Murder Most Foul
The Huntsville Times- by Sara Cure Dateline: September 9, 2010
“HUNTSVILLE, AL. – A new play written by Wayne Miller called “The Ax” will debut at the Renaissance Theatre, 1214 Meridian St., this weekend. Performances will be Friday and Saturday, both at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.Although the play’s title conjures up morbid images, Miller said it’s really a farce.
Based on the Lizzie Borden case, an ax belonging to a famous serial killer in the early 1900s basically has a life of its own. It’s soon in the possession of a man who has a weird interest in collecting serial-killer memorabilia.
The man’s wife is a stereotypical repressed housewife who is not satisfied with her place in life. To make matters worse, her husband is cheating on her. She then starts to hear the ax communicate with her and it offers a solution to all of her problems through violence.
“Even though it sounds grim, it will be a fun and humorous experience,” Miller said.”
With Halloween soon upon us, haunted houses, haunted hayrides and other ghoulish attractions are busily preparing costumes and features. In recent years Lizzie Borden has become a fixture at many of these horror attractions. She is usually portrayed in black and red clothing with a large bloody axe swinging wildly, and covered in gore. Poor Lizzie. You can imagine what she would think of this portrayal. The Taunton Gazette, the publication from the city of her 10 month incarceration has published an article on Lakeville’s entry for Halloween 2010. http://www.tauntongazette.com/lifestyle/lifestyle_calendar/x861574152/Lakeville-Haunted-House-preparations-underway
Here are a few options available this year, this one titled a Lizzie Borden Wedding Dress from Amazon.com-and with a KNIFE.
Here’s a better -looking version available at http://www.retroscopefashions.com/lolita1.html
To see this live-action Halloween prop, visit Dave and Tracy’s photobucket video of this tombstone’s “special feature”. http://smg.photobucket.com/albums/v630/DaveNTracy/Lizzie%20Borden%20Tombstone/?action=view¤t=012-1.flv
There will be more.
The Borden case documentary shot by Ric Rebelo this past spring will be airing Saturday, October 30th at 7pm on Rhode Island PBS– the day before Halloween.
This year the house outside was pristine, having just had a new coat of paint. The tent was up for visitors to wait under , shielded from the hot sun, and lemonade and hatchet cookies were ready for refreshment. Thanks go out this year to Debbie, Anna and Walter for keeping everyone cool and refreshed!
Naturally any photographs on the wall inside which were not family photos were taken down. Several crime scene photos were shown to visitors as “just having been developed and sent over by Mr. Walsh who was hired by the police department to shoot the crime scenes.”
For the first time this year, inasmuch as “CSI” was in the title of this year’s adaptation, blood spatter was applied to the wall and doors in the sitting room. After trying several concoctions, cherry preserves was found to give the best effect. John Morse mentions about 60 drops on the door into the parlor. Emma Borden would wash these off later in the evening on the 4th. Spatter was also applied to the framed engraving over the black sofa. Most visitors made a note of this on their exit polls. (photos courtesy of Lee Ann Wilbur)
This year the bed in the guest room where Abby Borden was killed was moved in order to reproduce the photo of Abby taken from the door way. A blood-spattered coverlet and shams were on the bed as well as a tuft of hair. More blood was used than on the genuine article which was on display down at the historical society in a special Bordenalia exhibit.
It is remarkable that the crime scene still exists after so many years, so everyone who visits is very forgiving of modern conveniences such as electric sockets, lamps, refrigerators, etc, and turns a blind eye to these minor things which distract from time travel to 1892.
The dress worn by Elizabeth Montgomery in The Legend of Lizzie Borden, and other clothing items usually on display were put in the upstairs bathroom, which at one time was actually a dress closet. Down in the cellar, the search for hatchets and other possible weapons, conducted by Detective Seaver, gave a glimpse to visitors of just where these items were found, and offers a visit to the Borden cellar, always a place guests wish to see.
Using a detailed sketch of the rooms done by Kiernan in 1892 as reference, Lizzie’s fainting couch was placed where it had been, between the two windows. Lizzie lounged with her pink and white wrapper with cherry ribbons which Officer Harrington would later describe in such detail that it brought a smile from Lizzie in court.
With so many period antiques in place in the house, dressing the house for a performance is easy. The two crime scenes are particularly accurate in furnishings, and most guests take note of this as they examine the 1892 photographs. With just a little imagination, it is not hard to go back in time and visualize how the rooms must have looked. At 9:30 and 11 a.m., a hush always falls on the house as cast and guests recall what was happening so many years ago.
