Last year I had the pleasure of visiting the Lizzie Borden house in Fall River, Mass. We took the tour and spoke to some Lizzie Borden enthusiasts about her case and what they think happened.
Growing up, when I was a kid, it seemed like a legend, a fairy tale. It wasn't until I visited her home that I saw her as a real person, not just a character in a poem.
Lizzie Borden took an axe And gave her mother forty whacks.
When she saw what she had done, She gave her father forty-one.
So is this true? Did she kill her parents with an ax? This mystery is known as ¨the case of the century¨.
Who was Lizzie Borden?
Born in Fall River, Ma July 19th, 1860. Her parents were Andrew Borden and Sarah Morse Borden; her mother died when Lizzie was a child. Andrew remarried Lizzie's stepmom Abby Borden. Lizzie did not like her stepmother and called her Mrs. Borden.
Lizzie was a Sunday school teacher, a lover of animals, a feminist, a civil rights activist, and a shoplifter. Around town, her father Andrew had a deal with the local shops to add it to his tab if they caught Lizzie stealing.
Did Lizzie and her father get along?
The rumor was that Lizzie and her sister Emma did not like living like they were poor or in the poor Irish part of town. Andrew Borden was the CEO of a bank and was worth the equivalent of 5 million dollars; he refused to update the home to be more modern, and he did not want to move on the Hill, which the girls felt would have provided them, suitors, to wed.
Lizzie and Emma were both unmarried, and in the 1800s, unmarried in your 30s meant you were a spinster, and she blamed her father, saying she had no lovely dresses and wanted to move up on the Hill where the other English lived. Andrew also kept his daughters on a strict budget of 200$ a year.
Emma helped raise Lizzie and was her only support system in the house. Emma never left the house except on the day of the murders.
The family also has an Irish maid named Bridget Sullivan, yet they called her Maggie. She was also a key witness in the trial. The other key player in this gruesome story is John Morse, Lizzie's uncle. He happened to be visiting from Idaho the day before the murders. It was said he was not in the house when the murders occurred.
The day of the murders was August 4th, 1892.
According to the story, Emma was rumored to be visiting cousins a few towns over, which was weird, considering she never left the house. John left the house early in the morning to run errands and planned on returning around lunchtime.
Which left Lizzie and Bridget alone in the house all morning; Bridget was washing windows and then fell ill and retreated to her room to nap. Lizzie said she was in the barn at the time of the murders; neither woman heard a thing.
Abby is murdered first between 9 am, and 1030 am; allegedly, Andrew is not home at this time as he is out on his morning walk. She is attacked with an ax and hit 19 times in the head, killing her instantly.
Andrew comes home and naps on the couch; he is then murdered with an ax. When Lizzie returns from the barn, she finds Andrew on the couch, dead. Lizzie yells for Bridget, who is in her room taking a nap.
It is not until the police and doctor are at the house that they find Abby dead upstairs. Neither body had defense wounds, so it is believed they both knew the killer or it was a sneak attack. However, many investigators also found it weird that there were no blood trails aside from the wounds to the skulls, suggesting that it had to be someone who was a professional, possibly a doctor or a butcher.
There was also a rumor that Lizzie tried to poison them as it was reported that she tried to buy cyanide the day before, and on the day of the murders, the maid was vomiting; it could also have been food poisoning.
Lizzie was arrested for murder and just as fast acquitted.
The jury stated a woman could not commit such gruesome murders. Also, no blood was found on Lizzie and no signs that she murdered them. An ax head was found in the basement; however, they are unsure if it was the murder weapon.
The truth is that there are several significant problems with the "handleless hatchet" as the murder weapon and even the prosecution's identification of it as such was woefully shaky.
Rumors, Legends, Do we know what happened?
Were the sisters in on it for an inheritance, because according to the tour guide at the house, if Andrew died, all the money would go to Abby, leaving Lizzie and Emma out on the streets, as they were already spinsters, it would ruin them.
There was also a rumor that Andrew was raping the girls, Lizzie, Emma, and Bridget, and they were in on it together with their uncle John.
After the trial was over, and Lizzie was acquitted. The two girls inherited the father's money, and Lizzie bought a house on the Hill. Lizzie and Emma never married.
Bridget married and moved to Montana. John went back to Idaho, Never to speak of the case again.
Many rumors stated that they all had enough money to never worry about money again, which leaves the question of they were all in on it together, or was it all a coincidence?
After she inherited the money, Lizzie put a lot of money back into the community; she gave scholarships to the Irish. She also became a silent partner in an animal shelter, and when she died in 1927, she left 30k to the Fall River's Animal Rescue League.
When I was on tour, a Medium was also there, and he said that the ghost of Andrew Borden still haunts the house; he is unaware that he is dead. He does not like people in his home. The house has been sold and turned into a bed and breakfast. They offer nightly tours of the story of Lizzie Borden.