Tuesday, October 29, 2013

For Lizbeth, a fellow ULB. I've got your back.

Just in time for All Hallows Eve! 
Lizbeth Borden, ULB Pioneer
I was watching a ghost hunting show the other day and they were in the Borden house (now a B&B – fun vacation!), trying to solve the murders and prove the place was haunted.  The psychic came up with an interesting theory and I thought I’d investigate it myself.
We all know this rhyme, right?

“Lizzie Borden took an axe
Gave her mother 40 whacks
When she saw what she had done
Gave her father 41”

I am always intrigued by stories that seem to have an undercurrent – I feel that if you follow the goddamned facts, you will get to the truth even if you cannot prove it in a court of law.  There are no giant leaps of logic.  What did Sherlock Holmes say?  “when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth”.  My theory is more like, when you follow the facts and you remember to employ common sense, you will come closer to the truth than anyone else.  In this case, I wondered what would drive a woman to violently hack, dozens of times, at the heads of her parents?  It's an interesting story, even if my synopsis is a bit long...

(please remember this is ME, I use internet info and much like my Jesus exposés, I began this with absolutely zero knowledge of the crime other than that poem at the top and a ghost story on tv.  I researched the story to my own satisfaction.  You want more info?  Go look for yourself!  It’s a big world, baby.)

Lizzie Andrew Borden was born in 1860.  (she renamed herself ‘Lizbeth’ after the murders, and I am going to respect her choice from here on out in this telling).  Her mother, Sarah, died about 2.5 years later.  Her sister Emma was 9 years older, effectively making her a ‘little mother’ of the baby since the father was working all day, every day.  He routinely worked 14-hour days.  Please notice that Lizbeth’s middle GIVEN name was Andrew.  That is just creepy.

Andrew Jackson Borden, the father, was a wealthy citizen of Fall River, MA.  Andy had no fortune from his own parents – he grew up very poor.  He was a ‘self-made man’ and probably fucking pissed off at the world about that.  He had made his fortune in manufacturing (furniture and caskets) and then in textile mills.  He also owned a lot of commercial properties and was president of two banks.  He had made his gigantic fortune through a cunning combination of ruthless financial practices and maniacal thrift.  At the time of the murders he was retired and had assets estimated to be worth at least five hundred thousand dollars.  Remember this was in 1892 - I think that is close to 10 MILLION DOLLARS by today's standards.  Dude was rich, is what I’m saying.  RICH.  And normally, rich people in that town lived on ‘The Hill’ – which would make sense because a mill town would smell absolutely wretched.  You would want to be on a hill, with the possibility of a breeze, away from the center of all that crap, and honestly, away from the lower-class and homeless (and again, a mill smells worse than 10 dead bodies) that would no doubt plague the city center.  But Andrew kept his smaller home which was near the mill – because he was ‘frugal’.  This smaller home was not a hovel, but it was not great.
Borden House.  Two chimneys for the whole place.  brrr.
‘Frugal’ in old Andy’s case means he kept his family in absolute tight-fisted miserable poverty.  In their house they used what were politely called ‘excrement buckets’.  There was no indoor plumbing, so not only the poop factor but also bathing, washing dishes, water for food,  washing clothes.  There was also no electricity.  That would be exactly the same as today, when your neighbors and friends have bathrooms and light switches and YOU are still dumping your shit buckets in the back yard.  Makes growing up in elementary school and high school sorta torturous, no?  Plus the added fun of full skirts and corsets.  High necks and long sleeves.  Basically, you have to do all of this heavy manual labor while you are dressed in bindings – these girls had the social restrictions of their class and yet none of its benefits.  AND, this was during the last years of industrial revolution (1760-~1830) and these “miracles of science” were very standard, especially in a prosperous mill town like Fall River.  But not for old Andy.  It would cost money to upgrade the house, and to HELL with his daughters he wasn’t going to spend it.  But I’ll just betcha he demanded his 3-piece suits were clean every day (he wore a black suit every day, winter and summer).  I’m sure he demanded dinner on the table at a certain time and a bath when he wanted it.  This is the same thing as a hoarder – the other side of the same coin.  It’s all about power and control, and the misery of anyone they control is what gives these people satisfaction.  It’s narcissism, plain and simple.  Also – he was a ruthless businessman.  OF COURSE.  He was a complete bastard and the people of the town pretty much hated him.  It wasn’t like he gave money to charity or loans to needy hard working families, or gave raises to the worker-bees or anything.  And imagine what the conditions were like for employees working in a factory in that time.  Yeah.

