After looking at TripAdvisor’s “America’s Spookiest Hotels” press release I was inspired to check out what other haunted hotels were laying around Massachusetts. Fortunately, we’re home to quite a few of them! Room 303 of the Boston Copley is haunted, the Hawthorne Hotel in Salem is haunted, and there is a haunted bed and breakfast in Pittsfield plus about 3 or 4 more along the cape. However, the only one that caught my eye was the Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast. That’s how we decided on staying there and no negative review would keep us away from experiencing a somewhat macabre and morbid experience.
The drive from Boston to Fall River is pretty boring, and Fall River itself was pretty dismal. We tried looking for things to do in Fall River during our weekend stay, but it looked like all they really had were museums, naval shipyards and a cemetery. Not quite an attractive town at all. In fact it was really depressing – narrow streets with hundred-year-old houses falling apart and not much to look at anywhere. Upon arriving we noticed the Lizzie Borden house stuck out like a sore thumb. The drab green house looked pretty ominous next to a bright yellow house and what looked to be abandoned construction across the street.
There were a handful of parking spaces behind the house including a gift shop that was then closed. Lee Ann (the manager) and Eleanor (the tour guide) greeted me and my gf at the door, after we entered Eleanor took us up to our room. I guess I didn’t do my research well enough, as I didn’t realize the ‘Lizzie Borden room’ was also attached to the ‘Emma Borden room’, which meant we got two beds for the price of one, but no bathroom. The bathroom was shared with the ‘John V. Morse room’. The only reason we ended up with the room was because of a cancellation, so be sure to make your reservations well in advance to get a room. However, if you have the option definitely book the Andrew Borden room, it has it’s own private bath.
Eleanor was very nice and told us our options on food in the area, also she let us know about the house tour and that we were welcome to sit in on the ‘entertainment’ of a séance or personal reading by a medium that stops by on the weekends. Because the tour takes the guests through each room of the house, we didn’t feel like spreading out our things all over the bed – knowing that everyone would be peeking in later.
The two rooms were decorated very nicely except for the over abundance of photos of Lizzie (who looks quite mad) staring out at you from all corners of the room. Either I was out of shape from the flight of stairs up to the room or the air was thick with ghosts – but the room had a stuffy feeling to it. I felt like I was at my grandma’s – if my grandma had never updated her house in over 80 years. There was a dress in the room on a mannequin, a blue hat that my gf kept trying on and bedpans in each room. I thought they were just nicely decorated pots – but my gf insisted they were bed pans – and then later I found out why there would be bed pans in a house that existed when bathrooms and electricity were fairly common.
After returning from our dinner, we arrived just in time for the tour. There were about 12 of us plus Eleanor sitting in one of the downstairs sitting rooms. A cheap chandelier hung above us and a small LCD TV was sitting in front of an organ. We all introduced ourselves and there was a large group of 6 that were back on the account that they had such a great time the last time they stayed. From what we learned later, they have a high return rate and some couples/groups have come back many, many, many times. I could immediately tell that the group of 6 was very interested in the paranormal and maybe the rest of us were just there for a macabre romp with historical murder mysteries. Either way, everyone was smiling with anticipation for Eleanor’s tour.
Eleanor is probably the nicest and most knowledgeable tour guide I have ever met. She dutifully weaved the story of the events of that fateful night when the murder was committed. She took us on a tour through the whole house (room to room) and detailed neat mini-stories and sewed them back into the main murder mystery. She claimed she could talk for over 5 hours on the subject, and I really believe her because I think we went over hour 1.5-hour tour – and I still had some questions to ask after the tour was over. She even told us about the eerie things that have happened to her and the others that work in the house. Ectoplasm, hands without bodies, words floating into their heads, shadows of ghosts, a dead cat calling from the grave, small ghost children hiding in the attic and blood still visible in the house’s wood floor.
I thought it was all very interesting and the group of six kept saying ghosts had manhandled them earlier that night and names were popping into their heads as if ghosts were whispering in their ears. One of them – a spiritualist minister – kept watching everything and was especially jumpy. He jumped when a woman walked behind him - he must have thought she Lizzie. He also saw a shadow when we were coming back out of the basement. One lady had a ghostly policeman grab her arm (she demonstrated this to the group by grabbing mine) and show her a ghost child hiding in the corner. Interesting.
