To make things even more unnecessarily creepy, the killer had covered all mirrors and windows -- along with the victims' faces -- with curtains and cloth. There was also a bowl of bloody water and a plate of uneaten food on a table, which I generously choose to assume was the killer's haphazard attempt to clean himself and find out that he's not into post-homicidal snacks, instead of some dumbfuck "fear me" ritual. Dude, you just mauled eight people to death, a plate of untouched casserole isn't going to add any extra oomph to that.
Investigators soon found out that Iowa was carrying potential crazed ax killers by the dozen. A vagrant builder with an unhealthy interest for the case, a penchant for muttering to himself and, oh yeah, lugging around a large ax was understandably detained but had a rock-solid alibi. A strangely behaving traveling minister called George Kelly gave a good, old-fashioned "the voices in my head made me do it" confession and was tried two separate times before being ultimately acquitted. The fact that he had been interrogated (feel free to add liberal air quotes at this point) for hours before giving the confession and recanted it the second he had a chance may have had something to do with this. Moore's son-in-law had hurled death threats at him, but also had an alibi.
Even Iowa state senator Frank Jones was drawn in the action, thanks to being an old business acquaintance turned rival to the victims. Jones was rumored to have hired a ruthless killer called William Mansfield (who just so happened to ax-murder his own family a couple of years later) to do the dirty work. And while we're on the subject of serial killers, there's also Henry Lee Moore (no relation), who was not initially connected to the case, but would later go on to murder his family in an extremely similar fashion.
God dammit, Iowa. What is it with you and axes?
"Oh, like you don't own one for every weekday."
Pauli's Favorite Theory:
Nothing in this case makes sense, really. Show me a person who can sneak around a house with eight people in it in the middle of the night, cover all windows and reflective surfaces and murder them in the most violent manner this side of actual chainsaws, and I'll show you . . . well, the Villisca ax murderer. Or a ninja. Either way, it was nice to know you, because in the time it took you to tell me that person has already covered all your mirrors and oh God he's standing behind you right now.