I could not have guessed, before spending the night inside the infamous murder house of Fall River, Massachusetts, that I'd come to know more about the people that lived and died in it, than I ever imagined. The Bordens, it seems - daughters Lizzie and Emma, father Andrew and stepmother Abigail - weren't a very happy family.
This past May, Ryan and I spent the night in the Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast; any dark tourist's irrefutable crown of murder houses. We had perfectly splendid spring weather, a clear night, and good company. The home is set up for rentals by room, floor, or the whole house. As excellent as it could be to have the entire place to oneself, it's a costly affair to rent an entire living house museum, so we rented the John Morse room on the second floor. This is also the room in which Abby Borden met her end.
The entire home is decorated with the kind of antique furnishings found in stores that cater to high-spending clients. Full, solid wood and marble-topped dressers, dressing tables and sideboards. Rich patterned wallpaper, hand painted oil lamps updated with electric wiring - the entire affair is on-point as far as recreating the home's interior circa 1892. There's even nearly exact replicas of the original Borden furniture in the locations of the murders of Abby and Andrew. It's stunning how much detail has been attended to, in order to give the home an acute feeling of existing more than a century before, while in the present moment. Upon entering, guests are swept up into Victorian Massachusetts within in a few steps.
Accompanying that ambiance of the Gilded Age is a more difficult feeling to articulate. It's similar to the feeling of being watched, but more like having someone just out of sight or one room away - standing silently and waiting intently for you to move or make noise before following you onward through the doorways and connected corridors. There aren't too many photos of the Borden family with their eyes facing toward the camera, so they're not following you from their former visages in more than 2 rooms, perhaps. Yet still, something seems to stare outward from all four walls and the ceiling at once, wherever one is standing. I don't know how else to describe it precisely, but it's more of an intelligence and awareness from the space itself than can be attributed to an individual person.
It could just be that homes decorated in period pieces feel strange and otherworldly to me. It could be I'm not psychic enough to pick up on any more detail than that watchful feeling, or subconsciously don't want to, out of an unrealized fear. The house just feels not right. Unsettled, but aware.
The pertinent criminal information comes down to an August morning in 1892 when Abby Borden was killed in the front guest room on the second floor, and Andrew Borden having been killed on a settee as he napped in a first floor parlor. Both scenes were gruesome, as a hatchet was deemed the most likely murder weapon. After a three hour tour of new information on the case and its aftermath, I'm fairly convinced the members of the family who survived that grisly day were behind the demise of the Borden couple. There has always been much motivation in money, it's as timeless as it is reprehensible. And it's not the first time it's driven family members to kill each other. I watch a lot of true crime, and this scenario has taken place absurdly often throughout time and within so many unfortunate families.
That said, the Lizzie Borden murder house is an interesting place to sleep. A friend who'd stayed previously mentioned it's like sleeping in a museum, and I'd say they're spot on with that surmising. With the way it's laid out, not every room has its own bathroom, and two bedrooms adjoin larger ones. As stated, we slept in the John Morse Room, named for the uncle of Lizzie and Emma who was in town just in time for the murders. Between his leaky alibi and previous work as a butcher, he may likely be the last person Abby saw alive in that very room before she fell between the bed and dressing table.
Our night was not spent alone though, we shared the building with several other couples, most of whom went right to sleep. Lacking access to the third floor didn't deter Ryan and I from investigating, though. We made friends with the guests who stayed up, and enjoyed moving around the different rooms in the lower levels of the 1800's home to try and communicate with the Other. We couldn't claim to pinpoint an exact personality from the infamous Borden family as having "come through" or communicated with us definitively, but some of our open-air spirit box sessions in the basement and an Estes Method at the site of Abby's murder, yielded responses worth contemplating.
I'd hoped to go into an Estes Method session differently in this house, and I'd planned to do so in the exact murder location when we were booking this particular room. I like this method for investigation because of it's removal of confirmation bias by both or more parties involved. Separating by senses the questioner from the receiver, allows for a possibly more accurate interpretation of what comes through the spirit box. As the early morning hours dawned, we were back up in our bedroom, ready to put this method to the test where Abby fell. I went in as usual with blindfold, noise-cancelling headphones and the PSB-7 spirit box, an older model that sweeps into the FM frequencies of 76 mHz to 87 mHz, but I also went in with conscious, mindful effort on my part.
Being someone who rarely ever reaches out psychically on an investigation, this time, I took a few deep breaths and psychologically tried to sink myself into the space on the day of the murders, or at least within my mind's conceptualization of that day. I thought of Abby Borden, turning to face her attacker and her realization and terror. I thought about Lizzie, and imagined every image of her I'd seen, and what it would take to make her so miserable and enraged over time that she'd plan the murder of her own parents. While listening to the spirit box, I heard and repeated several words of note, one being "Borden" and one being "Abigail". What I didn't realize until after the headphones were off is how many more conversational responses I'd spoken aloud to Ryan as he attempted to speak with the potential Other around us.
Upon ending that session with trepidation over what we'd encountered, we slept soundly and undisturbed in the same space. Morning came quickly, and thankfully so did a complete breakfast served with coffee in each room as per pandemic safety requirements. Breakfast in a murder house bed is a unique and thought-provoking experience. In a home like the Lizzie Borden House Bed and Breakfast, it may be met with a variety of emotions, and culminate in a variety of paranormal experiences. We can never say for certain if our actions or intent had an effect on the paranormal activity we may have witnessed. That is the never ending uncertainty and curiosity that motivates us to keep searching out the strange and unusual around us, whether in a massive haunted building, or a small, unassuming Victorian home containing the echoes of an unsolved double murder.
Thanks for reading,