Posts Tagged ‘unsolved mysteries’

The Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast (and my new profile pic on Facebook).

So I decided to go a little out of order with recounting my recent trip to Boston. Why? Because this was probably the highlight of my trip, because extraordinary things happened to me while I was at this location, and because, like a freshly-cooked meal at a restaurant, this is just too hot to leave lying around. So, without further ado, I’m going to recount my recent trip to the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast, complete with photos and videos.

So if you’re unfamiliar with the house and its namesake, Lizzie Borden was a woman who in 1892 was accused and tried for the horrific axe murders of her stepmother Abby Borden and her father Andrew Borden. Plenty of things made Lizzie a good suspect: there were numerous inconsistencies in her statements to the authorities, she had an odd demeanor even before the murders, and the timeline of the murders as well as her proximity to them while claiming not to have heard anything. However, the authorities made some major mistakes during the investigation and trial, which lead to Lizzie being found not guilty. To this day, the case remains unsolved and there are a number of theories as to who killed the Bordens and how (Lizzie is still a popular figure for the acts). The house where the murders occurred has since become a bed & breakfast noted for paranormal activity.

Does it not surprise you that I wanted to stay there? It’s even on one of my lists for haunted places I want to visit! And when my dad and I decided to go out to Massachusetts for our vacation, I knew I had to go here. Somehow I managed to convince him to try the house out, and before I knew it, we’d made reservations.

Lizzie Borden’s room, where I slept in the house.

Emma Borden’s room, where my dad slept.

On July 6th, we left Boston in a rental car to head about an hour south to Fall River, a former textile town on the Massachusetts coast. We got in a little after four, and checked in at the B&B, this old three-story house with brown paint and a parking lot and barn used for business and souvenirs in the back (I bought a couple of souvenirs, believe me). We then dropped our stuff of in our room (I stayed in Lizzie’s bedroom, while my dad was in the adjoining room that belonged to Lizzie’s older sister Emma), and took a little time to explore the house before too many guests arrived. One of the tour guides, Rick, told us where to find Lizzie’s home after the trial and where she was buried in the cemetery, so my dad and I decided to go find those. The house, Maplecroft, is now a private residence, so we couldn’t go very close, but the cemetery was open to the public, so we were able to get up close and personal with the grave (only I would enjoy that!).

Maplecroft, Lizzie Borden’s home post-trial.

Lizzie Borden’s grave. People left some very interesting tributes to her.

After dinner, we returned to the house, where other guests were checking in and getting ready for the evening tour. It was at this point that I noticed the house kept its own set of dowsing rods. And I had to try them.

Which led to the video below:

I may need to get my own set of dowsing rods for future explorations of haunted locations. They’re very good at picking up responses from the dead. And as for what my later paranormal experience was, I’ll get into that in a minute.

Anyway, the last of the guests checked in, and we had a pretty diverse group, with folks from as far away as Canada and California joining us. Our tour guide Rick did a great job of taking us through the house, reconstructing the lives of the Bordens, the murders and the subsequent trial, and the hauntings (this last one he backed up with testimonials and even some really creepy photography of shadow beings and weird faces in windows).

During this tour, my dad actually left once or twice because he suddenly had to use the bathroom. The only reason I’m bringing this up now is because Rick mentioned to us that prior to the murders, many of the Bordens were dealing with vomiting and stomach issues, possibly because their food was bad or because Lizzie was poisoning her family (there’s evidence for both). Were the ghosts, despite our requests, affecting my dad? He did mention feeling a cold presence at one point during the tour, right as Rick mentioned a cold presence.

Or it was just something he ate with dinner affecting him. But I hope, for my own reasons, that’s it the former.

Also, during the tour, Rick pointed out a very weird feature of the basement: if you look at the below photo, you’ll notice what looks like a face in the brickwork in this small section. That face is supposed to look like Andrew Borden, Lizzie Borden’s father, leaving his presence on his home. Weirder still, there seems to be another face within the face in my photo, though what that is nobody knows. Actually, nobody knows what that bigger face is supposed to be, but the second face is even weirder.

Do you see the faces?

After the tour, some of us stuck around on the first floor to snack on cookies, talk, and even try recording sessions. I went to bed around 11:30, and dozed off pretty quickly. And that’s where my other paranormal experience occurred:

I woke up in the middle of the night, and it felt really cold, like someone was blasting an air conditioner right in front of my face. And I heard a woman’s voice shout, “Go to sleep and DIE!!!” And I just knew it was Lizzie, though it would be another minute before I realized that she was probably angry for asking about her hand in the murders earlier. And I simply said to her, “I wish you peace, Lizzie.” I hear a scream, and the cold air is gone, and I know Lizzie is too. Later I would remember seeing a blue room for a short second, which I think may have been Lizzie’s room as it looked back then (remember, the house has been restored to look like it did in the 19th century, but there’s no way to know if it was exact down to the paint and wallpaper). And then I’m back in the room, and I’m alone again.

I realize that it was possibly just a very vivid dream, but there’s still a possibility that Lizzie was trying to communicate with me in a dream. And it wasn’t sleep paralysis, because I’ve experienced sleep paralysis, and this was very different. In any case, I’ll take my paranormal experiences where I can get them.

Me imitating Andrew Borden as he was found in 1892. I couldn’t resist.

I should also mention that during the night, my digital recorder ran out of battery. Most likely it wasn’t properly charged before I went to bed, though it’s also possible the spirits drained the battery to use its energy. Either way, I don’t know how much was recorded that night. When I have a chance to investigate, I’ll find out.

