Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks.
And when she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one.
Photo of the Borden house on 92 Second Street in Fall River, Massachusetts
→ The Borden house that still stands on 92 Second Street may now be a bed and breakfast but on August 4, 1892 it was witness to one of the most brutal, unsolved murders in American history. We may never know what really happened that day.
To start from the very beginning – Andrew Borden was one of the richest men in the city of Fall River, he was a self-made businessman with important titles such as President of Union Savings Bank, Durfee Safe Deposit and many others. He had two daughters with his first wife Sarah Morse. The eldest being Emma Borden who was born March 1st of 1851 and the youngest, Lizzie Borden born July 19th 1860. Lizzie would not grow to know her biological mother because in March of 1863 Sarah died of a hemorrhage. On January 18th 1865 Andrew was remarried to Abby Gray, a women that will be remembered due to her graphic departure from life.
It was close to 9am when Lizzie walked down the stairs of her home like many mornings since the family bought the home in 1872. She saw her Stepmother Abby dusting the dining room, Her father Andrew sitting in his large chair in the sitting room and Bridget – the maid who the Borden sister’s insisted on calling ‘Maggie’ which was the name of a pervious servant – was grabbing her pail of water and long pole with a brush to go wash the windows.
Although Bridget had cooked breakfast earlier Lizzie had said she was not hungry and instead had a cup of coffee, Her father had mentioned he might not go to the post office and mail a letter to Emma his eldest daughter who was in Fair Haven for two weeks visiting friends. Earlier that morning about 7am Lizzie’s Uncle John Morse who was the brother of Andrew’s first wife Sarah had left to go visit his nice and nephew. He made several visit’s a year from his home in Dartmouth to visit family and conduct business in Fall River.
Around 9:15 Andrew Borden left and went downtown while Abby went upstairs to make the bed that John was staying in. At 9:30 Abby come downstairs only for a moment till she decided she needed fresh pillowcases and went back up. Bridget continued to wash the outside windows and stop for a few minutes to talk with the hired girl next door, around 10:30 she had gone inside to begin cleaning the inside windows. It’s said during this time Lizzie sat in the kitchen reading an old Harper’s magazine and eating a pear while she waited for the iron to heat up to press some handkerchiefs. Fifteen minutes later Andrew returned home, and was told by his daughter Lizzie, “Mrs. Borden has gone out – she had a note from someone who was sick. The Borden daughters would only address Abby as ‘Mrs. Borden’. He then went to lay down and take a nap in the sitting room, he was completely unaware that his wife was laying dead in the guestroom in a pool of her blood; he also didn’t know he was never to wake from his nap.
Bridget had gone up to her room in the attic to take a nap while Lizzie went to the barn looking for a lead sinker because she planned on going fishing the following Monday, she claimed she had been in the barn for twenty minutes while she ate some more pears she had picked off the pear tree. Afterwards she entered the house and went to the dining room to lay her hat down.
“Maggie, Come down!” Lizzie shouted from the stairs, abruptly waking Bridget from her restless sleep. “What is the matter?” Bridget shouted back as she slipped her shoes on and rushed down the staircase. “Come down quick!” Lizzie screamed out, “Father’s dead! Somebody’s come in and killed him!”
Crime scene photo of Andrew Jackson Borden, Lizzie claimed to have walked into the “sitting room” where she found her father’s murdered body.
Bridget found Lizzie by the back door, her face colorless. Bridget was stopped from entering the sitting room by Lizzie who ordered “Don’t go in there. Go and get the doctor. Run!” Dr. Bowen was a family friend and had only lived across the street, making Bridget’s run fast. Dr. Bowen wasn’t in but Mrs. Bowen was so Bridget told her that Andrew Borden had been killed; She ran back to the Borden house. “Where where you when this thing happened?”
She asked Lizzie “I was out in the yard, and I heard a groan and came in. The screen door was wide open.” Lizzie responded, she then sent Bridget to get the Borden Daughter’s friend, Miss Alice Russell who lived a few blocks away. The neighbors were starting to gather on Lizzie’s lawn, someone had called the police.
Her next door neighbor, Mrs. Adelaide Churchill came over to Lizzie who was still at the back entrance of the house and asked what was wrong, Lizzie responded,
“Oh Mrs. Churchill, someone has killed my father!”
“Where is your father?” she asked,
“In the sitting room.”
“Where were you when it happened?”
