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McWHIRR’S DEPT. STORE – WHERE LIZZIE WENT A-THIEVING

RECYCLED FROM JULY 27, 2014  and FROM ORIGINAL IN 2008

Mea Culpa Notice:  I was in error. McWhirr’s Dept Store, as shown here was not inside the Cherry & Webb Building.   It was a separate structure subsequently torn down and another building in its place.  The Cherry & Webb building, however still stands as indicated below.

In Lizzie’s day this was McWhirr’s Department Store, an upscale department store where anybody who was anybody shopped. Shown in this photograph, the name “McWhirr” can be made out on the top of the white building in the background.

The Cherry and Webb Building (so stated on the front of the building) is located at 139 South Main and is now the UMASS-Dartmouth Professional and Continuing Education Center a learning center for professionals, night students and other students. On the ground floor is the Café Arpeggio. Bristol Community College has recently leased space for special courses for special needs. Baker Books, once there on the ground floor in April 2007, gone by August 2007. Darnit.

Previously “one of the city’s most underutilized downtown structures”, Mayor Lambert is credited with its current public use.When I spoke to security, building maintenance technicians, administrators and students, one of the things I learned is that this facility is being used to assist with GED education for a number of the nearly 900 employees who lost their jobs by the closing of Quaker Fabric. I also learned that the only interior “original” to this building is the grand staircase shown below.

There was a time when the building was known to all Fall Riverites as “McWhirr’s”. Imagine Lizzie in her blue India silk bengaline inside this store moving about amongst the crowd. Imagine Lizzie taking a five fingered discount of oh, say, a pansy broach and sliding it up inside her so conveniently fitted gloved hand. Then, with a casual grace and the deportment of “a Borden” strolling towards this staircase and ascending to the second floor.

Without batting an eye nor turning her head to see if she’s being followed, she would maintain a steady but lady-like gait as she faked interest in nearby displays of hats, porcelain figurines, and petite carved bottles of French perfume. With a skill only acquired from experience, she would be diligently aware of any store employee watching her from a near distance.

Her heart beating to the exhiliarating thrill of this familiar challenge and satisfied no one was following, she would turn back to the stairway and begin her descent, one lady-like step at a time. Below her she would survey the vast array of glass table top and standing shelved display cases, filled with products from near and abroad. Men, women and children busy shopping, strolling and admiring all the goods. Busy store clerks packaging purchases and preparing sales slips. Busy, busy, busy. She would survey it all, calmly determined in her objective.

One gloved hand on the railing, the other modestly angled upright, her fashionable cloth purse looped over it. Posture perfect, a lady of some stature, she would have looked straight ahead, a seemingly blank stare masking a steeled will. She would descend, slowly, each step measured with her resolve and comforted in the fact her broach not the least bit detected as it nestled securely inside her modestly priced but exquisitely stitched leather glove.

Pausing at the bottom step, brazenly she would hold up that gloved hand with its secret deposit and there she would act as if only adjusting the fitting. Only a moment, but pause enough to quickly ascertain once more with a quick scan if any authoritative and watchful eyes were upon her. They are not. Only a fresh-face counter girl who looks directly at her and says: “Good morning, Miss Borden”. She would respond with a tilt of the head, a forced, kindly smile, and she would begin her walk towards the front door. A slight turn to the left and she would be on her path, curving here, curving there passing the cases, dodging a small child, brushing skirts against other ladies. Closer, each step closer. The front door now in sight.

Only 32 paces,…. now 20, and the heartbeat accelerates,….. now 12, and the breathing more pronounced…..now 9, and a slightly fevered brow…..now 7 and a quivering chin….the uniformed doorman sees her approach… now 2 steps, two steps only as the doorman pulls upon the door and tips his hat…the step across the threshold…, now daylight. No arm upon hers. No hand upon her shoulder. Big exhale. The quivering chin ceases to quiver, the pulse rate subsides, the fevered brow cools in the bright sun. A liberating wave of relief engulfs her. She feels…. a profound sense of…..special achievement by way of genetic entitlement.

Actually, considering the fashions of the day, forget the broach. She could have concealed a Virginia ham under those skirts. And many of the “ladies who went a-thieving”, in fact, did just that. But not at McWhirr’s.

 

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This Ghost is Real – And it has nothing to do with Lizzie Borden!!

THIS JUST INTim Weisberg & the Lizzie Borden B&B.

Perfect for Halloween!

 

I’m a stone skeptic about most paranormal activity and even whether or not there are truly “ghosts”.  But this changed my mind.  And it comes from Great Brittan, an advertising company that wasn’t even looking for any paranormal activity – just filming a commercial.

 
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Posted by on October 27, 2010 in Just for Laughs

 

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Is the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast Haunted?

