Maplecroft: Lizzie Borden's Possibly Haunted Home Sept 21, 2020 21:19:09 GMT -5
Post by Graveyardbride on Sept 21, 2020 21:19:09 GMT -5
Lizzie Borden House for Sale ... and it May Be Haunted
The $890,000 price tag may seem steep for the 1887 Folk Victorian in the city whose claim to fame is an infamous murder case. But this is no ordinary house: it’s in great condition, stands on a .41-acre lot, comes fully-furnished ... and it’s the former home of none other than Lizzie Borden herself. No, it’s not the house where she allegedly “took an axe and gave her mother 40 whacks” – the murder house – The Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast, is a mile south at 230 2nd Street. This is Maplecroft, the house on “the Hill” that Lizzie and her sister Emma purchased following the violent hacking deaths of their father and stepmother.
In the June 5, 1984, issue of The Boston Daily Advertiser, a reporter described Lizzie and Emma’s new abode as follows:
“... Upon the summit of one of the loftiest of these hills is the present home of the Bordens. It is situated on French Street, four houses from the electric car tracks on Winter Street, and in an excellent neighborhood. About them are the dwellings of well-to-do people. They are not the lordly mansions of the wealthy, but people who are evidently of the upper middle class. The house is built in the modern style and shingled upon the outside. The lower story is painted a dull bronze green and the upper story a buff color. The main entrance is at the corner, and the porch is extended upward, and is finished in a little peak above the roof. The peak is completed by an ornamental weather vane. The house is surrounded by a small, green lawn, very carefully kept, and ornamented with a few flowering shrubs. Ivies clamber up here and there, and nearly conceal the posts which support the small piazza ....”
According to the listing, the old dwelling, located in Fall River’s historic Highlands District, consists of almost 4,000 square feet of living space, with 7 bedrooms, 3½ baths, 6 fireplaces, stained glass, exquisite mantles, parquet floors, walnut wainscoting and a tin ceiling in the kitchen. And although it isn’t mentioned, the buyer may acquire a ghost or two in the bargain.
The fact the current owners, Donald Woods and Lee-ann Wilber, who own the Lizzie Borden B&B, are now selling the property they paid $600,000 for just two years ago, may be a red flag for some prospective buyers. However, the pair intended to turn Maplecroft into a second B&B in honor of Fall River’s most famous (or infamous) citizen, but abandoned their plans because of the coronavirus pandemic and instead placed the home on the market.
Suzanne St. John, listing agent and tour guide, emphasized that owning such a historic property comes with a degree of responsibility. “I would hope that [the new owners] would respect the historical aspect of it and want to keep the integrity of the history of that house,” she said. “It’s still always going to be Maplecroft: it says that right across the front steps in the granite. It’s always going to have people driving by. It’s always going to have people walking by and wondering and whispering about Lizzie Borden.”
Lizzie and Emma lived together in the French Street home until 1905 when Emma abruptly moved out because of a situation she could not tolerate – what that situation was, she never revealed. Some Lizzie Borden scholars believe Emma disapproved of the theater people – including actress Nance O’Neil – with whom Lizzie was associating. (It is rumored she and O’Neil were lesbian lovers.) Others speculate the split between the sisters had something to do with the murders, perhaps some secret Lizzie revealed to her older sister. Whatever the cause of their rift, Emma purchased a house in Newmarket, New Hampshire, where she lived a reclusive life until her death.
Following Emma’s departure, Lizzie lived alone in the huge edifice at 306 French Street where she continued to spend money like it was going out of style and associate with colorful theater types. In 1926, she developed gallbladder problems and entered the hospital under an assumed name. Her gallbladder was removed, but she never fully recovered. In May 1927, the 66-year-old Lizzie developed pneumonia and died at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 1. Upon her death, Vida Turner, a local soprano, was escorted to Maplecroft, where she sang “My Ain’ Country,” after which she was given a check for her services and instructed to tell no one what had transpired. (“At Hame in My Ain Countrie” is carved into one of Maplecroft’s mantles.) Although Lizzie had been a devout Congregationalist, following the murders, she was snubbed by the congregants, and when she died, the local Episcopal priest officiated at her funeral.
On the night Lizzie died, 110 miles north in Newmarket, Emma Borden, who was suffering from chronic nephritis (inflammation of the kidneys) and said to be senile by this point, heard an odd noise downstairs, reportedly the first she’d heard during the many years she’d lived in the home. Believing someone had broken into the house, she got out of bed and was making her way down the back stairway – which she added when she purchased the property – when she fell and broke her hip. Nine days later, on June 10, she joined her sister in death. Who, or what, caused the noise on the night of her sister Lizzie’s death remains a mystery.
Although separated for the final 22 years of their lives, the sisters now lie side-by-side in the Borden family plot in Oak Grove Cemetery and whatever secrets they may have known concerning the 1892 murders, they took with them to their graves.
When the sisters’ estates were probated, frugal Emma’s net worth at death amounted to approximately $450,000 (in excess of $6,700,000 in today’s currency) in comparison to spendthrift Lizzie’s $250,000 ($3,700,000).
Is Maplecroft haunted? The home has been featured on various ghost-hunting shows and numerous paranormal investigators and psychics have visited the house. According to St. John, various mediums claim to have detected spirits. “It seems like it’s Lizzie, and possibly Emma, and somebody that keeps coming through as saying that he’s Lizzie’s boyfriend,” she said.
When asked about Maplecroft’s ghosts, Mike Dube, son of longtime owner Robert Dube, commented as follows:
“Well, I can tell you that I have never been afraid of ghosts. My grandmother on my mom’s side was always freaked out by the history of the house, but I have always felt nothing but complete comfort there. But I have had one lifelong friend swear she saw a ghost entering from the back stairway into my room. She would have no reason to lie. But who knows?
“I did have a dream soon after we moved into the house. I was lying in a bed in my room, but the room had different furniture in different positions. There was a woman sitting by the window looking out. The woman was Lizzie. The weird thing was that I was six and had never seen a picture of her until two weeks later. I swear that I am not making this up.”
A guest who stayed at Maplecroft during the time Robert Dube was operating the house as a B&B claimed that when she got up in the middle of the night to use the facilities, for a fleeting moment, she saw the apparition of a small woman in what appeared to be Victorian attire on the stairway.
Another sighting was reported by a local beautician who identified herself as “JP.” Early one evening, she was walking home from a friend’s apartment and as she was passing the old Borden house, she “felt” someone staring at her. “I looked up and there was someone in the front second story window,” she recalled. “I didn’t think anybody was living there and so I walked around the house and there wasn’t a single light on anywhere. Then I got a really creepy feeling that somebody was watching me, but I was afraid to look up at the windows again and I literally ran almost all the way home.”
To Lizzie, Maplecroft represented peace and quiet, a sanctuary where she could shut out the whispers and vicious gossip of an unkind world. She took her last breath in the dwelling and it’s where her spirit escaped this mortal coil. Many believe ghosts haunt the locations they were happiest in life and if true, there’s a good possibility the shade of Lizzie Borden is still in residence at the old house on the Hill.
See additional photos here.
Sources: Cortney Moore, Fox News, September 19, 2020; Tiffani Sherman, Realtor.com, September 9, 2020; The Fall River Tragedy: A History of the Borden Murders by Edwin H. Porter; A Private Disgrace by Victoria Lincoln; The Fall River Historical Society; The Boston Daily Advertiser, June 5, 1894; Trulia; and various Lizzie Borden websites.