This may not sound so bad from the outside.  Anyone who hasn’t lived with a narc cannot know the fear, anxiety, and stress that comes with living like that.  Being frugal didn’t mean he wanted to clip coupons or cut corners.  NO - they were eating week-old lamb stew (no refrigeration, remember?) and this was Massachusetts.  Bitter horrible cold in the winter with no heat (who needs coal or blankets and warm coats?  Not a frugal person!) and summers plagued with humidity and bugs and unrelenting heat.  No electricity means no fans, no ice.  This wasn’t being poor – this was intentional abuse from someone who had all the power to make things better.  But he relished the power and control he had, and the misery he created.

The property had originally been constructed to hold two families, with separate entrances.  To get from the upstairs master bedroom to say, Emma’s bedroom, one would have to go downstairs, through a hall, and then back upstairs.  Very private.  While there is no reliable evidence suggesting that Andy was molesting his daughters (but plenty of supposition and theories), I think the murders themselves speak to some pretty grave abuses.
Sarah and Emma.  boy howdy they look happy.

Again, Emma was 9 when Lizbeth was born, and their mother died a little over 2 years later.  So Emma was almost 12 years old by that time.  According to all reports, as an adult and even after the murders she was a quiet person, given to take life as it came.  She had been trained for 11 years to take the abuse (in whatever form) from her father.  Her mother, certainly, had to simply accept his narcissistic rages, and modeled this behavior to her daughter.  Emma, as a little girl, would be especially vulnerable to a bully like Andy.  Once Lizbeth was born, and Emma became her caretaker, we can imagine the HUGE problems that would have gone on.  Baby crying?  Who does Andy hit and yell at?  This is reminding me of Sonny Liston.  And if our friend LOGIC is by our side, this Borden story is almost as horrible.  Even without the sexual abuse angle, but I’m not going to count that out.  The mother died of what they called ‘Uterine Congestion’ with back problems - which sounds fake, but here is a link http://www.pelvicpain.org/news/pdfs/vol4_no2.pdf  which is a pretty thorough explanation.  Here is a quote from that link:  {...number of women describing] post coital ache (65%). Majority of women give a history of emotional disturbance originating in their childhood. ßso it hurt her to have sex with Andy and she was probably molested as a child.  See how this is making more and more sense?  He married her because she was the perfect treat for a narc, needy and mentally unhealthy and easily tormented.  He was probably molesting Emma, since his wife would scream in pain from sex, and she had gone to doctors so it was known around town that she had ‘female problems’.  And a man needs relief, right?  Couldn’t go to a whore because of his social standing.  After his wife died, Andy turned down any offers of help from other family members, including his sister. He instead opted to keep his household his own private domain, thereby establishing the kind of family isolation well documented by incest survivors.  He kept it all in the family.

After Sarah died, Andy (I’m sure the name 'Andy' pisses him off, it makes me giggle) was remarried to a woman (already an old maid at 35 so she was ‘on the shelf’ as they say, and he knew she would be compliant and grateful) in 1865 who was the daughter of a push-cart peddler.  She wanted status, and marrying into this family gave her that.  Andy wanted a housekeeper.  Turns out she wasn’t so compliant and grateful.  The Borden sisters eventually refused to call her ‘mother’ and finally refused to even speak to her.  She was (by accounts) power hungry and money hungry and either she was Andy’s right-hand man or his enabler – or both.  Hey!  A flying monkey enters the story!  Emma was 14 and Llizbeth was 5 when her stepmother came to live with them.  They had been kept in this level of poverty and abuse and isolation and despair for all that time, and another woman steps in and takes over the house.  Emma had probably been running the house for years due to her mother’s illness – this is a bad situation.  Emma had most likely probably been sexually abused by the father for years, which would make her weirdly feeling like HIS WIFE, and then he marries someone else, and hello mind-fuck.  Did I mention they hated their step-mother?   Here is a quote about Lizbeth: 

