Imagine being tied up in your own home. Imagine being told to “shut up” “stay
still” and being forced to give up belongings that might be worth more than
1000 dollars or that might just have memories stored in them. Imagine being
beaten, stabbed, and killed in your home in front of your own family. Just
Imagine. This is what a home invasion is like.
10, a stranger carrying an ax lifted the latch on the back door of a two-story
house in the Iowa town of Villisca. The door was not locked so the unwelcomed visitor
was able to slip inside silently and close the door behind him. Then, he took
an oil lamp from a dresser, removed the chimney and placed it out of the way
under a chair, bent the wick in two to minimize the flame, lit the lamp, and
turned it down so low it cast only the faintest glimmer in the sleeping house. Still
carrying the ax, the stranger walked past one room that had two girls, ages 12
and 9, lay sleeping, and slipped up the narrow wooden stairs that led to two
other bedrooms. He ignored one, that contained four more young children, whom were
sleeping, and crept into the room in which 43-year-old Joe Moore lay next to
his wife, Sarah. Raising the ax high above his head—so high it gouged the
ceiling—the man brought blade down on the back of Joe Moore’s head, crushing
his skull and probably killing him instantly. Then he struck Sarah. Leaving the couple dead, the killer went next door and
used 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 the
Stillinger girls, Lena and Ina. Now this is the first ever recorded home
invasion. This is the gruesome story of a string of murders leaving more than
30 people dead. This is the story that leaves investigators baffled to this
day. This is the story of the Southern Pacific Railroad Massacre.
What happened next marks the Villisca killings as very peculiar
and still sends shivers down the spine after the fact. The ax man went back
upstairs and beat the heads of all six Moore’s to bloody pulp, striking Joe
alone 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 an
undershirt over Herman’s face and a dress over Katherine’s, and covered Boyd
and Paul as well, and unfortunately did the same thing to the girls downstairs
before exploring the house and ritually hanging cloths over every mirror. He stayed
inside the house for quite some time, filling a bowl with water and washing his
bloody hands in it. Sometime before 5 a.m., he abandoned the lamp at the top of
the 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 discovered
until several hours later, when a neighbor, worried by the absence of any sign
of life in the normally noisy and energetic household, telephoned Joe’s
brother, Ross, and asked him to investigate. Ross found a key on his chain that
opened the front door, but barely entered the house before he came rushing out
again, calling for Villisca’s marshal, Hank Horton. That set-in train a sequence
of events that destroyed what little hope there may have been of gathering
useful evidence from the crime scene. Horton brought along Drs. J. Clark Cooper
and Edgar Hough and Wesley Ewing, the minister of Moore’s Presbyterian
congregation. They were followed by the county coroner, L.A. Linquist, and a
third doctor, F.S. Williams (who became the first to examine the bodies and estimate
a time of death). When Dr. Williams emerged, he cautioned members of the
growing crowd outside: “Don’t go in there, boys; you’ll regret it until the
last day of your life.” Many ignored the advice and as many as 100 curious
neighbors and townspeople tramped as they pleased through the house, scattering
fingerprints, and in one case even removing fragments of Joe Moore’s skull as a
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 the
murderer’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 30
trains called every day, he might easily have made good his escape. Bloodhounds
were tried without success; after that there was little for the townspeople to
do but gossip, swap theories–and strengthen their locks.
I bet your wondering, why wasn’t
their door locked? Well the year was 1912 and crime wasn’t on the top of
everyone’s minds like it is today. Besides, if the murderer really wanted to
come 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 Smith
and Richard Hickock entered the Clutter house and at gunpoint, demanded the
money from the family safe. When informed that there was no money and no safe
in the house, the two men tied up each person in separate rooms of the house
for later questioning: Herb Clutter and Kenyon Clutter in the basement, Bonnie Clutter
in her bedroom, and Nancy Clutter in her bedroom. They then executed the tied-up
Clutters, one at a time.
Herbert Clutter was tortured before
dying, with his throat slit, and then killed by a shotgun blast to the front of
his face. Son Kenyon was killed the same way, with a shotgun blast to the front
of his face. Bonnie, wife, had been killed by a shotgun blast to the side of
her head, while Nancy had been killed by a shot to the back of her head. The
murders were discovered the next morning, Sunday, when family friends came over
to the Clutter house to join them in going to church. When prison buddy Floyd
Wells remembered Hickock telling him of his plans to kill the Clutters for
their money, and he heard about the murders on the radio, Wells informed the
prison warden. Smith and Hickock were quickly found in a stolen car in Las
Vegas and returned to Kansas for trial. Hickock and Perry were executed by
hanging, at the Lansing Correctional Facility, Lansing, Kansas.
Another story is the Hinterkaifeck
Mattock Murders. The Hinterkaifeck farmstead
was a lonely place. Located near the woods, about an hour’s drive from Munich, it’s
the home of 35-year-old Viktoria Gabriel and her two children, 7-year-old
Cäzilia and 2-year-old Josef, and her elderly parents Andreas and Cäzilia
The family was known for minding
their own business and keeping to themselves . But, neighbors grew concerned on
April 1, 1922, when young Cäzilia missed school and the entire family failed to
show up to the church where Viktoria was a member of the choir. Cäzilia missed
school again on April 3, and by then, mail for the family had piled up at the
local post office. On April 4, the family’s neighbors decided to investigate. Lorenz
Schlittenbauer, a farmer who lived nearby, led the search party.
What they discovered haunted
them for the rest of their days.
In the barn, the search
party 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 abandoned
her 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 one
has ever been found guilty. The Hinterkaifeck murders remain one of Germany’s
eeriest—and most famous—unsolved crimes.