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



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The Calumet Christmas Catastrophe


A reading from America’s historical newspapers in the golden age of yellow journalism

Panic at the Italian Hall

This episode comes from the request of a listener in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan who wanted to know more about the panic disaster that took place at the Calumet Italian Hall in 1913.

I actually went through Calumet a couple of years ago on vacation when we wanted to see what the upper peninsula of the upper peninsula of Michigan was like.

We found a lot of good microbreweries and wandered about some of the old copper mines, but we missed the monument dedicated to the victims of this horrible tragedy.

Now that I know about it, the next time I’m in Calumet, I will definitely pay my respects. It’s a sad story, folks, but I think it’s an important one to remember because it’s all about what happens when we lose our civility.

Theme music by Dave Sams

Some incidental music via Creative Commons license


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