• And the results are in for August 4th

    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.

  • Send for Mr. Walsh!

    One very good reason the Borden case has made such a long-lasting impression in the public consciousness for so many decades must surely be the unforgettable crime scene photos of Abby and Andrew Borden.  For these we have James A. Walsh to thank for forever capturing the brutal wounds inflicted upon the elderly couple.. Even in black and white, the victims and the grisly scenarios which unfolded that day in 1892 still fascinate and horrify today.

    James Walsh was a portrait photographer- one of many with shops on North and South Main Street in the 1890s.  It was fashionable to have photographs taken of all family members, individual portraits, groups, youngsters and even infants.  Post mortem photographs were also commonly done to preserve one last glimpse of a precious family member recently- departed.

    It is unknown just who on the police force decided the Borden homicides were important enough to be carefully photographed but Mr. Walsh and his camera were sent for on the afternoon of August 4th.  His home was on nearby Rodman Street and the studio was at 66 South Main, neither very far from the Borden residence on Second Street.  The police departments in most cities did not include a crime scene photographer on their payroll.  It is doubtful Mr. Walsh could ever imagine that so many years later, those memorable photos would still be carefully studied by so many interested in the case.

    The prints online of the crime scenes, interiors and exteriors of #92 Second Street do not do justice to the original prints held in the Fall River Historical Society archives where the details are much clearer and sharper. Unfortunately, by the time Mr. Walsh arrived late in the afternoon, the bodies of both victims had been examined and moved and so the positions seen in the photographs were not exactly as they were following the attacks. Mrs. Borden had been turned over and back at least once, and Mr. Borden’s pockets had been gone through to see if burglary had been a motive. It is even likely that he was arranged in a more decorous manner on the sofa for the photo, befitting his stature in the city.  His arm is clearly propped up with a pillow and it is likely his slip-on Congress boots were put back on his feet.   It is hard to imagine police forensic work today without the all-important crime scene photos. During the Jack the Ripper investigation, one policeman suggested photographing the victim’s eyes as the last thing seen would still be imprinted on the retina! Those photos have also immortalized the Ripper case.

    Cartes de visites (CDVs) or cabinet photos by Walsh are fairly common on Ebay in the 4-5 dollar range and are fun to collect.  Often the back of the card is as interesting as the front; Walsh’s were very elegant. Who knows- more photos of the Borden family might still be out there! (scans below W&W archive with thanks to Joseph Soares)

     

  • Another Borden Cellar

    The article on Mrs. Lawdwick (Ladowick, Ladwick, Lodowick. etc.) Borden is still a much-visited link on Warps and Wefts. http://lizziebordenwarpsandwefts.com/the-four-wives-of-lawdwick-borden/

    The tragic tale of Mrs. Eliza Darling Borden, (Lizzie’s great-uncle’s second wife who had died by the time Lizzie was born) throwing her three children in the cellar cistern, then stepping behind the chimney and slitting her throat is one which captures attention.  The incident in 1848, and the mention of it at Lizzie’s trial keeps the curiosity alive about that house.  The graves of the two little ones who died, and their troubled mother, are visited more often now at Oak Grove Cemetery.  They are directly across the road from the Southard Miller and Dr. Bowen’s plots.

    A few weeks ago, the Muttoneaters, at their annual gathering, were invited to see the old cellar where the tragedies took place.  The staircase is steep, and probably original.

    Today it is used as a family room and traces of the original layout are hard to find. The eastern room is now a small laundry with washer and dryer. The main room which is accessed at the bottom of the steep stairs has a fireplace, the infamous chimney now covered by a brick wall to the ceiling. One unusual feature is the floor -to-ceiling woodworking which is surprising and beautifully rendered into small shelves, cabinets and little drawers.  The owners, aware that Dr. Kelly once lived here, thought perhaps the doctor’s home surgery or consulting room may have been located here, the numerous storage spaces used for instruments and medical equipment. Dr. Kelly raised a happy family of three children here, and now the room is again filled with laughter and children- all vestiges of that dreadful day in 1848 gone.

    (All photos by Ginny B. Lahman)

  • January Musings

    The temps are falling and the long quiet season has arrived.  After the  excitement of the release of Parallel Lives in November, the Victorian house tour in December and virtually a year’s worth of Lizzie suspense, we’re all looking for January adventures.  Many of us are reading the massive volume, Parallel LivesDown on Second Street, the B&B is only open weekends for overnighters although the day tours continue through the week. The B&B web site has had an overhaul.  Re-runs of last year’s paranormal sessions at #92 are in full tilt on television, no update on the Chloe Sevigny HBO mini-series has been released yet, and the historical society is closed for the winter.

