40 Whacks Later: Lizzie Borden in the House

Lizzie Borden exhibit. Photo courtesy of Massachusetts Office Of Travel & Tourism on Flickr.

On August 4, 1892, over 130 years ago, a double murder took place in Fall River, MA. Andrew & Abby Borden were brutally killed in their home, struck with an axe or hatchet multiple times, although not the amount that they say in the nursery rhyme that came of it. Now, it’s said that their ghosts haunt the home where they lost their lives. In fact, it frequently makes lists as one of the most haunted places in the US. That makes it a great place to have a bed & breakfast!

  The Lizzie Borden House is named for the younger of Andrew’s daughters, one many thought was guilty of the crime. The year following the murders, there was a sensational trial, which resulted in a full acquittal for the young Ms. Borden. News of the crime & subsequent trial reached all over the country and as far as London, England, which had just finished dealing with the Jack the Ripper murders a few years beforehand. After her acquittal, Lizzie & her older sister Emma would move out of the house, and it would change hands quite a few times over the years. 

In 1996, the home was converted to a bed & breakfast, as well as a museum chronicling the story. In 2021, it was purchased by US Ghost Adventures, a national company dedicated to tours & investigations of the supernatural. Lizzie Borden House General Manager Jared Robinson, a Fall River native, has history with the house, from childhood. “My aunt used to manage the house, & my grandmother used to work here, & my cousin was here,” he said, so he’d been there at times, but he didn’t start working there until June 2021; USGA would make the purchase shortly afterwards. There are still some people working there from previous owners, as well as fresh faces. 

“Ultimately, I think the best way to experience the house is to spend the night,” explains Robinson, “Just because you get fully submersed into the experience.” He understands, though, that not everyone is into being spooked; for those people, he recommends the tours given daily. House tours start at 10am and run until 5pm. During a tour, guides give a lot of information about the crime & the people involved, so it works for the history buffs and fans of true crime mysteries & other stories, as well as those who want to get chills running down their spines. USGA also offers walking tours of downtown Fall River, beginning & ending at the Borden House. These are a blend of the historical & the supernatural. People can also take part in ghost hunts in the house, with equipment provided by the company. “We have plenty of guests that book all three tours & stay overnight as well,” says Robinson. 

We’re right in the middle of their busy season, late September to the first half of November, so getting rooms would be difficult; it’s recommended to book months in advance. Tours fill up quickly, too, so it’s good to go online & book one in advance, rather than showing up at the door. In early August, they also get a surge, due to the anniversary of the murders. On this year’s anniversary, they did a fun poll using stickers marked either guilty or not guilty; tour guests would choose a sticker either before or after their tours, and the staff kept count. The vast majority think that Lizzie was at least in some way responsible for the murders, whether it be in the planning, the coverup, or the actual killing. Even Robinson said, “I find it hard to believe she had nothing to do with it.” 

In 1997, Stanford University held a mock trial for Lizzie Borden. The results were the same: not guilty. Robinson thinks, though, that there may be a difference between not guilty & innocent. Unfortunately, they didn’t even have the ability to get fingerprints, never mind DNA. Most physical evidence was destroyed over time, except for the handle-less hatchet police found in the basement, which is on display at the Fall River Historical Society. All witnesses have passed on long ago. In short, there’s no way to renew investigations & discover the truth. “I don’t think we’ll ever know. I hope we never know,” states Robinson. There’s something to be said for the mystery of it all.

Lizzie Borden House Bed & Breakfast and Museum
230 Second Street, Fall River, MA.

Author and poet Jaybird Walker is also a tour guide at the Lizzie Borden House.