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An unsolved murder can go centuries without being solved, but does that mean there's no hope? There might be a lead in the case of the Villisca Axe Killer.

Unsolved murder: Will the Villisca Axe killer ever be caught?

Horror is always best when it’s real, when the plight of the characters can certainly occur in real life. We read & watch these stories knowing we’re safe in bed, on Camsurf, or anywhere in the house. But when horror stories are based on real events, they’re taken to a level that the supernatural could never touch. Remember The Axeman of New Orleans in the third installment of American Horror Story named Coven?

He was based on a person who was very much alive & real at some point. The Axeman was never caught, he wasn’t even identified. His crime spree ended mysteriously, perhaps suddenly as it began. The fact that there are many unsolved murders out there is as firm as a wall. We could gather all the axe murders throughout history but today, we’re only interested in the unsolved murders!

Will the Villisca Axe Killer ever be caught? Let’s dive in. 

Long ago . . .

Long ago, shortly after midnight on June 10th, 1912, a stranger was lingering around. It seems like people of this time didn’t hear the words, “Stay where I can see you!” and “Don’t talk to strangers.” A stranger with an axe lifted the latch on the back door of a timber house standing two stories tall. This house lived in the little Iowa town of Villisca.

The door wasn’t locked. (Perhaps the killer assumed the place was open to the public?) According to reputable sources, crime was honestly not the kind of thing the locals had to worry about in their area. It was a modestly prosperous Midwest settlement housing no more than two thousand people. Everyone was known to one another by sight.

This dangerous visitor, the Villisca Axe Killer, was able to slip inside the home silent as can be and shut the door behind them. What will forever be ingrained in the minds of many people regarding that night was all the thoughts coursing through the killer’s head like water. Does anyone plan on committing an unsolved murder? If so, the dangerous stranger turned out to be successful. 


The town coroner was summoned the next day. According to a reconstruction attempted by the coroner, the murderer took an oil lamp from off a dresser, removed the chimney, and put it elsewhere so it was out of the way under a chair. He bent the wick in two to abridge the flame, lit the lamp, and turned it down so low that it could only cast the faintest glimmer of light in the sleeping house. 

Still lugging around the axe, the stranger strolled right past one room where two girls of twelve and nine respectively were sleeping. The Villisca Axe killer crept up the narrow wooden stairs leading to two other bedrooms. He blew off one room where four more young children were slumbering and instead slipped into the room where forty-three-year-old Joe Moore lay next to his wife, Sarah. 

The killer rose the axe high above their head – in fact, the axe was so high, it cut the ceiling – the killer brought the flat of the blade down on the back of Joe Moore’s head. It crushed Moore’s skull and most likely killed him instantly. Then Sarah was struck with the axe before she had time to wake and become aware, let alone process the stranger’s presence. 


The Moore house of Villisca, 1912. Unsolved murder history knows it as one of the town’s larger and better-appointed properties around, and still stands today. Unsurprisingly, it’s a tourist attraction but will the murders ever be solved? The killer didn’t stop at that one house.

All eight victims, including six children, had severe head wounds from an axe. A strenuous investigation yielded numerous suspects, one of whom was tried twice. The first trial was concluded in a hung jury and the second finished with an acquittal. But the crime remains unsolved today. Sadly, only time will tell if the Villisca Axe Killer will ever be known to investigators. 

Do you think the identity of the Villisca Axe Killer will ever be known? Share your thoughts on this infamous unsolved murder case in the comments below!

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  • since it happened 100 freaking years ago, not likely. smh.

    November 2, 2021

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