If Walls Could Talk

  • Patrick Doherty

    1896 photograph courtesy Fall River Police Dept.

    Patrick Doherty arrived at the Borden house slightly after 11:30.  His observations about the crime scene in the guest room are worthy of note, especially his remarks on the blood of Abby Borden, which would give good indication that her death was considerably before the death of Andrew Borden. Doherty was in the thick of things that morning, first having a good look at Andrew Borden’s wounds:

    “I noticed there was one wound down here, across the eye, that was very deep. It looked to me on the left side of the face, the right side was on the sofa, and the eye seemed to be knocked out, hanging by some thread or something. There was another wound came down by the nose, or down by the cheek bone, the cheek bone was open wide, by the cheek bone clear down to the neck was laid right open.” (Preliminary)

     Then Doherty followed Dr. Bowen upstairs to examine the body of Abby. Doherty moved the bed. His was the first examination, before the arrival of medical examiner, Dr. Dolan:

    ” I went to the foot of the bed; I looked at her. She was laying face downwards between the dressing case and the bed. I noticed three or four blood spots on the pillow sham, and a bunch of hair on the bed.

    Q. How large a bunch?

    A. Well, it was a small bunch.

    Q. It was not a switch or false hair?

    A. No, I think it was human hair that had been pulled out, or something, been cut out, or something.

    Q. Give me some idea how much.

    A. About half as big as that, I should think.

    Q. On the bed?

    A. On the bed. I wanted to examine the woman, but there was not room between the bed and dressing case to walk. I walked back to the foot of the bed, up around the north side of the bed, and I pulled it out about three feet, away from her.

    Q. Towards the street?

    A. No, pulled it against the north wall, away from her head.

    Q. So to make the space between the bed and the dressing case, wider?

    A. Yes. I pulled it away, and I went in, and I stooped down and I saw that she was lying in a pool of thick black blood, and her head was all cut.

    Q. Face down, or back down?

    A. Face down.

    Q. How were her arms?

    A. This way, something like that. I just put one finger here, and raised this a little bit so I could see under the hair around the ear better.”(Preliminary)

     Afterward, Doherty ran down Spring St. to place a call to the city marshal.  The telephone was in the undertaker’s shop which was opposite the Catholic Church (St. Mary’s). When Doherty returned to #92 Dr. Dolan was on the spot, and after speaking with the maid, Bridget Sullivan, Doherty enlisted Officer Mullaly in making a search of the house. The cellar door was locked, and rooms were searched with the exception of Emma’s room.

    “Q. What did you find in your search?

    A. We did not find anything.

    Q. Were you one of those who assisted in finding the hatchets?

    A. I was there when the officer had the hatchet; I did not find it.

    Q. And the axes?

    A. Yes sir.

    Q. What officer had it when you first saw it?

    A. Mr. Mullaly.

    Q. You did not see where he got it?

    A. I did not see where he got it. I saw him take it from a shelf about as high as his head.

    Q. Did you make any examination of the hatchet yourself?

    A. I just looked over his shoulder at it, that is, stood by his side and looked at it. ” (Preliminary)

    Doherty also had an interview with Lizzie:

    “A. I said “Miss Borden, where were you when your father was killed”? She said “I was in the barn”. I said “is there any Portuguese working on the farm over the River for your father?’ She said “no sir”.”Who works for your father?” She says “Mr. Eddy, and Mr. Johnson; and Mr. Eddy has been sick.” I asked her if either Mr. Eddy or Mr. Johnson were in town this morning, or up here to the house this morning. She said “no sir.” “Neither Mr. Eddy nor Mr. Johnson would hurt my father.”

    Q. Anything more?

    A. No Sir.

    Q. Did she say anything about a noise, or hearing any noise?

    A. Yes Sir. I asked her, I said “Miss Borden, did you hear any screams, or outcries”? She said “No sir. I heard some kind of a peculiar noise”. I says “can you describe the noise”? She says “no, not very well; something like scraping”. That is all the conversation I had with her.”(Preliminary)

     Doherty was also sent to inspect the properties surrounding the Borden house and went to examine the views from the Chagnon house behind the Borden barn.  Doherty would also give a good description of the dress Lizzie had on that morning as being a light blue background, a “challie” cotton print with a dark blue figure or spot on it, a description which is similar to that given by others.

