The Morbidly Fascinating Page

On this month's Morbidly Fascinating Page:

Discarding the myths and finding the truth about Lizzie Borden


Voodoo in New Orleans
Screaming Mummies
Vampire Slaying Kit
Willows Weep
Dangerous Selfies

Lizzie Borden lizzie

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

This old nursery rhyme may be easy to remember, but it's inaccurate. According to a pathologist who analyzed the victims' skulls, Lizzie Borden's stepmother received nineteen whacks, and her father received eleven. Today such numbers would be considered to be overkill and that is usually done by someone close to the victim. Overkill is personal, with anger as the common underlying drive.

Still, it is up for dispute whether Lizzie wielded the deadly axe herself, since she was ultimately acquitted. All that is known for sure is that on August 4, 1892, someone viciously hacked Andrew and Abby Borden to death.

Today, there is a bed and breakfast in the original Lizzie Borden House, located in Fall River, Massachusetts, where there is a museum exhibiting murder memorabilia. You can find the Lizzie Borden bed and breakfast at: http://www.lizzie-borden.com/


Andrew and Abby Borden when alive



Andrew (father)


Abby (step-mother)

The facts of the case are fairly straightforward: During an oppressive heat wave in August 1892, prominent Fall River residents Andrew and Abby Borden were brutally murdered in their home; each had received multiple blows to the head with a hatchet. The only serious suspect was Andrew’s 32-year-old unmarried daughter, Lizzie, who was at the house during the killings. His other daughter, Emma, was out of town, and their live-in maid Bridget Sullivan was in her third-floor room, resting from a morning of window washing and vomiting following the consumption of spoiled mutton stew. But the finer details of the Borden murders were hazy from the beginning, starting when thousands of curious townspeople visited the crime scene, unintentionally tampering with evidence. Moreover, Lizzie’s inquest testimonies were inconsistent, perhaps owing to the fact that she was prescribed morphine after the murders to help calm her nerves.



Andrew autopsy

Abby autopsy

Abby autopsy


The skulls: Andrew is on the left, and Abby is on the right


The trial of Lizzie Borden opened on June 5, 1893 in the New Bedford Courthouse before a panel of three judges. A high-powered defense team, including Andrew Jennings and George Robinson (the former governor of Massachusetts), represented the defendant, while District Attorney Knowlton and Thomas Moody argued the case for the prosecution.

It is probably fair to say that, however likely it might be that Lizzie did murder her parents, the prosecution failed to meet its burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The state's case rested largely on the argument that it was impossible for anyone else to have committed the crime. For the Borden jury that, and a few other suspicious actions on Lizzie's part (such as burning a dress), turned out not to be enough for a conviction. Had the defendant been a male, some speculate, the jury might have been more inclined to convict. One of the defense's great advantages was that most persons in 1893 found it hard to believe that a woman of Lizzie's background could have pulled off such brutal killings.


The jury: all men which probably worked to Lizzie's advantage because women in that era were thought to be emotionally delicate creatures that could not carry out a murder


The Bordens, including the infamous Lizzie Borden, her sister Emma, and her father and stepmother that she was accused of murdering, are buried in the same plot at Oak Grove Cemetery, a grave yard that dates back to 1855. The cemetery is located in Fall River, Massachusetts.


Somebody put a doll on Lizzie's grave


Did she do it?

The evidence

On a hot August 4, 1892 at 92 Second Street in Fall River, Massachusetts, Bridget ("Maggie") Sullivan, the maid in the Borden family residence rested in her bed after having washed the outside windows. She heard the bell at City Hall ring and looked at her clock: it was eleven o'clock. A cry from Lizzie Borden, the younger of two Borden daughters broke the silence: "Maggie, come down! Come down quick; Father's dead; somebody came in and killed him." A half hour or so later, after the body--"hacked almost beyond recognition"--of Andrew Borden had been covered and the downstairs searched by police for evidence of an intruder, a neighbor who had come to comfort Lizzie, Adelaide Churchill, made a grisly discovery on the second floor of the Borden home: the body of Abby Borden, Lizzie's step-mother. Investigators found Abby's body cold, while Andrew's had been discovered warm, indicating that Abby was killed earlier--probably at least ninety minutes earlier--than her husband.

Police came to the conclusion that the murders must have been committed by someone within the Borden home, but were puzzled by the lack of blood anywhere except on the bodies of the victims and their inability to uncover any obvious murder weapon. Increasingly, suspicion turned toward Lizzie, since her older sister, Emma, was out of the home at the time of the murders. Investigators found it odd that Lizzie knew so little of her mother's whereabouts after 9 A.M. when, according to Lizzie, she had gone "upstairs to put shams on the pillows." They also found unconvincing her story that, during the fifteen minutes in which Andrew Borden was murdered in the living room, Lizzie was out in the backyard barn "looking for irons" (lead sinkers) for an upcoming fishing excursion. The barn loft where she said she looked revealed no footprints on the dusty floor and the stifling heat in the loft seemed likely to discourage anyone from spending more than a few minutes searching for equipment that would not be used for days. 

On August 9, an inquest into the Borden murders was held in the court room over police headquarters. Before criminal magistrate Josiah Blaisdell, District Attorney Hosea Knowlton questioned Lizzie Borden, Bridget Sullivan, household guest John Morse, and others. During her four hours examination, Lizzie gave confused and contradictory answers. Two days later, the inquest adjourned and Police Chief Hilliard arrested Lizzie Borden. 

See more HERE


The house during the timeperiod when the murder happened