Providence Loves Lizzie Borden Live !



As a monsoon raged outside the Broadway St. Columbus Theatre, inside the historic edifice, actress Jill Dalton was also taking the city by storm.  Playing to a sold-out house Saturday night, Ms. Dalton delivered a performance which brought down the house. The intimate venue was ideal for establishing a direct rapport with the actress on stage as she wove a tapestry of memories from the mind and soul of the notorious accused murderess.  At times, as she stepped out from behind the footlights to address the audience personally, it was as if we were all transported back in time to the garden of Maplecroft, her Fall River mansion after the acquittal. 

It was a tour de force encapsulation of the major events in the life of Lizzie Borden, from her relationship with her older sister Emma, her friendship with actress Nance O’Neil, to life on Second Street, her Grand Tour trip, trial and acquittal- and of course- the day of the homicides.  With a masterful, sometimes humorous, and always compelling portrayal, Miss Dalton has taken the two-dimensional picture most of us have of Lizzie Borden and fleshed her out into a living, breathing, complex human being- sometimes frightening- sometimes sympathetic. The audience was spellbound – and all too soon it was over.  This is one not to miss.

Fall River, take note– Lizzie Borden Live should be “coming home”!  For upcoming dates check the web site at

Halloween at Lizzie’s 2008


The weather was perfect for trick or treaters and this year there was quite a crowd. One little boy, about 18 months old decided he wanted to stay at #92 and had to be picked up by Dad to continue the trick or treating around the neighborhood.  The diningroom was alive with rodents and wormy apples, vultures and other creepy things, including a coffin on the table.  Only one plastic hatchet was stolen from the jack o’ lantern pumpkinhead on the doorsteps( whose name is always Charles after original house owner Charles Trafton).  Guests enjoyed a seance well into the wee hours. Neither Houdini nor Andrew Borden showed up! The group photo was the only photo of the night which came out rather eerily on the camera. Already the house is booking for NEXT Halloween!

Emma Borden’s jaunt to Scotland


Lizzie Borden: Past and Present by Leonard Rebello mentions one trip Emma Borden made in 1906 to the United Kingdom- Scotland in particular.  It is believed Andrew Borden’s family originally had roots in that country, and is sometimes a speculation as to why Lizzie had Scottish thistles on her Maplecroft library mantel.  Recently made passenger manifests available and Emma does show up aboard the White Star liner, RMS Cymric, departing from Boston- a ship which was torpedoed and sunk in 1916.  Emma is listed under “American” passengers. The voyage is June 2, 1906 and Emma would have stopped in Queenstown before Liverpool.


Cymric Passenger manifest in photo above.  Emma disembarks at Liverpool.

The Bridget Sullivan Mystery


Bridget Sullivan’s whereabouts from after Lizzie’s aquittal in June of 1893 up until she was located in Anaconda, Montana in 1896 married to a Sullivan, has always been a source of mystery.  Did Lizzie’s attorneys give Miss Sullivan money to “get out of town”?  Did Bridget stay in the city, find work elsewhere, or go back home to Ireland to visit her family after her ordeal with the Borden family?  Naturally, Bridget Sullivan is a common name for an Irish immigrant, and we may never know her full story of those missing years.  Recently made available ship passenger manifests.  A Bridget Sullivan is shown traveling to Queenstown, Ireland from Boston in June 1894, on the same Cunarder steamship, the RMS Scythia, on which Lizzie left in 1890 with her lady friends for her 19 week Grand Tour.  Bridget was obliged to be available for the witness box until after Lizzie’s acquittal-but did she have to work an extra year after to save passage money?  When did she return to America before going to Montana?  Some questions we may never be able to answer, but this entry below in the Scythia passenger list is a good possibility.  Bridget is listed as being 28 years old and bound for Liverpool with the usual stop at Queenstown first where she would have disembarked.  The ship reached Liverpool on June 19th.

RMS Scythia (steel engraving courtesy of Norway Heritage)

Above photo is the top of the page with information catagories.


Special thanks to my sleuthing partner, Mike Poirier, for helping me with this quest.

