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We Spent a Night in the Villisca Ax Murder House and Woke Up Haunted

Just 2 days ago, Saturday the 19th of the US' spookiest month, October, myself, Ryan and our friends Jody and Daryl slept over inside the most infamous house in southern Iowa: the Villisca Ax Murder House. It's a very ominous title, first off. There is no guessing as to the origins of it's lore and intrigue. The details, however, are continuously horrifying the more one thinks about them. And that's what happens. You think about it over and over, and the imagination runs itself into new corners of its own horror and ideation. But don't let me get ahead of myself just yet. I need to organize my brain around this one because I may honestly end up in one of those corners yet. Again, it's been only 2 days.

Ryan and I were headed to Villisca that Saturday morning earlier than J and D, and arrived in the full (HOT) sunlight of the afternoon. The first thing we encountered was a quiet town in the middle of endless rolling farm fields. As we navigated toward the northeast corner of a dense neighborhood, the unpaved road up to the Villisca Cemetery loomed in front of us. The grave sites of the two families affected in the 1912 murder are located at the top of a small knoll in the center of the cemetery. They'd be mostly unassuming granite markers but for the copious donated change and small grave gifts (toys, little cars, dolls, fake flowers) left at each of the plots. Sara and Josiah Moore, their 4 children Katherine, Herman, Boyd and Paul, and two family friends, young sisters Lena and Ina Stillinger, lay within 20 feet of each other for eternity, not unlike the way they went to sleep the night of June 10, 1912. We spent several minutes there, in silent observation, and Ryan then said a few words about how we feel about the crime and our intentions to spend time with them tonight at the home. If, of course, they'd be willing to join us there. We left the cemetery and went to the house to find a throng of tourists on the last rounds of tours.

The home receives tens of visitors a day, and during October the number goes up considerably. There were people attending the tour groups, and those just stopping by to look around outside and take photos at the large sign. We spoke with the home's primary investigator, historian and guide, Johnny Houser on the front pathway. He was immediately gracious and welcoming, and forthcoming with information pertaining to the paranormal aspects of the house. He memorably mentioned a sonic boom that himself and several others in the home heard one night investigating, and relayed that another person outside didn't witness or hear it at all. That intrigued us as we listened. He also informed us that the home has a way of taking a psychological toll on a person after they've spent time inside, and that he's unsure whether the Moore family is even present there anymore. He's felt the interior vibe alter and warp through an evening in several ways and conveyed to us that one night's experiences may not be anything like the next. An unpredictable night, just what we were after. We had our fingers crossed for something uncanny or an EVP at the least; we'd travelled several hundred miles and 2 plane rides to spend the night in this specific, tragedy-ravaged, house.

After getting snacks, drinks and last minute items at the local gas station, we headed over to the house for the final time that evening. J & D arrived just after us and we set about getting into the barn building at the side of the property and setting our belongings down. In this 2-storey structure there's not only the tiny gift shop and office in the back, but an area with a bathroom and fridge to keep anyone comfortable while someone else is in the main house. The comfort of this provision (and the shirt and magnet we scored) were appreciated. As was the immense porch swing out front. Ideal for swinging slowly in the shadow of the house, contemplating the next line of questioning for EVP work.

The tour from Johnny was the quick and dirty, as we made sure to give him time to head to another haunted Iowan location for an event, and we were well appraised with the details of the night of June 10, 1912. Then, as soon as dusk ebbed slightly into frame, the property was ours. Silent but for the trains that barrel through the southern portion of the town, (often), we entered with cameras and began what we didn't know then would be a ponderously unnerving night. Upon entering the kitchen from the back porch, I felt apprehensive. I'm not implying I expected to see some sort of apparition or become overwhelmed with fear or anything, but I didn't quite feel right. It's like being surrounded by a roaring silence, accompanied by period furniture. There are toys and balls strewn throughout the children's bedrooms, in either hopes for interactions with them or to pay homage to their memory. Either way, it carries a little sadness throughout the place. The last family to reside there was famously brought back to the home on a popular paranormal TV show several years ago, and their haunting prior torment, if honest, was apparent as they spent time in the house.

With the property efficiently spooky, and with the keys in hand and visitors gone, we went in and filmed solo sessions to begin the night, each taking 20 - 25 minutes to feel the place out and introduce ourselves. I suppose part of the thinking behind that is more selfish though, it's to see how each of us feels inside the house alone in the dark, and to familiarize ourselves with the sounds of the environment. It works on a more esoteric level to commune with whatever's listening or watching and let them experience us, the living, as well.

Nothing exceptional or unusual occurred during these first couple hours. It was only upon all 4 of us heading into the low-ceilinged attic that the night picked up. We set up both of our night vision cameras, and set to rolling. The activity began with what I can only describe as the Rumbling. A tangible movement or shudder of the house occurred while still running the spirit box. We felt and heard it throughout ourselves and the attic space as though the house shook. What adds to the eeriness is that Johnny Houser had spoken to Ryan and I mere hours prior about a sonic boom felt inside while investigating, but not witnessed at all from outside. This leads me to think maybe the Rumble was an overdose, an invitation, an opening. It happened just as we were beginning to interpret possible spirit box responses, and slightly before something that my brain keeps trying to affirm was direct contact with Another Side. An Other Side?

Several spirit box questions into the session, and a few minutes after the Rumble, we noticed one EMF meter started pinging and responding to nearby electromagnetism. It wasn't a huge spike, but it was noticeable. We shut of the SB-7 and listened. The Mel Meter in the center of the room then went off as well, spiking somewhat up from the 0.0 it was dormant at. With no electrical wiring inside the home save for 2 turned-off AC units in a wall out around the corner, this was odd.

What I didn't realize until recently was that we'd inadvertently constructed ourselves into a circle. There were 4 bodies, cross-legged and facing each other. Spaced similarly apart, we may have engaged in an accidental "Circle of Comms." Communication may have been even more easily interpreted if I imagine something or someone actually ENTERED the circle. The first EMF meter was between our imagined circle wall between myself and Daryl, and the attic doorway. It went off first, then the one in the middle of all 4 of us. DID something enter in? Did we find ourselves with something between us, just out of sight? That's a heavy concept to realize and even to consider having experienced, even unaware of it at the time. Our night vision cameras then glitched severely hard, cutting out our footage (A NIGHTMARE). They're new cameras. They held new SD cards. What gives?

That was a strange experience with which, (that I can think of now), I have nothing to compare to. I think many conventional, established Spirit Circles can be a lot of noise and beligerrant rambling. Anything bonafide takes a deeper understanding and crafting. This however, this was a hopeful, wilful, small-scale intentional communication attempt, by a similar minded foursome in a compact space. Somehow, inexplicably, we Circled correctly, either very luckily, or with a power blast of brain waves; I will NEVER have that answer. But I do have the belief now that somewhere inside that attic, between four living bodies and with several pieces of audible equipment, we allowed for a temporary doorway and in "walked" something or someone. The lack of direct answers or a definitive of what this situation means doesn't bother me. That never keeps me up at night anymore. I'm comfortable interpreting the experience for myself and sharing it simply for anyone else to do the same. The paranormal is everyone's perceived reality. This was one strange aspect of our entire night in the Villisca Ax Murder House, and it will stay with us.

Stay Weird,

I'm Amy L. Bennett, a writer, multimedia artist, recovering archaeologist and YouTuber from Upstate, New York. I've been invested in all things strange and unusual since my dad gave me the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark trilogy when I was way too young. Along with my fiancé, Ryan, we've explored countless haunted locations in the US and abroad in search of the Weird.
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