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!
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.
The article on Mrs. Lawdwick (Ladowick, Ladwick, Lodowick. etc.) Borden is still a much-visited link on Warps and Wefts. https://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.
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.
February 11-13 will mark the dates of the Murder Mystery Weekend at the Borden house. Preparations are underway and staff and cast are bustling in pre-production for this first-ever event. It should be a Valentine’s Day to remember! For unfolding details, and photo gallery to come visit the link http://lizziebordenmysteryweekend.com/
Come to think of it, Cupid’s arrow would make quite an unexpected murder weapon.
It was a big day at #92 for the cast of the Pear Essential Players as they turned in 10 performances of Lizzie Borden CSI. Tickets sold out and the gift shop was buzzing with activity from early morning until the end of the day when the evening check- ins arrived. All previous records were broken this year.
Rufus Hilliard Ray Mitchell
There were a few new faces this year in the cast including Ray Mitchell who portrayed city marshal Rufus Hilliard and bore an uncanny resemblance to his character! Michael Brooks took over the role of James Winward, Undertaker and was suitably grave and distinguished.
(photo courtesy of Lee Ann Wilber)
For the first time, the bed in the guest room was moved in order to reproduce a lesser-known photo of Abby Borden.
With a nod to Richard’s Behren’s new book, Lizzie Borden: Girl Detective, Kathryn Woods played Miss Nellie Drew, girl detective and interviewed Uncle John Morse.
Molly O’Brien took over as Miss Manning from the Fall River Herald and also had a few things to ask Uncle John.
photo courtesy of Lee Ann Wilber
The men in blue were out in force this year with Ben Rose reprising Detective Seaver, and new B&B museum employees Justin Dunne and Will Clawson playing Medley and Harrington. Mustaches were a key element in bringing the characters to life with Hilliard’s famous walrus mustache and Harrington’s “handlebar” stash adding much to the characterization.
Will Clawson Phil Harrington
Justin Dunne played a young officer William Medley. Medley would become Fall River’s first Chief of Police.
Justin Dunne Chief Medley
Many actors have played Andrew Borden over the years and this year B&B employee Logan Livesey had the tough task of staying perfectly still under the sheet.
Tomorrow: Set dressing the house, our cast regulars, and the cast trip to Maplecroft!
The weather was damp and drizzly Saturday and Sunday but did not stop the energetic bunch from outside activities. Several cemeteries within the city were visited including Old North, Oak Grove, and St. John’s. The Mutton Eaters learned that Capt. Harrington is buried in the Leary lot, with no stone, which explains why the hunt was unsuccessful. Old North contains the final resting places of Hannah Reagan (prison matron who overheard Lizzie say to Lizzie, “You’ve given me away, Emma”), Mrs. James D. Burt, a Borden neighbor, and Charles Trafton, for whom the house on Second Street was built.
A stop was made at St. Anne’s Church in the south end, and then on to nearby Kennedy Park to see the spot where Sarah Cornell was found hanged from a tree near the Taunton River. Lunch was at McGovern’s where original Mutton Eaters Debbie Valentine and Barbara MacDonald joined the group.
After lunch the gang went on to the Lafayette Durfee house on Cherry Street where they were treated to a private tour and special exhibit for Patriot’s Day http://www.lafayettedurfeehouse.org/
The Hyman Lubinsky Ice Cream Social followed at 5 p.m. and featured an amazing assortment of eatables including a birthday cake for Officer Harrington, whose birthday it would have been. Harrington was the policeman who had his doubts from the start about Lizzie and gave that detailed description of what she was wearing.
Very special guests arrived who now live in Dr. Kelly’s Third Street home, and brought with them an assortment of things found in the Kelly home which were unearthed from between the walls. Dr. Kelly and his family lived next door to the Bordens in 1892. Kitchen spices, photos and medical journals were displayed for the Mutton Eaters. It is possible that one of the photos may be that of Dr. Kelly’s daughter Philomena Kelly who married the grandson of banker Abraham Hart (among the last people to see Andrew Borden alive).
Former employees of the B&B dropped by and the evening ended with Lizzie quizzes and games, prizes, a reading from Richard Behren’s new book, Lizzie Borden Girl Detective, singing of Lizzie’s favorite hymn, At Hame in My Ain Countrie, and some original Lizzie songs made up on the spot. Two initiations were held for new Mutton Eaters Molly and Will, both employees of Lizzie Borden’s Bed and Breakfast Museum.
Sunday saw several of the Mutton Eaters leaving early for home after breakfast at the Highland Ave. Spa. The remnant had a great day antiquing in Bristol with lunch at Leo’s. Everyone, to be sure, had a very good night’s sleep Sunday night- and plans are already being made for next year.
Fall River musician, Don Hammontree may not be a Fall River native, but he certainly knows the city and its history. With a folk-rock, “alternative” sound, Hammontree has released three CDs, Mount Hope Days in 2003, The Mumbai in 2005 and the latest, Brutalist School in 2010. You can sample Mp3 offerings, including “Maplecroft” on the Mount Hope Days CD at http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/hammontree
To hear about Don’s next performance live, visit his MySpace page at http://www.myspace.com/donhammontree