“Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her father forty wacks, when she saw what she had done, she gave her mother forty-one.”Children’s Rhyme
From its perch upon a rocky hill that sloped down to the shores of Mount Hope Bay in Fall River, the Greek-Revival house on Second Street was humble compared to some of the other homes in the area whose owners made their vast fortunes in textiles during the nineteenth century. Over 120 mills dotted the landscape of the seaport, making Fall River the leading cotton textile center in the United States. This house and what occurred within its walls is why the Lizzie Borden House is one of the five most haunted locations in Massachusetts.
Interestingly, Andrew Borden, the son of a laborer, didn’t make his fortune in textiles but took another path, working as a carpenter and running a furniture and undertaking business. Working alone and with partners, he sold ready-made “Burial Cases and Coffins,” available “at very short notice.” He also invested in real estate and served on several bank boards. He was a shrewd man, miserly, ruthless, and, by most accounts, not well-liked.
In 1845, he married Sarah Anthony Morse, a seamstress, and they had three children, Emma, Alice, and Lizzie. Unfortunately, his middle daughter died in 1858. After his wife died in 1863, Andrew married Abby Durfee Gray. But on the morning of August 4, 1892, life in the Borden household changed forever as one of America’s most gruesome unsolved double homicides entered the annals of history.
Lizzie Borden House: A Brief History
August 4, 1892, began as a normal day at the Borden household: the family’s maid, Bridget Sullivan, served breakfast to Andrew and Abby Borden while Lizzie slept upstairs, Andrew went into town, and Abby decided to straighten up the guest room in the home, where Lizzie’s uncle had slept the night before.
Emma, Lizzie’s older sister, was staying with friends out of town. Later that morning, Mr. Border returned to the house and lay down on the settee in the sitting room, feeling ill. Soon, the maid, who was washing windows outside, heard Lizzie’s screams and rushed into the house to find Mr. Borden’s body, his head bashed in beyond recognition.
Shortly after the discovery of Andrew Borden’s body, Sullivan fled the house to find a doctor. But in the meantime, Lizzie’s screaming had attracted the attention of several neighbors, who called the police, while a curious crowd began to gather around the Borden residence.
At this point, the stepmother’s whereabouts were unknown. When the police arrived, Lizzie mentioned that her parents had been sick for a few days, possibly the result of bad mutton or poisoned milk. The maid upstairs eventually found Abby’s body lying on the floor between the bed and the bureau, face down, her head just as bludgeoned as Lizzie’s father, and lying in a pool of blood.
She had been struck 19 times with a hatchet, while Mr. Borden received 11. Abby’s blood was dark and congealed by this time, leading police to believe she had been killed first.
Since Lizzie was a Sunday school teacher, she wasn’t an immediate suspect. Her sworn alibi to District Attorney Hosea Knowlton was that she had been in the barn looking for a piece of iron when the attacks took place, but her story kept changing upon further questioning. And although there wasn’t an ounce of physical evidence to tie her to the murders, she was eventually arrested on August 11 and tried. It was the trial of the century.
On June 19, 1893, after a 26-day trial, Lizzie was found not guilty. Soon after the dust had settled, Lizzie and her sister Emma, who inherited their father’s estate, bought a house in a more fashionable part of Fall River where Lizzie had always wanted to live. Still, suspicion followed her for the remaining days of her life, and she was ostracized from Fall River society until her death on June 1, 1927, at 66 years old.
Today, the Borden murders are still officially unsolved. The murder weapon was never found, and the house remains one of the five most haunted locations in Massachusetts, for a good reason.
Another Borden Murder
A few investigators had commented they thought much darker energy inhabited the house long before the murders were committed and directed the murders of Andrew and Abby. This theory rests upon an event in Borden’s recent past:
Mr. Borden’s uncle lived next door with his wife and three small children. His wife, Andrew Borden’s aunt, attempted to drown their three children in the well. One of the children survived, but in the interim, the mother went into the cellar and slit her throat with a straight-edged razor, and bled to death. Since the properties were so close together, the theory about pre-existing dark energy emerged and has made its way into several recent investigations of the property.
Paranormal Activity and Evidence
The Borden murders were gruesome, even by today’s standards, and have attracted ghost hunters worldwide, including leading popular paranormal reality TV shows like Ghost Hunters, Ghost Towns, Dead Files, Ghost Adventures, and Kindred Spirits.
Even the church where Lizzie was said to have taught Sunday school, the Central Congregational Church of Fall River, harbors her spirit from time to time. The pastor from that church escorted Lizzie from the jail to the courthouse each day of the trial, and that is where a recent EVP revealed that Lizzie felt “safe.”
Most investigations here are twofold: What spirits still reside here? And who committed the murders? The paranormal evidence for the two is fascinating.
- According to one tour guide, Mr. Borden is the most prevalent spirit that resides at the house. His heavy boot steps can be heard in the hallways and in the master bedroom, and most chilling of all, walking through closed doors into rooms.
- The autopsy for Mrs. Borden was actually performed on the dining room table, and her moaning is sometimes still heard in that room.
- Disembodied female voices can be heard in Lizzie’s old bedroom.
- One tour guide has experienced a tall, dark figure described as more of a mass than a human in the basement and upstairs.
- EVP’s: “Justice,” “Lizzie,” “Borden,” “Hatchett” (when asked what the murder weapon was), “Axe.”
Most of the Fall River town officials and historians believe that if Lizzie Borden were tried for the murders today, she’d be found guilty.
The Dead Files medium, Amy Allan, finished up her investigation of the Lizzie Borden House with the following theory winnowed from her psychic abilities.
According to Amy, Lizzie and her sister Emma had an incestuous relationship with each other, including their father, of which the mother was aware but did nothing. So, a plan was created to kill both parents. Mrs. Border would be killed first, so her inheritance would pass to the father. Then, the father would be murdered, and his inheritance would be passed to Emma, the oldest daughter. Emma would then split the estate with Lizzie, which in real life, she did. Neither sister ever married.
Whether this is just a psychic rumor or fact remains to be seen. Regardless, the events unfolded similarly enough to warrant more investigations over one hundred years later.
Today, the house of horrors has been turned into a bed-and-breakfast and bears the name of the murders’ main suspect: Lizzie herself. The owners have carefully restored the home to how it looked on that bloody day in 1892, and you’d never know it’s one of the five most haunted locations in Massachusetts as you walk through the door.
If you want a taste of the macabre, you can even enjoy the same breakfast that Lizzie’s parents ate on the morning of their murders.
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