Lizzie Borden: 11 Fascinating Facts

Lizzie Borden: 11 Fascinating Facts

First, a little Borden background: In 1892, the year of the murders, 32-year-old Lizzie Borden and her older sister Emma lived in a house on Second Street in Fall River, Massachusetts, with their father, Andrew, and stepmother, Abby. (Their biological mother, Sarah Borden, had died when Lizzie was 2 years old.)

Lizzie Borden swung an axe at her mother and delivered forty blows… or did she?  Everyone remembers the ancient poem and the gruesome killings that inspired it, but no one truly knows what occurred at the Borden House that fateful morning. The killings were never formally solved after Lizzie’s trial; experts are still debating whether the killer was Lizzie, the maid, the uncle, someone who had financial connections with Andrew Borden, or a wholly random assailant.

The sisters lived relatively quiet lives, attending church regularly and helping their father with his business. Neither ever married. Although there were reports of mild discontent in the household—for example, the sisters didn’t get along with their stepmother, and were frustrated by the fact that their wealthy father wouldn’t move them to a more well-to-do part of town—there was nothing to foreshadow the horror that would come to pass.

On August 4, 1892, Andrew and Abby Borden were found murdered in the home, the victims of multiple blows from a weapon. But while the attacks were horrific—there’s no disputing that the number of times the murderer “whacked” each victim was excessive—neither of them was hit 40 times, as the rhyme goes. (“Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her mother 40 whacks. When she saw what she had done, she gave her father 41.”)

The facts are that Abby Borden suffered something like 18 blows and Andrew Borden was dealt 11; in addition, contemporary accounts distinguish between hatchets and axes, and say the murder weapon was likely a hatchet.

The trial, which began in June 1893, made headlines around the U.S. On the second day, Borden fainted when the District Attorney brought out the Bordens’ skulls during his opening remarks. Later in the trial, the prosecution demonstrated for the jury how a hatchet blade found in the basement fit neatly into the holes in the smashed-up skulls, though they never explicitly said that the implement was the murder weapon (which most Borden scholars today doubt it was).

 

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