by Tony Harrington
Lizzie Andrew Borden was born on July 19, 1860 to Andrew Jackson Borden and Sarah Anthony Morse in Fall River, Massachusetts, joining older sisters Emma Lenora and Alice Esther( who died at 2 years of age).
By all accounts, growing up in the Borden household was not easy and things only seemed to worsen when Sarah Borden lost her life in 1863 and Andrew re-married, taking Abby Durfee Gray as his wife.
Andrew’s decision to reject modern conveniences resulted in the family having to empty slop buckets (human waste) in the backyard of the family home. Andrew’s daughters grew increasingly distressed over the lack of modern conveniences in the home and reveled in the chance to visit their friends “in town” where they got to sample modern living. As time went on Andrew and his wife began distancing themselves from their children leaving the daughters in a precarious position.
Because of Andrew’s decision to reject modern standards, his daughters were not marrying material and soon progressed past marrying age and were known as spinsters with no marketable skills to speak of. The upstairs of the Borden home was ultimately broken into halves with Lizzie and Emma occupying the front half and Andrew and his wife Abby occupied the back half of the house.
Life went on in the Borden home but things began to sour when an aging Mr. Borden began contemplating the division of family assets, most notably, the family farm in Swansea. In his late seventies, Mr. Borden was faced with his own mortality and, much to the chagrin of his daughters who had expected a windfall in assets, Andrew began dividing his estate amongst his step-family with relatives of his wife getting a house and several parcels of farm land.
Around this time, John Morse, brother of Andrew’s first wife arrived in town to facilitate the transfer of farm property including the Borden Summer home that had been used primarily by the Borden daughters. Infuriated, the Borden daughters began voicing their disdain at being cut out and were promptly asked to leave on an extended vacation while the rest of the estate was divided.
Lizzie ended her vacation short and on her way back home she stopped by the local pharmacy and asked the druggist for a bottle of hydrogen cyanide. The druggist denied Lizzie the purchase, leery of her stated intention of cleaning a leather cloak.
Lizzie returned home and shortly after her arrival the entire family grew deathly ill after eating a meal together. Abby, Lizzie’s stepmother, thought the family was being poisoned as a result of her husband’s unpopularity in town, but the family doctor summed the entire illness up to food poisoning as a result of ill-prepared and stored mutton.
On August 4th, 1892, 72 year old Andrew Borden went into town to run errands at the bank and the post office and returned home at approximately 10:45 a.m.. Fifteen minutes later the housekeeper in the Borden home, Bridget Sullivan, who was napping in her third floor bedroom, heard Lizzie yelling that her father had been murdered.
And he had been. His body was discovered slumped over on a downstairs sitting room couch as if he was sleeping. His head and body had sustained 11 hatchet wounds. The body of Andrew’s wife Abby was discovered upstairs in a guest bedroom, laying on the floor beside the bed and having suffered approximately 19 blows from the blade of a hatchet.
Lizzie was arrested and ultimately stood trial for the murders of Andrew and Abby Borden. A jury acquitted her on lack of evidence and no other arrests in the murders were made, making the Borden murders one of America’s most horrendous unsolved cases.
In the court of public opinion, the majority feels that Lizzie was the culprit with a smaller camp taking the mantle of staunch defenders. Other theories are not as black and white and involve an illicit affair resulting in Andrew’s bastard child and Lizzie’s illegitimate half-brother, William Borden carrying out the slayings as a result of unsuccessfully attempting to extort money from the Borden’s.
Regardless of the who and why, ultimately the ending is the same. Andrew and Abby Borden lost their lives that day and no justice for the crime has allegedly left their spirits earthbound. The Borden home is now an operational Bed and Breakfast. The Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast/Museum at 230 Second Street (historically 92 Second Street) invites curiosity seekers and paranormal thrill-seekers the opportunity to stay in the very home where the murders took place. Guests will stay in one of 8 rooms and will eat a delicious breakfast consisting of items similar to that which the Borden’s ate on their last day, which includes bananas, johnny-cakes, sugar cookies and coffee in addition to standard breakfast staples.
- Hearing a woman crying softly in the night
- Shoes moving across the floor on their own
- Full bodied apparitions of a woman in period dress tuck guests in
- The sounds of thumping from the third floor (could it be a hatchet?)
- The ghostly images of Abby and Andrew Borden seen throughout the house
- Doors opening and closing on their own
For more information on the history of the Borden murders check out Haunted Hamilton’s Borden House page.
For those of you who are a little more adventuresome and want to visit the Lizzie Borden bed and breakfast, you can fulfill all your needs by visiting the official bed and breakfast site by clicking here.