  • And the stockings were hung . . .

    Emma and Lizzie have a stocking at the mantel in the sitting room for Christmas.  #92 Second Street was a popular stop on last weekend’s Victorian home tour sponsored by the Preservation Society of Fall River. 


    It would be interesting to know just how elaborate the Borden Christmases were and whether or not any of the fireplaces were ever used since Mr. Borden had installed radiators. 


  • Preservation Society House Tour

    The weather cooperated this year, with clear blue skies, lots of sun and just a chill in the air to remind us Christmas is two weeks away.  This year decorated trolleys made the round of houses, which helped speed things along and spare weary feet as they climbed the hills of The Hill section of the city.

    Homes on Belmont, Lincoln Ave, Cherry St. and Rock St. threw wide their doors to an appreciative throng of visitors.  Fires crackled merrily, the fragrance of cloves and cinnamon, hot mulled cider and balsam flooded the air as decorations were admired.  Period furnishings, historic photos and mementoes, and homey touches were appreciated by all who were lucky today to enjoy the insides of magnificent homes usually only glimpsed from the street.

    18th century tea service and reproduction epergne

    The Fall River Historical Society outdid itself this year as well, and all agreed that this was the best year ever for the popular house tour.  At 4:30 footsore house tour guests were treated to a concert of holiday music by the Durfee High School String orchestra.  All in all- a perfect day.  Thanks to families participating this year. It was grand!

  • Victorian House Tour 2009 December 12th

    The 2009 Fall River Historical House Tour Event sponsored by the Preservation Society of Fall River !  Start & Program Pickup: The Quequechan Club, 306 North Main St. Enjoy 6 Private Historic Homes, The Fall River Historical Society, Lafayette Durfee House, & The Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast.  Tickets are $17.00 Saturday December 12, 2009 11:am – 4:pm Advance Tickets Available at: New Boston Bakery Fall River Historical Society ArtCart or call 508-673-4841

  • Still in the Top 10


    With Halloween fast approaching, a few fearless souls are looking for a frightful weekend getaway at a spooky location.  The Travel Channel had placed the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast in the top 10 spookiest destinations 8 years ago at #1, even above the Winchester Mystery House.  Lizzie’s place is still on the top ten list, at #1 along with #2. The Bell Witch Cave in Tennesee, #3 The Villisca Axe Murder House in Iowa, #4 The Stanley Hotel in Colorado, #5  Waverly Hills Sanatorium in Kentucky, #6 Sorrel Weed House, Savannah, Georgia, #7 Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California, #8 Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia, Pa., #9 The Myrtles, Louisiana, #10 Bachelor’s Grove Cemetery, Chicago.  http://www.toptenz.net/10-creepy-places-in-america.php  This Saturday 12 intrepid people will attempt to stay the night at Lizzie’s house.  Rooms have been booked for months.  October is second only to the murder anniversary month, August. Will the annual Halloween seance turn up any new clues?

  • Lizzie Overdose?


    Got Ghost in the parlor?

    There were some interesting online comments today as a result of an article posted in the Fall River Herald News- article and comments at this link http://www.heraldnews.com/news/x536357278/Medium-Lizzie-did-it

    The popular Lizzie series at BCC featured a Canadian psychic last night, Kim Dennis, who claims to have channeled Lizzie in her livingroom.  Nothing is hotter than the paranormal at the moment-both at the Borden Bed and Breakfast and as a popular culture phenomenon.  TV is full of it, magazines and best-sellers are doing a brisk trade, and mediums, ghostbusters and psychics are riding the wave.

    Ms. Dennis reveals nothing which others have not thought of before.  Nearly every possible scenario has been well-imagined over the years since the famous murders: motive, method, weapon, accomplices, etc.  There is an abundance of information online and in print about every detail of the crime scene and the principal players as well as a goodly number of who-dunnit theory books.  Messages from the Great Beyond have been leaking through the ether since 1893 when a Ouija board was employed to seek out the answers to the Borden mystery.

