Crime Scenes Make Killing With Tourists

Americans Love to Follow in Felonious Footsteps


July 19, 2005 — Give yourself 40 whacks if you forgot to wish Lizzie Borden a happy birthday. America's most famous axe murderess would have been 145 this week. And though she's no longer with us, you can still sleep in her bed — as long as you make reservations.

The Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast in Fall River, Mass. — the very spot where Andrew and Abby Borden were hacked to death — has been restored to its 1892 splendor, when the abode earned its infamy. As the twisted nursery rhyme goes:

"Lizzie Borden took an Axe,
And gave her mother forty whacks,
When she had seen what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one."

Borden was eventually acquitted, and now, a night in her room is $200. Or if you want, you and your friends can rent the entire seven-bedroom house for $1,160. One couple is even planning to marry there later this year. On Halloween, of course.

Too creepy? If you'd rather, the house offers daily tours, where you can pick up $5 hatchet-shaped silver earrings, gift books, T-shirts ("Axe Me Where I Live … ), or a $10 vial of basement dust, which comes with a letter of authenticity.

"It's a little piece of history, a mystery that people can still share in," says co-owner Lee-ann Wilber, who purchased the premises two years ago.

All over the country, yesteryear's crime scenes are today's tourist destinations. Go to Jesse James' farm in Kearney, Mo., and see the bullet hole in the wall from when the famed gunslinger was killed.

James was standing on a chair and straightening a picture, when a member of his own outlaw gang shot him in the back in hopes of collecting a $10,000 reward. The bullet is under Plexiglas and on display, along with a casting of James' skull.

At the Dalton Gang hideout in Meade, Kan., you can creep into the 95-foot-long escape tunnel that runs under the 19th-century abode. More action awaits at Ma Barker's place over in Oklawaha, Fla., where they annually re-enact the Jan. 16, 1935, gunfight, when police riddled the home with 3,500 rounds of ammunition.

Then, try relaxing at Al Capone's Hideout in Couderay, Wis., a fortified lakeside estate with bulletproof walls, gun turrets and a guard tower. It's now a restaurant and bar.

Just don't confuse it with the mob boss's other makeshift museums, including a onetime Chicago speakeasy that's now "Al Capone's Hideaway & Steakhouse." Among other historical items, a sign in the men's room says, "Big Al Was Here."

It's no wonder contemporary crime scenes fetch big bucks. Three weeks ago, the Modesto, Calif., bungalow once occupied by convicted double murderer Scott Peterson and his slain pregnant wife, Laci, sold for $390,000 — $10,000 more than Laci's parents were asking for the place.

"It's probably the most controversial home in the world," the buyer, Realtor Gerry Roberts, told The Associated Press. Roberts says, however, he plans to live there with his wife and three children.