When [she was] a young girl, she accompanied her parents to Chicago and was there a member of the Sunday school class and punctual in attendance.  She was, however, a girl with anything but an enthusiastic idea of her own personal attainments.  She thought people were not favorably disposed toward her and that she made a poor impression.  This conduced to the acceptance of this very opinion among church people, and consequently the young woman was to some extent avoided by the young women of the church.  She had horrible self-esteem issues and had no reason to believe that people would like her, so they didn’t.  Sounds VERY familiar to me, achingly familiar.

Andy never (ever) allowed his daughters to date or socialize outside of school or church.  They weren’t allowed the funds for nicer clothes, or to go to parties.  So, here they were because of social constraints, not allowed to work and earn their own money, and their father kept them from having any normal way out – normal being marriage.  He kept them all to himself.  Ominous foreboding, right?  Yeah, it gets worse.  Emma stuck around the house, being the good girl, but Lizbeth managed to join a couple of church groups (religious or not, if that’s where you are allowed to socialize then damn if you aren’t converted).  By all accounts Lizbeth was close to her father.  She gave him a ring on the occasion of her high school graduation, that he was wearing on the day he died.  Some say this isn’t consistent with the theory of sexual abuse – but us ULBs know that is a false assumption.  There can be a trauma bond created that surpasses all logic of anyone outside the abuse ring.  She was his special chosen girl – oh gag.  She was still in the FOG and it was very bad.  These girls were isolated from almost everything outside the house, certainly from any other male/sexual influence.  He had gone from Emma to Lizbeth.  Emma was probably in a horrible place of being glad and guilty and horrified all at once.  The step-mother never had any children – at 35 she was almost but not too old to have children – possibly the marriage wasn’t sexual in nature.  Given that he had Emma and Lizbeth for that.  The brutality of her murder would indicate a personal vendetta against the step-mom.  She (in my opinion) had been abusing and domineering the girls for years, and enabling Andy in HIS abuses.
Emma Borden, War Hero
In 1884 (Lizbeth was then 24, Emma was 33) their father gave his wife’s half-sister a house.  GAVE A WOMAN HE DIDN’T REALLY KNOW A HOUSE.  To say that his daughters objected would be calling Hiroshima a small bang.  It was at this point they started calling their step-mother ‘Mrs. Borden’.  Andy tried to make peace by giving his daughters some money and allowing them to rent out one of his other properties.  He – he threw a little money at them and then ALLOWED them to be landlords of a house he owned.  How big of a nuclear bomb must have gone off in that house for Andy to capitulate to ANYTHING.  The girls must have completely gone bat-crap crazy.  They were always mild-mannered outside the house - there are NO stories of craziness or bad behavior about either one of them.  The maid wasn't gonna talk.

This, of course, would not be the only story of financial manipulation.  There are MANY – with the upshot in each case that the girls were deprived while others reaped the benefits of knowing their father.  Sound familiar?  Over, and over, and over – shown how little they are worth, how his opinion and regard for strangers is higher than of them.  They are not good enough, even though they give everything, every last thing, to this man.

In spring of 1892 – there was a pivotal incident.  Lizbeth kept pigeons in a barn loft, I think as pets?  She was 32 years old.  Possibly they also ate these pigeons, but she loved them – the girls were obviously not allowed to have pets (frugal!).  At some point her father got angry and decided that the pigeons were attracting neighborhood boys and he went out to the barn and massacred them all.  Some reports say he did it with a hatchet HA HA OH REALLY?!  Talk about the straw that broke the camel’s back.  These birds were something she doted on, poured her love into – I mean, she was not allowed around any men.  You want to have a hatchet, motherfucker?  I’ll give you a hatchet.  To the face.  (also – the pigeons were attracting boys?  Can’t have THAT.  Maybe she was caught with a guy and told her father ‘he wanted to see the pigeons!’ and that would be all the excuse Andy would need to kill those birds.  Perhaps this was also her 'space' - a place she had carved out to get away from both of them.  Can't have that either).

