Sunday, October 26, 2008

Lizzie Borden took an ax and gave her mother 40 whacks. And when she saw what she had done, she gave her father 41. . . .

Karen Zorn and her boyfriend fled their cozy bed-and-breakfast earlier this year. It wasn't that the place was dirty or the neighbors noisy. Zorn says they grabbed their bags and left for a nearby motel after discovering that, apparently, some of the other guests were ghosts.

The couple had just finished checking in to the B&B in Fall River, Mass., when things started to go awry. "We went up to the room and it was freezing cold. It was the coldest room in the house by far. And that kind of spooked us out," she recalls.

Tales of goblins haunting old houses are nothing new. But the former residents of the home in which Zorn and her boyfriend briefly stayed have more reason than most to be agitated: It's where the 32-year-old Lizzie Borden allegedly hacked her mother and father to death in the late 19th century. The tale of the grisly slayings remains vivid, thanks in part to the macabre rhyme that children still recite:

Lizzie Borden took an ax and gave her mother 40 whacks. And when she saw what she had done, she gave her father 41. . . .

The rhyme may be good for skipping rope, but it's not accurate. The historically correct version of events is shared with visitors to the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast, a rambling, eight-bedroom manse that doubles as a museum during the daytime, before overnight guests arrive. When it was built in 1845, it was one of the finest homes in Fall River, a then-thriving community known for its textile mills.

During tours, visitors learn that Andrew Borden, a wealthy banker, was struck 10 times. His wife, Sarah, suffered 18 blows. They weren't delivered by an ax, either; the police thought a broken hatchet found in the basement was the murder weapon. Although Lizzie's name is infamous as a result of the shocking murders, a jury found her innocent.

"As the night wore on, other weird things started happening," Zorn explains. "At one point, my boyfriend went into the room and he claimed there was a lamp in there rocking back and forth that had turned itself on."

There was more to come.

"We were sitting in bed talking about the creepy things that had happened. And I said, 'What do you say if anything else really freaky happens we just get up and leave?' And he said, 'OK.' And just as we said that, the bedroom door swung open.

"We began to scream," she continues. "Everybody in the house could hear us." Within minutes, the couple was headed to a nearby Best Western.

Zorn and her boyfriend weren't the first people to leave prematurely, and they probably won't be the last, given the home's reported paranormal activity.

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