Victorian True Crime
The Fall River Historical Society special August-4-Sept 30 exhibit will display, for the first time, the post mortem photographs of Abby and Andrew Borden. Other rare and never-displayed items from the trial and trial lawyers will be on exhibit.
For those who cannot get enough of the Borden Case, this will be a four-star weekend featuring the annual dramatization at the house on Second Street ( tickets on sale now at the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast) and a VERY special exhibit which opens on August 4th and runs through September 30th at the Fall River Historical Society. For Letterboxers, a special letterbox will be hidden in Fall River to mark the 120th anniversary of the historic crime. Atlasquest.com will have the clue, so bring your stamp and notepad, an inkpad is provided in the box. To see the clue type Fall River, MA in the locator box at the Atlasquest.com site. Got Lizzie? And how!
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
The front page of the Fall River Herald for August 4th featured a large colored photo of Kathleen Troost-Cramer and Barbara Morrissey as Lizzie and Emma Borden on the day of the infamous murders re-enacting the news about the killing of their father and stepmother. The front page also featured a headline of the Dow down to the lowest point since 2008 and news of bacteria levels in the Taunton River. At least one of the stories was old news from 1892.
Ray Mitchell as city marshal Rufus Hilliard. Story by Deborah Allard.
Here’s an interview and follow-up to the Chloe Sevigny story posted here earlier this month. Hopes are running high for an historically accurate script which will include John Morse this time around. The HBO mini-series, slated to run two nights, may be released at the end of 2011.
From the blogger of Murder by Gaslight, and in the style of the old Police Gazette, have a look at the new sister blog, The National Night Stick . Best of luck with the new enterprise!
The Killer Book of Infamous Murders, by Tom Philpin and Michael Philpin will be published in February and available on Amazon March 1st.The book examines crimes recent and past, going as far back as the 1800s. The book includes the Lizzie Borden case, the horrifying murders that inspired Truman Capote’s novel, “In Cold Blood,” and the Dr. Sam Shepperd case, which inspired “The Fugitive” movie and TV series.
This is a follow-up to The Killer Book of Serial Killers which was published January 2009 by the same authors.
With winter showing no signs of letting up in New England, seems a good time to stay inside by the fire with a few good blogs and web sites to read. Here are some you may enjoy which include Victoriana, fictional and true crime. It’s hard to narrow it down to just ten, but here’s ten good ones you might have missed. Hours of reading- pack a lunch!
1. Murder by Gaslight http://murderbygasslight.blogspot.com/
2. Clews– historic true crime http://laurajames.typepad.com/
3. Anne Perry – Detective Pitt in Victorian England, and other great series http://www.anneperry.net/
4. 1893 Columbian Expo in Chicago http://columbus.gl.iit.edu/
5. Victorian Station– all things Victorian http://www.victorianstation.com/home2.html
6. Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes (ASH) http://www.ash-nyc.com/AboutASH.htm
7. Victoriana– free online magazine, great articles and links http://www.victoriana.com/site_map.htm
8. Historic New England Homes and events http://www.historicnewengland.org/
9. Victorian Society in America – lectures, events, tours, classes http://www.victoriansociety.org/
10. Jack the Ripper http://www.casebook.org/
Among the Library of Congress collection of unusual broadsides, (those prolific paper tributes written by budding writers about popular topics of the moment), rests this Lizzie Borden case effort by Mr. Beard of New Hampshire, who gives his home address at the bottom of the page, no doubt in hopes of hearing from a publisher keen to publish his opus.
Thanks to CLEWS crime blog for bringing this to our attention a few years ago. If you missed it then, here it is again.
Middletown Daily News August 18, 1892 (Middletown, N.Y.)
Did Lizzie know that her father was seriously thinking about making a will? She seemed to know a great deal about her father’s real estate holdings. Here is her inquest statement about knowledge of a will:
Q. Do you know something about his real estate?
A About what?
Q. His real estate.
A I know what real estate he owned; part of it. I don’t know whether or not I know it all or not.
Q. Tell me what you know of.
A He owns two farms in Swansea, the place on Second Street and the A. J. Borden Building and corner and the land on South Main Street where McMannus is and then a short time ago, he bought some real estate up further south that formerly, he said, belonged to a Mr. Birch. .
Q. Did you know of your father making a will?
A. No sir, except I heard somebody say once that there was one several years ago. That is all I ever heard.
Q. Who did you hear say so?
A. I think it was Mr. Morse.
Q. What Morse?
A. Uncle John V. Morse.
Q. How long ago?
A. How long ago I heard him say it? I have not any idea.
Q. What did he say about it?
A. Nothing except just that.
Was Lizzie lying in her testimony? Had she overhead Andrew and her Uncle the night before the murders discussing such details about a will? Andrew was nearly 70 years old, perhaps he had decided to put something in writing and was making an inventory of his assets. A good many people seemed to think a will favoring a hefty settlement on his spouse provided a good motive for murder.
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!
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.
As Halloween draws nearer every year, there seem to be more and more “Lizzie sightings”. Whether in haunted corn mazes, horror theme attractions, Halloween costumes or a proliferation of Lizzie Borden-based plays- the little gal with the hatchet is everywhere from August right through to All Saints Day!
The Discovery Channel has set the Ghost Lab show of the investigation of the Borden house for Oct 25th, with a preview on the 19th. The Travel Channel repeated its look at America’s Most Terrifying Places again this past weekend, Nance O’Neil is coming to a close this weekend in Manhattan and coming soon- a new play, Lizzie Borden Took An Axe, by Garrett Heater will be the debut production of a brand new theatre group.
Stay tuned for all-new Lizzie & Family productions coming this Fall on the Discovery channel, a landmark book on Fall River and Lizzie coming from the Fall River Historical Society, and 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. And Sunday night, the 31st, is ALWAYS a special night at #92 Second Street and is sold out a year in advance!
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
There must be something in the Massachusetts water supply- or is it all about the hot days of August in New England? This story by Joan Patrakis of the Andover Historical Society comes from the Andover Townsman Online and tells of another local lady who went on a rampage with a sharp -edged tool, this one in August of 1895. Not most people’s ideal of Victorian Motherhood.
“Saddest of all is the story of Mrs. Beard whose shocking case rivals that of Lizzie Borden. In 1895 she was declared insane after she viciously attacked her daughter and friend with an ax. The victims survived but the incident rekindled suspicion of her guilt in the deaths of her two young sons who had died in a tragic house fire 20 years earlier. Mrs. Beard was brought before a jury at that time but the case against her was dropped despite there being possible evidence of arson and questions about her sanity. She lived out her life in a Maine asylum.”
Although the attack itself occured in Old Orchard, Maine, where the Andover woman had a summer cottage, Mrs. F.R. Beard was from Andover where she maintained her primary residence. The attack occured on the morning of August 26th , with grievious wounds inflicted upon the body of her daughter, Josephine Beard, a Boston school teacher who was in bed at the time of the attack. A college friend from Andover, Miss Winona Graffen who was rooming with the Beards, received two serious flesh wounds. Mrs. Beard recovered her composure apparently, and accompanied the two girls to the hospital in Portland. (source, NY Times August 26, 1895)
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.”
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
“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.