    What is interesting to read are the comments following the article.  Is the public saturated with Lizzie Borden- or is it just Fall Riverites?  It has surely been a Lizzie summer and autumn, with no end in sight.  Whether a believer in the paranormal, or an avid scholar of the case, there’s no getting away from the fact that Lizzie will not be going away anytime soon-a haunting of sorts.

  • Interview with Sharon Pollack



    Blood Relations seems to be opening everywhere these days.  Lizzie B is a hot topic. To read more about this newest production and to read the interview with Sharon Pollack follow this link below.

    On the issue of who Ms. Pollack thinks did the deed- http://communities.canada.com/calgaryherald/blogs/bladerunner/archive/2009/09/25/lizzie-borden-is-hot-stuff.aspx

    “I think that Lizzie did it and Bridget (Bridget Sullivan, Lizzie’s Irish servant, who was the only other person in the Borden house when the murders took place) knew that Lizzie did it,” Pollock says, pointing out that both maid and mistress were likely in collusion when it came to their testimony at the trial.


  • On the way to Cape May

    vicfashions1cape may

    It’s been a very busy Lizzie Summer and Autumn with plays, lectures, re-enactments, house tours, cemetery tours, and much anticipation about the upcoming Parallel Lives.  Warps & Wefts will be on vacation until October 18th in Victorian Cape May- a place where Lizzie would feel right at home.  Victorian week is an annual Cape May attraction and is rated in the top 100 American events not to miss.  http://www.capemaymac.org/content/subpage_main.aspx?id=820

    W&W will return on the 18th with photos of all the Victorian fun, fashions and amazing Painted Ladies!


  • Blood Relations Comes to New Bedford

    bloodrelationsBlood Relations written by Sharon Pollack and directed by Stephen Kay opens November 12th.  The play runs November 12-22 at the Your Theatre Playhouse at 136 River Street, New Bedford.

    The play within a play structure in which, ten years after her acquittal, Lizzie Borden’s actress friend, Nance O’Neil acts out the crucial scenes, lends a fascinating sense of ambiguity to a familiar story.  For reservations call 508-993-0772.

    For more about the play read http://www.enotes.com/blood-relations

  • Lizzie’s Companion


    The Herald coverage in today’s edition of last night’s Lizzie lecture at BCC revealed a particularly interesting tidbit- Lizzie had a lady companion named Trudy.  http://www.heraldnews.com/town_info/history/x1789521502/New-Lizzie-Borden-book-teased-at-lecture

    It was a common custom of the time for wealthy ladies to have a younger companion to accompany them on trips out of town, shopping excursions and the like. Miss Trudy apparently lived at Maplecroft and enjoyed the elegant  library and hearthside of Miss Borden before going off to give matrimony a whirl.  How nice to know Lizzie did not lead quite such a reclusive and lonely life as many have thought.

    Other snippets read at the lecture included diary entries by a schoolchum named “Lulie” which added a bit more color as to the many moods of Lizzie as a school girl.

    The popular lecture series continues through November and is stirring up great interest in the launch of the historical society publication Parallel Lives which will go on sale before Christmas and is probably on every Lizziephile’s Wishlist.

    • Sept 28, Annette Holba, Ph.D., author, “Lizzie Borden as Conscious Pariah: A Discussion About Private Life.”
    • Oct. 5, Cara Robertson, legal scholar, “What the Jury Heard: Evidence in the Trial of Lizzie Borden.”
    • Oct. 19, Kim Dennis, psychic medium, “Lizzie Borden: Her Side of the Story.”
    • Oct. 26, Jill Dalton, award-winning actress, “Lizzie Borden Live: From Page to Stage.”
    • Nov. 2, Ricardo Rebelo, filmmaker, “The Myth and Media of Lizzie Borden.”
    • For information about the lectures or “Parallel Lives,” or to reserve a copy of the book, call 508-679-1071 or visit www.lizzieborden.org.
  • Popular September 24th Event


    courthouseThe 1893 Lizzie Borden trial re-enactment at Bristol County courthouse is the must-see event for September.  The courtroom where it all happened in June of 1893 is much today as it was on the day when Lizzie sat on the hard wooden bench and hid her enigmatic face behind her fan.  Even the Victorian wooden Defense and Prosecution tables where Robinson and Knowlton held forth are still in place.  A large oil portrait of Attorney Knowlton hangs on the wall today.  A large turnout is expected and tickets will soon be a hot commodity in the area. An open house will be held the night of the re-enactment from 6 – 7 p.m. when the “trial” begins.

