Lizzie Borden’s Notoriety Is This Home’s Selling Point

The morning after Andrew Borden and his spouse, Abby, had been hacked to demise of their residence on Second Street in Fall River, Mass., in August 1892, 1,500 individuals gathered in entrance of the home, drawn by information of a grisly crime of their quiet city.

The case would grow to be extra enthralling: Andrew Borden’s 32-year-old daughter, Lisbeth A. Borden, generally known as Lizzie, could be placed on trial for the murders. She was acquitted in 1893. For greater than a century, her story has impressed dramas on stage and display screen, numerous books, an opera and a ballet. And the attract of the unsolved crime continues to attract individuals to the Borden home to this present day.

Now the home, a bed-and-breakfast and museum, is listed on the market at $2 million. Suzanne St. John, the true property agent, mentioned the value accounts for its historic worth and what had been a booming enterprise earlier than the coronavirus pandemic.

That the Borden case continues to seize the general public creativeness displays the heinousness of the crime in addition to the id of the accused. A middle-class, respectable New England lady appeared like an unlikely assassin, making Borden’s trial a nationwide media sensation in 1893.

“It’s pretty much the ur-American crime story,” mentioned Cara Robertson, who wrote a 2019 nonfiction guide in regards to the trial. “It’s a case with a lot of mythic qualities, of this one family, in this house, seemingly quite isolated and self-involved, and then violence breaking out.”

On the morning of Aug. four, 1892, Borden, a Sunday faculty instructor, known as over to a neighbor who noticed her standing behind the home’s screened facet door. “Someone has killed father,” she mentioned.

The neighbor discovered Andrew Borden hacked to demise in his front room, seemingly with a hatchet. (Common lore says the Bordens had been killed with an ax, however in line with Ms. Robertson’s guide, “The Trial of Lizzie Borden: A True Story,” medical consultants decided hatchet, with a shorter deal with and longer blade, was nearly definitely the homicide weapon.) Abby Borden’s physique was quickly found in an analogous state in an upstairs visitor bed room.

According to Ms. Robertson, it was this neighbor, Adelaide Churchill, who first thought to ask Lizzie Borden, “Where were you?” Borden mentioned she had been within the barn searching for a bit of iron to make a sinker for a fishing line.

The timing of the killings made the potential of an intruder unlikely. An outsider would have needed to elude Borden and her housemaid, Bridget Sullivan, for greater than an hour and half to commit the crimes, Ms. Robertson mentioned.

Investigators first turned their eyes to others: Sullivan, an Irish immigrant, and an uncle who had visited the home that morning. But the uncle had an hermetic alibi, and Borden’s personal account positioned the maid elsewhere in the home on the time of the murders.

“You think about Lizzie Borden, she’s someone who ticks all the boxes of respectable, middle-class femininity,” Ms. Robertson mentioned. She was the daughter of a profitable businessman who did charitable works in her group. “There’s nothing about her that bespeaks criminality as it was conventionally understood.”

But Borden’s cool demeanor and conflicting tales quickly raised suspicion.

“There was not the least indication of agitation, no sign of sorrow or grief, no lamentation of heart, no comment on the horror of the crime, and no expression of a wish that the criminal be caught,” Officer Phil Harrington wrote in his notes, in line with Ms. Robertson’s guide.

It was quickly found that Borden had tried to buy prussic acid, a quick-acting poison, the day earlier than the killings.

Every week after the murders, she was arrested. The New York Times reported that when the jury announced its verdict after a two-week trial in June 1893, Borden, who had been in jail for nearly a year, “wept such tears as she had not shed for months.” Borden’s friends and supporters in the courtroom that day erupted in cheers at the verdict.

The acquittal did not diminish interest in the trial or the murders, or in Borden herself. The story has inspired books, podcasts, television shows and movies.

Several prominent actresses have portrayed her. Lillian Gish starred in a play called “Nine Pine Street” in the 1930s. Christina Ricci played her in a Lifetime movie and, later, a series about her life before the murders. The 2018 film “Lizzie” starred Chloë Sevigny as Borden and Kristen Stewart as Sullivan. The Times said the film presented a feminist take on the crimes as “a cathartic response to years of oppression” by Borden’s “miserly father.”

A 1948 ballet, “Fall River Legend,” painted Borden “as a victim, hemmed in and driven mad, in part by small-town society and small-mindedness,” a Times critic wrote. It used flashbacks to emphasize Borden’s longing for her dead mother as compared to the stepmother who replaced her.

The story made its operatic debut in 1965 at the New York City Opera with Jack Beeson’s “Lizzie Borden,” which fictionalized aspects of the story, making Borden the eldest rather than the youngest child and giving her sister a love interest.

And of course there is the enduring jump-rope rhyme known to generations of schoolchildren: “Lizzie Borden took an ax, and gave her mother 40 whacks. When she saw what she had done, she gave her father 41.” (Evidence showed that her stepmother was struck 19 times with the hatchet and her father 10 times.)

The enigmatic figure of Lizzie Borden has made her a popular character. “She’s a cipher onto whom each generation projects its own preoccupations and anxieties,” Ms. Robertson said.

Sarah Miller, who wrote a middle-grade book about Borden, said she was drawn in by the “the vast gap between what people believe about Lizzie Borden and what is factually known and can be proven.”

When Ms. Miller was there to research her book, she heard people in the next room trying to summon Borden with a Ouija board. “I wonder,” she said, “if people think, somehow, that they’ll find something nobody else has found, that they’ll be able to solve it somehow.”

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