Lizzie Borden House – Report to the Public – March 6, 2023
After First Full Year Under New Ownership of US Ghost Adventures.
Greetings – It has been an honor, and a lot of fun, to become the new steward of a piece of American history and culture that is the Lizzie Borden House. Our team has built on the legacy of the McGinns who first opened the home to the public in 1995, and Donald and LeAnn who purchased it in 2004. I hope to create a second post that highlights the genesis of the home to tell its story and showcase its legacy.
Two years ago, it was announced that I would be the new owner of the Lizzie Borden house. My name is Lance Zaal, and this is my first time speaking out as the new owner of the home to provide a list of the changes and investments made at the house after 2022, the first full calendar year under our care. Before and shortly following the sale in 2021, there were rumors, misinformation, and some bumps along the way during the transition. Many of these feelings were exacerbated by the tragic loss of one of the former owners who passed away days after the sale and many regular fans understandably felt like they had lost a friend and a special place at once. One of these fans, Erika Mailman, even published a tabloid like article on the Smithsonian Magazine online, full of misinformation, factual inaccuracies, misquotes, and misrepresentation that perpetuated these fears and feelings of loss, presupposing in its title “Will Real History Get the Hatchet?”
From day one, our mission has been and will continue to be, ensuring that all guests enjoy their experience, whether they come for the hauntings, the history, or are just curious. Rather than take sides between the history and the paranormal crowd, we have done things to make the experience more enjoyable for all.
The Renovations at the Lizzie Borden House
With that, here is a list of preservation efforts, improvements, and changes made since assuming ownership. Some changes are visible, and others are not
1. Antique Gas Stove
This stove was unsafe and a hazard to guests and overnight visitors. It was always running (not environmentally sound), would occasionally leak gas (a hazard for guests), and was not the most suitable for cooking in supporting operations and staff. When guests would blow out the flame because they thought it was left running, the house would fill with gas. The house would be evacuated, an alarm would sound, and the fire department would be interrupted from more important duties to rush to the house. This was not something that could continue, so I purchased a new and functional stove to do the cooking on and retained the stove. The antique stove is now for display only.
2. Replaced rotting wood doors to the gift shop.
One of the doors had been exposed to the elements for years due to rot. I could poke my hand through the outside. This doesn’t help our emissions as a responsible business, it lets bugs in, and isn’t how we want to present ourselves.
3. Removed asbestos from the basement
Repaired bulging horsehair wall along the stairs leading to the murder room and repainted the room.
5. The first floor bathroom
Renovated the first-floor bathroom, which had rot, decay, mold, and missing tiles all over.
6. Replaced old mattresses, pillows, and linen with new, high-quality materials.
I did not like the beds when I stayed there. The pillows were flat, and the bed sheets were not comfortable. I want our guests to be comfortable, especially if they can brave the night to get a decent amount of sleep!
7. Smart home technology.
Smart locks, smart lights inside and out, motion sensors, and smart thermostats were added to both improve operations and our environmental footprint.
8. Replaced HVACs
9. Strengthened the foundation of the house.
Supports were needed to protect the foundation of the old home.
10. Added a commercial washer and dryer to support staff and operations
11. Ground repairs at the Lizzie Borden House
Removed pear tree obstructing the view of cars, cleared bushes, and replanted Victorian gas
lamp that was falling over with an open area and the same Victorian lamp for guests to
enjoy. Added lights to showcase the house at night. (And don’t worry, we still have pear trees on the property!)
12. Renovated the gift shop and added new Lizzie Borden branded souvenirs.
This includes an official Lizzie Borden hatchet, a murder mystery board game, branded T-
shirts, ornaments, new books, and more.
13. Repaired and Replaced broken furniture throughout the house
14. Upgraded security camera system
with two-way audio and more cameras in new places to better capture unexplained activity.
15. Fall River Ghost Tours
We added ghost tours of Fall River to showcase the city and history of Fall River, the Borden’s home. Many people don’t know this, but Fall River has some incredible (and tragic) stories and history. I wanted to pay my respects to the city that is home to the Borden home and legacy and encourage visitors to experience this new perspective.
16. Ghost Hunts at the Lizzie Borden House
We made ghost hunts a regular, nightly experience throughout the year. This caters not only to the paranormal crowd but open to anyone who is curious about learning what ghost hunting is and how it works.
17. Preserving the history of the Lizzie Borden House
To better showcase the history of the home, we added protective display cases and lights to enhance the museum aspect and showcase important pieces of history from the house for all guests to enjoy and to protect the items. These include books owned by Lizzie Borden, Victorian-era items, and artifacts found in the home. In addition, we placed Elizabeth Montgomery’s dress and prop from the 1975 movie in a protective display case and moved it to the first floor, rather than leave it unprotected in a room. Old historic newspapers were taken from the basement, framed, and displayed.
18. New historic artifacts at the Lizzie Borden House
Were purchased and placed on display. This includes a Victorian-era camera used to take the crime scene photos and a signature by George D. Robinson, Lizzie Borden’s defense lawyer.
Recreate the look of the living room from the crime scene photos. Little things like a table with Mr. Borden’s hat, books, and a door rug to make it as original as possible to the crime scene photo.
20. Honoring the legacy of the Lizzie Borden House
To honor the home’s legacy with the people who have engaged with it and the Lizzie Borden story, we have transcribed more than 25 years’ worth of written guest accounts and experiences to catalog them and create a virtual ‘Lizzie Library’ and document which strange experiences have been shared by guests across the decades. This will help us to better understand the house’s strange activity, as well as our guests.
Added blackout, top-down, and bottom-up blinds of high quality to improve guest privacy and comfort and improve energy efficiency
22. Victorian updates
Purchased a new, high-end Victorian-style dining room table with more seating for community gatherings, to replace the old wobbly table.
23. Added weather stripping throughout
24. Mitigated basement leaks
25. The Basement
Repaired and coated brick walls in the basement to stop decay
26. Gift Shop
Added a TV to the gift shop and created a 10-hour loop of Lizzie Borden coverage and the content throughout the decades.
27. Documenting hauntings at the Lizzie Borden House
Added a hauntings guest book and iPad recording area for visitors to document any unexplained experiences in the house
28. Updated room packages
Added several new room packages for guests, like the romance package that places rose petals and led candles in the room
29. Ghost Hunting Equipment
Added new ghost hunt equipment to improve the experience
30. Virtual Tours and Live virtual events at the Lizzie Borden House
Added virtual tours and live virtual events through the Junket app and online so people who might not be able to experience the house due to location or disability.
31. Regular new events at the Lizzie Borden House!
Added new regular events to showcase the talented staff including an Edgar Allan Poe Night and Storytime with Krampus, while continuing the tradition of reenactments on August 4th.