    The free program is open to the public, with limited seating.

     courthousetableMail a self-addressed stamped envelope to “Lizzie, Redux Request”, care of Clerk Magistrate Marc J. Santos, Bristol Count Clerk of Courts, 441 County St., New Bedford, MA 02740 for tickets. There will be two tickets issued per request. Tickets will be honored until 20 minutes before the performance, after which there will be a general admission as room is available.

    lizzie bench

  • Lizzie Borden Live to return in August


    As more seating is installed at the old Eagle restaurant on North Main Street to accommodate the sell-out crowd for Saturday night, plans have already been finalized for an encore performance in August.  The play, written and starring Jill Dalton has been performed to wide acclaim in NJ, NY, RI and Arizona, and is at long last playing to the place where it all began- Fall River, Massachusetts.  The Saturday event will begin with trolley rides circulating among area restaurants and Lizzie sites, a special Lizzie cocktail will be featured, and when the doors to the Eagle open at 6:30, a light buffet and passed hor d’oeuvre supper will be served by the Mutton Eaters (a costumed Borden history society).  Here is a portion of the Mutton Eaters’ Saturday night cast release from their website:

    “The old Eagle restaurant has been beautifully converted for the occasion and a flock of Mutton Eaters will descend to be on hand to meet and greet playgoers in the lobby.  Dr. Dolan has a new derby hat for the occasion and Mrs. Borden will be circulating with a tray of hors d’oeuvres and tips for flaky pie crust!  Alice Russell, Bridget Sullivan, Emma Borden and Mrs. Churchill will have something to say about everything, and undertaker, Mr. Winward will be glancing over the crowd for prospective future business! Best news of all- Miss Lizzie Borden Live  will be returning in August- that all-important month!!”

  • Brownell House Happenings


    A visit on April 24th revealed a great change to the house on Green Street where Lizzie Borden’s sister Emma was staying at the time of the murders.  The house is undergoing extensive renovations. The back kitchen annex is demolished, the heavy vegetation is removed, and the house has received siding recently. The interiors have been gutted and rewired with the walls stripped back to the studs.  The graceful staircase to the second floor just inside the front door will remain, as well as the handsome wide-planked floors and the original wide granite base slab for the front exterior stairs.  The lightening fixture shown in the entry foyer was of course added on some time after the original construction. The owner of the property who is ordering the renovation plans to move in soon.  Neighbors out on the street seem happy something is finally being done to clean up the old property.

  • House of Secrets


    One by one, over the years, the homes on Second Street between Spring and Borden streets have been demolished.  Miraculously the Andrew Borden house has survived as well as the neighboring house to the south.  Emma and Lizzie’s good friend Alice Russell had lived in this unpreposing cape-style home and thus became well-acquainted with the Bordens.  Alice was a key witness at Lizzie’s trial, stayed with the family for some days after the murders, and testified about Lizzie burning a dress in the kitchen woodstove the day after the funerals of Abby and Andrew Borden.

    On the day of the murders, Mrs. Caroline Kelly, wife of pediatrician Dr. Michael Kelly,(new occupants to the house next door) saw Andrew Borden trying to enter his home around 10:45.  She was on her way to the dentist and was probably the last non-family member to see Andrew Borden alive.  Most Borden historians still refer to the house as the “Kelly House”.

    Several decades before the Borden murders, a Mrs. Ladowick Borden, depressed and at wits’ end, threw three children in the old cistern at this house.  The two young boys died, but her daughter survived. Mrs. Ladowick Borden went upstairs and slit her throat with her husband’s straight razor. Who knows why.  This is a house with dark secrets and tragedy to rival that of #92 Second Street.  And today the two houses of death and horror remain-sole survivors of the wrecker’s ball. The Kelly house is for sale-for anyone who wants a house with a history.