Some of the cast will be appearing at the Fall River Public Library on Tuesday, August 3rd at 6:30 for a special reading by Richard Behrens from the new Lizzie Borden: Girl Detective! Tickets are presently on sale at the museum 508-675-7333. Advanced ticket purchase is suggested to avoid disappointment on the 4th. Tickets are usually sold out by noon. First performance at 10: 30 a.m.
Cast interviews and photos may be found at http://pearessentialproductions.org/
Lizzie Borden: Lorraine Gregoire
Detective Seaver Ben Rose
Abby Borden: Shelley Dziedzic
Andrew Borden: Logan Livesey
Bridget Sullivan Kathleen Troost-Cramer
Emma Borden: Barbara Morrissey
Addie Churchill: JoAnne Giovino
Alice Russell: Kristin Pepe
Uncle John: Joe Radza
Officer Medley: Justin Dunne
Miss Manning from the Herald: Molly O’Brien
“Cub reporter and Girl Detective” from the Herald, and Miss Manning’s assistant: Kathryn Woods
The Distinguished Undertaker Winward: Michael Brooks
Officer Harrington: Will Clawson
Marshal Hilliard; Ray Mitchell
On May 27th papers in the United Kingdom posted news that Stephen Griffiths of Bradford, North Yorkshire would be charged with the homicides of three women. ” ‘I have decided that there is sufficient evidence to charge Stephen Griffiths with their murders, and that it is in the public interest to do so,” ‘ said Peter Mann, head of the Crown Prosecution Service complex casework unit in the West Yorkshire. ” Body parts recently found in a local river are being examined to try and establish if they are from the bodies of the three women.
For the last six years Griffiths had been studying at Bradford University for a doctorate in criminology. His thesis was to have been about 19th-century murders. On his Amazon.com wishlist was Goodbye Lizzie Borden: the Story of the Trial of America’s Most Famous Murderess. For more on the story http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/may/27/bradford-murders-man-charged
For those who remember the film, could That House made so famous be a candidate for a B&B? Read all about what the Lizzie Borden B&B has to say about it. http://www.flashnews.com/news/wfn03100527fn19014.html
The new court house across the street is preparing to open in June, #92 should get its new Rhino Shield paint color applied this week, and rumor has it that the house on Second Street may receive a call from a very special guest soon.
New England Bites bloggers Laura and Diane ( a Mom and Daughter team) paid a visit to Second Street and had a great write-up with photos on their visit. The Fall River natives also give great tips on where to eat in the Fall River area. http://www.newenglandbites.com/2010/05/may-2010-vacation-goin-out-with-bang.html
For a to-die-for photo of Nance O’Neil and some interesting back story on The Legend of Lizzie Borden with Elizabeth Montgomery check this out http://www.filmsinreview.com/2010/05/18/camp-david-may-2010-gettin-lizzie-with-it/
And of course the month started with a bang with the publicizing of that Lizzie note found in a Massachusetts museum in Brighton –http://www.heraldnews.com/news/x2084248292/Local-historian-deciphers-letter-penned-by-Lizzie-Borden And it isn’t even AUGUST yet!!
Baker’s bread, fish and milk- tainted or tampered with?
On the morning of August 3rd , Abby Borden arose early as usual and breakfasted on pork steak. This seems an unusual choice for a woman who was suffering from nausea and extreme digestive disorder. The night before, Abby and Andrew Borden were up and down to their chamber pot experiencing all the symptoms of food poisoning. Lizzie would say that she too had suffered some discomfort. Fish had been on the menu Tuesday evening. Had the fish “gone off”?
As soon as Dr. Bowen’s office across the street opened, Abby dashed over to find relief. Dr. Bowen listened to her concerns about the “baker’s bread” perhaps being “poisoned”. That would seem to imply Abby was thinking along the lines of food poisoning. She had heard of a case before where cream cakes had gone bad and caused similar symptoms. Food spoilage with resulting salmonella, botulism and “Summer Complaint” were a day–to-day occurrence in the Victorian era. Bowen observed that if the baker’s bread from the market had indeed been spoiled, he would have had far more patients and inquiries, He prescribed castor oil as an emetic, and sent Abby home. Later he would remark that he had some fear she would be sick right in his office, and later crossed the street to check on her and Andrew. Andrew Borden did not wish to be examined and was not pleased his wife had incurred a bill for services rendered by Dr. Bowen and the possibility now of a house call bill. Lizzie was ashamed of his cheapness and went upstairs. Andrew opted to dose himself with Garfield tea.
