The owner of the Villisca Ax Murder House says she was stunned to hear that a man stabbed himself during a “recreational paranormal” visit early Friday.

Martha Linn, 77, of Corning, Iowa, said nothing like Friday’s injury has ever occurred at the house during her ownership.

“It’s kind of shocking to wake up and hear that someone has nearly died at your tourist attraction,” she said.

The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office said Robert Steven Laursen Jr., 37, of Rhinelander, Wisconsin, suffered the self-inflicted injury about 12:45 a.m. at the former home of Josiah B. and Sara Moore. The Moores were bludgeoned to death with an ax while they slept in their beds in June 1912. Six children were also slain. The case remains unsolved.

Laursen was taken by a Villisca ambulance to Clarinda Regional Health Center and then transferred by helicopter to Creighton University Medical Center in Omaha. A hospital representative Friday evening said that Laursen or a relative asked the hospital not to release his condition.

Montgomery County Sheriff Joe Sampson said no criminal charges are planned because investigators found no indication of foul play.

Sampson also said he has never run into any problems at the Villisca house before Friday.

“We can only speculate” about what happened, he said about Laursen, who was at the Ax Murder House with “a couple of others.”

“These people (paranormal investigators) are at the house all the time,” Sampson said.

Linn, who has owned the home at 508 E. Second St. since 1994, said she has two tour guides who handle the overnight stays at the house, which has no electricity. Linn and her late husband, Darwin, removed all electrical and plumbing fixtures in an effort to restore the house as much as possible to its condition at the time of the murders.

The home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Day tours and overnight stays can be purchased at the home.

The home’s website promotes the paranormal possibilities, and Linn says many “investigative teams” have visited.

“They all hope something will come to them,” she said. “Sometimes they like to tempt fate.”

But Linn said she’s “absolutely sick” about Friday’s incident. “I can’t imagine why somebody would do something like this to himself.”

Contact the writer: 402-444-1259,

Commenting is limited to Omaha World-Herald subscribers. To sign up, click here.

If you're already a subscriber and need to activate your access or log in, click here.

Recommended for you

Load comments

You must be a full digital subscriber to read this article You must be a digital subscriber to view this article.