• The air tight alibi

    Joseph Wilmarth Carpenter, Jr. left the Borden & Almy business “under a cloud”, and with some hard feelings toward crusty Andrew Borden.  That news was known about town.  After Andrew Borden was murdered, Mr. Carpenter’s history with the victim made him a “person of interest.” He may have done better to stick around town and face the music. Still, he was off the hook with an air tight alibi.

    Carpenter’s family monument and head stone is seen below in Oak Grove Cemetery.

    (Top photo by Will Clawson)

  • 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!

  • A Letter from Lizzie Borden

     

    One of the most-viewed features of Warps and Wefts this year has been the newspaper clippings from all over the country detailing the most minute bits of information about the Borden case and personalities involved.  Of course newspapers do make mistakes, and when information is lacking, some unscrupulous reporters were not above inventing details to fill in the gaps.  With a little careful sifting, there are some golden nuggets to be found. Thanks to Ancestry.com and Newspaper Archives.com, all of this is available to the public.  Here is a very interesting paragraph which was buried in the Davenport (Iowa) Tribune, August 25, 1892.

    It’s unfortunate the Borden family threw notes and letters away so readily.  The famous note sent to Abby Borden asking her to come visit a sick friend went missing, even though a reward of $500 dollars was offered for information about  the sick friend’s name, who wrote the note, and who delivered it. It was suggested by Lizzie that it may have been burned up (in the kitchen woodstove as that was the only fire in August).

    Emma Borden was visiting the Brownells on Green Street in Fairhaven during the week of the murder, which must be where the letter mentioned in the article above was sent.  On the morning of the murders, Lizzie gave her father a letter to mail to Emma in Fairhaven.  The letter mentioned above must have been written before the letter written and given to Andrew Borden to mail on August 4th.   How unfortunate Emma did not keep the letter which mentions Lizzie’s “suspicious man”, which would have added credence to her tale to the police about such a character later. Or, did Lizzie make up the “suspicious” man loitering around the property as a convenient suspect to draw attention away from herself later?  To whom did Emma show that letter- most likely Mrs. Brownell and her daughter Helen. Lizzie mentioned the suspicious man idea to her friend Alice Russell the night before the murders.  Was Lizzie telling the truth- or cleverly covering all of her bases? Did Emma’s friends who saw the letter ever get to relay that information to the police?

  • W&W’s Top 10 Borden Case Errors

     

    Axe or hatchet?  –  Most likely a hatchet or a short-handled axe.

    Top Ten List of Most Often-Quoted  Borden Case Errors

     

     1. Lizzie was found guilty by jury of the murders of her mother and father.

    Actually Lizzie was acquitted on all three counts, the murder of her father, her stepmother and both at the trial in New Bedford, June 1893.

     2. Lizzie Borden was a redhead.

    According to her passport she had light brown hair.

     3.  Lizzie’s father cut off the heads of  Lizzie’s pet pigeons with a hatchet.

    Andrew Borden did kill the pigeons, but by wringing their necks, according to Lizzie’s inquest statement.

     4.  Lizzie decapitated Abby Borden’s tabby kitten.

    We have only the interview of Abby Borden’s niece, Abbie Whitehead Potter stating that Lizzie killed a kitten. The Whitehead family, with reason, had very little sympathy towards Lizzie, and this tale cannot be validated.

     5.  Lizzie Borden was a big, mannish woman.

    Lizzie was 5 ft. 3 inches tall according to her passport, average for the times.  She had put on weight during the ten months she was incarcerated in Taunton jail. Her face did have a heavy lower jaw and was described by one newspaper as a face with attributes very common to the region.

     6.  Lizzie and her sister sold the house where the murders took place on Second Street after Lizzie was acquitted in 1893.

    The sisters held on to the property until 1918.

