June 19, 2024

Famous Villisca house to change hands

The Villisca Ax Murder House, home of the unsolved murder of 8 Villisca residents in 1912, is in the process of being bought by tour company U.S. Ghost Adventures.

More than 111 years after the tragic murder, the Villisca Axe Murder House is getting a change in ownership.

The house is named thus due to the unsolved 1912 murder of eight people, including six children, using the family’s own axe.

History and ghost tour company U.S. Ghost Adventures is under contract to buy the house from Martha Linn, who bought the house in 1994 with her husband Darwin. In ownership of the Linns, the house became a museum and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1997.

The house will officially switch hands in the coming months. Lance Zaal, founder and CEO of U.S. Ghost Adventures, said the house will see a few minor changes in order to make the experience for guests easier.

“We’re going to take this one a little slow,” Zaal said. “One of the things is we want to do longer guided tours of the house. We’re also looking at creating a self-guide option that uses our audio-guided app uses which audio-narration and pictures to tour the house.”

Lance Zaal is CEO and founder of U.S. Ghost Adventures.

Other possible changes include tours of the cemetery, a year-round season and renovations to the gift shop.

This will not be the first location purchased by the company. U.S. Ghost Adventures also owns the Welty House in Gettysburg and the Lizzie Borden House in Massachusetts. Zaal hopes to cross-promote the Villisca house and the Borden house.

“Some of the most notorious, unsolved and horrific murders in the United States are the Villisca Axe murders and the Lizzie Borden murders,” Zaal said. “The Villisca Axe Murder House was the perfect addition to our locations because of its history.”

However, Zaal said special care will be taken to differentiate the two, as the murders in Villisca involved children.

“It’s very tragic. Unlike the Lizzie Borden house, there were [six] children that were killed at the Villisca house,” Zaal said. “It’s much more tragic and sad than what happened at the Borden house. We’re definitely looking at taking a different approach.”

Zaal realizes that while not everyone in the community may be happy with the presence of the house, he plans to follow in the Linns’ footsteps.

“I think what Martha and her husband Darwin did to create that house in openness to the public was a great thing,” Zaal said. “We realize that we’re not going to make everyone happy with everything that we do. so we’re going to do the best that we can to balance the guests experience and making sure that we’re telling the story in a thoughtful and respectful way, which is already done right now. We intend to honor the legacy that they started.”

Zaal specified the house would be open to all kinds of guests, not just those seeking a paranormal experience.

“We are not a ghost hunting company, but we don’t pick and choose what our customers want to do,” Zaal said. “We want to be open and inclusive to as many people, as many different groups of people that we can. Not everybody is in to history and not everybody is in to ghost hunting. A lot of people are just curious and want to learn about it.”

Once officially handed over, the house will remain closed for the winter while U.S. Ghost Adventures goes forward with any changes.

Erin Henze

Originally from Wisconsin, Erin is a recent graduate from UW-Stevens Point. Outside of writing, she loves to read and travel.