Back in May, during a night out with friends, an interesting invitation surfaced.”Char!! I’m going to the Villisca Ax Murder house next month. You have to come with me,” said Cathleen, one of my best friends who knows me oh-so-well.
I knew Cathleen had been interested in the supernatural and had been on past ghost-hunting trips, such as in the countryside skimming through an old cemetery.
I, on the other hand, have never done such. I flip right past television shows that feature supposedly haunted locations and stories from those who’ve allegedly seen a ghost or two.
I’ve never seen one, nor heard chains rattling, doors slamming or felt the cold breeze that is said to rush in and accompany a misty visitor from beyond the grave.
So when she asked me, exclaiming that I needed to go with her and a couple of her younger relatives, I was looking forward to the ride, visiting with friends and learning more about what happens on one of these excursions.
My answer: “OK, when? What do I need to bring? You do understand that I’m a skeptic?”
“Oh, Charrr, this is going to be great!” she exclaimed.
So on a Friday morning in June, I stashed a bag of snacks, a change of clothes and a 101 Dalmations sleeping bag (the only sleeping bag I could find in my house) into the back of Cathleen’s SUV. I was ready.
Her cousin, Casey, was in the front seat wearing a Rosary around her neck. We picked up her nephew, Matt, who loaded various cameras, voice recorders and heat and electromagnetic detectors into the back of the SUV.
Then it was off for a drive across the state of Iowa and to the Villisca house.
I had done some research before getting in her vehicle, of course.
On June 10, 1912, a family of six – Josiah and Sarah Moore and their four children, Herman, Katherine, Boyd and Paul – and two little girls visiting them – Lena and Ina Stillinger – were found murdered in beds in the house. They had been killed, while sleeping, by someone wielding an ax. I say “someone” because the murders were never solved.
Over time, the house was sold several times and is on the National Register of Historic Places, available for tours and overnight stays. It also draws in those who investigate paranormal activity.
Cathleen had booked it for an overnight stay.
To be sure, it was creepy walking into the home. Wooden floors creak, a calendar from June 1912 hangs on the kitchen wall and it is decked out with furniture from the time period. A tour of the house introduced us to the layout and where the victims were found on each of the home’s two floors.
To be honest, after that initial creepiness wore off, I wasn’t convinced there were spirits in the house. We visited the nearby cemetery where the victims are buried, and back at the house got out the meters to detect activity (which we think surged briefly because of our cell phones) and set up audio recorders. On playback, it did sound like there were voices of little girls whispering caught on them. Maybe.
Strangely, we were locked out of the house a few times when we were out in the yard early into our visit.
If it ended there, I would say I wasn’t convinced.
But there was this one thing. As I went to get in the back of the SUV to go to a nearby Casey’s, I clearly heard the theme from the “Dukes of Hazzard” – Waylon Jennings and all. I asked Cathleen if she had changed the radio station from what was playing earlier that day.
I even put my head down by the speaker to hear it. But the music wasn’t coming from the speaker. It was coming from the iPhone in my pocket, which somehow had been triggered to open my music app, which I never use but had downloaded my music library into a year ago.
I figured out that’s where the music was coming from. Weird.
Then Matt replied that just before he left the house to get into the SUV, he had loudly said: “Come on out, we don’t mean you any harm.”
If you know the song, you know the lyrics. And my phone was spilling out the lyrics “Never meanin’ no harm.” And it was shortly after he had said them in the house.
Was it a reply, maybe a sign?
I don’t know.
But since then, and now on today’s Halloween, I sure haven’t forgotten it.