It was a hot day that Thursday back on August 4th 1892. As temperatures reach 100 degrees, Andrew Jackson Borden, a prominent Fall River businessman, his second wife, Abby Durfee Gray, and his brother-in-law, John Vinnicum Morse, were having breakfast in Andrew’s home. Although they had been ill with some type of stomach ailment the night before, they did manage to consume the meal prepared by their servant Bridget Sullivan. Also in the house was Andrew’s daughter from his first marriage, Lizzie his other daughter and Emma was away with friends.
As the temperature heated up two-half story building that Thursday, everyone slowly dispersed, each attending their own business. Uncle John went off to visit his niece, Andrew went downtown, Abbey went to make the guestroom bed where John had stayed, and Bridget went off to do her chores.
Around 10:30 a.m. Andrew returned home. Feeling the results of the summer heat and the stomach ailment, he lay down on the living room couch. At 11:15 a scream shattered the hot humid air. It was Lizzie. Bridget came running and was met by Lizzie who told her, her father was dead. Pale, she asked Bridget to run to the neighbor’s house to get Dr Bowen who lived there.
A short time later the body of Abbey Borden was found upstairs on the floor of the guest room. Both Andrew and Abbey had been hatched to death. After the murders suspicion fell on Lizzie. She was arrested and placed on trial. Despite her demure appearance, Lizzie a respectable Sunday school teacher was portrayed by the prosecution as a cold blood murderer. The arrest shocked the community and the nation. Reporters came from as far away as New York City to cover what has been dubbed “the trial of the century”. The trial last two weeks and despite the strong circumstantial case build by the prosecution, the jury took little more than a hour to render their verdict. Not Guilty!
Soon after the trial, Lizzie and Emma bought a thirteen room stone house on “The Hill” as it was known in the more fashionable section of Fall River. There they lived together until Lizzie struck up a relationship with an actress by the name of Nance O’Neil. Tension grew between Emma and Lizzie and Emma moved to Fairhaven and eventually to Newmarket, New Hampshire. Lizzie died on June 1st 1927 and Emma a mere nine days later. Both are interned in the family plot in Fall River. Even today, there are still questions as to their involvement in the murder of their father and step mother. If Lizzie didn’t kill Andrew and Abbey, who did?
Several books have been written on the subject presenting different theories as to whom the real killers were, but no undeniable proof has been found. Other suspects, beside Lizzie, have included: her sister Emma, the maid Bridget, Andrew’s brother-in-law John Morse, the illegitimate son of Andrew William Borden, and even Dr. Bowen.
For years the house was in private hands until it was purchased and turned into the Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast Museum. Restored to its original “charm”, it attracts visitors from all over the world. Now for the first time the public is allowed not only to view the murder scene, but is given an opportunity to spend the night in the Lizzie Borden Murder House. In addition to being known as the crime scene of the bloody murders, it has also become known for its ghosts. Today, amateur ghost hunters and purveyors of the macabre flock to the house hoping to come home with some type of chilling experience and few are disappointed.
Guests and staff have reported many strange occurrences.The muffled weeping of a woman is often heard in the night. Objects have been known to move on their own accord. Cameras, video equipment, and lights turn on and off by themselves. And perhaps even more interesting, is that various apparitions have been witnessed throughout the house.
So who haunts the Lizzie Borden House?
Several years ago I had Lee-anne Wilbur the current proprietor of the house on my Ghost Chronicles Radio show. And although I was intrigued by her stories, I had never visited the house. A couple of years ago and I had the opportunity to host Byron Jackson from a British ghosting hunting club called Haunted Devon. Taking Lee-ane up on a long standing invitation to investigate the house, I decided this would be an ideal location to bring our foreign guest.
Almost immediately upon entering the house, Maureen Wood, my partner, and the New England Ghost Project’s psychic/medium began to sense the presence of a dark force emanating from the basement. Her demeanor became combative and the tension between us grew. Hatred toward me grew within her. To the point where she wanted to do me physical harm. Unable to escape the feeling in the house, she decided to leave with the aid of a couple of our British visitors. Once outside of the building, she slowly regained her composure.
