As the leaves begin to turn in September, thoughts begin to turn towards Lizzie Borden again. After a brief respite from the August Lizzie fever, cooler temps and the approach of Halloween always seem to inspire revivals of Borden-centered plays around the country. The Boston Lyric Opera has some exciting news. The BLO’s Opera Annex production this year is a commissioned work, a new chamber version of Jack Beeson’s Lizzie Borden (Nov. 20-24, in the Castle at Park Plaza). – (See more at: http://bostonclassicalreview.com/2013/09/a-bustling-boston-music-season-on-tap-with-many-anniversary-celebrations/#sthash.xAJvjAuB.dpuf)
Paranormal groups and television production companies are drawn to the house on Second Street to capture that something extra which flavors the very atmosphere this time of year. The house is busy with overnight guests and day tours and thoughts are turning to Halloween night, which is a sell-out every October 31st.
Once again Fall River is about to tear down a fine old building to make room for a parking lot. The Morgan Street School, known as the N.B. Borden School more recently, was sold for a pitiful sum. Last used in 2007 as a grammar school, there had been plans for the redundant building to be converted into a community center. The layout inside would have been ideal for a city museum. Timetoast.com ran this article on its timeline about the sale of redundant schools in the city: “
In February 2012, the city council delays sale on Belisle; awards bids for Osborn to SB&A Realty Group, Fall River, for $3,111 for professional building, and for N.B. Borden to TA Restaurant Inc., Fall River, for $5,000 for parking and possibly apartments. Council President Linda Pereira removes Pat Casey from RE Committee related to Belisle School controversy.
For more information on Lizzie at the school visit the W&W link below.
Preparing for the performances and on the day!
Yes, it’s that time of year again- the August through Halloween Lizzie Season when plays, books, Lizzie website news, hatchet-throwing contests and such begin to appear with a vengeance. The kickoff is usually on July 19th, Lizzie’s birthday, and the fever pitch continues right through Halloween night when the house on Second Street is packed to the attic and more than one trick- or- treater dresses up as the infamous Lizzie B.
A special Borden exhibit will debut at the Rock Street Fall River Historical Society on August 4th, and as usual, the Pear Essential Productions will be putting on the annual dramatization at the Borden house on Second Street. This year there will be a few new faces in the familiar roles, and a new director for the Bordenian amateur acting troupe, many of whom work at the Bed and Breakfast during the week. Oak Grove will be hopping with visitors to the Borden plot, and the Herald News and other area newspapers will not fail to recall those famous days of 1892. Are you ready for All Things Lizzie?
The Pear Essential Productions’ annual August 4th dramatization at the Borden house will have a few new faces this year. Mike Shogi, from Cleveland will be directing this year for the first time as long-time producer-director and script writer Shelley Dziedzic steps down after a long run. She will still assist with ticket sales, script and costuming.
There will be some big changes in casting this year as well as a few old familiar faces reprising their usual roles. Stay tuned for more cast announcements here.
Below: The cast from August 4, 2012.
A much-anticipated series debuted today in the Sunday Providence Journal. ” Projo” writer Paul Davis certainly did his homework for this six-part article which runs all week and features some new, never-before-published information. The writing is crisp, accurate and thought-provoking and highlights trial coverage from 1893 Providence Journals. Lizziephiles will be over the moon with the expansive coverage. If you cannot obtain a hard copy of the paper, read all about it at the newspaper online link.
A short trailer was put up on Saturday night to heighten anticipation.
A promotional online video is also on the Projo site and Youtube which features Warps and Wefts writer, Shelley Dziedzic who made a tour with Journal reporter Paul Davis in May. The tour encompassed all things “Lizzie” in and around Fall River and a jaunt to the New Bedford courthouse to visit the scene where the 1893 trial unfolded.
