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A NARROW NITCH: WHAT DRAWS US TO LIZZIE BORDEN? WHY DO WE CARE?

08 May

I recently read where the online publishing company that used to produce “The Hatchet” (referred to in the below post)  has decided to quit producing this magazine.  The reason stated by the editor (Stefani Koorey) is that online magazines are diminishing in popularity and she’s decided to focus on hard copy books instead.  “The Hatchet” has never revealed its number of subscribers (which is a measure of success for any subscription publication) and I think this is the real reason for yet another failure in the varied pursuits by the editor.  As stated in the post, this is unfortunate because the content was very good.

(from 2007)

Well, first off we have to define “We” because on one end of the spectrum “We” are the hard core scholars, a relatively tiny group grounded at the epicenter of “all things Lizzie”. At the other end is a moderate percentage of the public who have some degree of awareness of a certain poem and a bloody hatchet, but rarely an interest to pursue it further and a total lack of understanding as to why anyone else in their right mind would want to.

In between are the minions of people who who love a good, classic unsolved crime; people who grew up in Fall River or environs; people who would like or think they can solve the crime; people who are attracted to the dark side of the bloody and bizarre; people who see Lizzie as a victim; people who dabble in or chase mysteries and the occult; people who saw the Elizabeth Montgomery movie and scratch an itching curiosity; people who study the case solely for its historical and societal implications; and people who are drawn to any story, film, book, reality t.v. show, or real life disaster that injects a jolt of excitement into their own otherwise mundane and uneventful life.

Now, think of ALL THE PEOPLE IN THE WORLD – literate people with computers or access to computers – with an interest in Lizzie Borden – that can easily find forums on which to chat and exhange information. Even the best forum, running for over 4 years, has only 30-35 regulars who log on in any 24 hour period. And of those 30-35, only 10 or 12 who actually post regularly.

The 1992 Lizzie Borden Centennial held at Bristol Community College in Fall River, drew only 400 people. Not even a third as many as the 1992 Assassination Symposium on President John F. Kennedy held the same year in Dallas, Texas, which I also attended.

Free, public lectures on Lizzie Borden in Fall River, draws only around 40 people. And this IN Fall River, the city where the murders happened 115 years ago. I’m told the quality, content and delivery of these lectures are excellent, yet attendance is a barometer to the local interest. Usually most of the attendees are friends of the speaker, staff from the B&B and a few local forum members. Attendance by Fall Riverites interested in Lizzie has been sadly lacking. In fact, my intrepid reporter tells me the lecture held on August 15, 2007 at 6:30 pm drew 52 people – and this with print media advertising!

Ground Zero, or “Mecca” is at 92 Second Street, Fall River, MA. (phone 508-675-7333). Bookings do not fall in the 90-100% capacity except in the first week of August and a few other dates throughout the year. The Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast offers the best “bang for the buck” of any B&B anywhere. It’s uniqueness is unparelelled anywhere in the country not only because of the complete freedom it gives its guests to roam and explore, but the hospitality is absolutely exceptional for B&B’s.

Now do you get what a narrow, narrow market of interest there is for Lizzie Borden IN ALL THE WORLD? More people would buy a good book with a clever twist on the Lizzie Borden case than log on to a forum touting the same subject. Tens of thousands more would watch a Lizzie documentary on TV than log on to a forum….but hardly any of those people would have an interest enough to buy a slick and well edited magazine publication be it $20, $10, or even $2.00. Of those 30-35 hard core members of the forum I mentioned (the administrator is the editor of the magazine) – a recent poll showed only 15 members even subscribe! If those who find themselves seductively stuck in a daily ritual of Bordenia online exchange don’t even subscribe, certainly that middle group of minions aren’t buying it either. In short, nobody’s reading it. That’s unfortunate. Sherlock, something is amiss.

Another example of the narrow nitch is eBay. ALL THE WORLD barters on eBay. Do a word search on “Lizzie Borden”. (Heck, if you’re reading this you probably already have!). Scan the number of bidders per listings – bidders from ALL THE WORLD. Not much. Certainly not nearly as much as anything on Lindsay Lohan (Insert audible “arrrgghhh”), or (name-your-team) sport tickets. Because “WE” are at the epicenter, some of “US” see all things Lizzie larger than it really is.

Now, you may ask yourself, why is this such a narrow nitch? I’ll tell why I think it is: Because Lizzie has most always been presented as a one dimensional persona based on an inaccurate quatrain. She’s rarely presented in the context of a richly textured and layered backdrop that is the history of Fall River and the Bordens themelves. Tis a pity, it tis.

I hope to give some illustrations of just how and why this case is so richly textured in upcoming entries. Stay tuned. 🙂

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3 responses to “A NARROW NITCH: WHAT DRAWS US TO LIZZIE BORDEN? WHY DO WE CARE?

  1. 6uldv8

    August 14, 2007 at 2:31 PM

    This a question that I wonder about all the time.
    Why are we so interested?
    Good post as always, I applaud your website and hope for more. You are part of the reason that Lizzie is so much darn fun.

     
  2. phayemuss

    August 14, 2007 at 3:23 PM

    Well, the journey to understanding Lizzie, the Borden Family, investigating the crime, speculation on comparative theories, and the like CAN be fun. But WHY this case is so compelling to those at the epicenter is something I really didn’t answer. I’ll get to that, though. 🙂 However, I hope my feeble attempt to bring it back into focus for the narrow nitch that it is *did* resonate with some who read it.

     

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