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Post Card from Fall River

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  • PatriciaLu@xxx.xxx
    Greetings from Lizzie Land! I ll skip the part where I overslept, couldn t get a cab, how I was getting out of the cab with 5 minutes til train departure time,
    Message 1 of 4 , Oct 8, 1999
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      Greetings from Lizzie Land!

      I'll skip the part where I overslept, couldn't get a cab, how I was getting
      out of the cab with 5 minutes til train departure time, how the PA was
      announcing 'All aboard' when I was nowhere near the train yet, how when I did
      get to the train it was starting to pull out and the doors were closed and
      then out of the blue, they let me get on.

      So, I had decided to take the train from New York to Providence, RI, and got
      to Providence around 1:15. It is actually a pretty train ride -- once out of
      the NY metropolitan area, the train really goes along the coast and between
      the sailboats and the autumn leaves, it really was pleasant.

      By the time I got off the train, went to the bathroom, checked my phone
      messages (playing hooky today) and was in the rental car, it was 2:00 and the
      last tour of the Fall River Historical Society is at 3:00 -- and it's not
      open on the weekend. The rental car woman had told me it was about 30 minutes
      to Fall River so I knew I had to get there fairly directly. It's an easy
      drive -- and I did stop at the Fall River Tourist Info Center on the way,
      thinking spending a few minutes getting directions would be a good
      investment, rather than trying to find it by "dead reckoning."

      As you approach Fall River, you are on a six-lane highway and you're crossing
      a bridge and the city fills in the horizon in front of you -- and my first
      impression was that it really *is* a city on a hill. I think I had imagined
      "the hill" as state of mind -- but it's real.

      I had a good map, and got to the Historical Society around 2:35. I have to
      say it was thrilling just to see the sign out front! It's a big old house
      where they have part of it decorated as it was in 1870 and part of the rooms
      are exhibits. The people who work there are very friendly, and one fellow
      asked me if I were "local or a traveler." And I said traveler and he said,
      "for Lizzie?" and I joked, "How'd you know?" I was the only visitor at the
      time -- and I am not quite sure if you can look at the exhibits by yourself
      or not. They told me to wait on this sofa until 3:00 when the tour would
      start. Of course, I was allowed to look around in the gift shop!

      I have to say the gift shop had very nice things, very well-priced I thought
      for "touristy" things. I had read about "The Knowlton Papers" on their
      website, but wasn't convinced I wanted to spend $50 on it. At 3:00 on the
      dot, this fellow came over and we started the tour (just him and me). He
      asked me what my interest was -- and I told him that I had always wanted to
      come to Fall River and then joked "So you're part of my fantasy come true!"
      and he lauged and said, "Now, that's frightening!"

      He told me about the house, about the sitting room, the dining room which are
      all period rooms... the dining room was neat in that it was round (if you can
      imagine a round room in a square shape space) and so each rounded corner
      contained a cabinet.

      OK, next we walk into this room where I could see display cases, but didn't
      think much of it until he said, "this is the Borden collection". Oh man!
      Let's see if I can remember everything I saw: family photographs, including a
      rare one of Emma as an adult (where she is really not attractive), an image
      of Lizzie I'd never seen -- he said she was 19 and they just got the photo a
      few years back -- how they have to prove a photo's authenticity through two
      sources before they'll include it. There were pages from Borden relative
      family Bibles showing births and deaths. Those were sort of the warm ups...

      Next there were the two famous death pictures, but there was another one of
      Abby taken as if you were standing where the bed was about 4 feet back from
      the body. Her arms are underneath her, and the guide told me that they'd
      moved the bed to photograph Abby... and I commented on her arms being under
      her and he said that the good doctor had moved Abby's body... took her pulse
      and then put her hands under her (like at chest level.)

      One creepy thing was Abby's hairpiece which was knocked off her head and was
      found under the bed. It looked like a chopped off (oh, bad choice of words!)
      pony tail. Then there were microscope slides of stomach contents, a vial of
      Abby's blood (that looked like a test tube with a tiny piece of red fuzz in
      it). There's also a photo of weird Uncle John. I made some joke about pear
      eating -- and my guide said, "There's never been a day in Fall River when so
      many pears were consumed in one day!"

      Now, we're getting to the good stuff. The next display case has the hatchet
      head -- which was smaller than I thought it would be -- I think I imagine
      "axe" and this is "hatchet". At this point, I'm warming up to my guide and I
      whisper to him "By the way, are the Knowlton Papers worth buying?" and he
      said, "Well, I edited them!" so we laughed and he told me about doing it and
      I said I would definitely buy them if he would autograph it and he did -- and
      his co-editor was there so they both signed it.

      Also, with the axe are pictures of the skulls, the hairs from the hatchet
      that turned out to be cow hairs, various police evidence tags, the billy club
      of the arresting officer... well, and lots of other neat stuff.

      The final display case had Lizzie's dinner pail that was used when she was in
      jail... and a cloak, shawl type garment that she wore after the trial. I
      didn't want to wear out my welcome questioning my guide, but he kept talking
      about "if, if, if " and who did it... and I said, "Oh, so you have an open
      mind?" and he -- along with the other editor I spoke with later -- both say
      that we will neve know who did it.

      My guide, Dennis Binette, said that they do get some very vocal, insistent
      visitors who get almost violent in their beliefs of guilt vs innocence. They
      also get their share of crazies which is too bad. I told him that I had taken
      a cab that morning and the cab driver asked me where I was going and I said
      "Providence" and he said "to visit friends?" and I just said yes. I told
      Dennis I didn't want to tell the driver I was going to go see the site of an
      axe murder.