     7. Lizzie was a kleptomaniac.

     Legend has it that she shoplifted at local Main St. stores and that the bill for what she had pilfered would be sent to her father to pay.  Shoplifting was surprisingly not uncommon among ladies of the period. There is no documentation at present in existence  that Lizzie was a kleptomaniac and that Andrew paid the bills.  The only corroborating bit of evidence is of a documented thievery of a porcelain wall ornament which went “missing” from the Tilden and Thurber jewelry  store in Providence.  When the item was taken back to the store for a repair, the owner was questioned about its provenance only to be told Lizzie Borden had been the gift giver. This matter was eventually settled privately. It is possible that Lizzie was a shoplifter in younger years, but not proven so.

     8. Andrew Borden was a mortician.

     Andrew Borden was trained as a carpenter and then went into business as a furniture and household goods retailer.  He invested wisely in real estate, including two small farms, all of which would bring him a good financial return, and as a sideline, he was an undertaker.  Undertaker in 1890 parlance meant a person who would supply items needed for a funeral.  He was neither a funeral director, embalmer, nor mortician. An invoice has been found for his services and for a casket, signed by Borden.  It was not uncommon for furniture retailers to supply wooden coffins and caskets and have a showroom or warehouse facility containing these items.

     9. Lizzie committed the two murders in the nude. 

     Thanks to the 1975 film starring Elizabeth Montgomery as Lizzie, the nude murderess scenario has its supporters.  In 1890, the thought was put forth that the killer must be saturated with blood, and it should have been impossible to hide or escape without the telltale blood evidence being detected.  In fact, the killer need not have been covered from head to toe with blood, or could have worn, then later destroyed a protective covering garment. It would be unusual for a lady  in the era of corsets and petticoats to have stripped bare twice on a sunny morning and walked around the house in broad daylight , then to clean up in between in a large tin basin in the cellar. Not impossible- just unlikely.

    10. Lizzie Borden killed her stepmother and father.

    So often assumed as fact ,  –  in fact, nobody will ever have the final answer to this one. Based on the evidence given to the jury then, and in re-examinations of the trial evidence now, Lizzie is acquitted. Her inquest testimony, prussic acid evidence, and dress-burning evidence were not allowed at the trial.  The fact that a side door remained open for almost an hour, and that an intruder could have entered the house and concealed himself, allows for reasonable doubt.  And therein lies the fascination with this case.

    Got a favorite oft-quoted but unsubstantiated Borden case statement to share?  Please leave a comment!

  • Mysteries at the Museum presents the hatchet

    Tonight the popular Travel Channel program, Mysteries at the Museum, which features unusual artifacts from around the country, presented a segment on the handle-less hatchet found in the Borden cellar.  The segment filmed at the Fall River Historical Society and the house on Second Street and showed excellent close-up footage of the hatchet head and break on the handle stub.  The seven-minute portion was well-done and worth a look.  It airs again tomorrow, December 1st at 3 p.m.

  • Murder by Mutineers?

     

    The Jefferson Borden 1875

    One thrilling scenario made the rounds of who-dunnit in the newspapers after the grisly remains of Abby and Andrew Borden were discovered – one or more savage sailors slithered into the Borden home and extracted revenge  for Andrew Borden’s testimony against them involving a mutiny at sea!  It was juicy stuff to be sure, and the Jefferson Borden did exist (at one point the article references the Richard Borden as being the schooner)- the only difficulty was that Abby and Andrew Borden were not on board- and the mutineers were not free at the time of the murders.  Still, it makes for a dramatic story.

  • One for the Lizzie Bookshelf

    Web of Iniquity by Catherine Ross Nickerson

    Duke University Press, Feb. 1999

    Here’s one that may have slipped by unnoticed. It sells from $6- $131 dollars depending on where you hunt for it.  Amazon has the best deals.

    “Surveys detective fiction from the Civil War to World War II, describes how women writers created a form of domestic mystery that offered a critical view of the condition of women, and discusses works based on the Lizzie Borden case.”