To wrap up, the next morning my dad and I had breakfast, and we talked with the other guests about our experiences last night (people were really impressed with mine). Then my dad and I packed up, checked out, and left, my dad saying the whole time how creeped out he’d been staying in that house. I just exalted in the fact that I got to stay in the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast, and got to bring back so many great memories as well.

So yeah, I highly recommend going to the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast if you get the chance. Even if you can’t or won’t stay overnight, doing a day tour is pretty awesome and edifying. And who knows? Like me, you may get a paranormal encounter that’ll stay with you for years to come.

That’s all for now, Followers of Fear. I’m going to try to get out the last couple posts about my trip in the next few days, so hold tight. Until next time, pleasant nightmares!

If you live in the English-speaking world and you pay any attention to scary stories, serial killers, or England, you’ve probably heard of Jack the Ripper, whose legend has become so great that sometimes it’s hard to tell what’s fact and what is fiction (and it blends more often than you think). If for some reason you’ve been living under a rock, here’s a quick overview of Jack the Ripper (even if you’re familiar with the Ripper legends, you might want to read this for a little refresher):

Jack the Ripper was the name given to a supposed killer who operated in the impoverished neighborhoods of Whitechapel and the surrounding areas in 1888 London. It is believed he killed and severely mutilated the abdomens of five women, all prostitutes, as well as possibly killing several more women. The killer gained his now-famous name when a letter, now called the “Dear Boss” letter, was sent to the Central News Agency of London, signed “Jack the Ripper” (whether the actual killer sent this letter and others is up for debate). The press  sensationalized the murders and anything even remotely linked to hte murders, and hundreds of people sent in letters claiming to be the killer (some people are really hungry for fame and attention). However, Jack the Ripper was never caught, and his identity has become one of the greatest mysteries of our modern era.

Almost immediately after the murders, Jack the Ripper became a household name and legend, appearing in numerous works of fiction over the years and becoming a sort of boogeyman for the masses. For numerous years, anything having to do with the Ripper would terrify Londoners and call out the police to investigate. And even today, authors (and more than one or two killers) have been inspired by the Ripper murders. In fact, it seems that at least one book a year is released offering a new story or fresh insight into the identity of Jack. People who dedicate themselves to trying to solve the Ripper mystery are known colloquially as Ripperologists.

One such Ripperologist, businessman and “armchair historian” Russell Edwards, claims in his book Naming Jack the Ripper to have finally figured out the killer’s identity through…DNA evidence?

Mr. Edwards book, claiming to have “definitively” identified the Ripper through DNA evidence

Apparently Edwards owns a piece of evidence from the original murders: the bloodstained shawl of Catherine Eddowes, one of the “canonical” Ripper victims, which he bought at auction a couple of years ago. According to his book, he was able to extract usable DNA from the shawl and have it analyzed by a professor in molecular biology at Liverpool John Mores University. Said professor managed to extract not just blood, but semen from the shawl and isolate DNA from his samples. The blood was eventually matched to Eddowes through a descendant of hers, while the semen was matched to Aaron Kosminski, a man suspected at the time of possibly being the Ripper, through one of his direct descendants.

On the surface, this could be credible. Kosminski, a married Plish Jew who emigrated to London with his family to escape the pogroms in Tsarist Russia. He lived in the area where the murders took place, and he was committed to Colney Hatch Lunatic Asylum in 1891 for paranoid schizophrenia, later transferring to another asylum where he died in 1899. However, there is good reason to suspect he might not have been the killer.

Aaron Kosminski, one of the main suspects of the Jack the Ripper murders.

Setting aside how amazing it is to get any workable DNA off a 130-year-old shawl and that the DNA results still haven’t been peer-reviewed by any scientific journal, Catherine Eddowes was a prostitute, so it wouldn’t have been unusual for her to have some semen on her, especially if it was from a man who happened to live in the neighborhood she worked in. And there’s also no evidence to suggest that Kominski killed her or anyone else. We lack a working timeline or any forensic evidence to possibly implicate Kominski or anyone else.  And Kominski himself, although mentally disturbed, was mostly harmless: except for two incidents while incarcerated in the asylums he lived in, Kosminski was mostly harmless. Indeed, some believe he may have been confused for Nathan Kaminsky, also known as David Cohen, another Polish Jew who was himself sent to Colney Hatch in 1888 a month after the last Ripper victim and was said to be violent and antisocial during his short stay in the asylum (he died in 1889).

The truth is, while this DNA evidence may tell us that Kosminski availed himself of Eddowes’ services prior to her death (as did  probably several other men who could all possibly be the killer), we are no closer to identifying Jack the Ripper than we were 130 years ago. Such is the case with famous serial killers who, due to time or design, have left little or no evidence behind of their murders. And that’s even if there is a killer to begin with (some have argued that some of the “canonical” Ripper victims may have actually been the work of other killers, and that maybe only three of the murders, if any, are related).

But you know what? Maybe that’s okay. A good chunk of the appeal from Jack the Ripper is that he’s unknown, that he could be a polish Jew, a surgeon, or even a member of the Royal House. And that means that there’s room for many more generations of Ripperologists and fans to come up with their own theories and stories about who Jack the Ripper is, why he killed, whom he killed at all, and where he ended up. And maybe someday someone will truly, beyond the shadow of a doubt, solve the identity of the Ripper.

Until that day, he’ll stay among the many famous serial killers whose identities are unknown, such as the Zodiac Killer, the Alphabet murderer, the killer of the Black Dahlia, the Servant Girl Murderer, the Axeman of New Orleans–God, how messed up is it that I know all this?

[Thanks to the Huffington Post for most of the information for this article as well as quick references on Wikipedia.]