Thursday, October 10, 2019

HGB Ep. 310 - Investigation of the Villisca Axe Murder House

Moment in Oddity - The Boojum of North Carolina
Suggested by: Nicole Capps Dixon

This past weekend we drove through North Carolina. We made it through safely without running into the Boojum of North Carolina. The Boojum lives deep in the North Carolina Smokies where it loves to hunt for gems. It gathers them greedily and puts them in old jugs that it buries. Supposed sightings describe the creature as being a cross of a man and an animal with shaggy gray hair all over its body, with only the face being bare. The Boojum stands nearly eight feet and has been compared to the Yeti. The legend claims that the creature likes pretty girls. Young girls bathing in mountain streams would say that they would feel as if they were being watched and might even see an animal-like creature peeking out from the bushes. Patrons of the Eagles Nest Hotel that was built by S.C. Satterthwait of Waynesville reported seeing the Boojum back in the early 1900s. It got so back that they demanded of him that he put a stop to the creature in some way. He wouldn't need to do that because the hotel burned down in April of 1918. People say that the eyes of the Boojum are very sad. Which makes one think that the Boojum is really nothing to be feared. Is the Boojum some weird cryptid creature? I don't know, but the legend of the Boojum certainly is odd.

This Month in History - The Veil of Our Lady Appears

In the month of October, on the 1st, in 911, the Virgin Mary appeared at the church in Blachernae holding her veil over the praying faithful. This appearance came to be known as the Veil of Our Lady and a feast is now observed on October 1st on the Orthodox calendar among the Slavic people. The symbol of the Theotokos, as the Virgin Mary is called in Eastern Christianity, holding a veil is believed to be protective. This appearance happened during a siege in Constantinople. St. Andrew of Constantinople was with several believers and his disciple St. Epiphanius holding a vigil in the Blachernae Palace Church. Several relics connected to Mary were stored at the church including part of her belt, a robe and her veil. As they prayed, the group saw not only the Virgin Mary, but also John the Baptist and some angels and saints. The Virgin Mary appeared in the center of the church and knelt as if in prayer and she began to weep. She removed her veil and spread it out as if over the people gathered there indicating her protection. The city was indeed spared of any bloodshed during the invasion.

Investigation of the Villisca Axe Murder House

In a quiet neighborhood, just a few blocks away from Villisca's downtown, stands a very ordinary looking white frame house. The crime that took place here was anything, but ordinary. Six children and two adults would go to sleep on the evening of June 9th in 1912 and never wake up. A neighbor and family member would find the six members of the J.B. Moore family dead, along with Lena and Ina Stillinger. The crime scene was horrific and bloody since all the victims were killed with an axe. The murders were never solved and justice never came. We featured the house back when the podcast first launched in October of 2014 on episode 7. I never imagined that I would eventually visit and tour the house, much less spend an evening sleeping inside. Join myself, Kelly and three listeners on this investigation of the Villisca Axe Murder House.

Kelly and I joined the last tour of the Villisca House on the night of our investigation with a couple of listeners, Jessica and Erina Garcia. This was our first time inside the house. My first impression was that the house is small, but not as small as I had envisioned it. The term rustic comes to mind as well. There is an outhouse out back, along with a hand water pump, both indications that there is no running water or plumbing in this house. There is no electricity either. You enter the house through the back door and the kitchen is right there. Obviously, none of the furnishings are original, but I can believe the house was similarly furnished with a large stove, small table and chairs and hutch. Leading off the kitchen is a pantry, a living room and a staircase that winds up to the second floor. The living room has the small bedroom off it where the Stillinger girls were murdered and this would be a center of activity for us, along with the kitchen. Upstairs is an open room where J.B. and his wife Sarah slept, a larger room where the children slept and the attic. I had hoped that the caretaker Johnny Houser would be our tour guide, but instead we had a young woman who clearly had better things to do. She ran through the history of the family, the crime and the aftermath in less than 10 minutes and did not guide us through the house. When she finished, we were free to explore. Jessica asked the question that we all will contemplate throughout the evening. She said, "It's such a small house, how come nobody woke up?" And that's just it. How did someone slaughter 8 people in this small home, some in bed next to each other, and nobody heard a thing or woke up save for maybe one of the Stillinger girls? Cigarette butts were found in the attic doorway area and the theory is that the killer was already in the house and waiting here when the family arrived home. And again, how did one person pull this off completely undetected?

