Are those apparitions in the mirror...or not?

Midcoast painter has unnerving encounter at the Lizzie Borden House

Friday, March 4, 2016 - 12:45pm
Joanne Parent (Photo by Kay Stephens)

BELFAST—Belfast artist Joanne Parent is known for her airy sunset and seascape oil painting, but a trip last year to the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast may have her conjuring darker landscapes.

The Fall River, Mass B & B, 50 miles south of Boston, was purchased by a friend of Parent’s, Donald Woods, and his partner Lee-Ann Wilber, who took ownership of the property in 2004.

As the story of the infamous house goes, a wealthy banker Andrew and his wife, Abby (Lizzie’s stepmother), were found murdered August 4, 1892. The weapon was a hatchet, which would have killed both of them on the first blow, but Andrew had been hacked 11 times while sleeping on the downstairs sofa. His wife suffered 19 blows in an upstairs bedroom. Lizzy, Andrew’s youngest daughter, stood trial, but she was acquitted, and lived out the rest of her life in Fall River.

“Last year, Donald invited my sister and I to go down to visit and stay in one of the rooms, and I ended up staying in the room of Andrew Borden,” said Parent. “The house is super creepy, so I took tons of photographs as we walked around. I was getting a weird vibe, like something was just wrong.”

According to Martha McGinn, the previous owner who inherited the house, the room where Lizzie's stepmother Abby Borden was found murdered is the “most requested room” of the bedrooms at the bed and breakfast.

“At about 2 p.m. I was so creeped out to actually go into Abby’s room, so I just reached my arm around the door frame and snapped a bunch of photos,” said Parent.

The photos she took reveal a oval wooden mirror in the corner of a floral wallpapered bedroom. About a month later, when looking back on the photos she’d uploaded to her iPhoto library on her Mac laptop, something caught her eye in two of the mirror shots in Abby’s bedroom.

“You can clearly see the outline of something, like the form of a woman wearing a hood,” she said. “I showed them to my sister and her husband. I was like ‘Oh My God,’ look at this.”

There is also a black bar in the photos that seemed to appear later after the photos were taken. A phone interview with Wilber confirmed that the black bar is actually a vent in the ceiling. However, when Parent posted a photo of the mirror on her Facebook page the day before our interview, there was no black vent in the photos.

Twenty-four hours later in the midst of the interview, they just suddenly appeared in her iPhoto library and on the posted Facebook photo. Thinking it was some technical glitch that tampered with them, we showed the photos to Aaron Sarnacki, owner of Archangel Computers, who said the photos weren’t corrupted and there was no way an image can just appear in a photo.

Further he confirmed there are no linkages to Facebook from an iPhoto account that could change a photo once it was posted. Once the black bars appeared, Parent asked the 40 or so people who commented on the photo the day before on her Facebook account if they could now see the black bar in the Facebook photo and if they’d seen it there the day before. Many commented it had not been in the photo the day before.

“It’s an old, old mirror. People think they see stuff in it all of the time,” said Wilbur. “Depending on how you’re standing, you won’t see any anomalies in the mirror unless you take the picture from an angle. We’ve had plenty of pictures that were taken several years ago that can’t be explained, however, by a gentlemen by the name of Glenn Teza, a psychic and spiritual healing teacher from New Jersey. His photos show a mist figure and were taken with Instant Poloroid film and there is absolutely no way to mess with that film.”

Teza’s photos were featured when Zak Bagans, a paranormal investigator on the show Ghost Adventures, investigated the Lizzie Borden house. According to  information revealed in his show, Lizzie’s father and stepmother were not the only ones murdered in this house. Lizzie’s great uncle Lawdwick Borden also had a second wife, Eliza Darling Borden. Eliza drowned two of her three children and then took her own life by slitting her own throat with a straight razor after dropping the children in the cellar cistern.

Are there apparitions in the mirror, or is it a trick of the camera angle?

No matter what the public’s interpretation of the events in this story are, Parent know what she saw. “I’ve been invited back to the house to paint the rooms, but I’m not sure I want to go now,” she said, smiling.

Kay Stephens can be reached at