Ghost Season at Lizzie Borden’s House

Ghosts have pretty much been a year round phenomenon at #92 but never more so than the month of October when the Borden house is packed to the rafters every weekend with people toting EVP capturing machines, magnetic field detectors, thermographs, night vision cameras, and other high priced gizmos for capturing the perfect orb, groan, sigh, shadow- anything out of the ordinary.  There is a seance on Saturday night in the sittingroom in front of the black sofa, with hopeful participants waiting for a message or the levitating of a small round table used in the proceedings.  The guestbook is filled with comments of things both heard and seen by guests which run the gamut from ghostly encounters of the Third Kind to bumps and screams in the night.  All good fun- and nobody has ever been the worse for the experiences, real or imagined! 

Recently an August 4th guest has published the experiences of her visit with her boyfriend.  The couple had won an Ebay auction for the Morse guestroom, the most requested room where Mrs. Borden had been murdered. An account of Ms. Zorn’s visit has appeared on many blogs and sites including this one today

The couple had enjoyed a quiet evening, including the usual tour of the house and had retired to their room afterward.  The rest of the guests were sitting in the parlor chatting and having coffee when two piercing screams were heard. After a time, the two screamers came downstairs declaring the light had been switched off overhead, a smaller lamp switched on, there was something “funny” about the mirror – and they both had decided to leave, suitcase in hand.  It was nearly midnight.  Another guest freely admitted to having turned off the overhead light and turning on the small lamp to conserve energy. An offer was made to cover the mirror.  All to no avail. The couple was convinced they had to go. They did, however return in broad daylight the following day for breakfast.  If you are determined to scare yourself to death at #92, you will probably succeed!

Ghostly Happenings


The month of October has always been an especially busy one at the Borden House, with Halloween night selling out nearly a year in advance.  The following blog has has some great photos of an overnight stay in 2007 by a newly-wed couple, Hans and Rebecca, who managed to “meet” most of the Borden family and capture some orbs and other curious things before their check out the following day.

Happy Birthday Nance O’Neil


One interview most Lizziephiles would loved to have had is with Lizzie’s close friend, actress Nance O’Neil.  Their intense friendship from 1904-1906 has aroused much speculation over the years.

Born Gertrude Lamson on October 8, 1874 in Oakland, California, Miss O’Neil would enjoy great success on the stage.  She played at the Academy Theatre in Fall River and was a guest at Maplecroft.  Her estate in Tynsboro, Massachusetts is now a convent and school.  The two parted company in 1906, with Miss O’Neil always giving favorable comment about her old friend.  Nance died in Englewood, NJ in a home for aged actors in 1965.  Her ashes are deposed with those of her husband, actor Alfred Hickman (who died in 1931) in California.  These are her film credits, courtesy of International Movie Database.

  1. False Faces (1932) …. Mrs. Finn
    … aka What Price Beauty? (UK)
  2. Okay, America! (1932) …. Mrs. Drake (replaced by Virginia Howell)
    … aka The Penalty of Fame (UK)
  3. Westward Passage (1932) (uncredited) …. Mrs. von Stael
  4. Secret Service (1931/I) …. Mrs. Varney
  5. Their Mad Moment (1931) …. Grand Mere
  6. A Woman of Experience (1931) …. Countess Runyi
    … aka Registered Woman
  7. Transgression (1931) …. Honora ‘Nora’ Maury
  8. The Good Bad Girl (1931) …. Mrs. Henderson
  9. Resurrection (1931) …. Princess Marya
  10. Cimarron (1931) …. Felice Venable
  11. The Royal Bed (1931) …. Queen Martha
    … aka The Queen’s Husband (UK)
  12. The Eyes of the World (1930) …. Myra
  13. Call of the Flesh (1930) …. Mother Superior
  14. The Florodora Girl (1930) …. Mrs. Vibart
    … aka The Gay Nineties (UK)
  15. The Lady of Scandal (1930) …. Lady ‘Ducky’ Trench
    … aka The High Road (UK)
  16. The Rogue Song (1930) …. Princess Alexandra
  17. Ladies of Leisure (1930) …. Mrs. Strong
  18. His Glorious Night (1929) …. Eugenie
    … aka Breath of Scandal
  19. The Mad Woman (1919)
  20. The Fall of the Romanoffs (1917) …. Czarina Alexandra
  21. The Final Payment (1917) …. Nina
  22. Hedda Gabler (1917) …. Hedda Gabler
  23. Mrs. Balfame (1917) …. Mrs. Balfame
  24. The Seventh Sin (1917) …. Alma
  25. Greed (1917) …. Alma
  26. The Seven Deadly Sins (1917) …. Alma (Greed) & (Seventh Sin)
  27. The Iron Woman (1916) …. Sarah Maitland
  28. The Toilers (1916) …. Jane Brett
    … aka Those Who Toil (USA)
  29. The Flames of Johannis (1916) …. Zirah/Marika
    … aka The Fires of Johannis
    … aka The Fires of St. John
  30. The Witch (1916) …. Zora Fernandez
  31. Souls in Bondage (1916) …. Rosa Brenner
  32. A Woman’s Past (1915) …. Jane Hawley
  33. Princess Romanoff (1915) …. Princess Fedora Romanoff
  34. Kreutzer Sonata (1915) …. Miriam Friedlander
    … aka Sonata (UK)
  35. The Count of Monte Cristo (1913) …. Mercedes

