Their murders were violent and numerous and seemingly without motive. Take a look inside the infamous Harpe Brothers' Illinois hideout.

Cave In Rock Illinois

The Cave-In-Rock you're about to see was not only where the Harpe Brothers hid from capture it is also the site of some of their murders.

Along the Ohio River in southern Illinois is where this natural cave formed, inside a ledge that sits on the river's edge.

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Now, Cave-In-Rock State Park, Hardin County, Illinois. Cave-In-Rock in southern Illinois, atop the high bluffs overlooking the scenic Ohio River, the heavily wooded park is named for the 55-foot-wide cave that was carved out of the limestone rock by water thousands of years ago.

In the late 1700s, the cave was used as a hideout by river pirates and other thieves. Just across the river is the state of Kentucky, where the Harpe Brothers had been on their killing spree.

On the run from authorities, the brothers wanted to also use the cave as a spot to hide. Their reputation was soon to be discovered.

Who were the Harpe Brothers?

The Harpe Brothers, America's First Serial Killers

Micajah and Wiley Harpe, commonly known as the Harpe Brothers, are notorious figures in American history, believed to be among the nation's first documented serial killers. Born in the 18th century, the Harpe Brothers gained infamy for their gruesome and ruthless killing spree during the late 1700s. Operating on the frontier lands of Tennessee and Kentucky, they left a trail of violence, terrorizing settlers and Native American communities alike.

Just across the Ohio River from Kentucky and the Harpe Brothers is where they found their Illinois hideout in a cave.

via YouTube
Keith Dotson Photography via YouTube

Micajah and Wiley were known for their brutality, often committing murders without apparent motive. Their victims included men, women, and children, and their methods ranged from shootings to brutal mutilations. The Harpe Brothers' notoriety peaked during the late 1700s, as authorities struggled to catch them.

While looking for books written about the Harpe Brothers on Amazon, I clicked on the first one that popped up, Killer Brothers: A Biography of the Harpe Brothers – America’s First Serial Killers. The first reviewer, rosekrystofolski, shared some horrific details about these killers:

Great mini book about Micajah and Wiley Harpe, the first American Serial Killers and Team Killers. Back in the 1700s the Harpes were frontiersmen who were evil sociopathic murderers who committed between 20 and 100 murders. Until they were tracked down in the woods after slaughtering a woman and her Baby son and then burned their cabin down. The victim's husband and father caught up to Micajah (also known as Big Harpe- a lovely man who once killed his infant daughter by grabbing her by the feet and bashing her head against a tree because her crying woke him up) after shooting him a couple times and then cut his head off. Wiley Harpe was apprehended and then executed after bringing the head of an outlaw to the police to try and claim a reward he had on his head. He almost got away with it, but was then recognized as "Little Harpe" and decapitated, his head put on a pike as a warning to other criminals

The Harpe Brothers' reign of terror left an indelible mark on American history. Before their heads wound up on those pikes, they found brief refuge, here in Illinois.

Cave-in-Rock Illinois the Hideout For America's First Serial Killers

Gallery Credit: Steve Shannon

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