The explosion of interest in the paranormal in today’s society has resulted in several “ghost hunting” investigative t.v. shows, cottage industry “entertainment mediums” who proliferate the ‘net with their blogs and websites, bona fide mediums and psychics whose best-sellers help launch their own talk shows, increase manufacture and sales of evp recording devices, increase demand for Ghost Hunter University applicants, and hundreds of bookings at the Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast. Why is this? Why now at this time, post 9-11 in this new millenium? What is it in our culture, our society, that draws people from all professions, and all religious and educational backgrounds? I don’t know, but I do know that it’s a phenomena which continues to grow as well as those who would capitalize from it. It’s the American way.

The Lizzie Borden house from the north looking south from the space the Churchill house used to occupy. The “side door” is on the lower left.

People like to visit and occupy the same space in a different time where notable historical or notorious solved or unsolved crimes took place. Thus, the Borden house is a magnet to those seeking that experience. They come in droves for the day time tours to hear the tale and see the spots and take pictures and relish in the “I was there” experience.

Lizzie Borden, as I’ve often said, is a one dimensional persona, encapsulated in a inaccurate quatrain forever doomed to be perpetually marketed as wielding a bloody axe upon the noggins of her stepmother and father one sticky-sweaty day in early August 1892. But she is so much more than that and the story of Lizzie Andrew Borden and Fall River are so much more than that. 92 Second Street draws scholars to the case – flocking as if to Mecca to soak up the richness of the environment, impervious to the tales of the premises being haunted. They register disdain about ghostly apparitions and things that go bump in the night. “Bah! Humbug!” they say and they say it with every confidence that they shall enjoy another quiet, undisturbed slumber through the night. And they do. Repeatedly. Every visit. No paranormal activity whatsoever. For years.

So then, if we look for it will it be there? Or is it there to be felt, seen and heard by some but not by others? Well, I can tell you my experiences as one who was first inside 92 Second Street in 1977 and spoke with then owner, John McGinn, nothing was said about any paranormal activity. And I’ve stayed overnight at the B&B since 1998, often having the entire house all to myself – no one – no one but me inside. In all those years, in all those stays, I’ve only had 3 experiences, and one doesn’t really count. I’ll tell you briefly about them:

#1. November 3, 1999 – Martha McGinn gave me a key to come and go as I was the only guest and would be the only one inside the house that night. I went down to the cellar with a few clothes to wash and suddenly I saw it! Holy Pshaw!! ANDREW BORDEN LAID OUT IN HIS COFFIN AT THE FOOT OF THE STAIRS!!! My heart leaped. For a nano second. It was only Martha’s prop from her Halloween party a few nights previous. But damn, did that look real.

#2. August 4, 2006. The B&B was filled with paranormal investigators, psychics, mediums, ghost-writing authors, etc., all talking about this new entity in the house. I listened with the ear and mind of a skeptic. “If you want it, it will come.” Exhausted from the day and night’s activities, I went to lay on a cot down in the cellar, away from it all. Everyone was upstairs. I was alone. I lay on my side and in a few moments felt 3 fingers slide down my back. Distinctively 3 fingers. Medium Liz Nowicki – Boston Herald photo

Not a spider, not cobwebs, but fingers. I leaped up and yelled: “Who’s there?”. For the first time EVER, I was scared and I bolted upstairs and outside to smoke a cigarette with a shaking hand. Relating what I had just experienced, I was told that it was a new, hostile entity that came thru a portal from all the seances conducted in the house. Oh fine, thought I….after all these years now I gotta think twice about this house being active. Me. Senior Skeptic #1. (For more about this experience click this link to the podcast.  It was like I was paranormically divirginized. I could never view or feel the same about 92 Second Street again. I was deflowered. And I didn’t like  it.

#3. September 29, 2007. Ghost Hunter’s University booked the whole house. In addition, a number of psychics and mediums were in attendance. Donald Woods and I sat in on a seance conducted by local medium “Liz”. Liz is a very sweet and attractive lady who can “read” people and sense “things”. She regularly conducts seances for guests who want them at the B&B. Never having sat in on any seance and quite frankly believed them to be faked, I thought I would check this out.  Read about her HERE.

About 16-20 people in the room – 6 seated at a round table. Liz’s back was to the sealed up fireplace. My back was towards the parlor door. I had a clear unobstructed view of all at the table. Without detailing all the questions asked by Liz and the other guests, I’ll just state what happened. The table moved. The table not only moved, it lifted from the carpet, it turned several times 360 degrees, it tilted about 80 degrees, it rocked and rolled. Trickery? Knee-cap momentum? Finger grips? Wires? Well, I’ll tell you this. I bent down several times and looked underneath the table. I walked right up *to* the table and crouched down and observed everyone’s legs, feet, knees, arms and hands. I did this several times. I moved in closer and eye-balled all hands and fingers watching for pressure, grips, slides, whatever. That table moved even when everybody’s hands were completely off the table and their feet were flat on the floor and no body parts came in contact with the table! Conclusion: THE LIZZIE BORDEN HOUSE IS ACTIVE. Does that mean it’s haunted? Well, for some, things do go Boo! and Bump in the night, but no one’s ever been hurt or morphed into some axe-wielding creature creating bloody bedlam.

