|The Rose Files
True Scary Stories from Life
|“Forty Whacks!” – The Legend of Lizzie Borden
~ Rose Titus ~
“Lizzie Borden took an axe! And
gave her mother forty whacks! And
when she saw what she had done…
She gave her father forty one!”
And that is how the story has been
told, and that is what we have been led
to believe for over a century. But is
that how it really happened?
Before the crime, Lizzie Borden,
also known as “Miss Lizzie,” confided in
a family friend that “father has an
enemy,” and that she knew in her heart
that something dreadful was going to
happen. And when the crime took
place, the only people in the home were Mr. and Mrs. Borden, Lizzie, and their
Irish maid. It was Lizzie who discovered the crime, “Come quick!” she called to
the maid, “Father is dead!”
Although many people believe her to be the
murderer, her clothes were neat and clean, not
stained with blood, as they would be if she had
Could Lizzie Borden have been innocent all
The tragic historic event is celebrated – or ex-
ploited – however you would like to think of it, at
the Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast, “where every
one is treated like family!” This is the actual home
where the murders took place so long ago, now a
combination bed and breakfast and museum.
The interior of this restored home is beautiful,
filled with antique and reproduction furniture of the
time period. Dresses and accessories of the era
are also on display throughout the house. There
are black and white photographs of Miss Lizzie and
her family, along with photographs of relatives and
friends. One of the dresses that is on display was
worn by actress Elizabeth Montgomery for a movie
about Lizzie Borden. The rooms are beautifully
done, and would be comfortable to stay in, if it were
not for the ghosts…
Oh yes, there are ghosts -- the tour guide insis-
ts there are ghosts. She tells of how she frequently
hears tapping sounds, footsteps, the sounds of
doors slamming, and once she and another person
heard a woman’s voice saying, “Hello? Hello?” as if the resident spirits were
calling out to the living. The guide also tells of how a visitor took a photograph
of an upstairs window, and after the picture was taken, they noticed the picture
held the image of a ghostly face appearing in the window – it appeared to be
the face of a woman wearing an old fashioned bonnet.
The guide gives a great tour of the home, with historical details, telling of the
tensions within the family, their eccentricities along with their odd habits. Lizzie’s
mother died in childbirth, as was sadly common in the days before modern
medicine. It seems the Borden girls did not quite get along with their
stepmother, and Mr. Borden was a cold-hearted miser. Lizzie was said to have
a habit of kleptomania, and her father would go around to local shopkeepers
and pay them off and ask that they remain quiet about his daughter’s bad
habit. One can wonder if Lizzie was stealing to rebel against her father, as he
was so wealthy yet spent so little and allowed the Borden girls very little joy in
The guide tells us about the autopsies, and has copies of the old black and
white photographs of the bodies to show the damage done to Mr. and Mrs.
Borden. Fractured skulls are on display, also: The guide tells us these are
You can sit on an antique couch that is in the same place where Mr. Borden
was found butchered if you like, and sit comfortably while listening all about the
A black cat that resides in the home wanders
around freely, and you may see him wander by
the tour group, or asleep on a pillow in one of the
The staff at the bed and breakfast is divided
as to whether Lizzie committed the crimes, or not.
The Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast is a great
location for those who love history’s mysteries.
Or if you simply want to visit a fun and spooky
location, then travel to this mansion of the maca-
bre. Tours are given on the hour. Don’t forget to
visit the gift shop.
The Lizzie Borden case is a crime that was never truly solved. There are
those who believe she took a fit of rage at her father and stepmother, because
she was not happy with her father’s will. There was not enough being left to
her and her sister, and too much going to the stepmother, and so she felt she
deserved to inherit more than she was getting. There are those who believe
she was found innocent because people back then could not believe a woman
would commit a murder. However, one only needs to remember another tragic
historical event that took place in old New England to realize that women were
often enough accused of terrible crimes, found guilty, and hung. During the
Salem witch trials, no one doubted the accused were sorceresses, despite their
obvious innocence. Even though today, many insist she only got away with it
because she was a woman, therefore, no one wanted to see a lady hang – a
brief reading on history will show that many women were hung for crimes they
did not even commit.