    “Axed”, two one-act plays has debuted and will be running this month http://www.pressherald.com/life/go/on-the-case_2012-01-05.htm   No new ideas here, but a fresh treatment.  January is a great time for catching up on our Lizzie reading and some new entries in the historical crime arena.  W&W recommends Murder and Mayhem in Essex County by Robert Wilhelm. Murder and mischief was alive and well in Massachusetts long before Miss Lizzie! http://www.murder-in-essex.com/  If the name sounds familiar, Mr. Wilhelm also publishes the popular vintage crime blog, Murder by Gaslight and The National Nightstick, all great reading for the amateur armchair sleuth on a cold winter’s night.  http://murderbygasslight.blogspot.com/  and http://www.snakeoilgraphics.com/NightStick/  Stay tuned for reviews.  Here’s wishing you a cozy January by the fire and a good wallow in crimes of the Past.

  • Cooling Board

    Among the fascinating photos taken by hired photographer Mr. Walsh, on the day of the murders is this one below of Andrew Borden reclining post mortem on a caned autopsy board(sometimes called a cooling board). Cooling boards came in many patented designs. Air had to circulate through in the  styles which had no ice drawer beneath, so wooden ones were frequently drilled with holes in elaborate patterns. Cane was naturally open-weave.  In this photo, Mr. Borden has an incision from sternum to abdomen which was needed in order to extract his stomach.  The same procedure was done on Mrs. Borden in the diningroom while Mr. Borden’s took place in front of the black horsehair sofa in the sitting room. A portion of the sofa may be seen in the background as well as the arm of the sofa.  The doorway in the center of the photo goes into the kitchen.

    After a long search, the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast museum has procured an 1890’s autopsy board which is strikingly similar, if not exact, to the one on which Mr. Borden reclines. This model folds in the middle so as to make it easy for the medical examiner or mortician to transport it.

    The term “cooling board” also refers to another type of solid wooden board upon which the body is laid while in transit, awaiting transit or awaiting attention from the mortician. The body literally goes from a warm state just post mortem to “cooling” on the flat surface.  Vintage cooling boards are quite collectible and can easily fetch a sum between 400- 1000 dollars.

  • Amelia Dyer, Evilest Woman in England

      For many who study the Borden case, the first introduction to Lizzie comes by way of the famous ditty,

     Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her mother 40 whacks,   etc.  

    The jurors at the trial had a difficult time believing a lady could be capable of murdering her elderly father and stepmother.  The pages of true crime are filled with such ladylike criminals who committed heinous acts upon the sick, helpless, young, and infirm, while at the same time projecting the very image of genteel propriety to the public. England’s most famous baby-killer, Amelia Dyer, must surely go down in history as one of the most evil women who ever lived. As for Lizzie, a song was soon made up about the devious woman some thought might be “Jill the Ripper”.

    The old baby farmer, the wretched Miss Dyer
    At the Old Bailey her wages is paid.
    In times long ago, we’d ‘a’ made a big fy-er
    And roasted so nicely that wicked old jade

    Dyer, although raised in a comfortable middle-class home, was taxed with the care of an invalid mother who was the victim of severe mental illness. This and other factors set Amelia on a turbulent life path of destruction and violence and murder of young innocents and hapless women who found themselves pregnant and unwed. Dyer spawned a veritable cottage industry in “baby-farming.”  Most infants never lived to see their first birthday. There is no tally of the number of murders which could be laid at the door of Amelia Dyer, but her last, in 1896 resulted in being apprehended after a turn of bad luck, tried, and convicted in less than 5 minutes. Amelia was hanged on June 10, 1896, at 9 a.m. after filling notebooks with her confession. “I have nothing to say,” said Dyer, as the noose was tightened.  The scope of her crimes still boggles the mind.  It is entirely likely that Lizzie Borden knew about The Ogress of Reading as her killing spree was fodder for the press on both sides of the ocean.