Eleanor’s tour unfortunately consisted of wide range of speculative “information.” Most of this had come from the séance’s and was practically considered truth. I think some of the group sighed with relief now that they had finally discovered what “really” happened. The sad story is that Lizzie is being abused by her dad because she looks like her dead mother and then she goes in with her sister and uncle to hire a pig butcher to come and do the dirty deed. The pig butcher pulls up in a carriage with another man, hops out of the carriage hacks everyone up in the house, wraps up his overalls in a bunch and goes off on his way. The glaring problem with the story is the lack of historical evidence and the question of why a butcher would hack at two people so many times – you’d think a butcher would know how to kill something with one nice chop. The other problem with the story is that it was derived out of multiple séance’s of knocking once for no and twice for yes on a rickety old table!
That brings us to the séance. It was $10 per person and my gf really wanted to do it so we did. We had to split into two groups because the table we had to sit at was so small. The first group consisted of the 6 who came together, Liz the medium, and the owner’s daughter (who unfortunately turned the séance into a rated G experience). The first round went something like this with Liz dictating what Mr. Borden only told her: “Mr. Borden is swearing, he’s saying the B word, yes the B word.” Sometimes the table would produce a creek and the medium would clarify “That was two knocks, he means yes, he’s mad at Eleanor” then the table would rock around and point at Eleanor who walked into the room during the séance. I was pretty restless and I accidentally knocked my foot against the couch I was sitting on. This produced a loud noise, which was immediately interpreted at the dead trying to invade the room. I had to explain twice that loud noises were coming from me and not the dead.
When it was our turn to come to the table the medium wanted to see if we could coerce Mr. Borden to levitate the table, so we wall put two fingers under the table and – guess what – the table “levitated.” The ironic thing is it could only levitate when we all were touching the table. So if there are 7 people with four fingers each holding up the table, it would be pretty light to hold the table up in the air – and indeed it was. Unfortunately – the table couldn’t do anything on it’s own, and the ghosts couldn’t move anything else in the room, produce sound anywhere else in the room, or really do anything but speak into the medium’s head. The table also moved around in circles a great deal, mostly because Mr. Borden was mad at someone or something or he was agitated or he thought people in the room were stealing his money. For being dead, Mr. Borden must not have been that bright when he was alive.
So now the time is well past midnight and I am pretty exhausted (contrary to popular belief pushing a table back and forth for an hour wasn’t the reason some of us was tired). My gf and I go up to our room and find the room is void of any ghosts floating around and also void of a comfortable bed. The only looming presence in the room (I guess besides the portraits of Lizzie) is the fact we have to get up before 8am to eat breakfast! Not only do the dead get no sleep in the house, the living don’t get any either!! Fortunately, we were promised a great meal of Johnnie cakes, eggs, and other breakfast type things. The Johnny cakes (corn bread pancakes) were served the morning of the murder and the morning we stayed there (a ghostly coincidence? You decide!) – they were actually really tasty with some syrup and butter.
After cleaning up a bit we went to the sitting room where Lee Ann was and we talked about the house, the “entertainment”, the décor, and the Lizzie Borden movie. Lee Ann popped in the movie as my gf and I had never heard of it – or seen it before. Please, don’t ever watch that movie. It was terrible. We stopped watching it, got our stuff and headed out.
We paid for our stay in the nifty little gift shop and picked up a map that detailed the house where Lizzie moved to after she violently hacked up her parents with a hatchet (in a violent rage – later showing no remorse for it). We drove by the cemetery and noticed that everyone who had stayed at the house had congregated around the tombstones - probably giving them blessings (but I doubt they were thanking them for a good night sleep).
Overall I think the stay was very interesting – but was not good for a relaxing or luxurious night stay. The house has a lot of entertainment value, but I think that’s as far as its charm goes. The living were definitely just as entertaining as the dead, so hopefully if you go you’ll be surrounded by a group as interesting as the group that was there when we stayed. Oh – and the walls are very thin – you can hear every room all the time. Don’t steal my idea, but try whispering into the vents and see what the table talk the next morning is. =)
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.