The Haunted Lizzie Borden House: True Ghost Stories
Written and submitted by Lisa Mannetti
Haunted There. Followed Home.
Listen to the audio narrated by David Walton from EPISODE 38: HAUNTED NEUROTIC
By my fourth visit to the house in 2004, I was desperate to get into the cellar, which is not shown during daytime tours. I felt certain that because that dark stony retreat was the scene of Lizzie’s late-night(and secretive)hiding of bloody, birds-eye linen sanitary napkins used at that time and soaked in wash tubs before laundering, along with the broken-off axe head that had “someone” rolled in ashes to imitate the other dusty hatchets stashed in a box concealed just beneath the ceiling joists; the century-old psychic residue of her anxiety and guilt would result in plenty of paranormal manifestations. So, I shanghaied a dozen or so horror writers who attended Necon that year to rent the house, stay overnight—and thereby give us access to that creepy basement.
And sure enough, while everyone was down there, as if on cue, the lights flickered and hissed while the guide showed us the places where blood was detected a century later using that forensic darling, luminol.
All of us felt ill-at-ease. The more intuitive saw darting black human shadows, saw the front door swing open, felt cold spots, reported seeing and feeling the oily brushing by of a cat in that narrow house where no cats lived at that time.
The photographs taken that Sunday night show eerie mist; a woman’s face staring at the birthday cake we brought along for Lizzie’s big day; red blood drops on the mantel in the sitting room where Andrew was murdered; a very eerie white ectoplasm in the shape of a skull that actually formed on the sofa and, oddest of all, seemed to have a hash mark cleaving it exactly like the axe wound that decimated Borden’s head, face and eye.
A short while later, we discovered that a dress-maker’s dummy (wearing one of Lizzie’s outfits) had moved across the floor in the room that had been Emma Borden’s at the time of the murders. The girl who was supposed to stay there was so nervous, another writer wheeled the mannequin out into the very small hallway, pushed it into a corner declaring, “Now you stay there!”
Except it didn’t. Sometime around 4a.m., three of us heard it creaking on its metal wheels, slowly turning, and creeping toward Lizzie’s bedroom where we were vainly trying to sleep. No one had the nerve to get up and check, but when we opened the door at daylight, the dressmaker’s dummy was now in the middle of the landing and turned to face the room we’d slept in.
As the guide had explained, things often go missing in the Borden’s old home. What she didn’t mention was that sometimes those “things” attached themselves to those who visit the house.
The first time it happened to me, horror writer/psychic Sephera Giron and I had decided to hold a séance using four postage-stamp-sized bits of brick from the cellar. Our intent was to place them on each of the four corners of the antique Ouija board that’s in the sitting room.
However, just before we were planning to start the séance, we’d sat on opposite sides of the murder room drawing Tarot cards, each of us using her own deck as one of the group members asked a question. According to the others, we were actually drawing the same cards at the same time in response—and it happened over and over. With 78 cards in a standard Tarot deck, the odds of mere coincidence staggered us both—we not only decided the séance was a no-go, we decided we were too goddamn scared to put the tiny pieces of brick back in the cellar.
So, I placed them in a line neatly on a book case close to where the Ouija board resides.
Now, you need to understand, I’m a smoker; translate that to mean that whither I go, so does my handbag to carry around my cigarettes. That leather-sidekick never left my shoulder—or my side—the entire evening. You can therefore imagine my shock when I returned home and discovered one of those tiny pieces of brick wedged at the bottom of the zippered section inside my purse. And further, when I sat down to work at my computer in my second floor office I heard someone shouting “Lisa, Lisa!” I thought it was a neighbor. “Be right down,” I called back. But there was no one at the front or back door, no one in the driveway or on the lawn. No one. In the meantime, the nubbin of brick had taken on a very nasty, warmish feel. I actually felt oppressed until I put it outside in the back garden furthest from the house.
Others have also been followed by spirits or entities, and on one of our most recent visits, I was in my office chatting on Messenger with Beth Blue and Corrine De Winter—two other Lizzie Borden habitués and writers—and comparing our photos for anomalies when suddenly a book about death flew off my shelf and landed across the room. Corrine had given it to me as a gift, its title: FINAL EXITS. I never expected to receive it a second time as a different kind of “gift” from Lizzie. I had to smudge and cleanse the house with sage after that little dust-up.
Some things, like the location of the gift shop built where the Borden carriage house used to stand, have changed over the years: The now-dark-green front door of the house on Second Street is wide and imposing. But it will still not stay closed. Unless a human hand fastens the brass lock, it swings open; a spirit is the house’s true keeper, inviting some of us in…following some of us home.
Listen to the episode: