Sunday, February 14, 2010
Both my wife and I are atheists. Neither one of us believes in the existence of any gods, an afterlife, reincarnation, ghosts, or the paranormal. We thought we’d test our skepticism by staying at one of the most allegedly haunted attractions in North America. So we stayed a night in the Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast in Fall River, Massachusetts. It was the last stop on our Massachusetts exploration, which also included Boston and Salem. Skeptical as we are, we still harbored a strong degree of optimism for the night. I would have loved it if something had happened that I couldn’t explain. I would have loved to have been scared out of my wits. We arrived at around 4pm. We got checked in and took a look around. It was an old Victorian home. There’s nothing too remarkable about that. There were bad acrylic paintings of the victims, dated 1995, hung in antique frames on the walls. There were inkjet prints of photos of the crime scene everywhere, and pictures of Lizzie (looking insane) all over the house. We stayed in the master bedroom, which was of course the bedroom of Andrew and Abby, the two victims. It’s supposed to be one of the most haunted rooms in the house. The evening tour always starts at 8pm, so we had time to burn. We went out for dinner, returning at 8pm for the tour. The tour was well executed. Eleanor, the woman giving the tour, was obviously a pro. She told interesting stories and knew all sorts of obscure details about the house. Other people had apparently died there since the murders. There were also séances scheduled for later that night, for an extra $10. We had never attended a séance before, so we signed up. The medium was supposed to be very good, so we were excited. There were two sessions, 10pm and 11pm. We were in the first session. We spoke with a few people who were going to be attending the first session. They were all skeptics. I was excited, and wondered if that would affect the tone of it. The medium was no older than 21, kind of chubby, and very soft-spoken. She wore a flowing white dress, and had about a mile of cleavage exposed. When we sat down at the table in the dining room, my disappointment began to mount. The table was visibly on wheels. It was an old table, and at the slightest touch, it creaked loudly. To start we all were asked to put a finger on top of an upside down coffee cup, which moved all about the table when the medium asked questions. This wasn’t very compelling. The cup moved towards certain people at the table, and the medium talked about the spirits having particular interest in those people. It was corny, but kind of fun. The next portion of the séance involved everybody putting their hands on the table, and the medium again asked questions of the spirits, and they would respond by moving the table. This was so utterly fake that it was actually upsetting. The table actually wiggled around a bit, creaked and squeaked. The medium’s cleavage heaved. If you happened to be looking at her hands, instead of her heaving bosom, you could see the tendons in the backs of them standing up. You could also see the tension in her forearms as she struggled to make the table move. When she paused to fix her hair, the movement of the table mysteriously stopped. It was obvious and bad. It seemed like she was having trouble getting the spirits to respond, so she asked us if any of us wanted to ask the spirits anything. I volunteered, and suggested provoking them. She agreed. I asked out loud if the spirit of Andrew Borden liked to molest little boys. She assured me that that was a bad move and that he was getting mad, though nothing seemed to happen. I asked if it was okay that I called him “Andy.” She said that I should be careful. A whole lot of nothing happened, and eventually my wife asked if he could interact with anything else in the room. She asked “Andy” if he could blow out one of the candles, or knock on something other than the table. Nothing happened at all, after a total of 40 minutes. The séance was over, and we had to go sit out in the parlor. We all went out there and laughed cacophonously. It was, in fact, hilarious. We talked and laughed for quite a while. The second séance, for the group comprised as entirely of believers as our group had been of skeptics, lasted about 70 minutes. We could hear them through the walls. Apparently, there was a lot going on. The spirits were much more riled up for the second group than they had been for us. Around 1:30am, we all went to our various rooms to go to bed. The sheets and mattresses were new, but the bed frame was supposedly the one owned by “Andy.” The walls of the house are all very thin, and you can easily hear what’s happening in other rooms. Given this, we decided that it was out of the question to fuck before going to sleep. I was disappointed. It’s not that I was feeling especially amorous. A good round of screwing was really just my last hope of upsetting the spirits and getting something to happen. So before falling asleep, I jacked off. I figured that might still sufficiently upset “Andy.” It didn’t. Nothing happened. I gave up and went to sleep. In the morning, breakfast was very good. Once again, all of the believers sat at one table and the skeptics at another. None of the skeptics had any experiences of the preceding night to discuss. The other table had apparently experienced a paranormal orgy all night. Not a wink of sleep. One woman claimed to have levitated off her bed. Another heard footsteps up in the attic. Before leaving, we bought a $5 cookie cutter shaped like a hatchet.