Murder mystery movie comes to Council Bluffs
"Villisca: Living with a Mystery" at Western Historic Trails Center Sunday

For immediate release October 20, 2006


Contact: Jeff Morgan,, (515) 281-3858

(DES MOINES) – What happens when murder visits a small town and remains a mystery?

The award-winning and critically-acclaimed independent documentary film “Villisca: Living with a Mystery” will answer that question 2 p.m. Sunday at the Western Historic Trails Center. WHTC is at 3434 Richard Downing Avenue in Council Bluffs. Contact Teressa Sward at 712-366-4900 for more information.

“Villisca” has spent the past 14 months in theaters in 52 cities. The movie tells the epic true story of Iowa’s worst mass homicide, the Villisca Axe Murders. Noted historian Edgar Epperly has spent 50 years studying the case and will give an introduction to the documentary and answer questions afterwards.

This true-crime mystery is more mystifying than America’s Lizzie Borden and more intriguing than London’s Jack the Ripper.

When an entire family was murdered on a June evening in 1912, a small Midwestern town spiraled into chaos and division. The still-unsolved axe murder mystery made national headlines, built and ruined political careers, created a lasting community split over the guilt or innocence of a local state senator and produced three sensational trials.

Ten years in the making, filmmakers Kelly and Tammy Rundle teamed with Epperly and gathered dozens of hours of footage featuring the infamous axe murder house and murder weapon, a period steam train, bloodhounds and more than 50 interviews with historians, eyewitnesses and forensic experts including former FBI Special Agent and profiler Robert K. Ressler, the man who coined the term “serial killer.”

The Rundles collected hundreds of previously unseen period photographs, unearthed a forgotten axe murder case file, successfully petitioned a judge for access to 5,000 pages of secret grand jury testimony, reviewed dusty Attorney General’s files, and traveled to the sites of similar unsolved murders in Monmouth, Illinois; Ellsworth, Kansas; and Colorado Springs, Colorado in search of one of America’s early serial killers.

With the axe murder house a museum, and ongoing interest from media producers and paranormal enthusiasts, some think the murder is still haunting Villisca today. The filmmakers gained the support and cooperation of Villisca residents and relatives of the axe murder victims. Several gave interviews and attended the film’s premiere where nearly 2000 people saw the film in just five days.

“Villisca” went on to screen to enthusiastic audiences in theaters in 52 cities where it successfully competed with, and often exceeded, the box office receipts of its well-heeled Hollywood rivals. The independent documentary film also qualified for the 2005 Academy Award® competition in the documentary feature category.

The new “Villisca: Living with a Mystery” DVD release features the provocative independent documentary film, full-length commentary tracks by Epperly and the filmmakers, a computer-animated walkthrough of the axe murder house, additional scenes, behind-the-scenes footage, the theatrical trailer, and a rare 1963 Villisca axe murder radio broadcast.

The Rundles reside in Los Angeles, California where they are the owners of Fourth Wall Films, an independent film and video production company.

The State Historical Society of Iowa is a trustee of Iowa’s historical legacy and an advocate for understanding Iowa’s past. It identifies, records, collects, preserves, manages and provides access to Iowa’s historical resources. Its dual mission of preservation and education serves Iowans of all ages, conducts and stimulates research, disseminates information, and encourages and supports historical preservation and education efforts of others throughout the state. Please visit or call 515-281-5111 for more information.


Return to What's New Section



shsi homepage report technical problems


Privacy Statement Copyright and Disclaimer Notice Read about the State of Iowa Network Contact the State of Iowa Network Search the State of Iowa Network Go to the State of Iowa Network Help Desk Go to the State of Iowa Network News Go to the State of Iowa Home Page