• Bertha Manchester- that other hatchet job. . .

    The hatchet killing which happened just before Lizzie’d trial began and which was referred to in the Lifetime movie this past weekend was the Bertha Manchester crime- which thankfully was solved. Care was taken that Lizzie’s jurors did not learn about this case as it would seem to suggest a killer was still on the loose in Fall River with a hatchet. Bertha Manchester is also buried in Oak Grove Cemetery.http://query.nytimes.com/mem/archive-free/pdf?res=F50B17F7345B1A738DDDAC0894DE405B8385F0D3

  • 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)

  • 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

     

     

  • Bad news day

    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.

  • 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 Little Death Metal?

    The list of Lizzie Borden tunes grows ever-longer.  Here’s the latest from death metal band, Macabre, track 10 off Grim Scary Tales.  Here is what “Gruesome Greg” has to say about the album, released in 2010:

    “Thematically, it’s a concept album about historical murderers. Whereas their previous work dealt with Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy and the Nightstalker, here we have tunes named after Dracula, Lizzie Borden, a demented take on “The Big Bad Wolf” and a competent cover of Venom’s campy classic “Countess Bathory”.   (Well, that explains Vlad the Impaler on the cover).

    Third track “The Black Knight” is another one of those catchy, I-can’t-believe-I’m-singing-along-with-this songs that Macabre does so well. A driving, punky chorus alternates with slower tempos and clean, monotone singing. “Dracula” is old-school Macabre, blast-beats and guitar-synth-a-plenty. It’s also the first time on the album that Corporate Death unleashes his trademark wail—a whole four songs in! As previously mentioned, “The Big Bad Wolf” is awesome. I know I’d buy an album of Macabre singing children’s campfire songs—oh wait, they’ve already done that…

    Anyways, if you’re one of those weirdos like me who worship Macabre, you’ll want this one. Although the production is a lot better and the sound slightly more modern, there are enough shades of Sinister Slaughter on Grim Scary Tales that oughtta make solid additions to their live set next time they’re in our vicinity. (I’m already looking forward to it!)”

    And here you can hear Lizzie Borden by Macabre, and probably understand some of the lyrics ! Turn your volume down.

  • 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!

  • Lizzie appears in new crime novel

    Bruce A. Brennan, attorney from DeKalb, IL released a novel on November 10, 2010. The book is historical fiction in the crime genre. The book takes place in the late 1880s through the early 1900s and involves Jack the Ripper and other infamous criminals of that period..  Jack the Ripper, Chicago’s H.H. Holmes, the Dalton gang and others make guest appearances.  The novel is e-published and can be downloaded at this link.  Send us your reviews!  http://www.prweb.com/releases/2010/11/prweb4774174.htm

    About the Author:

    “Bruce A. Brennan is a practicing attorney handling criminal defense work. This is his first published novel. A second one is expected within four months. He writes a daily blog and contributes to several others. This is the story of the investigation and crime solving techniques used to track down the most notorious murderer in the world. The killer plied his trade in Europe and the United States during the 1880s through the early 1900s. After an exhausting investigation, Ian Dean gets his man.”

  • Another Hatchet Job

    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)

  • 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.

  • Lizzie Borden: Now A Halloween Fixture

    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

    And here are a couple of Halloween Lizzies from 2009 (sorry the credits are unavailable)

    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&current=012-1.flv

    There will be more.

  • 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.

  • 1895 Murder for Christmas

     


    Most “Boomers” will recall the big hit Lloyd Price had with Stagger Lee back in the 60’s but few probably know that there is a true story of Victorian crime connected to the pop tune. St. Louis, Missouri was the place where Stack Lee Shelton and Billy Lyons had some kind of disagreement on Christmas night- whether over gambling, politics, or a woman, is not clear. The final insult came when Billy took Stack’s fine Stetson hat, and Stack pulled out his gun and shot Billy dead on the spot in a bar room.

    Stack Shelton did time for the murder, ultimately dying in prison of tuberculosis in 1912.  Their story has been immortalized in song in many versions over the years.  Thanks to Murder by Gaslight for shining a  light on this case. For much more about the details visit their link at http://murderbygasslight.blogspot.com/2009/09/staggerlee_05.html

    Lyrics to the Lloyd Price version

    The night was clear, and the moon was yellow
    And the leaves came tumblin’ down
    . . .

    I was standin’ on the corner
    When I heard my bull dog bark.
    He was barkin’ at the two men
    Who were gamblin’ in the dark.

    It was Stagger Lee and Billy,
    Two men who gambled late.
    Stagger Lee threw a seven,
    Billy swore that he threw eight.

    “Stagger Lee,” said Billy,
    “I can’t let you go with that.
    “You have won all my money,
    “And my brand-new Stetson hat.”

    Stagger Lee went home
    And he got his .44.
    He said, “I’m goin’ to the ballroom
    “Just to pay that debt I owe.”

    (bridge)
    Go, Stagger Lee

    Stagger Lee went to the ballroom
    And he strolled across the ballroom floor.
    He said “You did me wrong, Billy.”
    And he pulled his .44.

    “Stagger Lee,” said Billy,
    “Oh, please don’t take my life!
    “I’ve got three hungry children,
    “And a very sickly wife.”

    Stagger Lee shot Billy
    Oh, he shot that poor boy so hard
    That a bullet went through Billy
    And broke the bartender’s bar.