and interesting suspects and a town divided by fear and accusations.

    The MO of these murders in Iowa are very similar to a slew of murders that were happening across the midwest. All of the victims killed with an axe. The murderers or murderer covered his victims faces, covered the windows with clothing or blankets, no forced entry, a chimney lamp found at the foot of the beds, a basin of bloody water in the kitchen suggesting an clean up attempt - many of these elements were present at more than one crime scene.

    Were the Moores and Stillinger girls victims of a serial killer or was it more personal?
    'The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated'
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  8. #8
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    Thanks for bumping this gaia. After sifting through everything I believe it was a serial killer too. It's wild to read about the suspects though and the reasons why it may have been personal! There were several similar murders at the time and I have to believe that the Villisca murder was a part of them. I once found an article that documented all the murders at that time but I can't find it now. I'll try to look for it so I can post the link.
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  9. #9
    gaia227's Avatar
    gaia227 is offline I have never taken any exercise except sleeping and resting - M. Twain
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    Thanks MaryBeth! I would love to read the article. I just returned my netflix movie today so I should be getting the documentary by Saturday which is perfect since that is the nigth my fiance gets back in town. No way could I watch it alone. My imagination gets the best of me in the end.


    The question that keeps coming up with me is how did one person or even two people manage to murder 8 people with an axe without the victims even having the opportunity to get up? I assume him/they went through and hit each of them on the head incapacitating them long enough to go to the next victim and then went back and viciously beat them.

    The whole bit with the slab of bacon found by the little girls' body is pretty bizarre.....and pretty gross.
    'The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated'
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  10. #10
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    After a steady diet of slasher movies like Friday the 13th, we in this day see the use of an ax as a murder weapon as extremely barbaric and heinous. However, at the turn of the last century, an ax was a fairly common 'weapon of choice'. Quieter than a gun, and distancing the murderer from the victim and almost assuring death unlike a knife...And common to most homes as fireplaces were still very common as a method of heating homes (not to mention cooking stoves).

    This case is fascinating, not only for the details of the crime but the cast of characters attached to it. Reading through the actual articles of the day, one is given an insight into what law enforcement was actually up against. Every suspect who was questioned in regard to an ax murder (and there were many) was instantly implicated by the press as having an involvement in all of them.

    Several of the murder cases from 1911 to 1915 were linked due to certain similarities (which are not always discussed). For those unfamiliar with the case, here is a list from 1915 (the Racine, WI Journal News of 7-19):

    H. C. Wane, wife and child and Mrs. A. W. Burnham and two children, Colorado Springs, CO, September, 1911
    William E. Dawson, wife and daughter, Monmouth. IL Sep. 1911.
    William Showman, wife and two daughters and a son, Ellsworth, KS, October, 1911.
    Mrs. Hanson. Parks and son, Boston, MA October, 1911
    Rollin Hurson and wife, Paola, KS, June 1912.
    J. B. Moore, four daughters and two girl guests, Villisca, IA, December, 1912.
    Mrs. Mary Wilson and Mrs. George Moore, Columbus. MO, December
    1912.
    Jacob Mislich, his wife, and his daughter, Mrs. Martha (also listed as Margaret) Mansfield and her baby, Mary Mansfield, in Blue Island, IL, July 5, 1914.
    .
    A later addition to the list was 80 year-old Mrs BF Matthews of Hartsburg, MO, murdered in October of 1914.

    In July of 1915, Casimir Areizewski confessed to the murders of the Misliches and their daughter and granddaughter. It is interesting to note that one of the 'prime suspects' of the time, William Mansfield, was the estranged husband of Martha (or Margaret) Mansfield and the father of the baby. The Misliches were his parents-in-law. Mansfield was acquitted of the Villisca murders due to payroll records indicating that he was not in the area at the time of the ax murders there. When his wife, child, and parents-in-law were murdered in a similar fashion two years later, Mansfield simply said that a crazy person had confessed, he didnt do it, he had another wife and child and had moved on.

    In March of 1915, a black man, Loving Mitchell, was arrested for the ax murders of the Dawson family (listed above). He had fled from Monmouth just after the murders were discovered. Mitchell left behind an "electric flashlight" which had the name "Lovie" and the words "Colorado Springs" scratched into it. This makes it possible that he was also involved in the murders of the Wane and Burnham families (though he was implicated in all the murders, as was most anyone found to be near an ax).

    I found an interesting side note while reading the archives in regard to the Villisca murders, something I had not read about before. During the same time period (late 1911 into 1912) over forty persons, all black, were axed to death in southern Louisiana and west Texas. Entire families were brutally murdered during this time. A black religious group, seemingly a cult, had taken 'credit' for the murders.


