Imagine being tied up in your own home. Imagine being told to “shut up” “staystill” and being forced to give up belongings that might be worth more than1000 dollars or that might just have memories stored in them. Imagine beingbeaten, stabbed, and killed in your home in front of your own family.
JustImagine. This is what a home invasion is like. On June10, a stranger carrying an ax lifted the latch on the back door of a two-storyhouse in the Iowa town of Villisca. The door was not locked so the unwelcomed visitorwas able to slip inside silently and close the door behind him. Then, he tookan oil lamp from a dresser, removed the chimney and placed it out of the wayunder a chair, bent the wick in two to minimize the flame, lit the lamp, andturned it down so low it cast only the faintest glimmer in the sleeping house. Stillcarrying the ax, the stranger walked past one room that had two girls, ages 12and 9, lay sleeping, and slipped up the narrow wooden stairs that led to twoother bedrooms. He ignored one, that contained four more young children, whom weresleeping, and crept into the room in which 43-year-old Joe Moore lay next tohis wife, Sarah. Raising the ax high above his head—so high it gouged theceiling—the man brought blade down on the back of Joe Moore’s head, crushinghis skull and probably killing him instantly.
Then he struck Sarah. Leaving the couple dead, the killer went next door andused the ax to kill the four Moore children, Herman, 11; Katherine, 10; Boyd,7; and Paul, 5. The killer then descended the stairs and took his ax to theStillinger girls, Lena and Ina. Now this is the first ever recorded homeinvasion. This is the gruesome story of a string of murders leaving more than30 people dead. This is the story that leaves investigators baffled to thisday.
This is the story of the Southern Pacific Railroad Massacre. What happened next marks the Villisca killings as very peculiarand still sends shivers down the spine after the fact. The ax man went backupstairs and beat the heads of all six Moore’s to bloody pulp, striking Joealone an estimated 30 times and leaving the faces of all six members of the family unrecognizable.He then grabbed the pajamas to cover Joe and Sarah’s shattered heads, placed anundershirt over Herman’s face and a dress over Katherine’s, and covered Boydand Paul as well, and unfortunately did the same thing to the girls downstairsbefore exploring the house and ritually hanging cloths over every mirror. He stayedinside the house for quite some time, filling a bowl with water and washing hisbloody hands in it. Sometime before 5 a.
m., he abandoned the lamp at the top ofthe stairs and left as silently as he had come, locking the doors behind him.Then, taking the house keys, the murderer vanished. The Moores weren’t discovereduntil several hours later, when a neighbor, worried by the absence of any signof life in the normally noisy and energetic household, telephoned Joe’sbrother, Ross, and asked him to investigate. Ross found a key on his chain thatopened the front door, but barely entered the house before he came rushing outagain, calling for Villisca’s marshal, Hank Horton. That set-in train a sequenceof events that destroyed what little hope there may have been of gatheringuseful evidence from the crime scene. Horton brought along Drs. J.
Clark Cooperand Edgar Hough and Wesley Ewing, the minister of Moore’s Presbyteriancongregation. They were followed by the county coroner, L.A. Linquist, and athird doctor, F.S. Williams (who became the first to examine the bodies and estimatea time of death). When Dr.
Williams emerged, he cautioned members of thegrowing crowd outside: “Don’t go in there, boys; you’ll regret it until thelast day of your life.” Many ignored the advice and as many as 100 curiousneighbors and townspeople tramped as they pleased through the house, scatteringfingerprints, and in one case even removing fragments of Joe Moore’s skull as akeepsake. The murders confused Villisca,particularly after a few attempts to search the surrounding countryside for a killer,failed to reveal a likely suspect. The truth was that there was no sign of themurderer’s whereabouts. He might have vanished back into his own home nearby;equally, given a head start of up to five hours in a town at which nearly 30trains called every day, he might easily have made good his escape.
Bloodhoundswere tried without success; after that there was little for the townspeople todo but gossip, swap theories–and strengthen their locks. I bet your wondering, why wasn’ttheir door locked? Well the year was 1912 and crime wasn’t on the top ofeveryone’s minds like it is today. Besides, if the murderer really wanted tocome into the house, he’d just find another way. Another brutal home invasion is the Clutter Family Massacre. On the evening of November 15, 1959, Perry Smithand Richard Hickock entered the Clutter house and at gunpoint, demanded themoney from the family safe. When informed that there was no money and no safein the house, the two men tied up each person in separate rooms of the housefor later questioning: Herb Clutter and Kenyon Clutter in the basement, Bonnie Clutterin her bedroom, and Nancy Clutter in her bedroom. They then executed the tied-upClutters, one at a time.
Herbert Clutter was tortured beforedying, with his throat slit, and then killed by a shotgun blast to the front ofhis face. Son Kenyon was killed the same way, with a shotgun blast to the frontof his face. Bonnie, wife, had been killed by a shotgun blast to the side ofher head, while Nancy had been killed by a shot to the back of her head. Themurders were discovered the next morning, Sunday, when family friends came overto the Clutter house to join them in going to church. When prison buddy FloydWells remembered Hickock telling him of his plans to kill the Clutters fortheir money, and he heard about the murders on the radio, Wells informed theprison warden. Smith and Hickock were quickly found in a stolen car in LasVegas and returned to Kansas for trial.
Hickock and Perry were executed byhanging, at the Lansing Correctional Facility, Lansing, Kansas. Another story is the HinterkaifeckMattock Murders. The Hinterkaifeck farmsteadwas a lonely place. Located near the woods, about an hour’s drive from Munich, it’sthe home of 35-year-old Viktoria Gabriel and her two children, 7-year-oldCäzilia and 2-year-old Josef, and her elderly parents Andreas and CäziliaGruber.The family was known for mindingtheir own business and keeping to themselves . But, neighbors grew concerned onApril 1, 1922, when young Cäzilia missed school and the entire family failed toshow up to the church where Viktoria was a member of the choir. Cäzilia missedschool again on April 3, and by then, mail for the family had piled up at thelocal post office. On April 4, the family’s neighbors decided to investigate.
LorenzSchlittenbauer, a farmer who lived nearby, led the search party.What they discovered hauntedthem for the rest of their days.In the barn, the searchparty found four brutally beaten bodies covered with hay. Inside the house,they discovered the bodies of 2-year-old Josef and the maid, Maria Baumgartner.
It had been Baumgartner’s first day on the job—the previous maid had abandonedher position due to a belief that the house and farm were haunted.Nearly 100 years later,dozens of people have been arrested as suspects in the crimes, though no onehas ever been found guilty. The Hinterkaifeck murders remain one of Germany’seeriest—and most famous—unsolved crimes.