It was a quiet Winter and Spring for All Things Lizzie in the public eye, but behind the scenes, there was a buzz. The big news in the Bordenphile community is the possibility of two new biopics about Lizzie and her trial. Casting of one Lifetime channel made-for-TV effort has been posted, with Christina Ricci in the coveted role of Lizzie B.
The long-awaited version with Chloe Sevigny in the title role was shelved due to the filming workload of the actress, which is a shame since Tom Hanks and Playtone would have been a dynamite combo for HBO. Maybe we have not heard the end of that one yet.
On the historical front, The Fall River Historical Society has pulled out all the stops for a refreshed Lizzie Borden display which includes a dainty Delft-like teapot Lizzie once bestowed upon her companion, Miss Russell (no relation to poor Alice).
On Second Street, casting is underway for August 4th dramatizations, this year produced and directed by Cleveland’s Mike Shogi, taking over for long-time director, Shelley Dziedzic who has retired after 14 years. Yes, the Season of Lizzie is upon us and will be going full tilt through Halloween, you can be sure!
It is with profound sorrow that I post the sad news about the passing of my old friend Ed Thibault today. We had been friends for over 20 years and worked at the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast together for many years. Ed and I began the Second Street Irregulars together in 1993. Affectionately called “Mr. Lizzie”, Ed was the go- to guy on all things Lizzie back in the 80s and 90s. He gave tours of the Borden home, visited schools and civic groups and was never too tired to sit and chat about the case. We played Mr. and Mrs. Borden for many years. The photo below was for Monsterquest 2008, our last time together in the roles.
I am missing my old friend already. Ed had been suffering for a very long time with respiratory and heart ailments and had spent the past 6 weeks in Charlton Hospital before being released to a rehab and nursing establishment. News of funeral arrangements will be forthcoming. Lizzie Borden had a champion in Ed who never believed she was guilty.
Ed accepting his Lifetime Achievement Award from the Second Street Irregulars at the Q Club, 2011.
First, a big thank you to followers and readers of Warps & Wefts as we mark the 600th post since 2007. Comments and emails are much-appreciated.
Well, just as seen posted here every October, Lizzie is back in time for Halloween in every fun house, horror venue, costume contest, and not more than a few really BAD films. Usually seen in a red and black dress with puffy leg-o’-mutton sleeves and red hair, she is swinging a bloody hatchet- or even more often an axe, and looking maniacal. Sadly, a really intriguing mystery goes missing in all the gore, and much misinformation about the case gets repeated as Gospel truth which makes a lasting impression. The true story is as scary as anything: two harmless old people savagely slashed and bludgeoned in the head right in the safety and comfort of their family home; home- a place which should be the haven of safety. If this can happen there- then who is safe? Horrifying thought. Rod Serling and Alfred Hitchcock got it right. Horror truly comes in the unexpected violence which intrudes into the safe and simple day-to-day, ordinary life.
So this year, W&W is not going to comment on Halloween Lizzie doings all over America. Rather, try having a really good historical scare by reading the source documents on the case. The witness statements, inquest, preliminary, and trial are all available on Amazon, and some free online. And while you are waiting for your Amazon delivery, here is something interesting to read.
One has to wonder if Eli Bence consulted his half-brother Peter Gaskell Bence in the matter of giving evidence to the Fall River Police Department regarding the attempt by the woman he identified as Lizzie to purchase prussic acid on August 3rd. Peter Bence had received a political appointment to the Fall River Police Department in 1878 and served as a patrolman until 1880. He is pictured above in his policeman’s uniform.
The Bences were a large and close-knit family. In 1892 Peter Bence, a widower, was preparing to marry again to Emma Macomber on August 25th. His first wife, Sarah Jane Ball Bence had died in childbirth at their home at 117 Bay Street in 1890. The house is still standing. The topic of the Borden case, Eli’s evidence, and trial must surely have been a hot topic of discussion within those walls. In 1893 Peter and his new wife moved into 56 Palmer Street, a duplex owned by the Harringtons, where they lived until after his second wife passed away. Peter died in 1919 in Newport where he had been spending his last days with his son.
