PIM arrived on location at 2:45 pm. The group arrived earlier than scheduled so they took this opportunity to walk around the building and take group photos in front of the house. They also took this time to sign waivers and purchase a few souvenirs from the gift shop. After going over the rules and guidelines for the Villisca Axe Murder House, the group began to unload their equipment and move it into the barn where base camp would be established for the night.
The group began setting up their equipment. Cameras were mounted on tripods. Infrared lights and audio recorders were also mounted on tripods. Any other devices, including trigger objects that were going to be used that night were gathered in preparation for the investigation. Trigger objects are miscellaneous items chosen in hopes to invoke a response. Research and thought are put into choosing trigger objects. Some trigger objects are chosen based on location, historical events, claims of activity and many other factors.
Outside weather conditions were taken with the Kestrel 3500 Weather Station. The Kestrel Weather Station is a device that measures temperature, wind speeds, barometric pressure and humidity. Once the group was given permission to occupy the house for the night, they began transporting equipment from the barn to the house.
While equipment was being placed in the house, Missy took baseline electromagnetic field (EMF) readings (see table below) using a Tri-field DSP-523 and temperature readings using a Mel-8704R.
A Sony HDR-CX160 full spectrum video camera was placed in the Kitchen facing the stairs and Living Room. The clothing iron that was reported to have allegedly and inexplicably moved on its own, was in view of the camera along with a mirror for a trigger object. A Zoom H1 digital audio recorder, a Mel-8704R EMF detector, and a Tascam DR40 digital audio recorder in the RVPR (Rountree Voice Phenomenon Recorder) were also placed in the Kitchen. The RVPR is a device able to record using two types of stereo microphones. One is designed to record only sound waves while the other is sensitive to both sound and EMF frequencies. This allows a later comparison of the two sound tracks to see if anything was recorded in the EMF waves that was not recorded in the sound waves. This is done as there is a theory that Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP) is actually recorded from the EMF spectrum and not the audible spectrum. A TriField 100XE Datalogger, which is connected to a laptop to measure and record EMF was also placed in the Kitchen.
A Sony HDR-CX160 full spectrum video camera alongside a Zoom H1 digital audio recorder was placed in the Living Room. A ball was placed in the room on a small rug. The ball was in view of the cameras in both the Kitchen and Living Room.
A Sony DCR-DVD610 video recorder was placed in the Guest Bedroom. A Zoom H1 digital audio recorder, an EM Pump and the Dark Matter Detector, which measures EMF, temperature, barometric pressure, and has a high quality audio recorder, were also placed in this room. The EM Pump emits different frequencies of electromagnetic fields into the surrounding area. This device is used based on the theory spirits use this energy to manifest, communicate and/or manipulate objects. A Bible and a homemade wooden cross were also placed in the Guest Bedroom as trigger objects.
A Sony HDR-CX160 full spectrum video camera and a Zoom H1 digital audio recorder were placed in the Master Bedroom. A GQ GMC-300 datalogging Geiger counter which measures beta and gamma radiation, an Extech RHT50 datalogger, and an EM Vortex were also placed in the Master Bedroom. The EM Vortex is a multi-coil device that creates a rotating field from 2 Hz to 24 Hz and has clockwise and counterclockwise rotating capabilities. This device is supposed to act like a “siren” that will attract the attention of entities. This device works in a similar manner as the EM pump and the principle theory is the same in that spirits can use the energy to manifest and/or manipulate objects. A touch flashlight, a Geophone, a Bible and a wooden one-sided ax were placed in this area as trigger objects. The Geophone is a device that is sensitive to vibrations and has multiple lights that light up in response to the intensity of the vibration. The touch flashlight is used in lieu of a flashlight that has had the battery compartment or on/off switch manipulated to function in a way that was unintended. The touch flashlight is activated by two contacts being touched, thus closing a circuit and turning the light on.
A Sony HDR-SR5 video camera and a Zoom H1 digital audio recorder were placed in the Attic. It is in this room that many people speculate the killer waited for the family to go to bed before committing the murders. There were also several items that were left in the Attic from previous paranormal groups that were in view of the camera. They included a ball, small truck and a Bible among other items.
