We’ve all heard it: “Lizzie Borden took an axe, and gave her mother forty whacks. When she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one.” On August 4th, 1892 in Fall River, Massachusetts residents Andrew and Abby Borden were found hacked up in their home. The culprit? Undecided, though daughter Lizzie was the only one brought to trial (and acquitted). Nevertheless, the Borden case remains cold to this day and continues to intrigue the masses due to the brutality. It doesn’t hurt that the Borden house reopened as the Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast Museum in 1996, attracting fresh blood to play detective.
Between TV shows like “Ghost Adventures” and actual scientists stopping by, the Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast Museum has kept interest in that fateful day. The interest is twofold. First, the case is unsolved thanks to rookie cops, a lack of physical evidence, and weak motive (you can read more here). Many people point fingers at Lizzie for her inconsistent testimony; others at the maid who was also in the house. You be the judge. Nevertheless, most visitors come to the Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast Museum for another darker reason: to feel (and perhaps experience) the presence of the deceased (check out these haunted places in NYC).
The Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast Museum rests on a quiet corner of Fall River, a city a bit down on its luck thanks to failed industries and a scandalous government. Yet the Borden house is striking—a lovely green exterior and a historically accurate Victorian interior, complete with period furniture, floral wallpaper, and the occasional murder weapon lying around. Your overnight stay grants you free range access to all of this— plus a horror movie collection and paranormal instruments to meddle with. You also get an extended evening tour of the house as well as a communal breakfast with homemade Johnny cakes… if you survive the night I suppose.
The most popular room at the Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast Museum — one that must be reserved far in advance— is the John V. Morse “murder room,” where Abby Borden was bludgeoned as she made the bed. The room is seemingly innocuous except for the abundant mirrors, creepy mannequin, and bedside photo of the crime scene. Guests report otherwise: nightmares, strange noises and movement, and fire alarms sounding during the “witching hour” between 3-4:00am.
Inside the John V. Morse “murder room”
The tour itself offers insight into the crime and Lizzie Borden’s involvement. A stand-out fact dispelled the myth of 40 or 41 whacks. This was popularized by a journalist and caught on as a sort of nursery rhyme or jump rope chant. The Borden’s each suffered more like 10-11, though vicious enough to split Andrew Borden’s eye into two. And whether or not you believe in the other side, the tour guide eagerly presents photographic proof of the spirits. If you’re keen, they’ll even offer their opinion of who done it (ours said it was a joint effort between the Borden sisters and the maid).
Lizzie, though ostracized from her fellow Fall River citizens, lived in town until her death in 1927. Her gravestone lies in the nearby Oak Grove Cemetery in the Borden plot under “Lizbeth.” She left an interesting legacy beyond her association with the murders. She was one of the founding members of the Animal Rescue League. She was also the first person to purchase a car in Fall River and put a gas pump in her lawn. Lizzie’s final home in Fall River— the Maplecroft— was purchased last year by the same owners as the Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast Museum, and they plan to eventually open it up for tours and sleepovers.
Image of Lizzie Borden via Wikipedia Commons
Borden plot at the Oak Grove Cemetery
But until then, the Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast Museum alone will have to suffice. Whichever you are— true crime fanatic, thrill seeker, or die-hard ghost hunter with a suitcase full of paranormal equipment— you’re welcome to indulge yourself. There’s Ouija boards and fake axes for all. In 2020, the Victorian home in Fall Rivers where Lizzie Borden lived in her later years went up for sale again for $890,000.