#4 Guest Room Crime Scene

The bedroom furniture in the guest room today is such a very good replication of what was actually in the room on the day of the murders that guests to the house think it is the actual furniture.  Abby’s head is seen in the old sepia photographs lining up at the middle knob on the dresser as she lay on the floor between the dresser and the bed.  There was a small folding canvas camp chair in front of her head and the sewing machine was in the northwest corner where the large armoire is today.  The green dress in the corner was worn by Elizabeth Montgomery in the 1975 film The Legend of Lizzie Borden and was designed by Guy Verhille for the Paramount Studios production.

Autumn arrives

It was a glorious last two days of summer with temps in the low 70’s and just a nip of chill in the air at night.  The autumn light slants through the stairwell window of the Borden house and makes a pattern of lace on the wall.

On Old Second Street the Morning Glories are a riot of blue against the hot pink Impatiens in the little garden behind the Academy Building.  On South Main the curving front of the new court house looms over morning strollers taking in the sunshine.  The Borden House can still be seen from the south end of the new construction.

Lizzie Expos


After the success of the 1992 conference at BCC, some of the organizers including Jules Rykebusch and Ken Souza wanted to repeat a smaller version of the gathering every year on the first weekend in August.  So the Lizzie Expos were conceived and sponsored by the Down Under Cafe.  The image above is from the 1994 Expo and details some of the events.  This was also the year the mannequin of Lizzie (which held a pear and was in the entry of the Down Under) was kidnapped.  A reward was offered and she returned mysteriously by the second day.  The Herald featured the tale on the front page.  She is shown below with Ed Thibault.


Carriage rides and city tours were part of the fun.  Here are some of the city guides in costume and in character as 1892 Fall Riverites on the way to Maplecroft.

The Sweet Nightingales sang songs of the 1890’s at the old Central Congregational Church.  This stage area in the photo below is now part of the Abbey Grille restaurant downstairs.  The song being performed here is You Can’t Chop Your Pappa Up in Massachusetts!  By 1996 #92 Second Street had opened, and the Expos were no more-but they were fun while they lasted!

Diningroom #3

The diningroom holds a great fascination as a place where many things transpired during the week leading up to the murder.  After being served seafood in this room on Tuesday evening, August 2nd, the family became violently ill Tuesday night. Abby Borden sought help from the physician across the street on Wednesday morning.  Uncle John arrived later Wednesday afternoon and partook of lunch in this room before leaving for errands in nearby Swansea.  On the day of the murder, this was the site for the “Last Breakfast of Abby and Andrew Borden” and Uncle John before the threesome would part company forever. The menu is memorable: mutton, mutton broth, over ripe bananas, sugar cookies, jonnycakes and coffee.  The diningroom is also the last place Abby is seen alive by maid, Bridget Sullivan as she discussed the noonday meal with Lizzie before going upstairs to her grisly end.  Later, when Mr. Borden returns home, Bridget, in the diningroom, overhears what will be the last conversation between Lizzie and her father before Bridget goes upstairs to the third floor to lie down.  At some point around eleven o’ clock a killer will pause in the doorway between the diningroom and sittingroom shown in the photo above, before striking down Mr. Borden.  The corpses of the two murder victims lay in the dining room from Thursday through Saturday morning.  Mrs. Borden’s stomach was removed in this room. 

This is today the room where overnight guests share their breakfast.