A Sony HDR-XR200V video camera was placed in the Kid’s room facing the door which was reported to be closed by an unseen force. A GQ GMC-320 datalogging Geiger counter, a Zoom H1 digital audio recorder, an Extech RHT50 datalogger and an EMF Pump V2 were placed in the Kid’s Room. A large trigger object bank which included a ball, Slinky, a doll, a teddy bear and another touch flashlight was also placed in the Kid’s Room.
Gravy began darkening the building with dark plastic sheets. Any windows, doors, or cracks were covered to avoid light contamination from outside sources.
Once all the equipment was set, all devices were started. All video and audio recorders were started and time stamped. Time stamps, from a designated atomic watch, are used as a point of reference and make cross referencing easier during evidence review. All equipment was started at approximately 5:21 pm.
The group spent some time attempting to kill many of the flies that had made their way into the house. This is important as insects can cause light anomalies that are often times mistaken as orbs. These light anomalies occur when light reflects off the insect and into the lens of the device recording the environment, outside the focal length of the camera.
At 6:10 pm, Missy, sitting at the Kitchen table, commented, “Well that’s interesting,” in regards to a broken tipped butter knife sitting on the table in front of her. Tony, standing by the back door, believed to have heard a disembodied voice saying, “I told you.” No one in the room had said it and this was not captured on any audio device.
At 6:29 pm, Missy, John and Tony left for dinner. Noah, Denys and Gravy stayed behind. They turned off the air conditioning units in the house, left and locked up the house. The house was left unoccupied so as to get a baseline reading of the house without anyone it. They sat by the barn awaiting the return of the rest of the group.
Missy, John and Tony returned at 7:00 pm and the group sat at the picnic table to eat dinner. At 7:45 pm, the entire group entered the Villisca Axe Murder House to begin the investigation. Every member of PIM is equipped with a Zoom H1 audio recorder, which is used as a control recorder, an Extech RHT50 datalogger and a UV flashlight, which they carry on their person. Control recorders are not only used as another recording device but also to discriminate the sound contamination that an investigator might create during an investigation. Control recorders are started and time stamped. The Extech RHT50 datalogger is used as a personal record of the environment immediately surrounding each investigator. Data from this device can be used to correlate personal experiences with changes in the environment. All control recorders were started and time stamped at this time.
Claims of Activity
There are numerous claims of activity from several groups over the years. PIM decided to focus on a few of them.
- A clothing iron in the kitchen moved from on top of a stove to the middle of the floor
- Voices have been captured on audio recorders
- A closet door on the second floor was seen moving on its own
- A ball has been seen moving on its own
1st Floor- 7:53 pm
The beginning of the investigation was decided to begin on the 1st floor. Gravy, Denys and John sat in the Kitchen with John at the foot of the stairs. Tony and Noah sat in the Living Room while Missy occupied the Spare Bedroom. Noah was equipped with his Emerging Field Detector (EFD). This device is a single-axis EMF sensor that is connected to an oscilloscope which can determine the frequency of EMF fields. Man-made EMF will be at 60 Hz so that any harmonics of 60 Hz (120, 180, 240 etc) can be ignored as this is normal. No anomalous EMF frequencies were detected.
The group observed several minutes of control silence before beginning an Electronic Voice Phenomenon (EVP) session. Controlled silence is a common practice used to tag or document the normal sounds of the building and its surrounding environmental noises. An EVP session is conducted by asking several questions but leaving a minimum of ten seconds between each question in the event a response is captured on a nearby device. Investigators speak in full voice and tag any abnormal noises they might make or hear during an investigation. Common noises that investigators tag are stomach growls, accidental whispering and shifting or moving noises they might create what could be mistaken as something paranormal during evidence review.
It was noted from 8:03 pm to 8:11 pm, several people arrived to take pictures in front of the infamous Axe Murder House. Shortly after, Gravy and Denys went to the Barn to get some antacids for John’s stomach. John was worried his stomach noises were going to contaminate evidence review.