And so, 3 months later, the two Borden elders are very, very dead.  The rhyme is wrong:  Mrs. Borden received 19 blows to the head.  I think the back of her head.  She (Lizbeth) just wanted the bitch dead and gone.  Andy received 11 blows, chopping his FACE up beyond all recognition.  She hacked his fucking face off.  Sounds like a crime of passion to me.  And that passion would be RAGE, with a side of HATE.
Andrew Borden.  He has a bit of a headache.  A SPLITTING headache, if you will.
HA HA bitch is dead with her ass in the air
Abby (left) and Andrew Borden - skulls.  Yeeowch.
Emma was not home at the time.  Lizbeth and the maid were the only ones home.  Mrs. Borden was the first one killed, in the upstairs bedroom.  Then approximately 90 minutes later Andy came home and fell asleep on a downstairs sofa, and his face was hacked to pieces.  How well planned was this coup that someone could wait an hour and a half for the second murder?  No blood was found at the crime scene (my limited knowledge of science via CSI episodes says this cannot be the case unless the face/body was covered with something).  An axe head was found and the handle had been broken off/pulled out and was thought to be found later, rubbed with dust and with no blood on it.  Emma and the maid both testified and were calm, saying that someone besides Lizbeth must have done it.  The crime is written about in a gabillion places, you can take a look at all of it. 
My theory?  It was done with a hatchet, not an axe.  I've tried to lift an axe - they're fucking heavy.  Plus the pigeon episode.  Yeah, I think it was a hatchet.  More lady-sized.  Lizbeth and Emma and the maid were in on it.  The maid had seen the abuse - she was a live-in maid, did I mention, and was most likely abused, verbally and physically, if not sexually - it was an incredibly sick household.  Emma supposedly had left town, and I guess that was a good cover story.  Lizbeth took the heat for a while (she was in prison until the trial concluded, and in 1892 that had to be pretty bad) because she would have been far better able to withstand prison and the stress and ugliness (press) of a trial than Emma would have been.  Part of Lizbeth’s defense was that she was in the barn loft at the time of the murders.  The BARN LOFT, where the pigeons were killed.  Good one Lizbeth, I see what you did there!  A big LOL to you, sister. *21st century fist bump*

She was aquitted.  The girls inherited whatever portion of the estate they were entitled to, which was most of it.  The maid left  town after the trial and went to live in Anaconda, Montana.  Up to the day she died she maintained her story as testified at the trial.  Lizbeth changed her name (from Lizzie, probably her father's pet name for her *shudder*) and started hanging around theatre people - she joined the drama club, y'all!  How much fun were these people?  A LOT of fun, I would bet.  No more sexual constraints, no more social requirements, just FUN.  By many accounts she took a lesbian lover – well, more power to her, and while I don’t think you can ‘turn’ anyone gay, I do think that she wasn’t likely to get involved with any MEN in that lifetime, you know?  She bought a house on ‘The Hill” in the rich section and hired maids and probably took hot baths and had iced lemonade every fucking day of her life.  She and Emma were eventually estranged (the lesbian thing was difficult for Emma) but they never hated each other.
On her death Lizbeth left a good portion of her estate to an animal shelter place.  Still feeling guilty for the pigeons, probably, and for no good reason ANDY.

Listen up narcs.  Ye reap what ye sow, you fucking bastards.  If I was to re-write that poem: 

Lizbeth Borden took an axe
Put it to the skulls of both those whacks
Who tortured her, & her sister too
If it was me I’d have done it too.

Well played, Lizbeth Borden.  Rock on.  RIP.


  1. Well done, Gladys. I can see it happening exactly this way. --LuLoo

  2. good on her!