    For more on Amelia Dyer, visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/index.html?curid=11443817

     

     

  • Congratulations to the Cast of 2011

    The Cast for 2011
    Lizzie Borden: Kathleen Troost-Cramer

    Detective Seaver: Ben Rose
    Abby Borden: Shelley Dziedzic (flat on the floor)
    Andrew Borden: Nicole (under the sheet)
    Bridget Sullivan Suzanne Rogers
    Emma Borden: Barbara Morrissey
    Addie Churchill: JoAnne Giovino
    Alice Russell: Kristin Pepe
    Uncle John: Joe Radza
    Dr. Dolan: Michael Shogi

    Undertaker Winward  Richard Marr-Griffin
    Miss Manning from the Herald: Christina Lambertson
    Internationally acclaimed world reporter, Nellie Bly- Katrina Shogi
    Marshall Hilliard; Ray Mitchell
    Mrs. Dr. Bowen: Ellen Borden

  • Taking a Whack at Lizzie

    This year the August 4th production at the Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast will debut a new leading lady.  She is no stranger to the part.  The photos here are taken from an episode filmed last summer for the Travel Channel.  Kathleen Troost-Cramer, day manager at the famous B&B in Fall River, may be remembered for performances in years past as Irish maid, Bridget Sullivan.  This year, having gotten in a few practice whacks with a hatchet, Kathleen is ready to take on the legendary Lizzie Borden, probably the most difficult role of the lot as expectations are so varied and anticipated by the sold-out crowd which assembles every year on the 4th to re-live the Borden tale of mystery.

    Mild-mannered mother of two, and Bible scholar, this role is quite a stretch, but anyone who has been “under the hatchet”to Kathleen can testify- she means business!

    Congratulations and “break-a-leg” to Kathleen as we wait to see her unique spin on the unforgettable Lizzie Borden!

    First performance on August 4th at 10:30 a.m., last performance at 3:30 p.m.

  • Get your Tickets Now !

     As posted yesterday, Miss Lizzie is coming home for two performances August 5th and 6th at the Nagle Auditorium at B.M.C. Durfee High School in a production by the Covey Theatre Company of Syracuse, N.Y., according to the Fall River Herald News http://www.heraldnews.com/entertainment/x2108626470/Latest-Lizzie-Borden-play-to-be-staged-Aug-5-6-in-Fall-River

    For reviews of the play and some color stills, visit this link http://www.thecoveytheatrecompany.com/production-archives.html

    Tickets may be purchased online at the link and word is out that this new treatment of the case promises to satisfy the most ardent Bordenite.  Snag a ticket early!

  • Lucie Collet

    The young lady in the newspaper sketch looks to be a very young girl, but is actually the nineteen year old daughter of Georgianna Verrault and Dr. Pierre Collet.  Sometimes her name is spelled Lucy, and the last name in various ways. Lucie Collet was born in Canada Jan 29, 1874 and died June 5 of phthisis Pulmonalis, ( tuberculosis) in1900 at the age of 26. She was buried immediately on June 6th in Notre Dame Cemetery.

    On the morning of the Borden murders, Lucie had been sent over to Third St. from their house at 22 Borden St. near Third to intercept the daily patients of Dr. Jean B. V. Chagnon.  Dr. Chagnon lived in the house on Third St. behind and slightly north of the Borden barn.  Dr. Chagnon was unable to be at home that morning and Lucie was the choice to fill the need when the telephone call came from Dr. Collet’s pharmacy clerk, Jean Normand who was relaying the message from Dr. Chagnon.   When she arrived at the house at 10:50 a.m., it was locked so she sat on a bench watching for patients to arrive until noon, venturing once  to the front yard to look for a hammock.  After a great deal of questioning as to what Lucie might have seen of the Borden’s back yard and the positions of fences, outbuildings and doors, the following preliminary testimony reveals Lucy not to have been such an important witness as originally thought.  She had her back to the north end Chagnon driveway and was conversing with two patients who came up to her over the course of the first half hour, thus diverting her attention from anyone trying to sneak into the Borden’s back yard by way of the Chagnon back yard north end.  She does have a good view of the grove of trees and Crowe’s yard on the south end of the house and states this was the part of the Chagnon yard of which she viewed.

    Q. You were sitting with your face turned towards the other yard, to the south, were you not?

    A. Yes, I was.

    Q. So if anybody came over that fence at the back yard there, and down the carriage drive, you would not have seen them, would you, unless they had made a noise?

    A. I would not have seen them, but I would have heard the noise.

    Q. How do you know you would?

    A. I might, and I might not.

    Q. You might, and you might not; is that so?

    A. Yes Sir.

    Q. Unless there was some noise, made, you would not have seen them, would you, unless it caused you to look around? You would not have seen them unless you had looked around?

