Morbid History : Lizzie Borden

The poem starts out “Lizzie Borden took and axe”…or did she?  This perplexing conundrum has bee a subject of hot debate for well over 100 years and counting.  In Fall River, Mass. on August 4th 1892 Lizzie Borden called for the doctor, her father and step-mother had been violently murdered.  It was one of the most notorious crimes in America and it has left a legendary mark on history.

The Borden House

Was it her, the maid, the illegitimate son, a burglar? What happened to the blood stained clothes that the killer obviously had to have after hacking not one but two people so violently that even to this day it is hard to find the crime photos? (Not impossible mind…just hard.)   Truly, there have always been more questions than answers so let’s look at this from many angles shall we?  First: the stats!

Lizzie Andrew Borden

Born: July 19, 1860

Siblings: Sisters and apparent illegitimate brother

Judging by her date of death, for those of you that didn’t know, Lizzie was not charged for the crime.  Arrested and jailed…but acquitted due to the lack of evidence.  Evidence consisted of blood (or the lack thereof) and a hatchet that was presumed to be the murder weapon but with, you guessed it, no blood found on it…and it was also a broken hatchet which had to have meant it was broken off to conceal the blood which was apparently able to be wiped clean from the rest of the hatchet…but not the handle?

Infamous Axe…actually hatchet.

But, of course, there were other things to consider.  Firstly: Motive!

1. It was a foregone conclusion that the good Mr. Borden was a skinflint.  Even though he was rich due to his funeral homes success…well come on!  Think about it.  A funeral home is bound to make good business and it is a small twist of irony that he ended up on his own table.  Like the Scrooge of his day he was not liked by many and his daughters liked him even less.  So, there is one good motive.

Mr. Borden
Apparently…this is Mr. Borden’s head…can you tell

2.My word!  Was there a potential new will and testament of Mr. Borden’s floating around Fall River just recently before the murders?  There was the one rumor that Borden was rewriting his will to favor his second wife and her family and that Lizzie and her sister would be almost totally excluded.  If this is true, it has never been found and it’s about a day late and a dollar short…Lizzie and Emma got everything.

The back of Mrs. Borden’s head.
Mrs. Borden

 3.  Now for the crimes of the good Mrs. Borden.  Though she was never reported by others as being truly hateful, it is rumored that she never fully accepted Lizzie and Emma as daughters.  Jealousy may have fueled her death as well.

So on with it:  Did she do it?  Well, let’s look at some of the more popular theories.

1. Yes, of course she did it!  How could you doubt it?  She had the most to gain from it.  She even tried to purchase poison recently before the murders.  She went about naked, hacked them up and then bathed and cried for the doctor.  She used her feminine delicacies to win the courts heart and then dashed away with the money.  She lived to be a spinster, true, but she threw parties for her actress friend and died of an illness after estranging herself from her sister.

The other twist to this story was that Lizzie was a homosexual and was having an affair with the maid Bridgette who conspired with her to kill her parents.  This has never been proven however, but then again, nothing about this crime has been proven.

2. No, she didn’t.  It was the maid for the same reasons as above.

3. No, it had to be Borden’s illegitimate son, William.  He wanted a cut of the old man’s estate and in a rage murdered them both.  Again, not proven.  I’m seeing a repeating trend here.

4.  As for Lizzie supposedly poisoning her parents, the two dead Borderns had their stomachs removed and sent to Harvard where…nothing was found.

As with all notorious crimes of the Victorian era we are always left to wonder who did it? Why did they do it? And to what end will the truth ever be known?  Maybe we don’t need the truth so much as we need a legend that shapes the very foundation of our history and it is that mystery that makes us more human than ever.

By Jackie



    • I do appreciate the article about Lizzie. My material sadly had not come from recent publications and most were given to me by word of mouth through various college professors. I did find the information insightful and will definitely be passing it on to my writer friend who has been trying to publish a story about Lizzie Borden while trying to keep the facts correct and this will help immensely! Thank you.

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