Infamous Villisca axe will be displayed
Program includes sneak preview of “AXMAN” short documentary and Award-winning “Villisca: Living with a Mystery”
Filmmakers Kelly & Tammy Rundle and expert Dr. Edgar V. Epperly to appear
The centennial anniversary of Iowa's worst mass murder will be commemorated June 9-10, 2012 in Red Oak, Iowa. Organized by Director David McFarland of the Montgomery County History Center, and co-sponsored by the Villisca Historical Society, the special event will include a sneak preview of AXMAN, a new short documentary by filmmakers Kelly and Tammy Rundle of Fourth Wall Films, and an encore showing of their award-winning film Villisca: Living with a Mystery. Dr. Edgar Epperly, the foremost historical authority on the still-unsolved crime, will join the Rundles for Q&A following the film presentations. An accompanying historical display will include the actual murder weapon, a long-handled axe removed from the crime scene by authorities on June 10, 1912.
In addition, the History Center will exhibit a collection of materials and photographs donated by historian Dr. Bruce Stillians. Stillians, a former resident of Villisca with family ties to the axe murder story, researched the case for decades and amassed a huge collection of resources and photographs related to the crime.
Sometime during the night of Sunday, June 9, 1912, a person or persons unknown entered a modest house in Villisca, Iowa and bludgeoned to death Josiah B. Moore, his wife Sara, and their children Herman, Katherine, Boyd, and Paul and overnight guests Lena and Ina Stillinger. The crime, known thereafter as the “Villisca axe murders”, is the most notorious mystery in Iowa history. The tragedy spawned nearly ten years of grand jury investigations and three sensational trials all centered around the Montgomery County Court House in Red Oak. The case made and broke political careers and led to the establishment of the Iowa Department of Criminal Investigation. The murders also split residents of the small community of Villisca, Iowa over the guilt or innocence of a local suspect, Iowa State Senator Frank Fernando Jones.
One hundred years later, the tragic unsolved murder now attracts visitors and tourists to the privately-owned Villisca Ax Murder House. The mystery has generated books, a play, paranormal investigations, television programs, a fictional film and feature-length documentary. Kelly and Tammy Rundle’s Villisca: Living with a Mystery premiered in 2004, enjoyed a limited theatrical release in over 60 cities including Los Angeles where it qualified for the 2005 Academy Award® competition. The film screened in Red Oak in 2004 in the courtroom where the 1916 and 1917 axe murder trials took place. Villisca is still available nationally on DVD from online and conventional retailers and it can be rented from Netflix and Family Video. Broadcasts continue on IPTV, WQPT and other PBS stations this anniversary year.
The critically-acclaimed documentary tells the epic true story of the Children's Day axe murders and the chaos and division that followed. The Rundles combined rare period photographs, computer animation, original art, limited re-enactments, and fascinating interviews with historians, eye-witnesses, town residents, and forensic experts to shed light on the spellbinding mystery and to dramatically reveal the face of a new suspect.
The Rundles are also offering a sneak preview of their 25-minute documentary AXMAN. In 1955, a college student named Edgar Epperly began researching the details behind Iowa's worst mass homicide, the 1912 Villisca Axe Murders. Now, nearly 60 years later, the retired college professor is still actively searching for a solution to the crime. Exclusive interviews with Epperly and others close to his unique work reveal the secret reason behind his dogged devotion to America's greatest unsolved mystery.
AXMAN and Villisca: Living with a Mystery will screen 2-5 p.m. Sunday, June 10, 2012 at the Montgomery County History Center, 2700 North 4th Street, Red Oak, Iowa. The program includes Q&A with the filmmakers and Dr. Epperly. The axe, on loan from the Villisca Historical Society and the State Historical Society of Iowa, will be included in a special historical display created by the History Center. Tickets for the Commemorative Program and History Center exhibits are $5 per person and may be purchased in advance at the History Center, or by visiting www.villiscamovie.com/. Seating is very limited. This special commemoration event is sponsored by The Montgomery County History Center and the Villisca Historical Society. Call (712) 623-2289 for ticket information.
The Rundles' award-winning feature-length documentary, Country School: One Room - One Nation will also screen at the History Center on Saturday, June 9, 2012 at 2 p.m. The film features the Pittsburg School in Red Oak, the Cramer School in Stanton, and the Goldenrod school in Clarinda.