During the same morning, pharmacist clerk Eli Bence would claim that Lizzie demanded of him 10 cents worth of Prussic acid with which to clean a sealskin fur, claiming she had bought it there at Smith’s before. Lizzie would deny even knowing where Smith’s was located, although it was but a block west and south of her home. The time is placed between 11-11:45 a.m., or about 3-3 1/2 hours after Abby’s dash across the street to Dr. Bowen’s. Is it possible that Abby’s “food-poisoning” might have served as the inspiration for the attempted purchase of Prussic acid only a few hours after Abby’s trip to the doctor? Abby’s subsequent death from deliberate poisoning might easily have been attributed to an acute case of food poisoning, and given Bowen’s testimony of the morning’s events, most likely an autopsy would not have been performed.
No one was able to confirm or witness the the claim that Lizzie herself was actually sick with the same complaint the elderly Bordens suffered. A poisoner is always prudent to say they have also been sick, even to the point of ingesting a minute amount of poison themselves to achieve a mild result.
A most intriguing follow-up to Wednesday’s events occured when Lizzie visited her longtime friend, Alice Russell, Wednesday evening and promoted the story that the family had all been sick, she had fears the milk was being tampered with, and something terrible could happen at any time. “I don’t know that they won’t burn the house down over our heads”. The seed that “father has an enemy” was firmly sown, and the notion of deliberate poisoning was tossed out as a possibility.
On the morning of August 4th, the maid, Bridget Sullivan herself was ill, vomiting in the back yard around 9 a.m. She ate the same food as the family, including the leftovers.
If one believes Lizzie to be guilty of the crimes, and that Eli Bence was telling the truth- her failure to procure the Prussic acid could have prompted another surefire method of disposal- a hatchet! Results guaranteed every time.
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.
Readers of W&W will surely enjoy this excellent site -here’s one for the bookmark to favorites! http://murderbygasslight.blogspot.com/
There’s just something about the glow of Victorian gaslight that seems to go with mystery and crime and dark winter nights. For fictional gaslight adventures, look into Victoria Thompson’s Gaslight Mysteries (all available on Amazon).
or the classic film thriller with Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman
Gaslight (1944) — Part 1
The diningroom at Second Street now has a gallery of photos of physicians who were in one way or another connected to the Borden case. The most recent addition is Dr. Draper of Harvard Medical School, Boston, who assisted with the autopsy of Andrew and Abby Borden on August 11th in Oak Grove cemetery.
Dr. Draper has an uncanny resemblance to Dr. James Starrs, a forensics expert who had attempted to gain support for the exhumation of the Borden bodies in 1992. Professor Starrs was denied the request but did examine trial exhibits at the historical society and utilized ground penetrating radar to map the Borden plot.
Warps & Wefts is pleased to announce a new feature for this site. Beginning this month, articles and photos of the exploits of the Second Street Irregulars will appear. The S.S.I. or “”Mutton Eaters” is an informal group of armchair sleuths from all over America who like to go “On the Road” whenever possible to chivvy out obscure and fascinating facts about the many individuals involved in the Lizzie Borden case. When the game’s a’foot there’s no telling what will happen or what they may find-and getting there is half the fun. This month the spotlight is on William Medley, one of the observant policemen on the scene of the crime August 4th. Our articles will remain for six months and are for private use only. To access this month’s feature, click on the tab Mutton Eaters Online Article above or this link http://lizziebordenwarpsandwefts.com/january-mutton-eaters-online-article/ You will feel as if you were riding right alongside!
For more about the Second Street Irregulars visit http://secondstreetirregulars.org/
The Rev. Ephraim AveryIt has been just a month over the 178 years since the body of poor Sarah Cornell was found swinging on a post in a Tiverton farmyard on a cold winter’s morning just before Christmas. With the recent publication of Rory Raven’s Wicked Conduct, reviews are appearing in area newspapers and interest is again renewed in the story of the pregnant mill worker and the suspicious circumstances surrounding her relationship with the Rev. Ephraim Avery.
