In 2000, the Fox Family Channel began airing a program entitled "The Scariest Places on Earth."  One episode included a segment on the 1912 Villisca, Iowa axe murders.

We and others were shocked by a number of bizarre elements including fake photographs, a fake "1912" newspaper, and a fake interview with a "former resident" (obviously an actress).   There did not seem to be any attempt on the part of the producers to tell Villisca's story in even a remotely accurate way.  All this in spite of the fact that they requested from us and were provided with sufficient historical data and photographs to produce their segment.

To add insult to injury, when the program was later released on home video, the producers listed the segment on the box as "Villisca, Ohio."

Here is our detailed response from 2000:

We just finished viewing the Villisca, Iowa segment of the Fox Family Channel's "Scariest Places on Earth" program and were horrified by a number of bizarre elements.

Photographs portrayed as the axe murder victims were not the victims.  We have no idea who the people in the photos were or why this action was necessary, since the producers were supplied with actual photographs of the Moore family and Stillinger girls.

The woman identified as a "former Villisca resident" was apparently an actress.  A fake newspaper was created and passed off as a historical artifact.

The program stated that no one was ever charged with the crime.  Rev. Lyn George Jacklin Kelly was charged, tried, and acquitted in 1917.   The victims did not attend the church depicted in the program.  The photo of the old man portrayed as the suspect in the case is also misrepresented.  He was not a suspect.

This program made a mockery of the actual victims and recorded history surrounding the tragic events of 1912-1917.  Residents of Villisca, Iowa deserve an apology from the Fox Family Channel and Triage Entertainment for this intentional distortion of their town's history.

How much of the rest of this series has been constructed with this kind of carelessness?  This throws doubt on the veracity of every other element in this series of programs.  We suppose this was all justified in the name of Halloween "entertainment", but we are appalled.

If you saw the Fox Family Channel special or video featuring the axe murders, you still don't know anything about Iowa's worst mass homicide.  The real story is far more interesting than Fox's fiction, and we invite you to explore our website and to see Villisca: Living with a Mystery to discover what really happened in Villisca, Iowa in 1912.

Villisca: Living with a Mystery | Villisca Screening Schedule


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