While driving through various streets in the community of Villisca in Montgomery County, I noticed many extraordinary homes.
But, perhaps none are extraordinary or famous as the much smaller and more modest one that sits on the northeast side of town. Now known as the "Villisca Ax Murder House", it was the scene of a grisly and gruesome crime. Between the evening of June 9 and and the morning of June 10, someone entered this house, used an ax, and brutally bludgeoned 8 people to death.
Now a major tourist attraction, news of this horrific mass murder nearly 106 years ago shocked the world. To this date, it is still one of our country's most famous unsolved murder mysteries.
This home and the crimes that happened here have become the fodder for numerous books, documentaries, movies, and television shows. Purported to be haunted, it's a frequent stop of those who on the hunt for paranormal activity.
On the morning that I stopped, it was not open.
I was on my way to Coin for the Buzzard Festival but I will hope to return some other time to see if I can get inside the house.
There is ample parking on the premises and there is a red barn structure that appears to serve as the sort of welcome center for the historical site.
The grounds are quite lush and there is spots to have a picnic, if you would wish.
If you are up for a real adventure, you can even spend the night inside the house! It'll cost you a few hundred bucks, but it might be a fun group outing if you are brave enough.
But there is much more to Villisca than it's famous house. It's a nice farming community in southwest Iowa. Out near the welcome sign on highway 71 as you are entering from the north, there is a statue of Willard the Pig. Willard is there as a constant reminder of the importance of agriculture to the community and surrounding area.
I spotted a couple of different ag-related businesses, including a cooperative.
There is speculation that the murderer in 1912 came through town on the railroad. The railroad is still an important part of the identity and economy of Villisca. As I was out and about taking a few photos, a train even came through town.
The downtown had a wide array of storefronts - some occupied and some not. A lot of very nice architecture to be found, though.
I noticed a very beautiful library and even an independent grocery store, which is becoming increasingly more rare.
I noticed a couple of different park areas that were quite lush and welcoming.
In addition to all of the pretty homes, I'm always drawn to beautiful church buildings.
Villisca has a couple of schools.
They have a nice water tower and some other utility facilities.
I am always a fan of small town cafes and so I will need to stop back and check out T.J.'s. There were a lot of trucks out front and in rural Iowa, that's a sign that it is going to be good food.
There were some emergency services garages, too.
I noticed several automotive garages, including some a very interestingly named, "Bitchin' Rusty Hole".
Of course, there are other amenities like a funeral home, community center, telephone company, bank, and barbershop.
As I mentioned, I need to make a return trip to Villisca in order to actually take in the famous house and any other hidden gems I might have missed. I have a few friends who grew up here but I always welcome the chance to be "shown around" by the local experts.
As always, I welcome your suggestions of places to visit and profile whether in Montgomery County or any of the other 98 counties in Iowa. If you have a good idea or would like to host the Iowa Adventurer, please drop me a note through this website.