At 8:27 pm, Tony placed a ball (as previously mentioned) on a rug in the middle of the Living Room. Two minutes later at 8:29 pm, two knocks were heard from the vicinity of the Spare Bedroom Closet. The nature of the knocks sounded deliberate so Noah and Gravy stepped outside to confirm no one was out there intentionally knocking on the building. Gravy and Noah returned and reset in their locations to continue the EVP session. Upon review of evidence, the knocks were captured on multiple audio recorders however they was not captured on the recorder placed in the Attic which was able to capture most sounds from the outside environment. PIM believes the knocks were not cause by anything outside. It was not determined as to what caused the knocks, but they were dismissed as a paranormal response as they were not asked for.
At 8:33 pm, Gravy saw what appeared to be a small light slowly move from one door jam, across the doorway and behind the other door jam in the Living Room. None of the other investigators observed this light anomaly and the cameras aimed in the direction of the doorway did not capture the light anomaly. It is possible that the light was caused by a car driving by as the windows in the Living Room were not perfectly covered which let a small crack of light come in from outside.
END TIME: 8:50 pm
The group took some time to debunk the claim of the moving clothing iron. It was noted that the iron sits in a three legged holder and was on top of a shelf that is part of the stove. The shelf has a rounded edge on the front and under the right circumstances, the iron could easily shift and slide off the edge of the shelf. It was noted that by simply walking around in the Kitchen that the iron would wobble and move slightly. These small shifts over the course of an entire investigation could easily result in the iron falling off the stove, not to mention that the other teams did not note if the iron was securely on the stove before the investigation began. However, this does not necessarily explain what happened to another paranormal group during their investigation, but is a possible natural explanation. PIM believes if there is a natural explanation for a claim of activity, the natural explanation should be considered the probable answer.
At 9:20 pm, the group went around and fastened the curtains and shades tighter to the windows in an attempt to keep exterior light from coming into the house.
2nd Floor – 9:26 pm
The group took up various spots on the 2nd Floor. Gravy sat in the Attic while John in the closet which was a pathway between the Attic and the bedrooms. Denys sat in the Kid’s Bedroom and Missy sat in the closet of the same room. This closet was a point of interest as this is the door that has been reported to move on its own. Tony sat in the Master Bedroom and Noah sat halfway down the stairs.
The group observed several minutes of silence before beginning an EVP session. At 9:37 pm, Missy heard movement in the closet coming from the corner where several toys were stored. No obvious cause for the sound could be found. Noah took baseline photos of the toys in the event that something should move, a point of origin could be determined. From that moment on, Missy felt uneasy sitting in the closet.
At 9:40 pm, Denys thought he heard a whisper come from the closet Missy was sitting in. No recorders, including Missy’s, caught what Denys thought he heard. At 9:58 pm, everyone swapped locations on the 2nd Floor.
Tony sat in the closet in place of Missy. Missy moved to the Master Bedroom. John sat on the stairs. Noah took John’s previous spot in the closet between the Attic and the Bedrooms. Denys sat in the Attic and Gravy sat in Denys’ spot in the Kid’s Bedroom.
While Tony was sitting in the closet he noticed one of the toys was a windup toy that when wound it would move. He touched the toy slightly and it moved a little bit. This could explain the noise that Missy had reported as movement in the closet earlier.
The group continued the EVP session, with no apparent activity, before concluding the session.
END TIME: 10:14 pm
The group decided to turn on the air conditioners and exit the building for a short break to allow the house to cool down before continuing.
2nd Floor – 10:56 pm
The group wanted to experiment with one of the claims of activity that occurred during another group’s investigation. The claim was that an individual entered the building alone and went up to the closet on the 2nd Floor. The door to the closet allegedly shut behind him and latched, leaving him trapped. It was not until another individual came to his rescue that the individual was freed from the closet.
Gravy and Tony then entered the building. PIM follows a protocol that no investigator is alone while investigating for several reasons, but mostly for safety purposes. Gravy went into the closet to see if the door would shut and latch on its own. Meanwhile, Tony waited outside the closet should something happen. Nothing happened and the rest of the group, with the exception of Noah, joined them inside.
END TIME: 11:14 pm
1st Floor – 11:17 pm
John and Gravy sat in the Living Room. Missy and Denys sat in the Kitchen while Tony sat in the Spare Bedroom. Controlled silence was observed before beginning an EVP session. At 11:34 pm, Denys and Missy heard a “knock” coming from the Attic above the Kitchen. The knock was dismissed as a natural building noise.