“I went to the barn to get a piece of iron.”
“Where is your mother?”
Lizzie said she didn’t know and that her stepmother had received a note asking her to respond to someone who was sick. Soon Dr. Bowen arrived and examined Andrew’s body, Dr. Bowen could not identify the body at first, seven large blows had gashed his face, his nose had been severed and one eye had been cut in half. Most of the blows had been within the area of the eyes, nose and ears. Blood still seeped from the wounds when he had a sheet cover Mr. Borden, but Abby was still unaccounted for. Lizzie had claimed she was sure Abby had come home and Bridget and Mrs. Churchill went upstairs to find Abby dead on the floor of the guestroom.
Above and below are both crime scene photos of Abby Borden at different angles. Lizzie claimed to have not known about her mothers murder until Bridget and Mrs. Churchill went up and discovered her.
Mrs. Churchill would later say that she only “Looked like the form of a person.”, she like her husband had been beaten to death by an axe. Dr. Bowen noticed that Abby had been struck over a dozen times from the back of her head, in her autopsy it was revealed that there was nineteen blows to the head.
The axe used to murder Mr & Mrs Borden is now believed to be part of the Lizzie Borden museum located in Fall River, MA
Pictured above: Crime scene (close-up) of Andrew Borden’s butchered body.
Crime scene photo showing the back of Abby Borden’s butchered head.
The next hour or so at the Borden home was chaotic, people were all over the house sneaking looks at the gruesome state of the bodies and comforting Lizzie. All the people had destroyed any clues that could have been left behind; The reason being the annual picnic of the Fall River Department was hosted that day and only one officer had gone to the Borden house, George W. Allen, and after only being there a few moments he had ran the 400 yards back to the department to tell the city marshal the gruesome details.
On August 12th 1892 Lizzie was arrested for the murders of her father Andrew and stepmother Abby. The trial lasted from June 5th of ‘93 to June 19th. Although people had testified that only days earlier Lizzie tried to buy poison from a Smith‘s drug store, Miss Alice Russell said she had seen Lizzie burn a dress in the kitchen stove, and the fact that Lizzie’s story was barely believable because the barn she claimed to be in was dusty and untouched, the ‘letter’ Abby had supposedly received was never found and that her motive was clear because her father was going to rewrite his will leaving almost everything to Abby instead of his daughters, she was found not guilty on all counts by a jury of twelve middle-aged farmers and salesmen.
Five weeks after the trial had ended Lizzie (Who at this point went by ‘Lizbeth’ instead) and her sister Emma bought a thirteen bedroom Victorian house at 306 French St. on ‘The Hill’ which was the most fashionable area of the city. Lizzie had the name of her new home carved into the top step leading to the front door, this house was dubbed ‘Maplecroft’. In 1904 Lizzie befriended a young actress, Nance O’Neil who was rumored to be having an affair with Lizzie, She would often throw parties for her new friend at Maplecroft. In 1905 Emma and Lizzie got into a fight of an unknown subject and Emma moved away, the two never spoke again.
On June 1st 1927 Lizzie died after a long illness from complications of gall bladder surgery. Strangely enough Emma died only a few days later on June 10th after falling down the stairs at her home. They were buried in plots next to Andrew and Abby.
Many theories still float around as to what went down that day, but who ever had killed Andrew and Abby has brought their secret to the grave with them, all that is left is spirits who will never rest until this mystery is solved.
You looking for a place to rest your head and go home with creepy stories? Thrill seekers, Ghost hunters and people who want to be spooked alike can now stay in the Borden house that is now a bed and breakfast designed to make you feel like your back in 1892. Almost everyone that stays there has a story to tell of the paranormal activity they experienced. Doors will often open and close when no one is around to have done it, heavy footsteps on the stairs can be heard, figures will be seen roaming the halls and rooms, beds becoming messy within seconds of looking away.
On rare occasions people have even reported to seeing a women making the bed in the guestroom, even when they are still laying in it. Muffled conversations are common coming from vacant rooms. One of the most creepy reports is people seeing the form of a person sleeping in a bed when no one is there. Items have also been known to go missing only to appear much later in either the same area or different. Ready to go home with chills in your spine? Enter at your own risk.
The Stats – (Where applicable)
• Style of Haunting: Apparitions
• Top 100 Ranking: 39
• Location: Fall River, Massachusetts
• Date Location Was Constructed: 1845