Lizzie Borden Took An Axe…

4 Aug

I have always had a strange, macabre fascination about unsolved crimes and catastrophic tragedies. Jack the Ripper is a constant fascination for me or, more specifically, the fact that he (or she) was never caught. My interest in the Titanic is borderline obsessive, though for the life of me I can’t really figure out why. I suppose it’s the actor in me – wondering what it must have been like to be aboard that fateful ship. Seeing James Cameron’s “Titanic” made me sick to my stomach the first time I saw it, not from seasickness, but from anxiety. I actually had to leave the theater at one point because I thought I was going to throw up. To have the opportunity to do Titanic: The Musical was almost too much for my brain to process. The Salem witch trials are another source of wonder for me, as well. When I travel on the road, I try to take any opportunity I can to see places of interest – especially if they appeal to my sick sense of curiosity. One such opportunity arose when I was out on tour doing Junie B. Jones in the spring of 2010 as we passed through Fall River, Massachusetts.

On August 4, 1892 – 121 years ago today – tiny little Fall River became the focus of the nation when two bodies – those of Andrew Borden and his second wife, Abby – were discovered in 92 Second Street. Mr. Borden’s body was found first, slumped down on the sofa in the sitting room, struck 10 or 11 times about the head by a hatchet-like instrument. The skull of Mrs. Borden, who was found upstairs in the guest room, had been crushed by 19 blows. Lizzie was the main suspect in the case – one of the first times a woman had ever been accused of such a crime – and the case became a national sensation. Somehow, Lizzie was acquitted of the crime and the case remains unsolved all these years later.

Greetings from the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast in Fall River, Massachusetts!

Greetings from the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast in Fall River, Massachusetts!

The house in which the murders took place is now a bed and breakfast in Fall River. That’s right…you too can sleep in Ms. Lizzie’s bedroom or, if you’re brave enough, in the guest room where Mrs. Borden’s body was found. The B&B is run by a lovely, if slightly creepy woman, named Lee-ann Wilber, who was kind enough to agree to a rare evening tour of the house for me and some of my cast mates because it was the only time we’d be able to make it.

When we arrived, we were greeted at the front door by a young couple – probably in their mid-20’s – who were the only people staying in the house that night. They had been in the sitting room, sitting on a replica of the sofa where Mr. Borden was murdered – watching horror movies on the roll-away TV that lived in the sitting room closet. The only DVDs in the house were either documentaries about the Borden murders or slasher films and the bookshelves were lined with books about Lizzie and the events that transpired in that house. The young woman explained to us that her boyfriend had booked a night in the house without telling her, and she looked absolutely terrified to be there.

The house has been refurbished to look as close to the way it did on the day of the murders as possible: wallpaper, carpeting, furniture…the whole nine yards. Everywhere you turn there are family photos on the wall, and hanging over each murder scene is a copy of the crime scene photo, which was a relatively new tool in 1892. In Lizzie’s room, in a glass case, was the creepiest looking Lizzie Borden doll I’ve ever seen and just behind it, a book with the initials L.A.B. (Lizbeth Andrew Borden) written in the upper right hand corner. Creepy.

The creepy Lizzie Borden doll in Lizzie's bedroom.

The creepy Lizzie Borden doll in Lizzie’s bedroom.

Lee-ann finally met up with us and gave us the full tour – it lasted about an hour and half, I guess. The whole thing was fascinating and Lee-ann, being an actress herself, was quite good at her storytelling. We had a great time taking photos throughout the house, playing at ghost hunting. The truth is, though, that place is spooky and for good reason. Some horrible things happened in that house and someone got away with it. Everyone still assumes it was Lizzie that did it, but officially…? It’s a cold case.

On the left is the official crime scene photo taken of Mrs. Borden. On the right is me, laying in the exact spot where her body was found.

On the left is the official crime scene photo taken of Mrs. Borden. On the right is me, laying in the exact spot where her body was found.

Upper: The crime scene photo of Mr. Borden in the parlor. Lower: Me in the same location on a replica of the Borden sofa.

Upper: The crime scene photo of Mr. Borden in the sitting room. Lower: Me in the same location on a replica of the Borden sofa.

After our tour, we went out back to the barn where a small gift shop had been installed. Lizzie t-shirts, keychains, magnets, videos, books, bobble heads…who knew there was so much Lizzie Borden merch to be had? I, of course, had to get the bobble head, and she sits on my bookshelf, still in the box, watching over me. And for some reason that doesn’t creep me out. Yeah…I’m a weirdo. Happy Lizzie Borden Day!

Lizzie Borden on the day of her acquittal.

Lizzie Borden on the day of her acquittal.

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4 Responses to “Lizzie Borden Took An Axe…”

  1. Brian Whisenant August 4, 2013 at 11:25 am #

    When I saw on your FB that it was the anniversary I ended up reading about LB all night. And it is definitely not the first time. It’s going to take all of my power not to read about Jack the Ripper all day now! Great pictures. Really need to get up there myself!

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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  2. Lizzie Borden: Burying the Hatchet | Confessions of a Merch Whore - January 25, 2014

    […] completely forgot that tonight was the premiere of Lifetime’s Lizzie Borden movie!! Has anyone watched it yet? I’m looking forward to it, but from what I’ve read […]

  3. Someone Has Killed Father! | Confessions of a Merch Whore - January 29, 2014

    […] Borden Took An Ax,” starring Christina Ricci as Lizzie and Clea DuVall as Emma Borden. As I’ve written before, I have always had a fascination with the Lizzie Borden story, and one of the highlights of my […]

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