Trail of the Red Ax


Exploring one of history’s most baffling murder mysteries.

The Villisca Ax Murders Mystery

This episode starts with a brutal axe murder that scandalized the quiet town of Villisca, about 2,000 souls in the summer of 1912, when a family of six and two young visitors were killed in their beds by an assailant wielding a long-handled axe, the family’s own tool, which was left at the scene.

Clues were scant, and it took years for the twists and subplots to emerge, including a string of similar murders, implications that it was a job for hire by a business rival, and a bizarre confession by an itinerant minister five years later.

And for some reason, there seems to be a lot of fortunetellers and clairvoyants in this narrative.

Musical direction by Dave Sams

Horror ambiance by the Klankbeeld team via



01 The_Des_Moines_Register_Sun__Jul_7__1912_

spate Evansville_Press_Wed__Jul_18__1917_ 1912 0611 Ottumwa_Tri_Weekly_Courier_Tue__Jun_11__1912_ 1912 0612 The_Des_Moines_Register_Wed__Jun_12__1912_ 1912 0720 Ottumwa_Tri_Weekly_Courier_Sat__Jul_20__1912_ 1912 0727 The_Des_Moines_Register_Sat__Jul_27__1912_ 1916 0621 Adams_County_Free_Press_Wed__Jun_21__1916_ (2) 1916 0722 The_Des_Moines_Register_Sat__Jul_22__1916_ 1916 1004 Adams_County_Free_Press_Wed__Oct_4__1916_ 1916 1213 Adams_County_Free_Press_Wed__Dec_13__1916_ 1917 0515 The_Des_Moines_Register_Tue__May_15__1917_ 1917 0929 The_Des_Moines_Register_Sat__Sep_29__1917_ 1945 0128 The_Des_Moines_Register_Sun__Jan_28__1945_ Adams_County_Free_Press_Wed__Jun_21__1916_ Chronology The_Des_Moines_Register_Sun__Oct_7__1917_ kelly The_Des_Moines_Register_Tue__May_15__1917_ The_Des_Moines_Register_Sun__Oct_7__1917_ (1) The_Des_Moines_Register_Sun__Oct_7__1917_