Lee-ann Wilber, co-owner, swears there are children in the Knowlton Room on the third floor. She kindly leaves them toys in the trunk. But I highly doubt they are the legendary drowned children of Andrew’s uncle, Ladowick Borden and his deranged wife because those kids were one and two years old and would not have the dexterity to play with the marbles so often heard. But there’s something. There’s definitely something. And prior to two months ago I would have still been saying “Bah! Humbug!”

So as we approach another Halloween – an almost sacred night for those entrenched in the occult, and for those psychics, mediums, and ghost-chasers whose antennae are at peak performance every October 31st, let all who read here that I, Faye Musselman, being of sound and skeptic mind, do hereby testify that 92 Second Street is “active” with unknown spirits and paranormal activity.

But is it haunted per se? That doorway to my mind is yet to be opened.

 

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Monster Quest Does the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast

Post Airing Follow-up:

Another paranormal investigation into the “haunted” Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast. I’m sure most viewers out there found it fascinating and there’ll be another spike in bookings from this airing. Not only will it draw more visitors to “the Borden house”, but it serves to ensure its standing for yet another, and another, and another future series episode on spirits, ghosts, and haunted happenings.

It’s not about the Borden murder case – its about the residual paranormal aspect that is “entertainment-worthy” within this genre. So case scholars, experts, purists or just plain enthusiastic case followers will always be disappointed and annoyed by the dismissive manner regarding actual facts of the case. Program producers and directors want to hear from people who have actually had experiences, not people who know the relationship of Lizzie’s second cousin to Franklin Roosevelt, or what role John Morse played in the sequence of events.

I chuckle at the notion of those that are well read scholars on the case who contact program and series producers offering up their services, free or otherwise, to consult on the project as to accuracy of case facts. It’s not about that. It’s about ENTERTAINMENT. In fact, the presentation of not one, but three locations, i.e., Gettysburg, a gas station, and the Lizzie Borden house, going back and forth, is to keep the viewership for the full hour – otherwise, one would only watch the segment they were especially interested in.

They brought up Michael, who lived in the Knowlton Room for a few months having engendered himself to Martha McGinn’s mother, Sally (who worked for Martha as house manager). But Michael died in a fire in Connecticut. Why would his spirit be hanging out at 92 Second Street in Fall River?

I believe there’s SOMETHING ACTIVE in that House. But it’s not Michael. I believe there is SOMETHING otherworldly that manifests itself and has been seen and/or felt by others, myself included – one time and one time only on August 4, 2007. Whether it be moved furniture, a severe and sudden drop in temperature, mist, fingers down the back or across the face, a wisp of wind when there is no wind, children’s laughter when there are no children, a heavy foreboding feeling as if an angry entity were present, or the voice of Andrew himself. There is SOMETHING. And I would not have believed it myself until 2 years ago, when I had my own experience. But it made a believer out of me.

This Monster Quest episode segment also hoped to pick up Lizzie’s voice. So the invesigator asked the question: “Lizzie, who killed your father?”. First of all, Lizzie hated that house and it’s the last place she – under free will – would hang out, dead or alive. Secondly, if she would never admit to stealing two paintings on porcelain in 1897, she sure ain’t gonna cop out to chopping up Andrew and Abby back in 1892. Entertainment T.V. or not!

We purists will just have to wait for the Ken Burns documentary airing on PBS. (sigh)….. Meanwhile, we’ll take these “entertainment” segments any way we get them. 🙂

*******Original Post Below*************

You understand TV programming doncha? First you do a spinoff of the hit series, then repackage the content but dress it differently. Then you sell the box DVD’s, re-program or sell to syndicated sister channels, tweak the title within the same genre, re-circulate the same episodes, utilize the same featured players and authorities, then box those DVD sets again, merchandise, syndicate and so it goes. Great formula.

Particular success with this formula can be found in the paranormal genre. The explosion of interest in the occult and paranormal, not to mention a growing appetite of the public to occupy the same space in a different time at famous and infamous locales where haunted happenings took place – locations such as 92 Second Street, Fall River, MA, home of the infamous Lizzie Borden, has force fed this type of programming until a number of channels are cluttered with them weekly.

Andrew Jackson Borden and what’s left of his face.

Abby Borden and what’s left of her hair.

It was inevitable then that The World’s Creepiest Places, The Most Haunted, and Places That Go Boo in the Night, would morph into a quest for monsters, namely Monster Quest, through packaging geniuses, The History Channel. And this, only one of their many genres. Anyway………

My pals Tim and Matt will be on Monster Quest next Wednesday night, June 11th, which features the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast.

I first met these guys last August 4th when we did a Spooky Southcoast episode. Here’s the podcast if you want to hear my interview and my own paranormal experiences at the scene of America’s most enigmatic murders.

And if you can’t figure out the connection between this 116 year old unsolved hatchet murder and the title of this new series….well, my phriend…..look at those images of Andrew and Abby again. Wouldn’t you agree only a monster could do such a thing?

 

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