At my request, she returned to begin our investigation. This time she kept the negative energy at bay. In the living room she and Gavin Cromwell, a Welsh psychic who accompanied Byron on this trip, gave their impressions of the murder scene. They both felt that a man had killed Andrew and that he had been murdered after his wife. After giving us their impressions of the other rooms on the first floor, we moved upstairs to the attic.
Almost immediately when I entered one of the rooms, I noticed a strange smell. The odor of ether. Others began to pick up on it as well. We settled down in one of the rooms and decided to do an EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon) session. During the session, we noticed what appeared to be a cat run across the bed and although the house does have a cat, there was none there at the time. After a rather mundane EVP session we continued to investigate the rest of the attic. The mediums picked up on a woman who they believed to be Bridget and Maureen began to sense a man who was ill…someone who possibly died in a fire. Although there was never a fire at the Lizzie Borden House, one of the previous caretakers did perish in a fire while smoking in bed.
After wrapping up in the attic, we followed our host Lee-anne to the second floor. As we passed through each room, the mediums felt very little, that is until we reached the murder room. You could almost feel a change in the atmosphere. We turned all the lights off and decided to attempt to make contact with any spirits there. It wasn’t long before Maureen began to trance channel, taking on the persona of an older woman. Bent over, she spoke, “dirty girl”.
Byron chimed in, “Who’s with us?”
“Abigail”, she replied. Continuing she said, “Never turn your back in this house.”
“Why are you here?” I asked.
“I can’t leave.” She replied. She became more and more agitated and finally screamed grabbing her head. Dropping to the floored, she thrashed wildly about.
I jumped on her trying to invoke the spirit to leave, but was met with a kick to the groin. Undaunted and more determined, I came back stronger commanding the spirit to leave. Maureen began to gag. The sound of vomit projecting from her mouth filled the room. My incantation became louder and in a moment it was over. The spirit had left her.
“Get off of me! Get Off of me!” She cried clutching her head. “My freakin heads killing me.”
“Does it feel like forty whacks? I exclaimed, trying to break the tension.
“Ha! Ha!” She replied.
We shut down the night vision cameras and turned the lights of the room on. Stunned by what they had just witnessed most of the crew stood motionless. Those who rushed to our aid were shocked to find that despite what they had heard there was no vomit, a strange phenomenon which could not be explained. Maureen slowly regained her strength as the rest of the guests and crew buzzed about what had transpired.
Maureen had been drained. She was weak and pale. She had had enough and decided to call it a night. Returning to the kitchen, she said her goodbyes and left for the long ride home. We continued our investigation with mixed results. The negative energy that had been in the basement was no longer there. Most of the other rooms were quiet as well. Was that because Maureen had left? Did she spark the activity? I really wasn’t sure.
Before we decided to wrap it up for the evening and with Lee-anne’s assistance we decided to try a little table tipping. She brought up a small octagonal wooden table from the basement and placed in the parlor. Lee-anne, Gavin, I, and Pippa a reporter from the BBC, all sat around the table. It didn’t take long before the table was rocking and rolling to our questions. It seemed we were in contact with Abbey again. She revealed little new information and was at times very vague, almost as if she didn’t want us to know something or was afraid to tell us.
Byron suggested a different approach, glass swirling. Getting a small drinking glass from the kitchen, we inverted it and placed it in the center of the table. Each of us placed one finger on the bottom of it and then we began to ask questions. At first we asked the spirit to point out the directions to various building in the city, which the glass “magically” pointed to. Finally we began to ask the spirit specific questions. As in the table tipping little new “evidence” was discovered.
As the night turned into day, we decided to wrap it up for the evening. We thanked Lee-anne our gracious host, packed up our cars, and headed home. Had we discovered who killed Andrew and Abbey Borden? Although Maureen thought it was Lizzie and both Gavin and she thought a male had killed Andrew, we really had no conclusive “proof”. So for those who are lovers of the paranormal, it looks like the mystery of the Borden murders and the ghosts of the house will remain there for all those brave enough to spend a night in the Infamous Lizzie Borden Murder house!
For more information on the Lizzie Borden House go to: www.lizzie-borden.com
© Ron Kolek 2012