Welcome to our first edition of SUCH SIGHTS TO SHOW YOU! Consider me your sightseeing Cenobite as we explore different travel destinations and their horror-related events and places of note. From filming locations to festivals and all stops in between, we’ll take you on a ghoulish getaway each month!
As we wrap up Women of Horror Month, we thought our first stop should take us to New England. Most ordinary travelers may think of classic sights like lighthouses, beaches, or covered bridges when New England is mentioned, but we’re more interested in the attractions that will make your skin crawl! While several notable females whose stories have helped influence the horror genre have called New England home, there’s one girl whose grisly story made headlines nationwide in 1892.
Lizzie Borden: Fall River, MA
Having grown up in Rhode Island, right next door to Massachusetts, one of the rhymes I recall hearing while jumping rope went something like this:
“Lizzie Borden took an axe
and gave her mother forty whacks.
When she saw what she had done,
she gave her father forty-one!”
Yes, it’s a bit morbid for a nursery rhyme, but it really helps illustrate how, for nearly 130 years, people have been obsessed with the Lizzie Borden case. This true-crime mystery has gone in circles with theories that range from lesser-known family members being the killer, to Lizzie herself committing the crime because of abuse from her father.
What we do know to be fact is that Abby Borden, Lizzie’s stepmother, was killed first around 10:30am. She was struck about 19 times with a hatchet and left on the floor of the bedroom she was cleaning. This took place on a bright, hot August morning with plenty of people coming and going along the street outside the house, however, witnesses claim to have heard nothing. Shortly after the first murder, a second took place around 11am. Lizzie’s father, Andrew Borden, was sleeping on the sofa in the living room when he was attacked. He took 11 blows from the same hatchet, which is believed to have been found without its handle in the basement of the Borden house. Lizzie went to trial for the murders of her parents, but was acquitted as most of the evidence against her was considered circumstantial. However, she was still ostracized by the community and to this day is seen as the prime suspect in the unsolved murder case.
Countless books, movies, and even musicals have been adapted from Borden’s trial in an effort to make sense of what occurred on August 4, 1892. In 2015, Lifetime released a fictionalized miniseries starring Christina Ricci (Sleepy Hollow) called The Lizzie Borden Chronicles. Most recently, Lizzie (2018) starring Chloë Sevigny (American Horror Story) and Kristen Stewart (Personal Shopper) tackled the history behind the case and the speculation that Borden was a lesbian. The film shows us a different take on the Lizzie Borden story. Perhaps Lizzie did kill her father and stepmother when they disapproved of her relationship? It’s known that The Bordens had a very tense family dynamic and did not always get along. When they were adults, Lizzie’s sister, Emma, even moved away from her sister and stopped communicating with Lizzie entirely. But it’s hard to know if this depiction of Borden’s sexuality is accurate or if she was thought of as being gay during a more deprecating era as an infamous, unmarried woman.
The Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast Museum
While the movie Lizzie was filmed in Savannah, GA, and The Lizzie Borden Chronicles filming location was Nova Scotia, Canada, the actual home where Borden grew up – and where the murders were committed – still stands today in New Bedford, MA. Visitors can not only get a tour, but The Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast Museum is open for overnights as well.
Described as being “just as it was” when the murders took place, the bed and breakfast site goes on to say, “The furnishings retain their rightful place, the décor has been painstakingly duplicated, and the original hardware and doors are still intact. Artifacts from the murder case are displayed while memorabilia from the era line shelves and mantel tops. A visitor is literally transported back to that morning when a perfect storm of events culminated in a double murder.”
Travelers have a choice of staying in The Lizzie and Emma Suite (adjoining bedrooms belonging to the sisters) on the second floor, The Andrew and Abby Suite (the parent’s bedroom and adjoining sewing-room-turned-bedroom), also on the second floor, or the third floor bedroom of Bridget Sullivan, the maid who resided with the Borden family. Perhaps creepiest of all is the John V. Morse Room, where Abby’s body was discovered. Morse was Lizzie and Emma’s uncle who had spent the night unexpectedly the evening before the crime took place. Abby was making up the bed after Morse had left for the day when she was brutally murdered. Visitors can steel their nerves and stay in this room, which has an adjoining bathroom with the Lizzy and Emma Suite on the second floor.
Beyond just the sinking sensation that you’ll be staying where one of the most infamous unsolved mysteries took place, paranormal aficionados have claimed to have ghostly activity happen in the house as well. Several famous paranormal investigators have set up for the night at the bed and breakfast and have suggested the home is haunted. So, you may end up bunking with a spirit or two during your stay!
Oak Grove Cemetery
Less than two miles down the street from The Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast Museum is Oak Grove Cemetery. This is the final resting place of The Borden Family. Not only are Andrew and Abby Borden buried there, but Lizzie and her sister Emma as are side by side as well. Boasting a beautiful archway as you enter, the cemetery has a marked path to lead visitors to the gravesite of The Bordens. Many people leave coins atop the headstones to show they have been visited and not forgotten, while some opt to leave small stones or pebbles.
The autopsies of Andrew and Abby were also performed on the cemetery grounds one week after their deaths, and only a few days after their funerals. Inside the cemetery gates visitors will find a building to the left, which was called The Ladies’ Comfort Station back in 1892. This building is where the autopsies took place. The skulls of Andrew and Abby were presented during the trial as evidence, causing Lizzie to faint in the court room at the time. Oak Grove Cemetery is a beautiful place to visit since its also an example of a Victorian memorial park and according to its website, other “city personalities from inventors, to artists, to politicians, actors and humanitarians” have been laid to rest within it’s gates.
So, who’s up for a road trip? Do you think you would be able to spend the night (or a whole weekend) in The Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast Museum? (Visitors can reserve a room, one floor, or the entire house if they choose!) Travel over and visit us at Twitter, Reddit, and in the Horror Movie Fiend Club Facebook group and tell us your thoughts!