Jessica and Erina left, along with the other visitors and Dolly, Kathy and Peter arrived. Our team was here and we were excited to begin our investigation. We were given the keys to the house and to the barn behind it that had the restroom and electricity. We decided to go into town and get dinner at the only restaurant in downtown that was open, TJ's Cafe. The food was good and we enjoyed our waitress, although we all got the once over when we first entered. As our server, Cassie, left she called back, "You guys staying at the House?" She told us to have fun and remember that nothing was open in town on a Sunday morning. After we finished dinner, we decided to hit the cemetery to visit the Moore's family plot. Dolly lead the way as she had already been to Villisca. The entire family is buried side by side under the same tombstone that stretched vertically at least six feet, probably more. It was a long piece of granite. We paid our respects and did a live broadcast. Then we were heading back to the house.

English Victorian novelist Sir Edward George Earle Bulwer-Lytton is credited as the first to coin the phrase, "It was a dark and stormy night." We were going to experience that within the walls of the Villisca House. A raging thunderstorm would keep the night sky almost lit up as bright as day with lightning for hours. The rain came down so hard and intense that the only time we found ourselves running about the house with anxiety was when the roof began to leak in several areas in the kitchen and we started grabbing pots to keep the water off the floor. This was an unusually intense storm we were told by natives. Definitely not the kind of storm one wants to experience while investigating an infamously haunted house.

We had several pieces of equipment with us from EMF detectors to audio recorders to a spirit box to dowsing rods to flashlights and we will end up getting results with everything. Dolly had brought some old fashion candy as a trigger object: rootbeer barrel hard candies. It was an unspoken agreement that we were here to gain communication with respect and we were more interested in the people who had once lived here and died here than the crime that was committed or the killer. This home has a reputation for having a bad energy and people seem truly scared to stay overnight. I can honestly say that no one in our party had a scary experience and we really enjoyed ourselves as we bonded over a mutual interest in the paranormal. I believe, based on the evidence we collected, that the only spirits that we communicated with were children.I had three recorders. One I set up in the Stillinger Bedroom, another I carried with me or set down in the kitchen and a smaller one that I don't use much I used as a short term recorder, so we could rewind and listen back for answers to questions.

The first bit of audio I want to share features you joining us in the kitchen for a discussion about the fact that the EMF readers have been going off and sometimes seem to be doing it as an answer to questions. Kelly also has the Temperature Gun out and is seeing if she can get an interaction with that. You will hear Paul mentioned in this clip and that is because Paul is the one who mainly seemed to interact with us all evening. Paul was the youngest of the four Moore children. He was only five when a stranger bludgeoned him to death. Kelly leaves us and heads into the Stillinger Room. We had set up the flashlight in the Living Room to see if it would turn on and it didn't, so Kelly decided to take the flashlight in the bedroom with her and she set it on the bed. We hear a commotion from the room because Kelly misses the chair she tries to sit in. The clumsiness seems to have broken the ice with the girls and she gets out the dowsing rods for a session and the she gets some great results! So the flashlight turned on and off a couple of times.

Now here are some of the things we think we caught audio wise. We ran the spirit box. I had a hard time with this one I ask about pets. Did we get an answer? Then we had this weird interaction. A blue jersey? And then even though I couldn't get what it had said, I asked about sports. Then was this I work too? I ask about the school name and we get I ask what city we are in and can't understand what is said On your Facebook? But no way that it could be. I ask about chores and this sounds like it says "There he is" This next one was just random and I have no idea what it is It's like they're looking? This one is very clear. I think this is Kelly asking if it's okay that we are using the Spirit Box and it says exactly. Next one random, trying to get into the? Then buy a hat? Then we'll give it to you? We hear the train and talk about it. Does it say be patient or station? And then we ask where they went, does it say city? And then something about friends? I offer some Skittles and we think we get a Yup or Yuck? This one sounded weird to me like there is another voice saying the same thing that sounds like a young girl. We ask for a name and it sounds like we get Frank  Not sure what this was. Listeners have any idea? We discuss the Spirit Box as a group. Read about it here.

We also may have caught an EVP. Child mumbling? We did return to the Stillinger Room and the flashlight turned on for us again, right into the eyes of poor Kathy was sitting near the floor facing the flashlight. We gotta talk about our friendly cat too. We went to bed about midnight and got up a couple times to pee. All was quiet through the night.

We talked about a lot of things throughout the evening. One of those things was the color of spirits. Little did I know that by dawn, I would experience this phenomenon for the second time in my life. I share the story of the early morning train and small purple burst of color. Kelly didn't see that, but she saw something else that I just dismissed as my eyes seeing things, these little lines of white streaks. Was this one of the kids manifesting? Was it the train that got them to come to the room and manifest in this way? Was it because the killer came by the train? I debunked and investigated whether audio could cause visual manifestations.

So the house was not a scary place for us. We feel like we got some good communication. Is the Villisca Axe Murder House haunted? That is for you to decide!

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