At 11:40 pm, John left to go to the bathroom. Denys left to get water at 11:50 pm. Five minutes later, Noah rejoined the group and sat down in the doorway of the Kitchen and the Living Room.
END TIME: 12:02 am
The group decided to check equipment at this time. Noah went up to the 2nd Floor to move the ax away from the closet door to allow it to be able to move in a manner similarly described by another group that had investigated the location.
The group then took a break. Several PIM members went down into the Cellar portion of the house to check out that area.
Entire House – 12:56 am
PIM wanted to re-enact their interpretation of how the murder occurred to see if they could invoke a response. The group spread out throughout the entire house. John and Denys sat in the Spare Bedroom where the two neighbor girls were sleeping. Missy and Tony sat in the Kid’s Room while Noah played the role of the parents and sat in the Master Bedroom. Gravy played the role of the murderer. Carefully walking through the house carrying the ax, Gravy slowly crept out of the Attic and walked carefully from room to room pretending to bludgeon the unsuspecting victims. He finally ended up in the Kitchen, where a short EVP session began and they asked if the re-enactment was close to what happened long ago.
END TIME: 1:06 am
Entire House – 1:09 am
The group attempted another re-enactment with Tony portraying the murderer. Noah took Tony’s place in the Kid’s Room and Gravy took Noah’s place in the Master Bedroom. Everyone else remained where they were. Tony crept out of the Attic and went room to room pretending to bludgeon his victims. When he finished his rendition of what occurred that night, the group again asked questions about what happened long ago. Neither re-enactment produced any recordable results. After discussing what might have happened that night in 1912, the group decided to continue investigating.
END TIME: 1:14 am
2nd Floor – 1:30 am
The group situated themselves on the 2nd Floor. Denys sat on the stairs. John sat in the Master Bedroom. Noah and Missy sat in the Kid’s Bedroom with Gravy in the Kid’s Room Closet. Tony sat in the Attic. The group then began an EVP session. No activity occurred during this time and the session was ended.
END TIME: 1:39 am
1st Floor – 1:44 am
The group spread out on the 1st Floor. Noah, Missy and Gravy sat in the Kitchen. Denys and Tony sat in the Living Room and John sat in the Spare Bedroom. The group began an EVP session. Shortly after beginning the EVP session, it began to rain. The group decided to end the investigation and pack up before the weather turned for the worst.
END TIME: 1:56 am
The team then broke down all their equipment. Quickly, they packed everything up and loaded up what they could into the vehicle. They brought their sleeping gear into the house and laid out in the Kitchen and Living Room for the night. Later in the morning, they packed up the remainder of their gear, locked up and left.
The history of the Villisca Axe Murder House is gruesome, to say the least. This history lends itself to many possible claims of activity. However, these claims may or may not have a foundation in reality. The terrible crime that took place in this home is the stuff made for Hollywood movies and many people’s imaginations can easily take over when in such a location.
This home was inhabited for many years after the crimes of June 10th, 1912 took place with very few reports of any unexplained activity. Even the two sisters that lived in the home in the 1960’s who were interviewed by Ghost Adventures originally claimed they had no problems in the home. Could it be that they didn’t want to seem crazy and said that when in fact things had occurred as they later claimed on the TV show? Or was the activity contrived after the fact when the glitz of cable TV came calling? It is hard to know for sure.
PIM was grateful to have the opportunity to investigate this location as it provides a firsthand account of the challenges investigating this location can present. It also allows PIM the opportunity to directly test the claims of activity that this location was famous for. There was one occurrence that PIM experienced that seemed like a deliberate knocking noise that we were able to determine did not come from outside the location. However, that was all that we were able to encounter during this investigation and it is far from paranormal in PIM’s opinion. We did have other experiences that seemed odd but none of the activity was captured via equipment the night of the investigation.
We also were able to investigate and find normal explanations for some of the claims of activity at this location. However, one investigation is not enough to draw a conclusion and it is the opinion of PIM that further research would need to be conducted into the claims of paranormal activity at the Villisca Axe Murder House.