The Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast Museum – www.lizzie-borden.com – in Fall River, Ma. has been operating as Fall River’s most renowned tourist attraction for over 16 years. On its opening day, August 4, 1996, there even was a wedding held there for two overnight guests.
I was well acquainted with the original staff and co-owner, Martha McGinn, grand-daughter of John McGinn who graciously allowed me inside his private home in 1978 for a two hour private tour. It was he who introduced me to Martha.
One of the very first news broadcasts about this house at 92 Second Street (actually 230) is what follows and it is, IMHO, the most accurate of all the short video offerings on YouTube. I like this because it features the original staff of the B&B and some of my long time friends:
In those early years, overnight guests would sit up all night discussing the case and comparing scenarios of who-dunnit and how-dunnit. We would discuss all the books we had read, our theories on why she did or did not do it. We would express how eager we were for more photos of her and fresh information that would eventually surface from dusty trunks and boxes hidden away in attics and basements.
In the past two decades, interest in the paranormal, and explosion of “Boo! Gotcha!” and “Is Anybody There?” reality shows, 92 Second has morphed into a Haunted House, and the accused though acquitted Lizzie Borden, into a maniacal, axe-wielding psychopath. These days guests sit up excitedly hoping for something to go bump in the night or, at the very least, an unidentified whisper followed by a cool chill up the spine. I don’t believe this house is haunted per se. I do think it’s “active”. I don’t think it’s creepy or scary. I think it is fascinating and comfortable and as a B&B, the best bang for your buck. It was in the beginning and it remains so thanks to an incredibly hardworking co-owner/Manager, Lee-ann Wilber and her staff.
It occurred to me that so many of the very young visitors to the B&B are what I refer to as “first-borns of the digital age.” They were born at the onset of the paranormal resurgence. They exited the womb into a society dependent upon electronic gadgetry to communicate. Digital interaction via social networking became their playground as toddlers. Their thumbs controlled their input and output on some digital device more than turning the pages of a book. Their artistic expressions of Lizzie are reflective of false communications digitally obtained and transmitted. It reminds me of the old adage: “If you say it often enough, people will believe it.” These people will not, regrettably, read Parallel Lives – A Social History of Lizzie A. Borden and Her Fall River to really KNOW about Lizzie Borden. And that is very sad. Very sad indeed.
The Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast is Fall River’s most renowned tourist attraction. Its market share of those visiting Fall River for the “sites”, far exceeds that of Battleship Cove or the Fall River Historical Society, particularly, and not surprisingly, those interested in the occult. While it has perhaps narrowed the draw for case purists, the B&B has widened its revenue base by targeting those that seek out digitally and in person the paranormal experience. And although it has no measurable input value, I’m fine with that. As I’ve stated many times, whatever keeps the place open is smart marketing.
With regard to smart marketing, the B&B now offers up two types of tours: One with emphasis on the historical aspect of the case, and one with emphasis on the paranormal. I like that. I like that a lot.
So now comes Halloween and fresh theatrics and surprises from the younger staff – some born on the cuspice of the digital age – you know, when cell phones were still the size of shoes. You can check this out at the B&B’s Facebook page or Dr. Bowen’s Facebook page (O.J. Sheridan). One can see new and fresh ideas coming forth that play upon the marketable interest in this unique Bed & Breakfast. Long time staffers, aging and fading into the background have given way to a more dynamic and modern pulse on the contemporary heartbeat.
The historic edifice at 92 Second Street has changed in 16 years. You may not be able to go home again, but you can certainly keep things relevant. And that – good friends – is smart marketing.
Note: You can click on “Categories” to the right for 92 Second Street and find my blog entry on the ownership history of the 92 Second Street.