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home > ghosts of the world > Lizzie Borden House

local hauntings

Lizzie Borden House
Fall River, Massachusetts

By: Stephanie Lechniak-Cumerlato

Lizzie Borden - circa 1892

Lizzie Borden took an ax
Gave her mother forty whacks;
When she saw what she had done
Gave her father forty-one!

We all know how the rhyme goes. It is about Lizzie Borden, the acquitted suspect but legendary perpetrator of the grisly double murder of her father Andrew Borden and her stepmother Abby, on August 4, 1892.

The home has since been a city landmark due to the infamous ax murders. It was erected in 1845 and was originally built for two families, but was later made into a single family by Mr. Borden.

Andrew J. Borden bought the house at 92 Second Street to be close to his bank and various downtown businesses. Since the murders on in 1892, the house spent most of its history as a private residence. Now the public is allowed not only to view the murder scene but to spend a night in the actual house where the murders took place. The home is now called the "Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast"

Before we continue telling you about the reported hauntings and ghostly sightings, we feel that it would be good to tell you a bit more about Lizzy Borden and give you a brief history of what supposedly happened on the scorching morning of August 4th, 1892.

 

The History
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Lizzie BordenOpinion about Lizzie was divided, even by those who knew her. Certainly the mind of Lizzie Borden seemed to hold two entirely different personalities. While one kept awake with one eye open, the other, deep inside her, slept. There is Lizzie, the good daughter, who made sure that her father was all comfortable and tucked in for a nap on the lounge of which he never rose from again. Then there is Lizzie, the bad daughter. The one who would incessively say bitter things about him behind his back and not talk to him for days when she was angry with him.

Robert Sullivan, in his objective research of the case, Good-bye Lizzie Borden, actually interviewed Mrs. Abby Whitehead Potter (Abby Borden's niece and namesake), who remembered her aunt and recalled this chilling tale:

"Lizzie Borden had company and my aunt had a tabby cat and the cat was trained so that it would touch the latch -- you know, it was [sic] latches in those days -- she'd touch the latch and the door would open. So the cat went in where Lizzie was entertaining and she took it out and shut the door again, and came back so this is what she told Aunt Abby and Abby told my mother; Lizzie Borden finally excused herself and went downstairs -- took the cat downstairs -- and put the carcass on the chopping block and chopped its head off. My aunt for days wondered where that cat was -- all she talked about. Finally, Lizzie said, 'You go downstairs and you'll find your cat.' My aunt did" (Sullivan, 23).

This startling vision really gives us an idea of the unstable kind of woman Lizzy Borden was.

The Murders
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Abby Borden's bodyWhether the story is accurate or not, by 9 o'clock that hot August morning Abby had died much the same way as the cat. Her head was nearly torn off her shoulders by a blunt instrument as she lay face down on the floor of the upstairs bedroom. Forensic experts at the time judge that she had seen her attacker when struck. It was found that her head was crushed by 19 axe or hatchet wounds in the back of the scalp. Because of the lack of blood, it has been surmised that Abby died from the first blow, and with death her heart stopped pumping blood.

Once the killer finished with the victim, the 200-pound corpse lay sprawled out on the knees face down waiting to be discovered two hours later.

Meanwhile, Old Andrew Borden went calmly on his rounds of business to the Union Savings Bank, to the National Union Bank, to the First National Bank of Fall River and then to see one of his tenants, the hatter Jonathan Clegg. At 10:40 a.m. his next-door neighbour Mrs. Kelly saw him at his front door as she hurried on to a dentist's appointment, unkown to the fact that he would not leave the house alive.

Andrew Borden's bodyLess than an hour later his daughter Lizzie called up to the maid, resting in her attic room, "Come down quick! Father's dead! Somebody came in and killed him!"

It was there, in the small little sitting room, where the dead body of Mr. Borden lay, with his head and face so hacked as to be unrecognizable even to his friend and physician, Dr. Bowen, who attended the scene.

Again, the mysterious murderer struck violently to the head. According to Robert Sullivan:

"Borden's head was bent slightly to the right, but his face was almost unrecognizable as human; one eye had been cut in half and protruded in a ghastly manner, his nose had been severed, and there were eleven distinct cuts within a relatively small area extending from the eye and nose to the ears. Fresh blood was still seeping from the wounds, which were so severe that the first of the eleven blows must have killed him."

Although she was tried and acquitted of these gruesome crimes, Lizzie Borden and her hatchet have caused more confusion, speculation and debate than any other murder case in American history.

The Hauntings
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The Lizzie Borden House TodayWhen staying at the "Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast", you'll be treated to a breakfast similar to the one the Bordens ate on the morning of the murders, which includes bananas, jonny-cakes, sugar cookies and coffee in the addition to a delicious meal of breakfast staples.

Numerous guests at the B&B have reported hearing voices of a woman softly weeping in the night. Some guests have seen shoes move across the floor, while others have had an older woman, in traditional dress, tuck them in at night.

Lights flicker, video equipment is suddenly turned on and off and cameras work when no one is using them, but won't work when you expect them to. And always, the ghosts of Andrew and Abbey wander the house where they were murdered.

Article by: Stephanie Lechniak-Cumerlato
Founding Partner of Haunted Hamilton


Our night at the Lizzie Borden House

by Daniel Cumerlato
________________________________________

Stephanie and I had the pleasure of staying in the Lizzie Borden House overnight. Currently the house is run as a Bed and Breakfast.

We were headed to Salem and Boston on a research trip and felt this would be the perfect opportunity to sleep in bed located right beside where Abby Borden's body was found. Unfortunately that room was booked many weeks in advance, so we took Andrew and Abby's one time bedroom in the back of the second floor.

Before the night was to begin, we were given a tour by one of the most enthusiastic Borden historian's around. She gave us many gruesome details about the murders, the trial and Lizzie's guilt. By the end we had a new interest in the story, and being able to experience this in the actual house was amazing.

We saw how the police discovered Abby when climbing the steep staircase to the second floor. Your first line of sight was right into the famous bedroom and under the bed, where they saw Abby Borden staring back at them with cold and lifeless eyes.

And in the basement, located right under the couch in the foyer where Andrew Borden was hacked to death, the spot where his blood leaked through.

It's with these visuals that we retired to bed and a very interesting night that included nightmares for Stephanie. She dreamed about Andrew Borden a couple of times, one seeing him in the main bed of the room (we were sleeping in the old parlour) and watching him rise up like the living dead, and turn to look at her.

Another dream had me getting up to use the bathroom, and while in there the light in the main room turned itself on and she heard footsteps approaching the parlour.

At around 5am we heard a car start up in the parking lot. I ran to the window to see the couple from Abby's death room leaving. Most would think they were heading out for a nice vacation day, but Stephanie and I said it must be the ghosts that scared them away... turns out it was the vacation day... better luck next time.

All in all this was a highlight experience for both Stephanie and myself and we'll always remember staying in the famous house where Lizzie swung the axe.

Many thanks to Robert Sullivan, the author of "Good-bye Lizzie Borden" for the excerpts used from his book.

As well, much thanks to the Yellow Tulip Press for their accounts of the Lizzie Borden case in "Lizzie Borden Unlocked"

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