    A. No Sir.

    The Defense was not about to give up on the point that someone could have slipped by Lucie.

    Q. Now Miss Collet, you would not want to say that a man could not have come down that driveway and gone off, without your knowing it; while you were sitting there?

    A. No, I would not say it, but I did not see anybody.

    Q. You would not be apt to with your back to him, would you unless he made a noise?

    A. No Sir.

    Lucie Collet would later marry the pharmacy clerk, Jean Napoleon Normand (himself a widower).  Normand became a respected doctor for over 30 years in Fall River.  Lucie was his second wife, and after she died childless in June of 1900, Normand would remarry. (passport application below with photo of Dr. Normand)

    Jean Napoleon Normand

    Birth: 24 MAY 1871 in St.Pascal, Quebec, Canada

    Death: 4 MAY 1950 in Fall River, Bristol County, Massachusetts

    Father: Charles Francois Clovis Normand b: 18 DEC 1835 in St.Pascal, Quebec, Canada(Woodbridge)
    Mother: Celina D. Dionne b: 8 OCT 1844 in St.Pascal, Quebec, Canada

    Marriage 1 Celina Fafard b: 1881 in Canada

    Marriage 2 Lucie Collet b: 29 JAN 1874 in Canada

    Marriage 3 Emilie D. Lussier b: 24 MAR 1862 in Canada

    Lucie is buried with the other two wives in Notre Dame Cemetery in Fall River, off Stafford Road.  The large granite cross is very near the grave of Andrew Borden’s barber, Pierre LeDuc.

  • Another unsolved axe murder of five

     

    August must be a bad month for homicide.  Curiously enough, on August 3, 1877 the bodies of Mr. Lewis Spencer and his four children were found hacked to bits in the family home and barn.  The Clark County, Missouri killings apparently occured on August 2nd and the bodies found by a family relative on the 3rd.  Mr. Spencer was a deacon at the Bethlehem Baptist Church near Luray, Missouri, and was a tax collector.  He often kept a large amount of cash in the home which was found to be missing at the time of the murders.   It may have had something to do with the murders.  The Spencer family had suffered the loss of Mrs. Spencer and two other young children prior to the murders.  All are buried together in the family plot. 

    Two men were put on trial for the deed but were acquitted while another suspect from Keokuk was set upon by an angry mob and hanged for the killings even though there was no proof he did it.  One suspect was the brother of Mrs. Spencer. The murder weapon was found at the back of the house covered in blood and there was the appearance that more than one killer might be involved.   Each victim was hit one to three times in the head, a fact which contrasts widely to the 19 blows to Abby Borden and the 10-11 to Andrew Borden in the Lizzie Borden case.

    http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=F50616F63D5A127B93C7A91783D85F438784F9  Link to New York Times Article

    and an excellent detailed account of trials and crime scene here http://boards.ancestry.com/localities.northam.usa.states.missouri.counties.clark/793.1.1.1/mb.ashx

  • Author Rich Lindberg visits Fall River

     

    (Rich Lindberg with Ellen Smith and Jack Faria at the Fall River Art Association)

    Among the special guests at the recent Second Street Irregulars’ annual reunion was Chicago history writer Rich Lindberg.  Mr. Lindberg , a newcomer to the Borden case, has a new book coming out in May on serial killers in the heartland, notably the infamous black widow, Belle Gunness and Johann Hoch.  The “Muttoneaters” enjoyed an evening of hearing about the new book from the author and the author learned a lot about Lizzie Borden as he toured Fall River, Swansea, New Bedford, Marion and Fairhaven and stayed four days at #92 Second Street.  Mr. Lindberg will be bringing the Borden case to Chicago in a lecture format in the near future.  http://richardlindberg.net/index.htm

  • Lawdwick Borden and the Children in the Well

    This Monday, March 14th,  will mark the birthday of Lawdwick Borden, the great -uncle of Lizzie Borden. Lawdwick is not so much remembered as his second wife, Eliza Darling, the mother of the unfortunate children who were thrown into a cistern. The story has grown over the years and been embellished.  Guests to the Borden house today all want to hear about “the children in the well”.  Finally the facts and the correct spelling of Lawdwick Borden can be set forth for all time.  The photographs and censuses detailing the four wives of Lawdwick Borden may be viewed here.  http://lizziebordenwarpsandwefts.com/the-four-wives-of-lawdwick-borden/

     Happy Birthday “Uncle Lawdy”.