Lizzie Borden Took an Axe…

The Borden House (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

August 4th, 1892, began as a typical day for the Borden household in Fall River, MA. The patriarch, Andrew Borden, departed the home in the morning for his normal routine of checking in at the bank where he was president and stopping by the post office. Meanwhile, his second wife, Abby, and his daughter from his first marriage, Elizabeth, went about the daily chores at home along with the family’s hired maid, 26-year old Bridget Sullivan. Elizabeth’s older sister, Emma, was not at home.

Around 10:45 am, Mr. Borden returned home. Claiming he felt ill, Andrew sat down for a nap on the sofa in the front room. Bridget Sullivan later testified that she was lying down in her third floor room when she heard Elizabeth around 11:00 am frantically calling out to her that someone had killed Elizabeth’s father. Rushing downstairs, Bridget saw Mr. Borden’s body slumped in the sofa as if he’d been sleeping. The left side of his face was a bloody pulp.

The body of Andrew Borden. (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

As neighbors tended to Elizabeth in the kitchen, Bridget made another grisly discovery. She found the body of Abby Borden slumped on the floor of the upstairs guest bedroom, likewise dead from blows to the head.

In the ensuing police investigation, it was discovered both Bordens died from hatchet blows to the head – 18 or 19 in the case of Abby and 11 for Andrew. Despite a heavily contaminated crime scene – it wasn’t secured until hours later – the police discovered a hatchet head broken off from its handle. The police assumed this was the murder weapon. With the crowds tramping through the house in the hours following the murders, most other physical evidence was destroyed.

Elizabeth told several varying and inconsistent stories to investigators regarding unknown mysterious persons. However, in the end, the police believed the circumstantial evidence pointed towards Elizabeth as the murderer. She was arrested on August 11th and tried at court in June 1893. With only weak circumstantial evidence and no witnesses, the jury acquitted Elizabeth on June 20, 1893.

Following the murders and trial, Elizabeth and Emma moved into another house in Falls River. In June 1905, the two had a falling out and Emma moved out. Both sisters died in 1927; Elizabeth on June 1st and Emma on June 10th. Neither ever married.

Rumors have swirled since immediately following the murders. It’s clear that following the death of the sisters’ biological mother, Sarah, in 1863, the Borden household was not a pleasant place for the sisters. Neither particularly liked their stepmother and by all accounts Andrew Borden was not a particularly cheerful fellow. While most believe Elizabeth was involved in the murders, many believe she didn’t act alone. Claims of incest and mentally handicapped illegitimate children still surface. We do know the Borden sisters were very upset with Andrew for giving property to relatives while providing them nothing. However, like so many similar murder cases, it’s likely that we’ll never know the full truth since those who did are now long since dead.

The Borden house currently operates as a museum, and bed and breakfast. Extensive paranormal claims surround the property, including reports of a very mean apparition of Andrew Borden. Are they real or merely products of over-active imaginations?

[© 2011 All rights reserved.  This copyrighted material may not be reposted or reproduced in any form without permission.]

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