Sarah’s grave in Oak Grove cemetery has seen an increase in visitors and there is talk of a new grave marker to supplement the nearly illegible worn stone now in place. To read the full article by William Moniz of the Spirit, visit this link http://www.southcoasttoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100114/PUB03/1140435
Amazon is offering the book at 13.59 plus 3.99 shipping and the volume is in stock.
The IMDB (International Movie Data Base) has likened Bette Davis’ portrayal of Charlotte Hollis in Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte to the life of Lizzie Borden. The 1964 film was a box office hit, and the haunting theme of the same name recorded by Patti Page enjoyed great success for years after.
Charlotte Hollis is a reclusive spinster living in a decaying old mansion, who is believed by the citizens of her small city, to have murdered her suitor (a married man). The circumstances appear to have been a murder/suicide with Charlotte’s formidable father as the culprit who puts both an end to Charlotte’s lover and then to himself. Did Charlotte kill her true love (played by Bruce Dern) ? The town thinks she was guilty and that she got away with murder. The method of dispatch was a large, sharp meat cleaver, with the head and hand of Charlotte’s beau being savagely hacked off, reminiscent of the removal of the heads of Abby and Andrew Borden in Oak Grove Cemetery on August 11, 1892 to be stored as evidence.
Olivia DeHavilland plays Miriam, Charlotte’s refined, gentle cousin- an Emma Bordenesque, sisterly presence who harbors a dark, dark twisted secret, along with the trusted family doctor of many years played by Joseph Cotten ( an 1892 parallel to Dr. Bowen?!) There are plenty of turns and twists along the way, many witnessed by the household domestic servant, played superbly by Agnes Moorehead, who tries to protect Charlotte – not quite a Bridget Sullivan, ( the Borden’s household domestic who was home the day of the Borden killings) but still an interesting parallel.
The gossipings and whisperings of the townfolk in front of Charlotte’s house as well as behind closed doors and on the street harken back to the Fall River crowds on Second Street in 1892-93 and even later to French Street when Lizzie moved into Maplecroft.
The end of the film is very satisfying as we, the viewer, are privy to the real story of what happened in 1927 in the Hollis summerhouse (1927 also being the year of Lizzie Borden’s death). There are three more murders over the course of the film. Unlike the Borden story however, we find out the truth in the end. To view the murder scene with cleaver, visit this Youtube link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G9csL2GVU1Y
For those who thought Elizabeth Engstrom’s Lizzie novel was an eyeopener, 2010 may bring an even juicier Lizzie title from publisher Ravenous Romance. http://www.ravenousromance.com/
Award winning author Lisa Mannetti of Port Chester, New York has confessed she is “on tap” for a new approach on the Lizzie Borden story. Fresh from winning the Bram Stoker Horror award for her novel The Gentling Box, Bad Moon Books will be bringing out her dark gag book, 51 Fiendish Ways to Leave Your Lover (illustrated by Glenn Chadbourne) in February 2010 and Cargo Cult Press is publishing her novella, Deathwatch, in spring/summer 2010. A second novel The Everest Hauntings, is in the works. She has not given the date for her Lizzie novel. It should be something to look forward to in the near future, and quite likely another pageturner! Visit Lisa’s website at http://www.lisamannetti.com/ Read about her visits to the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast there at the link below. http://thechanceryhouse.com/res_ghosts_liz_2006/res_ghosts_liz_2006.htm
Night time tour guide, Eleanor Thibault has been the host at #92 Second St. for the visits of NECON, the Northeastern Writers Conference, an organization to which Ms. Mannetti belongs.
She’s back and better than ever! Spend Halloween with the Lady with an “edge”.
Reviews are coming in fast and furious for the new rock musical taking New York by storm. The musical is described as “A rock roadshow retelling of the bloody legend of America’s first and favorite axe-wielding double-murderess and Victorian hometown girl” and is a very fresh and imaginative approach to the old familiar case of 1892. The Internet is humming with praise for the musical which is running
Sept 10-Oct 17, 2009
Thurs-Sat at 8pm
Fri & Sat at 10:30pm at The Living Theatre, 21 Clinton Street, New York .
Visit the web site at http://lizziebordentheshow.com/index.php for a sampling of what is in store. Now if we can only get the production to visit Lizzie’s hometown- Fall River is ready! Read two reviews from appreciative bloggers at http://showshowdown.blogspot.com/2009/09/lizzie-borden.html and http://blogcritics.org/culture/article/theater-review-nyc-lizzie-borden/
Introducing Lorraine Gregoire as Lizzie 2009