Haunted University returns to Second Street



Senior editor of Haunted Times magazine, Chris Moon, and a paranormal investigation team will be returning to the Borden house this weekend for a two day session of learning to use special equipment to capture ghosts on film, EVPs and other paranormal tools-all accompanied by great food and conversation and real ghost-hunting onsite.  Haunted University has made several weekend visits to the Borden House over the past 2 years.  For more on Haunted Times Magazine and Haunted University future projects visit

Somewhere in Time- A Cult Classic



For fans of time travel, Somewhere in Time has captured the imagination of thousands world wide.  Based on the novel by Richard Matheson called Bid Time Return, the original setting for the novel was the Hotel Coronado in California in the year 1896.  Due to the encroachment of modern day life, the film version with screenplay by Matheson was filmed on Michigan’s Mackinac Island where vehicles are banned and horse and carriage is the mode of transportation.  Released in 1980, the film failed to find its audience but was soon taken up as a favorite by Romantics everywhere when the movie went to cable.  In 1991 a society of admirers of the film formed INSITE, The International Network of Somewhere in Time Enthusiasts and the society meets in October annually, in period costume, for a long weekend.  The soundtrack by John Barry has never been out of stock and is one of the most enduring and beloved soundtracks of all time. 

Maude Adams circa 1899

For more information on the film, the society and on Maude Adams, the real-life Victorian actress on whom the novel is based, do visit the INSITE link below.  Maude Adams was a top stage actress in the late 1890’s into the first decade of the twentieth century under the management of Charles Frohman, who drowned in the Lusitania disaster of 1915.  There is little doubt that Lizzie Borden would have seen Maude Adams numerous times on stage in New York or Boston, especially in her most famous roles as Lady Babbie in Barrie’s The Little Minister and Peter, in Peter Pan.   INSITE publishes a quarterly magazine and maintains an online giftshop, events calendar and regularly updated article website  at and listen to Barry’s inspired theme.

Somewhere in time

Crime Scene-Andrew Borden #2



The house on Second Street has many visitors over the year, both day tourists and overnight guests at the B&B and all without exception gravitate to the black sofa, a close copy of the original upon which Andrew J. Borden breathed his last.  So many have sat for photos on this piece of furniture that the original one put in the sitting room in 1996 has been reupholstered twice and has retired to the gift shop while a second black sofa had to be purchased for the sitting room.  The sitting room, crime scene of the second August 4, 1892 murder is little changed today from what it was 116 years ago.  The windows are original, the doors and moldings, mop boards and  fireplace are just the same.  There were 2 chairs, a sofa, a tripod table and a small center table in the room.  The closet under the staircase was used for hats and old coats and jackets. It is a deep closet, with the original hooks intact today.  Considering the blood spatter pattern, the general consensus was that the killer most likely stood near the diningroom doorway near the head of the sofa to administer the blows to the dozing head of Andrew Borden.  The photo montage below is a 360 degree view of the room beginning north, clockwise around the room.

New England Premiere of Lizzie Borden Live!




Lizzie Borden Live
Columbus Theatre
270 Broadway, 2nd floor ~ Cinematheque
Providence, RI  02903
…Think you know her?…Think again….
Written & Performed by: Jill Dalton
Directed by: Jack McCullough                       Music by: Larry Hochman
Friday November 14, 2008 ~ 8:00 p.m.
Saturday November 15, 2008 ~ 8:00 p.m.
Advance Tickets ~ $25.00
Click on “SCHEDULE “
or purchase at the door
 JILL DALTON As: Lizzie Borden

Winner 2007 Jacoby Award:


“The nod goes to Jill Dalton for her Lizzie Borden in “Lizzie Borden Live.” She runs the gamut of emotions in her performance from that of a mild Christian woman to a ruthless murderer. Her reenactment of the murder of her mother (it was my stepmother!) and father is a chilling scene in this play and Dalton, who also wrote the script, vividly brings it to the audience.”

Jacob Schaad Jr., The Cape May Gazette

Dalton is nothing less than superb in her depiction of the character, as her Lizzie is alternating sweet, innocent, witty and savagely murderous. The audience is left to decide which Lizzie is the real one.”   Cape May Star Wave

“I heartily recommend you see Lizzie Borden Live. . . . complex and most interesting Lizzie, in the person of Jill Dalton.   

Cape May Star Wave

“Absorbing performance . . . Dalton runs the gamut of emotions from supposedly mild Christian woman to that of a ruthless murderer.” 

Cape May Gazette

“Everything from Jill’s facial features (like Lizzie herself) to the way her voice can change throughout the play makes for compelling and oddly sympathetic viewing.”   Exit Zero

“Truly superb . . . the script is fascinating. Jill Dalton is an astonishingly talented actress – she changes her mood and characters in a split second. The play should get a Pulitzer.”   

Charles Alexander, writer for Time Magazine