Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast
Fall River, Massachusetts
On an August morning in 1892, respectable citizens Andrew and Abby Borden were murdered in their Fall River home. Abby was found face down on the floor next to a bed; Andrew was found sprawled across the sitting room couch. Their skulls had been smashed in. A hatchet was found in the cellar, and suspicion fell on their 32-year-old daughter Lizzie, who also lived in the house. But Lizzie was tried and acquitted of the crime, and when she moved out of the house it remained pretty much just a house for another hundred years.
And then it was turned into a bed and breakfast.
Leeann Wilber took her boyfriend to stay there on Valentine's Day 2003. By mid-June 2004 they had purchased the place, and now Leeann runs it herself. "I wasn't quite sure what I was getting into at first," she told us, "but it's been an interesting ride."
The Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast occupies the same niche as the Sturgis House and the Villisca Ax Murder House -- destinations for people who want a spooky place to sleep and a good meal in the morning to celebrate their survival. According to Leeann, the house is especially popular with honeymooners.
Leeann knows what her guests want. A hatchet with "welcome" painted on its blade greets visitors from the kitchen potato basket. A sign above the stairs warns, "Please be careful; we've already had two fatal head injuries in the house." Photos of the gruesome murder scenes hang on the walls of the appropriate rooms, to show how closely the house has been restored to its 1892 appearance.
Mr. Borden's "couch of death" disappeared years ago -- supposedly it was stored in a warehouse that was destroyed by a hurricane -- but Leeann found a nearly identical replacement that is now the most sat-on piece of furniture in the house. The carpeted floor next to the death bed is also popular. "More people lie on that spot, and have posed on that spot, than do on the couch."
Over at the county historical museum, the curator of Lizzie Borden's Murderabilia told us that the Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast was voted one of the scariest places on earth by the viewers of Scariest Places On Earth. Even levelheaded Leeann concedes that "something's going on here," and tells us of phantom footfalls and unnatural gusts of wind, especially when guests use the Ouija Board in the sitting room. House cat Max acts as her paranormal alarm system. "When he has issues with the house, I'm gonna have issues with the house."
Of course, most visitors here WANT an encounter with Lizzie's pulp-headed parents. Abby Borden's death room is the most popular rental in the house. For the murder anniversary night Leeann puts it up for auction online (in 2008 it went for $405.00). "I haven't had anybody have a heart attack yet," she says, "but I have lost people around 2 AM. And there are no refunds if you leave." Visitors can pull their lace coverlets over their heads if the ghosts pop in, but those who run for the exit don't get breakfast -- and that's a shame, since it's designed to be similar to the one that the Bordens ate on the morning of their murders.
Leeann rattles a banister as she heads downstairs; someone's pulled a screw out of it as a souvenir. "Books get lifted. My silverware gets lifted," she says. "I don't know why. People rip paint chips off the side of the house. I actually saw, on eBay, somebody selling a rock taken from the property."
Such vandalism is especially senseless, since Leeann stocks an impressive gift shop in the Borden carriage house. Discriminating guests can purchase decorator hatchet soaps, key chains, earrings, and tiny homemade hatchet aprons to tie around the dish detergent bottle. The evil-eyed Lizzie Borden bobble head is such a popular item that Leeann must order them by the pallet. And for those who simply must have a piece of the house, Leeann sells tiny bottles of pulverized brick taken from the Borden basement -- where the hatchet was found.
Guided tours of the house are given every hour between checkout and check-in. Leeann hopes to eventually turn the house into a tour-only attraction on weekdays and limit the Bed and Breakfast to weekends. But for those who do spend the night, Leeann asks that you use the House Ouija board rather than your own. "People use their own board, [ghost] crap gets stirred up, and I'm left with whatever was dragged through," she says. "You guys get to go home in the morning. I've gotta stay here with it."