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Tourists look for ghosts at Iowa ‘Ax Murder House’

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The Linns restored the building to its 1912 appearance, tearing off siding, removing an enclosed porch and repainting the house. They then opened it for tours, and the house gained a national reputation among people who believe in paranormal activities.

Tours during the day cost $10 for adults, and for $400 groups can rent the home for the night. Linn said the house is booked nearly every night through the summer.

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Visitors bring their own sleeping bags and pillows.

"I’m not a bed and breakfast," Linn said.

Epperly said some residents appreciate the tourists that the home brings to Villisca, but others are uncomfortable with visitors who snap pictures and carry electronics they believe can detect paranormal activity.

"They felt the victims to be absolutely innocent and for them to be used as a pawn to make money was really unfair to them," Epperly said. "To expose these victims to this publicity was to violate their privacy."

Epperly will lead discussions this weekend at the Montgomery County History Center. He will be joined by filmmakers Kelly and Tammy Rundle, whose 2004 documentary about the case has been widely praised.

Also on display will be the long-handled ax used in the killings. A state investigator owned the ax for years, and after he died, his widow gave it to Epperly, who for decades kept it in his bedroom closet. He gave it to the Villisca Historical Society in 2007, and it’s now kept at the State Historical Society of Iowa in Des Moines.

Epperly said he looks forward to a weekend spent discussing the case, but he understands that for a century, many in Villisca have hoped for nothing more than to forget the crime.

"Everybody wished it had happened somewhere else," Epperly said. "It distorted the town."

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