    Q's Sis

  3. Gladys, I so enjoy these lovely posts you do. And right in time for Halloween!

  4. Fun post! This is the kinda weird shit I research for my ghost buster friends.

  5. Love it! Thanks, Gladys!
    I was also surprised by the lack of blood around the bodies from the crime scene photos as well; know how head wounds bleed like mo-fos? And no defensive wounds on either body-musta ambushed and wacked 'em good with the first blow of the hatchet. There should have been blood, tissue and splatter all over gawds creation...Definitely over-kill, a lot of channelled rage at both Perps. What other alternative would she or Emma have had? Go to the local cops?! Yeah, that'd (not in their lifetime) work...
    Damn right it's cold there in winter-but I bet those fireplaces were always "set" when Andy was around. And hatchets are much more useful in the house to cut wood for kindling for wood cook stoves as well as fireplaces. I lived with wood stoves for years: The axe work was done outside (yeah, they do weigh a ton) but I kept a hatchet inside for kindling-sized pieces.
    Yeess! Dedicated to all the ACONS/Abuse Survivors past and present: May their pain and sorrow be assuaged by all the info available now and set them free sooner rather than later.
    More fine sleuthing by Gladys, truly a "Super Sleuth!" (Raises a huge insulated container of ice tea in a toast-clink!)

    1. yes! TW - that is exactly what I thought about the hatchet but forgot to include. A hatchet back then would have been as common as a spatula. Especially in a house with no heat/electricity. It would also have been much easier to hide and remove from the scene.

      I want to know how they did it with no blood splatters, smart girls...

    2. I'm really stumped about how they managed that too! I realize these are old black and white pictures, but looking at the pattern of the rug beneath his head, there should be a big, black blob. And there isn't. Nor does there appear to be anything on the pillow beneath his head. Methinks he/they were killed elsewhere and posed...Look at her skull: With a knock like that to the side of the head, she should have fallen sideways. IMO, the ass-in-the-air positioning was a genius touch!
      And with an axe, you need to have a substantial diameter to arc it when you're swinging it over-head. Side-ways? Not so much, but I've never cut or split wood sideways....
      Yeah, hatchets in the house, axes outside. I think they were killed somewhere else.
      Oh well, Happy Halloween-And again, great sleuthing and thanks!

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  6. I've always thought Lizzie, sorry Lizbeth, had been abused.

    The while no blood thing is really weird. But I guess they didn't have those csi tools that make invisible blood glow.

  7. AWESOME post. I love love love it. I always thought it interesting that "Lizzy Borden" got such a bad rep, but that no one ever seemed to talk about the details of the whole murder. You did a good job hypothesizing and filling in the gaps. Great read.

  8. No seriously. I mean it. Awesome.

    1. Thank you Jonsi. These kinds of posts are so fun for me to research.

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  10. EDIT: had to add more information add thought it’d be better to do it all at once also this is just inference so I might be wrong

    Blood was probably removed with either vinegar or lime both would have been plentiful, also a Hatchet is more likely not only for the use in splitting wood but also because that it is easier to get more force on a hatchet when swinging from the elbow using an axe would have been hard to swing dresses sown the way they were; also as TW said it’d be the easiest to swing indoors.
    the large hit on the left eye socket of the father is probably the first hit it's brutal but clean after that his head would have lolled the rest were mostly bashing hits to the side he was probably already dead after the first. the woman was just in the way just needed to be brained and moved on. getting blood out of the carpet would have been difficult but the maid could have dealt with that and the sofa looks like leather so it'd have been less porous again Vinegar more likely cause Lime will damage fabrics and we don't want to replace them that costs money.
    with the first hit on the mother the hatchet might have glanced off the skull. deflection happens often, I've heard of bullets bouncing off heads. her head also probably lolled because if you go off where she is it’d have been too difficult to get on the right side and straddling a corpse i imagine is hard in a thick dress she'd have had to been wearing standard outfit for the period or it would have aroused suspicion. dad was easy stationary target and no need to be quick.
    clothes were probably burned that's what i'd do.I also doubt highly that they were dragged safest place would have been the only place to do it with no risk of being seen, your only witness aided you why do it elsewhere, especially if they were going to say someone else did it you can bet they planned that story. They probably cleaned it to look distraught, like a woman showering after a rape. It's counterproductive but people do odd things when distraught.