      Then Dennis handed me off to the second guide who took me to the second
      floor. There's no Lizzie stuff there, but there is a room about the boats
      that ran from Fall River to New York, a room of mourning stuff (apparel,
      jewelry, pictures of dead people), a room of women's dresses from the Titanic
      period, a room of paintings from "the Fall River School". And we saw two
      bedrooms on that floor and the servant's quarters.

      I forgot to mention that Dennis and I were talking about A Private Disgrace
      and I mentioned the Abby bashing (how fat she was, how she waddled, how she
      was housebound) and he said that Victoria Lincoln got a lot of stuff wrong --
      even though he thinks she has unique insight into the murders. I asked him
      about Lizzie and Emma both wanting African-American men to bury them -- that
      always seemed so odd to me -- and he said he thinks that's a myth that
      Victoria is responsible for spreading. He did say that Bridget claimed to
      have liked Abby best -- how Abby was her only ally in that house -- and said
      that in the book I bought that he edited there's a contemporary interview
      where Bridget says this.

      I think I've covered the exhibits. I bought the book, the two editors signed
      it and I was off. The Historical Society is near Maplecroft (I had my handy
      Fall River tourist map with me) and although I could find the street, I
      couldn't find Maplecroft. I didn't know the house number and as far as I
      could see, it's not marked, but I'll find it tomorrow. I did, of course, get
      a good idea of the neighborhood -- and to those familiar with these types of
      neighborhoods -- it's big Victorian houses, some of which have been renovated
      and some not yet. The area that Maplecroft is in is called "Historic

      Then I decided to at least do a drive by of 92 Second Street, and again, had
      a hard time finding it -- lots of one way streets in Fall River! Anyway, this
      one I was determined to find. It took me three passes by it -- there was no
      sign, no markings and so if you didn't know the address, you'd never know it
      was "the house". It's really in a commercial area... right across the street
      is a big bus stop (not a bus depot, but like where all the buses sort of

      So tomorrow I hope to see the insides of both houses.

      Two last comments: I don't think I'd ever looked at a map of the area so it
      was interesting to see where Taunton is in relations to Fall River, where
      Swansea is, etc. I am also struck by how few things here are named for
      Lizzie... right by her house there was a Lizze Professional Building -- and
      also the Borden apartments. But that's relaly all I saw.

      Now, this is really the last comment... Dennis asked me if I were staying at
      92 Second Street and I said No, that I didn't really want to and I'm still
      not sure why. He said that there are people who want to sleep in Abby's room
      on the floor where her body was... and I said, "well, I'm weird, but I'm
      normal weird." And he said "Normal weird is good."

      Having a wonderful time. Wish you were here.
    • Patsy751@xxx.xxx
      Dear Pat, Thank you for your detailed description of your visit. Although I too have taken the same tour as you, you brought back all my memories. You didn t
      Message 2 of 4 , Oct 9, 1999
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        Dear Pat,
        Thank you for your detailed description of your visit. Although I too have
        taken the same tour as you, you brought back all my memories. You didn't
        leave a thing out. I especially like the fact that you mentioned going to
        the bathroom! Now I know you're including everything. The only other
        comment I have is that I did stay at the 92 Street house (in Abby and
        Andrew's room) so now I need to know if I am "abnormal weird" or what!

        Continue to have a ball!

      • PatriciaLu@xxx.xxx
        In a message dated 10/9/1999 10:03:56 AM Eastern Daylight Time, Patsy751@aol.com writes:
        Message 3 of 4 , Oct 9, 1999
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          In a message dated 10/9/1999 10:03:56 AM Eastern Daylight Time,
          Patsy751@... writes:

          << Now I know you're including everything. The only other
          comment I have is that I did stay at the 92 Street house (in Abby and
          Andrew's room) so now I need to know if I am "abnormal weird" or what! >>

          I'm just about to leave -- and I realized I did leave something out! The
          Historical Society has a pillow sham that has Abby's blood on it. That was
          one of those objects that makes it "real"... looking at microscope slides --
          or even the hatchet head was more detached than this pillow sham.

          Now, I should have stated my "normal weird" story a little more
          diplomatically, I'm afraid. I was trying to distinguish normal weird people
          (like us) from people who want to sleep on the floor where Abby's body was.
          Dennis also said that they've had people move to Fall River to be closer to
          Lizzie! tHAT'S abnormal weird.

          Having said that, I realize that non-Lizzie people see this interest as
          weird. I have to say I was a little surprised by the reaction of some people
          I told -- no interest in hearing more, sort of raised eyebrow about the whole
          thing. So maybe we're normal weird here, abnormal weird to our friends... so,
          so be it.

        • Patsy751@xxx.xxx
          Dear Pat, Don t worry for one second about the abnormal/weird comment. I m in my 40 s which is that lovely stage of life when you can be called just about
          Message 4 of 4 , Oct 9, 1999
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            Dear Pat,
            Don't worry for one second about the abnormal/weird comment. I'm in my 40's
            which is that lovely stage of life when you can be called just about
            anything, and you really don't worry about it.

            I am so glad that you are enjoying your trip. By the way, I actually called
            Maplecroft to check into reservations for this coming Monday, but my plans
            changed. Plus, we would have been the only people there, and that did make
            it a little too spooky for me!

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