“Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whack
When she saw what she had done
She gave her father forty-one.”
Exist this strange odd children’s rhyme and may sound amusing too, but it is actually real-life inspired and briefly tells the story of Lizzie Borden, a creepy murderer and one of America’s most widely-known cases of parricide.
The Borden’s crime happened exactly 126 years ago, during Victorian times, and its horror story is talk even today, also between authors, horror story fans, and film-makers.
The story tells that on August 4, 1892, the 32-year-old Lizzie Borden called the family maid, Bridget Sullivan, and showed her the mutilated body of her father, Andrew Borden. According to the story, Lizzie hit him 10 or more times with an ax while he was sleeping on the sofa. But that was not the end of the horror that poor Bridget faced. In the guest room there was also the body of Lizzie’s stepmother, Abby Borden, who was struck around 20 times with the same ax. Of course, the police arrested Lizzie as the only firmly accused suspect given that her brother had a strong alibi, her sister was out of town, and Bridget was recovering from a grave health condition. The trial that followed interested a lot the media which diligently investigated and followed this case until the final stage of acquittal.
Lizzie’s father, Andrew, was a prosperous manufacturer and property developer who invested in several textile mills. A director of the Durfee Safe Deposit and Trust Company, and also president of the Union Savings Bank. He educated Lizzie and her sister Emma in a highly religious spirit, and they were both involved in different church activities: Lizzie taught child immigrants in Sunday school and assisted in religious organizations.
Lizzie’s mother died when she was only three years old, and her father remarried only three years later. Both of the sisters hadn’t a friendly relationship with their stepmother. During police questioning, Lizzie said that she thought her stepmother to be a gold-digger. The relationship between the sisters and their stepmother was confirmed by Bridget too, who said that the two girls almost never ate together with their parents.
The maid remembered also how Lizzie had built a new roost for the pigeons and Mr. Borden killed them. After this episode, Lizzie got very upset, and both sisters taking an extended vacation at the Bordens’ property in New Bedford. The family tension increased also for Mr. Borden’s generosity to his new wife’s family, in fact he gave them a significant part of his property. Lizzie had returned to Fall River just a week before the murders. And so, on August 4, 1892, Abby and Andrew Borden were brutally murdered in their home. Before the murders, Lizzie encouraged Bridget to go to do shopping, but the maid felt unwell and went to her bedroom to take a nap, as Bridget later told the police. During the interrogation, Lizzie’s answers to the questions of the police officers were contradictory, and her behaviour was strangely calm. Lizzie presented two different versions of the story. At first, she said that after Andrew and Bridget had gone for a nap, she went to the barn to search for something to fix the door and stayed here for about 30 minutes eating pears. Unlikely, because there were no footprints in the dust of the barn. In the second version, Lizzie said that when she returned to the house there wasn’t see nothing strange at first, but then she saw the corpse of her father. Then, she sent Bridget to check on Abby whom she was certain was in town. Despite this, there wasn’t enough evidence against Lizzie, and this events made the trial and the respective case seem as if it was based merely on speculation. The murder weapon was never formally identified, and there were no clothes containing blood in the house or around it. Finally, Lizzie was acquitted and free of charges.
After the trial ended, Lizzie moved into a mansion with her sister in Fall River, where lived quite in the new home, with a housekeeper, a coachman, and live-in maids. However, her name and her story were never forgotten by the Fall River people which condemned her and provoked her to change her name to Lizbeth A. Borden. But at the end, after getting into a fierce argument, Emma moved out of the house and seems that the sisters never met again.
Lizzie remained in Fall River and lived there alone until she died of pneumonia at the age of 66. Now exist the Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast, that offers public tours of the notorious crime scene.