Friday, November 27, 2015

Lizzie Borden

Yesterday in old Fall River Mr. Andrew Borden died,
And they got his daughter Lizzie on a charge of homicide.
Some folks say she didn't do it and others say of course she did,
L But they all agree Miss Lizzie B. was a problem type of kid.

         Composed by Michael Brown performed by the Chad Mitchell Trio

I have been fascinated by the story of Lizzie Borden since I was a child. It is a mystery that may never be satisfactorily solved.

Andrew Borden was a wealthy man. Still he lived without many of the modern conveniences of that time. His daughters lived at his home as was the custom of the day for unmarried women. Andrew's wife Abby was the stepmother of the girls.

Andrew Borden was not liked by almost everyone who knew him. He did not seem to mind. He and his family lived a reclusive life.

Then on August 4, 1892 Lizzie found Andrew on the sofa in his home. He had been brutally murdered. His head and face were the focus of the injuries. Blood was splattered everywhere. It was not until a little later that they discovered the body of Abby in an upstairs bedroom. She had also been ruthlessly killed.

Emma, the older daughter was not at home that day so she was ruled out as a suspect. She and Lizzie had both gone on vacation but Lizzie returned home earlier.The maid, Bridget, was supposedly outside cleaning windows.

John was the brother of Sarah Borden. Sarah was Lizzie's and Emma's mother who had died. John had spent the previous night at the Borden home. He was seen in downtown Fall River at the time of Andrew's death so he was cleared as a suspect.

That left Lizzie. She was an animal lover. She had adopted the pigeons roosting in the shed behind the house. Her father killed them using a hatchet and she was furious. There were other questionable actions on the part of Lizzie that led police to believe that she had killed her father and stepmother.

Lizzie was tried and acquitted of the murders. The murders remain a mystery to this day. Many believe it was Lizzie. There are other theories about what happened. We will probably never know the truth.

In a college class I was required to critique two plays. One that I chose was about Lizzie Borden.

Two young women in their twenties spent the whole play talking about Lizzie and her family. They discussed the murders. They talked about the lives that Emma and Lizzie lived after the trial. (Neither ever married.)

Then the play ended. Not even the offering of an opinion about who killed the Bordens. I was disappointed.

When my oldest granddaughter was chosen to participate at the Student Athlete Games at Rhode Island University her family decided to vacation there. When they invited me I jumped at the chance.

We stayed in Fall River while my granddaughter stayed on campus. We spent one day at the house where the murders took place.

It is now a bed and breakfast if anyone wants to spend the night. The bedrooms are lovely, clean, and comfortable looking but they are so small in the style of that time. There is a shared bathroom. Andrew would not have approved of the bathroom. An outhouse was what he provided for his family.

There is a little gift shop in a fairly new building out back. The shed that attracted pigeons is long gone. In the gift shop you can sign up for a guided tour of the house.

While we were waiting our turn for the tour a young man of college age came into the shop. He was so excited. While taking the tour earlier in the day he had taken a lot of pictures. One of the pictures showed whar appeared to be a ghost by the window of Lizzie's room.

The young man wanted to know if he could just go back inside to take more pictures. He was hoping for a more clear picture of the ghost.

The guide told him to go ahead. "Alone?" asked the young man. He was terrified. But in he half-bravely went. I do not know what happened with his new pictures because our tour started and we did not see him again.

The tour guide was a nice older gentleman who resembled Andrew Borden. He dressed as Andrew Borden and conducted the tour as Andrew Borden for most of the time.

The house has been preserved much as it was during the late 1800's. It has been updated with electricity and modern heating.

As we went through each room we learned about the room as well as details about the way the family lived. In the bedroom said to be Lizzie's is a dressmaker's dummy. It is wearing a dress worn by Elizabeth Montgomery in the movie she made about Lizzie Borden.

That was also the room where the young man had taken the spooky picture. I immediately spotted what had happened in the picture.

There were men working on the street outside. Obviously the camera was focused on something inside the house. The men working outside were out of focus and seen through a window creating the ghostly sight. I should have been on one of those TV shows debunking things.

Then there was a woman on the tour with her daughter. She wanted to brag that she a cousin of Lizzie Borden. Her maiden name was Borden. She was positively beaming with pride.

The tour guide gently broke the news to her. There are no closely related Bordens. There might be distant cousins but none with the Borden name. A quick look to Wikipedia confirms this. Another busted bubble.

It is a beautiful house. The history of it is interesting. There are photos of the Bordens in every room including pictures of them taken before their dead bodies were removed. The tour guides know their stuff. It is a tour I recommend.

Lizzie Borden took an ax
And gave her mother 40 whacks.
And when the job was nicely done,
She gave her father 41


  1. I enjoyed this. The story sounds like an appropriate piece for PBS.

    1. There have been a lot of television documentaries about Lizzie Borden as well as a short lived television series. All the people who might know about the case are dead. Police files are not to be trusted because all evidence including the crime scene were horribly compromised. It is another of those mysteries that will probably never be solved.

  2. Hello Emma,

    Very spooky story. A daughter killing her father is spine chilling. Did she kill her father because he lived a simple life and made them also live without any modern facilities although he was rich?Is it possible for children to react in such a ghastly manner because the father killed the pet pigeons?

    Sometimes real murderers get acquitted for lack of evidence. In our country the courts mainly go by evidence. As a result many rich and powerful criminals mostly politicians, godmen and movie stars get acquitted because they either manage to kill the witnesses or buy them with money.

    I enjoyed reading this post.

    Many,many thanks for the lovely comment you wrote in my blog.

    Best wishes

    1. The questions you ask are the same questions that have no solid answers. The tools we use today like DNA and blood testing did not exist then. Police procedure was ignored because it was a wealthy family and gawkers were allowed to tramp through the crime scene. Thank you for your insight.

  3. I love mystery.
    And I love to read your post.

    1. Me too. And I love your posts as you walk through the jungle of Cerok Tokun. I feel as if I were there with you talking to the mushrooms.

  4. I have heard this story and also wondered whether or not she committed the murders. We will never know it seems.

  5. Like you, I am fascinated by this true story of Lizzie Borden. I have read several books about it, one of them had the actual testimony from the trial! One book had Lizzie guilty, another had her had her lesbian maid in on it...I wonder if we will ever find out for sure. I think it likely that she did commit the murders and when her sister stopped speaking to her in later years, I think that was after Lizzie admitted to her that she had done it.
    And is it true that Elizabeth Montgomery (the Bewitched actress who portrayed her) was a distant relative? I have read that but you know, you can't believe everything you read!

    1. I have read everything you mention and more. Elizabeth Montgomery did claim she was distantly related to Lizzie Borden with both having the common ancestors of Sarah and Samuel Luther. I had read that the lesbian rumors came from Lizzie's time spent with the acting community after the trial was over. The story is fascinating with many twists and turns.

    2. If you ever see that a new book is coming out about this, I would appreciate it if you would let me know. Perhaps YOU could write it! I might not ever write a book but perhaps I will inspire someone else to do so.

    3. I am an amateur when it comes to Lizzie Borden facts so you will not see a book from me. But I would be pleased to alert you to any new material. I hope you will return the favor.