The Lizzie Borden House
A Triple Homicide Crime Scene Turned B&B: The Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast
“Lizzie Borden took an ax and gave her mother 40 whacks… when she saw what she had done, she gave her father 41. Andrew Borden is now dead, Lizzie hit him on the head, up in heaven he will sing, on the gallows she will swing.”
This macabre nursery rhyme is the result of a double homicide in which a young Lizzie Borden was accused of in 1892 in Fall River, Massachusetts. Both her father and stepmother had been brutally attacked inside the home with a hatchet. Both had obviously succumbed to their injuries. The murders and trial received widespread publicity and remain a household name to this day. They have been depicted in numerous theatrical productions, films, literary works, and folk rhymes like the one above.
Early Life of Lizzie
Lizzie Borden was born July 19th, 1860 in Fall River, Massachusetts, to Sarah Anthony and Andrew Jackson Borden. Her father grew up in modest surroundings and struggled financially for much of his life. He eventually found success in the manufacture and sale of furniture and caskets. He also became a successful property developer. He was director of multiple textile mills and owned commercial property. Needless to say, his financial standing was good. At his death, his estate was valued at $300,000, equivalent to $9 million in 2019. Despite this wealth, Andrew was well known for his frugality, probably due to his poorer upbringing, and even refused indoor plumbing in his Fall River home. Borden and her older sister Emma received a relatively religious upbringing and were members of plenty of religious groups in the area.
Death of Sarah Borden
Three years after her mother Sarah’s death, Andrew Borden married Abby Gray. Lizzie attempted to have a cordial relationship with her but called her ‘Mrs. Borden’ instead of mom. She believed that Abby had married her father Andrew for his wealth only. The Borden’s housemaid Maggie even stated that the girls rarely ate meals with their parents, and tensions were beginning to grow larger for months before the murders. Andrew had been giving gifts of real estate to Abby’s family while leaving Emma and Lizzie with nothing. The sisters had demanded property too and were given the home in which they were already living. The night before the murders, John Morse, the brother of deceased Sarah Borden, visited Andrew to discuss business matters. Some have speculated that conversation, particularly about a property transfer gone wrong, which may have aggravated an already tense situation.
August 4th, 1892.
Sarah’s brother John arrived the evening of August 3rd and stayed the night in the family’s guest room. After breakfast the next morning, Andrew and John went into the sitting room and chatted for nearly an hour. Around 8:48 a.m., John left to buy a pair of oxen and to visit his niece, planning to return to the Borden household around noon. Andrew left for his usual morning walk around 9 that morning. Although cleaning of the guest room was often a chore delegated to Lizzie or Emma, Abby went upstairs sometime between 9 a.m. and 10:30 to make the bed. According to forensic investigation, Abby was facing her killer when the attack occurred. She was struck first on the side of the head with a hatchet, causing her to turn and fall face down on the floor. Her killer then struck her multiple times, delivering 17 more direct hits to the back of her head, killing her.
Andrew Arrives Home
Andrew returned from his morning stroll around 10:30 that morning, his key failing to open the door. He started knocking and when the housemaid Maggie went to open it, she saw that the lock had jammed. She would later testify that once she muttered an expletive due to the jammed lock, she heard Lizzie laughing. She did not see Lizzie but stated that the giggles were coming from the top of the stairs. At this time, Abby was already dead. This was significant because anyone on the second floor would have seen her body in the guest room. Lizzie later denied being upstairs during the trial. Lizzie stated that she then had helped her father remove his boots, and slip on some house shoes before he lay down on the sofa for a nap. This story was contradicted by the crime scene photos, as Andrew lay dead on the couch with his boots still on his feet. Lizzie then informed Maggie of a sale in town and permitted her to go, but Maggie was feeling unwell and stayed home instead, retiring to her room for a nap.
Murder of Andrew Borden
Maggie testified that she was in her third-floor bedroom resting when just before 11:10 she heard Lizzie call from downstairs, “Maggie, come quick! Father’s dead, someone came in and killed him!” Andrew was found slumped over the couch in the sitting room, struck 10-11 times with a hatchet. One of his eyeballs had been split cleanly in two, suggesting that he had been asleep when he was attacked. He was still bleeding at the time Maggie saw him, which told of a recent attack. So where was the murderer now?
Lizzie’s initial answers to the police were strange and contradicting. Initially, she reported hearing scraping and groans. Two hours later she told the police that she heard nothing. When asked where her stepmother was, she stated that Abby had received a note to go and visit a sick friend. She also stated that she thought Abby had returned home and asked if someone could go upstairs and look for her. Maggie and a neighbor that had come by, Mrs. Churchill, went upstairs and saw Abby lying on the floor of the guestroom face down. Most of the police officers that interviewed Lizzie found her attitude to be a bit suspicious, some said she was too calm. Despite this, no one bothered to check her or her clothes for bloodstains. They were criticized for their lack of diligence when they only peeked into Lizzie’s room but left shortly after when Lizzie said she wasn’t feeling well and wanted to lie down.
In the basement of the home, police found two hatchets, one with a broken handle. It was suspected of being the murder weapon as the break in the handle appeared fresh and it had been deliberately covered with ash and dust to make it seem as if it had been in the basement for quite some time, untouched. Also, due to the random onset of illness before the murders, the family’s milk and Andrew and Abby’s stomach contents were tested for poison. All came back normal. Later that night, officers stayed close to the house in case the murderer came back to finish off the rest of the family. He stated that he saw Lizzie and a friend enter the cellar, carrying an oil lamp and a slop pail. He saw them both exit later and saw Lizzie over the sink at one point. A few days later, after police had told Lizzie she was a suspect in the murders, the mayor visited the home, and found Lizzie tearing up a dress and putting it onto the fire. She told him it was because it had been ruined with paint. Eventually, Lizzie was brought to trial and many reasons were given as to why she would have committed the murders. One suggestion was that she was being physically and sexually assaulted by her father, which drove her to kill him and Abby, who did nothing to stop him. After a long and extensive trial, which you can read about here, Lizzie was eventually acquitted of all charges. She moved into a more affluent neighborhood with her sister, where she changed her name and was ostracized by her neighbors. She died at the age of 66 of pneumonia in Fall River.
The Lizzie Borden House: Dead and Breakfast
The home is now a fully functional bed and breakfast, housing guests from all over the country. You can even stay in the Lizzie Suite, and sleep in the bed she slept in. Reports consist of spectral cats, apparitions, self-rocking rocking chairs, and even that Lizzie herself still haunts the home, choking guests that lay in her bed. The dining room table on which guests enjoy their meals is where Abby and Andrew were autopsied. Guests who stay at the Lizzie Borden house have captured photos of strange anomalies floating by their beds, noises coming from inside wardrobes, footsteps, laughter, (like that of Lizzie’s, the morning of the murders) and some have even reported being touched by an unseen hand while they slept.
Even though there wasn’t enough evidence to convict Lizzie for the murders of her father and stepmother, many believe that she committed the crimes because she stood to gain the most financially from their deaths – not to mention the searing resentment she felt towards her stepmother. To this day, questions swirl around the Lizzie Borden case, and whoever murdered the couple was never brought to justice. This alone is enough to keep spirits in a state of unrest, let alone how horrific their deaths were. So, will you book a stay in the Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast?
For more haunted Massachusetts, check out our Top 20 Most Haunted post here!
Featured Image Courtesy of Picryl.