  11. #11
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    shadowangel, that is a similar article to the one I was looking for. Thanks for posting it.

    The only thing this article doesn't mention that I have read in other ones, regarding the murder of Mrs. Mary Wilson and Mrs. George Moore in Columbus, MO in December 1912, Mrs. Moore's son, Henry Lee Moore was convicted of their murders and sent to Leavenworth penitentiary. He is the one who is widely thought to have committed some of the other murders, especially the ones in Paola, KS and Ellsworth, KS. I never heard of Loving Mitchell. I thought Henry Moore was responsible for the Monmouth murders too but maybe he wasn't if Mitchell did it.

    When I was first reading about the Villisca murders a few years ago, one of the things I thought was so bizarre about it was that suspect William Mansfield's family was murdered in the exact same way. I was glad that Casimir Areizewski confessed to those murders because that was just unbelievable that that happened two years after Villisca.
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  12. #12
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    You're right about Moore, he was convicted for the murders of his mother and grandmother. M. McClaughry, a "special agent of the Department of Justice", worked diligently to connect Moore to the other murders.

    I haven't as yet found whether Mitchell was convicted of the Monmouth IL murders, but I'm fairly certain he was.

    I'm not sure that Areizewski's confession can be taken at face value. He was a boarder at the home of the Misliches (sometimes listed as the Nesleslas). But the fact that Mansfield was their son-in-law (and that his estranged wife and child were killed) is far too much of a coincidence for me.

    * *** * *** * *** *
    Continuing the list of ax murders....A North Carolina farming couple were murdered in December of 1912. Two black male "tenants" of the couple were arrested. In April of 1912, a restaurant owner and two helpers were axed to death in NYC during a robbery.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by gaia227 View Post
    Thanks MaryBeth! I would love to read the article. I just returned my netflix movie today so I should be getting the documentary by Saturday which is perfect since that is the nigth my fiance gets back in town. No way could I watch it alone. My imagination gets the best of me in the end.


    The question that keeps coming up with me is how did one person or even two people manage to murder 8 people with an axe without the victims even having the opportunity to get up? I assume him/they went through and hit each of them on the head incapacitating them long enough to go to the next victim and then went back and viciously beat them.

    The whole bit with the slab of bacon found by the little girls' body is pretty bizarre.....and pretty gross.
    I hope you like the film..I'm glad your fiance will be there too because it definitely isn't something to watch by yourself. It's very tastefully done, not too gory or anything. But it's just eerie, and towards the end there is a computer-generated walk-through of the whole thing which the filmmakers put together that is kind of spooky.

    I don't know how one person could have done it either. According to everything I have read, the only person who possibly woke up is Lena Stillinger. She's the one who was sort of posed and had the slab of bacon near her (you're right, VERY bizarre!). Whoever did it knew exactly where to hit the person so it would immediately incapacitate them.

    It was so senseless, especially all those children! It's just unbelievable someone could do that.
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  14. #14
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    Here is the text of an article from the March 22nd, 1915 San Antonio (TX) Light in regard to Mitchell.

    ARRESTS IN MURDER CASE
    Two Persons Held In Connection
    With St. Louis Crime.

    MONMOUTH, III., March 22—The
    second arrest in connection with the
    murder of the Dawson family with an axe, was
    made today in St. Louis, when a (black) woman
    named Knight, of Monmouth, was
    locked up. Loving Mitchell, accused
    of the murder, was seized in St.
    Louis yesterday and is held in Galesburg.
    The arrest of both Mitchell and
    the woman was based on affidavits
    signed by residents of Monmouth,
    whose names are suppressed.
    John Knight, husband of the woman,
    and also named in the affidavit,
    is in Joliet penitentiary, where he
    was sent two years ago for bigamy.

    Apparently the police believed that all three were involved in the murders of the Dawson family.

  15. #15
    gaia227's Avatar
    gaia227 is offline I have never taken any exercise except sleeping and resting - M. Twain
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    From the list you provided Shadow the cases that are considered solved is the Moore case, the Dawsons and the Mislichs, correct?

    Regarding the Dawson murders the only evidence they had was the flashlight left behind? Anyone could have left that behind to frame him. Given the time period I have to wonder how many innocent black people were convicted of crimes they did not commit. If you were black and you worked for a family that was white and they are murdered you are going to be the first and probably only suspect. Sad but true.

    Thank you for providing the list. You are right about the axe being pretty common back then and to us iot seems more brutal than it was considered a hundred years ago. It still seems like a lot of families and couples murdered in a very close time frame and close proximity. Seven attacks and over 25 people murdered in only two years. If they were individual attacks it would be one thing but the fact that in most of the murders it is entire families which are targeted seems suspect to me.
    'The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated'
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