After leaving the police force, Bence tried his hand at mill work as a weaver, many years as a carpenter and finally in later life, a janitor at the Mount Hope Elementary School. Carpentry was his first love and he did decorative interior woodworking at the B.M.C. Durfee High School and the Granite Block downtown. Boat building was a hobby.
Peter Bence, born in 1849, and his sister Ellen were born in Heaton Norris, Lancashire, England. Ellen died as an infant and Peter immigrated with his father William and stepmother Sarah in 1854. The family were living in Braintree when Eli Bence was born.
Peter and his wives are buried in the family plot in Oak Grove Cemetery, next to his parents. He does not have a marker.
*Photo above and some data courtesy of Ancestry.com and the Bence family descendants
As mentioned in an earlier article on Warps and Wefts, http://lizziebordenwarpsandwefts.com/mutton-eaters-february-article/, Eli Bence and his testimony about Lizzie Borden coming into the pharmacy where he was a counter clerk on the day before the murders was bombshell testimony. Although allowed through the Preliminary, Bence’s important revelations did not make it into the 1893 trial, being ruled as “too far remote in time” from the actual killings. No prussic acid was found in the bodies of either Borden, not surprising as the lady who inquired for the deadly poison could not obtain it without a prescription. Perhaps Bence’s and the testimony of the dress burning incident by Alice Russell might have turned the tide for Lizzie, had either been allowed.
Bence moved to New Bedford and set up his own drug store by 1894, then after the death of his wife, remarried a Fairhaven girl, Annie Coggshell Maxfield, whose father ran a successful plumbing concern on Bridge St. Bence eventually moved to Pittsfield, Massachusetts with son Roy by his first wife Sarah Hayhurst, and his son Maxfield by his second wife Annie. They also had a little girl Priscilla who died very young. Bence died at his Pittsfield home after suffering a stroke while riding in a car returning from the Berkshires with his son and daughter in law and wife on May 4, 1915. He is buried in Fairhaven by the side of his wife Annie and their daughter Priscilla.
The only photograph we have seen of Bence until now has been of the earnest, 27 year old who tried to give his testimony at Lizzie’s trial.
Bence’s parents, William and Sarah are buried in Oak Grove Cemetery, Fall River.
After the annual August 4th dramatization by the Pear Essential Players, visitors on tour at the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast Museum were asked to fill out an exit poll and give any comments they wished to leave. Some of the results were surprising and humorous.
Lizzie Guilty 55, Lizzie Innocent 11, Lizzie undecided or neutral 1, Uncle John Morse Guilty or Involved 24, Billy Borden, Guilty 1, Typhoid Mary 1, Emma Borden Guilty 1, Hired Professional Killer 1, Bridget Sullivan Guilty 6, Uncle John and Bridget together 1.
Motives ran the gamut: greed and hatred of stepmother, money and revenge, secret love affair between Lizzie and her Uncle John, mental instability, resentment, payback, anger, jealousy, incest, left out of will, freedom, and envy of her wealthy girlfriends on the Hill.
Other suspects considered were: an evicted tenant of Andrew Borden’s, and Lizzie and Bridget working together, Bridget aiding in the cover-up.
One very interesting motive for murder proposed was the effect that “overly busy patterns on the wall paper and carpeting brought on mental stress”, as did the killing of Lizzie’s “pet raven” which was probably confused with the pigeons Andrew Borden killed by wringing their necks.
Under the category of weapon, all agreed on HATCHET, with one writer filling in the word “Sufficient”!
For the most part all agreed that the murders would never be solved, with only two claiming confidence that they would be.
After the performances ended, there was a drawing for an overnight stay for two at the B&B. The Aruda family, who live in Fall River, won. The cast of 16 was the largest ever since the B&B opening in 1996. Carol Ann Simone debuted as Lizzie this year to an appreciative crowd. Tickets had sold out by lunch time.