I Slept with Lizzie Borden, AMA
From spooky tales of questionable origin to cautionary memes about razor blade-embedded candy, the Halloween season is fraught with misinformation. Herewith, a primer on what it’s really like to spend a night at one of Massachusetts’s weirdest roadside attractions.
“Who is Lizzie Borden?”
Lizzie Borden is a significant figure in homicidal history, so shame on you for asking. The short version: A spoiled, plain-looking white girl who was accused in 1892 of brutally killing her father and stepmother with a hatchet at their Fall River home. Her trial was an American media spectacle—she was the OJ Simpson of the Victorian era—and, like O.J., she was formally acquitted, except by those with common sense. (That said, alternate theories about the Borden killer’s identity continue to proliferate in online web forums, just in case you’d like to spend Halloween going down a rabbit hole of Monster Energy drinks and loneliness.)
“How did you stay in her house?”
Her Fall River home now operates as the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast. There are eight guest rooms, so you can stay overnight in Lizzie’s old bedroom or even the room in which her stepmother was slaughtered. Because there’s good money in murder, the proprietors have a souvenir shop at the rear of the property, and they’re even developing a Lizzie Borden-based first-person PC game, which sort of seems like “Wolfenstein 3D” wearing a bustle skirt.
“Why did you stay in her house?”
It was a getaway gift from my boyfriend, because I am the type of date who would be offered an overnight at a murder scene, see stars, and immediately start choosing our kids’ names. Next question.
“What are the amenities?”
I can’t vouch that the following are offered with consistency, but in our case they consisted of:
- A three-hour tour of the home. (This is not an exaggeration, and in fact, I may be underestimating.) Upon check-in, our innkeeper-warden assembled all the night’s guests in the lace doily-draped front parlor for a protracted, clasped-hands discussion of the history of the home, the Borden family, and the trial. This was followed by a more vibrant, step-by-step reenactment of the evening of the murders.
“Wait for the thud!” instructed our host, the Borden legacy equivalent of a Renaissance Faire enthusiast, as she gleefully ascended the main staircase while the dozen or so guests braced ourselves to soon be whacked with a hatchet. We dutifully waited for a BANG! from upstairs, followed it, and found our keeper playing dead in the spot where the body of Lizzie’s stepmother was discovered. She popped up, pleased with herself, handed a small ax to one guest and asked her to straddle another, a total stranger, to illustrate how the fatal blows must have been made.
At this point, the Stockholm Syndrome was so real that none of us thought this was strange. (The spell was briefly broken when I, starving, broke us away from the marathon tour for a hurried McDonald’s run. We scarfed quarter-pounders in my car like felons on the lam, and tried to slip back into the group unnoticed; the innkeeper’s disapproving eye suggested it was otherwise.)
- Not sure if it’s de rigueur, but our stay came with a complimentary appearance by a psychic (this was unadvertised) around midnight. And by “psychic,” I mean a leathery woman in a Patriots hoodie who swept in with a Dunkins cup and a small child that kept a close watch on the clock. (“FIVE MOAH MINUTES, MA.”) My question for the psychic: “Do I have any new emails? Because I haven’t been able to check my phone since five o’clock.”
- You will have free reign over the home. After the Miss Cleo of the South Shore departed, so did our innkeeper—with nary a word of instruction. (Do we lock the doors now? What if I need something? Can I eat what’s in the fridge?) Immediately, the other guests produced voice recorders and digital cameras, and swarmed every inch of the home—bedrooms to basement—trying to capture ghostly orbs and EVP (that’s “electronic voice phenomenon,” for you non-nerds). Woefully unprepared, we took some half-hearted iPhone shots and feigned interest in corners.
- Pro-tip: Lizzie’s old bedroom is connected to her sister’s, so the two are booked together as a suite. This is good to know, because then you can sleep in Lizzie’s but still have sexy-time in a non-murderess’s quarters, which is slightly less creepy.
“Is the house haunted?”
Yes, supposedly. We did not encounter any ghosts during our overnight — but it was still pretty terrifying. Also magical.
“Is there a framed photograph in the living room of noted Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast fangirl and indie film darling Chloe Sevigny sitting, twee AF, upon the couch where Lizzie’s dad was slaughtered?”
Yes, yes there is.