    For more about the book and its author visit the Duke U. Press http://www.dukeupress.edu/Catalog/ViewProduct.php?productid=566&viewby=subject&categoryid=389&sort=author

  • Lizzie Borden Rides Again

    Chances are you have not heard of the Garst Museum in Greenville, Ohio unless you are a fan of  Greenville- born world traveller and TV star Lowell Thomas whose adventures enthralled millions on radio and later television.  Or perhaps sharpshooter Annie Oakley, about whom the Garst has produced a world-class exhibit about her life. 

    As part of their autumn lecture series, another famous lady will be featured as subject of a one-woman show as Christy Igo takes on Lizzie Borden- no sharp-shooting pistol, but a hatchet just as deadly.

    (photo of Ms. Igo from http://www.lizzieborden.info/_wsn/page2.html)

    “Sunday, October 10, 2010 at 2:00 p.m., Christy Igo’s program “Lizzie Borden: A Life” is coming to the Garst. It is full of laughter, mystery, and horror as she brings  Lizzie Borden to life to tell HER STORY of the murder of her beloved  father and step mother. This crime is one of the bloodiest, most notorious and mysterious crimes of the 19th century!
    In 1892 Lizzie Borden was found NOT guilty by a jury of her peers. Most of the towns folk of Falls River, Massachusetts DISAGREED. The trial received worldwide media attention. Lizzie became a celebrity. The gruesome details played out in the daily newspapers.

    Did she or didn’t she? Modern law students still argue the case. You be the judge.
    Christy Igo trained at Ohio University’s Professional Actor Training Program as well as at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City. She has worked professionally all over the North Eastern United States.  She has worked in film, commercials and documentaries. She formed HerStory productions in 1999 to produce and perform original one woman shows about inspirational women from history.

    The Garst Lecture Series are free to the public, thanks to a grant from the HOPE Foundation and the Harry D. Stephens Memorial Trust. This lecture may be more suitable for mature audiences. For more information please call 937-548-5250 or online at www.garstmuseum.org.”
  • Lizzie Borden The Rock Musical

    This just in from Andy Propst via Theatermania.com for all those wondering about Lizzie Borden, the rock musical which is included as part of  new theatre projects during the National Alliance for Musical Theatre’s Festival of New Musicals in Manhattan this fall.

    The annual Festival of New Musicals will held in New York City on Thursday, October 21 and Friday, October 22, 2010 for a select audience of NAMT members, producers and other musical theatre industry professionals

    http://www.namt.org/

    “Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer, Alan Stevens Hewitt and Tim Maner’s musical about murderess Lizzie Borden will feature Carrie Cimma in the title role, along with Jenny Fellner, Marie France Arcilla and Beth Malone. The piece will be staged by Victoria Bussert, with music direction by Matt Hinkley.”  The production website is at   http://lizziebordentheshow.com/index.php/axe/about/ for more.

    For a sampling of some of the musical selections  http://lizziebordentheshow.com/index.php/axe/media/

    “A rock roadshow retelling of the bloody legend of America’s first and favorite axe-wielding double-murderess and Victorian hometown girl
    by Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer, Tim Maner, and Alan Stevens Hewitt.”

    Most recently the show ran for six weeks in fall 2009 at the Living Theatre in New York as a full-length original rock musical, produced by Took An Axe Productions.

  • After the Axe

    (photo by Beau Allulli) “Nance O’Neil”: Rachel Brown (standing) and Jonna McElrath in this play at Access Theater

    Reviews still coming in for the new production by the Blue Coyote Group.  Much praise has been lavished on the costume designer, and word has leaked that a “theory” about the crime is suggested in the production.   The interaction between Lizzie and her sister Emma is praised by critics  as a strong element in the play, and the play in general is receiving positive reviews. Get down to the Access theatre soon , for the play closes October 9th!

    David Rooney’s review: http://theater.nytimes.com/2010/09/21/theater/reviews/21nance.html

     

  • Getting #92 ready for her close-up

    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.

  • Food Poisoning-An Inspiration and Cover-Up?

    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.  Lizzie, when Bowen came over, high-tailed it up the front stairs to her room.  Andrew Borden did not wish to be examined and was not pleased his wife had incurred a bill for services rendered by Dr. Bowen. He dosed 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.