Although a great many people in our century believe that Lizzie Borden “took
an axe” to her father and stepmother, there is still a lot of doubt.
Arnold R. Brown believes Miss Lizzie was not guilty. In his book “Lizzie
Borden,” he tells another tale, an even sadder and more terrifying one.
His research adds a sickening twist to the legend: According to Brown, Lizzie
Borden’s insane, drunken bastard brother was the real murderer. And she kept
silent all during her trial, as when she was asked, “how many children did you
father have?” Only two, she insisted, herself and her sister Emma, who was not
home during the tragedy. She would not mention the brother…
The truth was much too shameful.
According to Mr. Brown, Lizzie’s father, a well to do businessman went through
life making enemies, the worst of which was his own son, William. Why?
Because Andrew J. Borden committed the sinful act of adultery – an act which
was then unspeakable. The product of this unlawful union was a mentally
unstable, dissolute, drunken reprobate. It was bad enough her father
committed sin with a woman not his wife, but even worse the child born to such
union was a monster… And this monstrous product of Mr. Borden’s illicit union
resented his father all his miserable life for marrying another women – instead
of marrying his own mother. It was a resentment that grew in his heart and
turned him ice cold with rage against the Borden family.
William Borden, it was said, was a violent, foul smelling, hard drinking brute
who resented his father yet visited the Borden home when he wished to demand
money. He was a farmer who cleaned stables, worked the land and brewed his
own powerful whisky, and people said he went about carrying with him an evil
stench that polluted the air wherever he drifted.
In addition to hard drinking, his other
favorite pastime was butchering farm ani-
mals. It was said he spent time in an asylum
for the insane. He carried an axe wherever
he went, and it was said he could take down
a horse with one blow to the head. And that
axe… people who knew William said he talk-
ed to it, as if the inanimate weapon was a
friend, saying to it such things like, “You
were there,” on the day the murders took
He would drink and talk and once in a while, the truth would leak out.
Another horrid axe murder took place before the murder of Mr. and Mrs.
Borden – the murder of a young girl. The author of the book also believes it
possible William Borden killed this young woman before taking out his own
father and Mrs. Borden, yet a poor laborer who did not speak English took the
William Borden would drift into Fall River to see his father, make demands,
and cause the Borden household much anxiety.
Lizzie, author Brown believes, took the blame upon herself to keep the
horrible truth hidden to spare what was left of her family the public humiliation.
But she was found not guilty, and set free to continue her life. How did she get
away with it, even though almost everyone in Fall River believed her to be a
Simple, says Brown – her father was an extremely wealthy man. When he was
killed, Miss Lizzie put her father’s money to work, as she quite obviously
inherited his business sense: She paid off the right people in town, made sure
the right verdict was arranged ahead of time, and made her own arrangements
to set herself free.
So, if Arnold R. Brown’s research is correct, then Lizzie Borden was not a
murderess after all. She was, however, extremely clever to stay cool throughout
her ordeal, pay off the right people in the courthouse, and keep her well to do
family’s disgusting secret hidden.
As for William Borden, he was later found dead. It appeared to be a suicide.
But… one can speculate if perhaps Miss Lizzie herself, knowing what a monster
her half brother was, and knowing he might come after her and her sister next,
perhaps there is the possibility she used more of her father’s money to pay for
things to be “taken care of” so no one would have to fear William Borden ever
Miss Lizzie and her sister Emma inherited a vast fortune, and moved out of
their family home into a larger, more luxurious mansion. Eventually, they went
their separate ways. Miss Lizzie in later years was referred to as Lisbeth, and
lived out the rest of her life in financial comfort. However, she was ostracized by
decent society, whispered about, and looked down upon as a fallen and
We will never really know the true story, will we? We will only know the
Legend of Lizzie Borden.