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For My Family’s Initial Pilgrimage to Boston, Massachusetts- One of History’s Greatest Mysteries

I love a good murder mystery. 

But so it seems does the rest of the world. We have a never ending fascination with crime, specifically true crimes that remain unsolved. This is partly why there is an I.D. Discovery Channel and Oxygen has also changed its gears towards this genre as well. 

Time doesn’t seem to change the interest of these legendary cases. If anything it just seems to deepen the mystery and thus the curiosity of who really did it. Not having a definitely answer for me is what keeps me reading, watching, and forever following cases I desperately want to find the answers to, no matter how unlikely that is. 

The murders of Andrew and Abby Borden are two of these cases.

The Borden family resided in Fall River, Massachusetts. Andrew had two daughters with his late first wife, Lizabeth and Emma. He had been married to Abby for twenty-six years. She had practically raised the girls despite a contentious relationship. Andrew who had a great deal of wealth was rumored to be incredibly cheap causing his family to live below the standard of the times, like forcing them to eat spoiled food to save money. It is in this climate of family tension that the murders occurred.

The story goes that on August 4, 1892, the maid, Bridget Sullivan was in her room resting after a morning filled with washing the home’s outdoor windows in the boiling heat. Daughter Emma was out of town. There was a cousin who had spent the night but there was no proof he was still in town during the crucial window of time. Thus the only real suspect was Lizzie. 

Andrew was found dead on the sofa in the living room and Abby was found in the guest bedroom, on the floor, her beside the bed she was making. Both had numerous blows to the head from a hatchet. For those for whom curiosity killed the cat, the Borden hatchet (alleged murder weapon) is on display at the Fall River Historical Society. Sadly this was closed the day I was in town.

Lizzie’s trial lasted approximately two weeks and the all male jury acquitted her. Though her standing in the community was never quite the same.

The Borden home is where my day in Fall River began. It would be the first of three stops I would make. 

The home is known now as the Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast. Yes, the site of the murders that we learned via a catchy rhyme, is now open for business.

My immediate family of four were the only ones on this particular tour, ironic considering so were the Borden’s. Our tour guide went through the whole story room by room with as many artifacts original to the home as I have ever seen. Nothing was off limits. 

Sitting on the sofa (not the original as that had been damaged by blood and bodily fluids) it was eery to picture what might have happened on that summer day. Ascending the stairs to the second floor was even creepier. 

We continued further on up to the attic and eventually downstairs to the cellar, and then back up to the first floor to see the kitchen. The layout of the house with its many odd placed doors makes you wonder what was possible to be heard or seen at any given time. I left more unsure of Lizzie’s guilt than ever.

If you spend any time in the gift shop in the back yard of the home as I did, where you will purchase your tour tickets and souvenirs, and have to look up to the window facing the home. This building was originally the barn and many have seen faces in their photos when they check, but no one decided to visit us that day.

The second stop this afternoon was Maplecroft; the home sisters Emma and Lizzie Borden moved to after the trial was over and they received their inheritance. Lizzie had hoped this would finally be a chance for them to start over living the life they wished they had. Despite the money, staff, and lavish parties the dark cloud remained over their heads. I suspect that many only attended their parties just to get a glimpse up close of the most notorious murder suspect of the time. 

This home is not open to the public so I just pulled over and took a quick, pretty unrecognizable photo (so I didn’t include it here).

My third and final stop was you guessed it - a cemetery. The Oak Grove Cemetery to be exact, is where Lizzie is buried beside the family members she was accused of killing. In fact part of Lizzie’s will went to the perpetual care of her father’s grave. I find this aspect the most dumbfounding part of the case. Either the murderer is buried beside her victims or a sad, lonely girl is buried bedside a father she spent the remainder of her life claiming she didn’t kill. This is just another layer to the mysterious case we will never have an answer to.

The Oak Grove Cemetery happens to also be the location where the autopsies of were conducted. A grisly reminder of that was when the skulls of Mr. And Mrs. Borden were brought into court as evidence causing Lizzie to faint. For the late nineteenth century it was rare to have a woman as a murder suspect but this sight must have bowled the onlookers over. 

I saw a few of the autopsy photos at the home and that was still a bit much, though I was glad the full story was available on the ready.

As I mentioned Lizzie Borden’s family home is now a place of business.

You can sleep over in many of the bedrooms including Lizzie’s or the guest room where her stepmother died. The attic where the Irish housekeeper used to sleep would make a great location for a slumber party. I had thought about renting it out last year for my thirty-fifth birthday (a.k.a. the I’m 35 and Still Alive bash) but unfortunately no one I know seemed to want to go. Perhaps it was for the best. Who knows if my birthday theme would have changed after spending a night at the Borden’s.

I guess we will never know for sure. Just like what happened on that hot day in August back in 1892.

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