Lizzie’s A-Twitter Be it Salem or Fall River!

31 Jul



I was excited when I heard about the “Lizzie Borden Museum” in Salem, and contacted Leonard Pickel on June 24 to offer assistance and perhaps loan some rare items from my collection for his 3,500 sq. ft. facility (3,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space). However, after two weeks of email exchange, learning of current litigation, and doing a little due diligence, I was less encouraged about the prospects of a first class operation. Learning this owner of Haunted Attractions magazine had planning and design exhibit experience solely on “home haunts” and the ghostly/paranormal genre, my enthusiasm waned considerably. When I asked what he had so far, Mr. Pickel informed me he had “only 50 hatchets so far” and that he was looking for good resolution images of the crime scene to make copies. Three weeks before his initial proposed opening (he wanted to open on her birthday, July 19th) he was still busy with contractors remodeling the venue and still looking for items to exhibit. Mr. Pickel had been asked by the FRHS (of which he is a dues paying member) to do a synopsis of his exhibit for submission to the Board for permission to access and obtain items from their collection. Clearly, the FRHS had the same reservations.

Mr. Pickel claims to have been planning this for years, yet his knowledge of the case is weak. One would think he would have been collecting source materials and reading everything possible to ensure accuracy of exhibits and the proposed CSI-type “journey” into the “true story of Lizzie Borden.” His website, as of this late date, still lacks a “Schedule” of operating hours, a “History”, or “Gift Shop” info. The website is in an ufinished state. Much as, I suspect, the exhibit/facility itself.

Fall River is home to Lizzie Borden. She remained in Fall River all her life. If she had moved to Boston and lived her remaining post-Trial years there, it would seem very appropriate for some type of Lizzie attraction. But in Salem, not so much. On the other hand, whether Mr. Pickel’s enterprise turns out to be a roaring success or a schlocky endeavor, people that visit it and are heading south, will most likely tour the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast (Mecca), visit the Fall River Historical Society, see the family graves at Oak Grove Cemetery and drive by Robert Dube’s “Maplecroft”. Lizzie brings in tourists. The vast majority of visitors to the FRHS come specifically to view their exhibit regarding the Borden case. And those that stay overnight at 92 Second Street get the best bang for the buck of any B&B in the country. PLUS, there are many Lizzie and case related artifacts on display and available for scrutiny at the B&B, including the most complete and comprehensive library of books, pamphlets, letters and journals easily available for review and research. The B&B is truly, the closest thing to a Museum that Fall River’s got – and almost a “living” museum, IMHO.

Yes, Fall River has repeatedly missed golden opportunities for obvious and new ways to capitalize on its most famous citizen. As descendents of the “founding families” literally die out, the resistance to that capitalizing seems to diminish. And that’s a good thing.

As to the new Superior Court across the street, it assumes and will hear those criminal cases which would have previously been at the old New Bedford Superior Court. It was not long ago that an inmate escaped the courthouse in New Bedford, much to the embarrassment of all concerned. The new facility in Fall River will have state of the art security. Talk of an increased criminal element in the Second Street neighborhood is without merit. There will be far more security in and around that building because of the nature of its operations than ever existed before in that space. And let us not forget that the Borden case Coroner’s Inquest and Preliminary Hearing were held in Fall River. Who knows, maybe arrangements will be made between the B&B owners and the court to have re-enactments in the future. I’d certainly pay to see it. 🙂


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One response to “Lizzie’s A-Twitter Be it Salem or Fall River!

  1. Leonard Pickel

    August 3, 2008 at 7:17 AM

    I find it interesting that a museum, which has not opened to the public as of yet, (we are working hard on that people, trust me!), has been dragged through the mud as much as The True Story of Lizzie Borden has.

    “Home Haunter?” Do you even know what that means? I have built Attractions for Universal Studios, Madison Square Garden and 6 Flags Parks across the country. I have over 30 years in attraction design, own and edit the industry magazine, and own a convention. I am no hack!

    Why don’t you at least wait for reviews of people who have been through the museum, or perhaps even tour the museum yourself, before casting disparaging criticism on the level of experience quality, amount of preparedness or fact checking.

    I contacted the FRHS many years ago about getting photos, and they assured me there would be no problem. Then when I was ready to purchase them, everything was different. They have been trying to put together a quorum to even have a meeting for 2 months now. We will be open before they decide if they are willing to assist us in developing the museum content.

    I had all the most of the photos I needed already, what I was looking for was photos with the best resolution available. I just spent $15,000 enlarging photos for the museum, most of which have never been enlarged, or enhanced. Very exciting!

    While a Lizzie Borden attraction has been in my thought since 1992, I did not have the funding and the right location at the same time until January of this year. I am a busy guy and was not willing to devote the time to fully develop this back burner project until it was real! By then time was short.

    We are behind on opening because of building permit, construction, and contractor delays, and may not be able to open on Monday due to a Fire Alarm panel programming issue. But I am sure we will be open by the end of the week. Then I worry about the web site!!

    Will we be where we want to end up when we open? No. A museum as a constant work in process. We will be critiqued and fact checked by every person walking through the attraction, and we will make changes and corrections to the museum content as we go. Add better photos as they become available, and nuances as we or others thing of them.

    We are in this for the long run! Taking our time now to get it right is what is important.

    As for the lawsuit rumor, there are some people who think they own Lizzie! And that no one is allowed to do anything with her without their permission, which they do not give anyone. Maplecroft tried to open a B&B at one time, and those plans were squashed by the self appointed owners of Lizzie. Too bad, I would have loved to spend the night at Maplecroft, wouldn’t you!

    So now they think they own the idea of a Lizzie Borden Museum, and no one can open one because they own it! They own Lizzie Borden!!

    Sorry… I thought we were free in America, that pursuit of happiness thing, and monopolies were against the law.

    The other thing that is against the law is slander! And when you announce a lawsuit in the newspaper, you had better stop wining and moaning and file the thing! All I have gotten so far are angry temper tantrum emails from some attorney, demanding that we take “Museum” off the logo and signage, demanding that we give them our URL, demanding that we take “Lizzie Borden” off of our logo and signage! Because they own Lizzie!

    So either file your lawsuit or shut the hell up!

    The sad part is that The True Story of Lizzie Borden is the best thing that ever happen to the B&B and the FRHS. There are 600,000 tourists that come to Salem each year. And most of them have no idea where Fall River is, or that Lizzie Borden lived there. Only an hour and a half south, we will drive more people to Fall River than the Fall River Tourism Board (if there even is such a thing), could ever dream of doing!

    Our plan was to have an internet terminal, so people could find out the hours of the FRHS or rent a room at the B&B while in the museum.

    But why would we do that if they are going to be ugly about the whole thing. If they don’t want the exposure, we can always tell people that, the Murder House is still a print shop, that the FRHS’s Borden exhibit is about the size of our men’s room, and that Fall River is in Rhode Island!


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