The Villisca Axe Murder:
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Villisca Axe Murder is the only Iowa crime that has potential historical literary
legs. In this sense, it is like the two great murder epics, Jack the
Ripper and the Lizzie Borden case. Jack the Ripper, well into his second century
continues to provoke controversy while novels, plays, motion pictures, and even musicals
based on his crimes spew out into the popular literature markets. Historical studies
of this serial killer ranging from serious to fanciful also seem to spring up like
mushrooms as the years go by.
murder is over ninety years old and while it has yet to provoke national interest, there
are signs that it will remain a viable topic into the 21st century. There is now a
novel and a play based on the event and two scholars from Kansas City have a historical
study of the murder nearing completion. Fourth Wall Films, a Los Angeles-based
documentary film company has produced a feature length documentary based on the murder.
The critically-acclaimed and award-winning Villisca: Living with a Mystery
premiered in 2004, played in theaters in over 50 cities, qualified for the 2005 Academy
Award competition, and was released nationally on DVD. Villisca is cautiously
experimenting with using the murder as a means of attracting tourists, and the murder
house is now a private museum restored to its 1912 condition.
Edgar V. Epperly began researching the 1912 Villisca, Iowa axe murders as a college
student. In 1955 he traveled to Villisca for the first time with two friends where they
interviewed Dr. Cooper, the first physician to examine the victims and the crime scene.
Dr. Epperly is a retired Professor of Education at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. His
research into the crime is ongoing. He has written essays, articles, collected and
compiled a photographic archive of the Villisca murder case now housed at the Iowa State
Archives. He is on the Humanities Iowa Speakers Bureau. He is currently the
President of the Winneshiek County Habitat for Humanity. Epperly is co-authoring a book
with Tammy and Kelly Rundle on the famous unsolved Villisca axe murder and is the primary
consultant on the documentary "Villisca: Living With a Mystery." Dr.
Epperly is considered the foremost authority on the 1912 Villisca Axe Murders.
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