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The Haunted Lizzie Borden House

Updated on September 12, 2019
The Borden house on 92 Second Street in Fall River, Massachusetts
The Borden house on 92 Second Street in Fall River, Massachusetts

The Borden family

This was the home of Andrew and Abby Borden. Andrew’s previous wife Sarah, gave him two daughters, Emma and Lizzie. Sarah Borden passed away when the girls were young and Andrew got remarried to Abby Grey. The sisters didn’t get along very well with their stepmother and felt her and her family were after their father's money.

Lizzie was very active in their church, the Congregationalist Institute, that the family attended regularly. She taught Sunday school and was a popular member of the community and the exact opposite of her father. Andrew Borden was said to have been a rather strict and cruel man and didn’t like to spend money. Emma and Lizzie were at odds with their father and stepmother from childhood into adulthood.

Andrew Borden refused to put indoor plumbing in their home or even electricity but he gifted Abby’s sister with a house. This upset Emma and Lizzie and so they demanded a rental property that they could earn their own money from. Just a few weeks before the murder the sisters sold the house back to their father for $5,000.

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Andrew Borden the fatherAbby Borden the stepmotherEmma BordenLizzie Andrew Borden
Andrew Borden the father
Andrew Borden the father
Abby Borden the stepmother
Abby Borden the stepmother
Emma Borden
Emma Borden | Source
Lizzie Andrew Borden
Lizzie Andrew Borden | Source

The week before the murders

Around the beginning of August 1892, Emma had left to go out of town to visit a friend, and the Borden family fell ill. Reports say it was due to eating bad fish but the family worried someone might have tried to poison them. Andrew was a wealthy man and he might have had enemies that would want to harm him or his family. On August 3 Abby had gone to a local doctor because she truly feared the family might have been poisoned. Later that day a family member, Emma and Lizzies biological uncle, John, stopped by to discuss business with Andrew. He was invited to stay a few nights and was offered the guest room on the second floor.

Later in the evening Lizzie visited a friend and confided in her that their family had been ill and she was worried something worse might happen to them. She also explained that the she had seen a strange man lurking on the property one night when she was returning home.

The Murders

On August 4, 1892, Andrew, Abby, John and Bridget woke and had breakfast while Lizzie slept in. John and Andrew went to the sitting room to talk business and around 8 am John left the home to run some errands. He informed Andrew he would be back to the home around noon. After his departure, Abby began cleaning the home and asked Bridget to wash every window of the house, inside and out. This was a large task and the family, including Bridget, had still been recovering from being ill. Bridget was not happy about being asked to perform this task and she was outside washing the windows for only a few minutes before she got sick and ran back into the home.

Around 9 am Andrew went for his daily walk and into town to conduct some business. At this time, Abby was in the second-floor guest bedroom making the bed that John had slept in the night before. After Bridget recovered a little she went to gather the things she needed to wash the windows and claimed to have seen Lizzie in the kitchen and asked her to keep the back door unlocked as she was going to be outside and around the house anyway. Bridget was out washing windows from about 9:30 to 10:20 am and had been seen washing the windows. She went back inside around 10:20 am to start washing the windows in the house.

Around 10:40 am Andrew returned home and had to ring the bell because his key would not work. Bridget went to open the door for him but found it was jammed shut. Bridget claims to have heard Lizzie laugh from the second floor though she did not see Lizzie. After Andrew got into the home, he went to the sitting room for his daily nap at around 10:45 am. Around this time Bridget had finished washing the last window of the dining room. Lizzie spoke with Bridget and told her Abby had left the home due to getting a note from a sick friend. She then asked if Bridget would like to go out as well. She told her there was a sale going on at a store in town and Lizzie offered to give her some money to go but Bridget decided to go rest in the attic instead as she was still not feeling well.

At 11:10 am Lizzie screamed for Bridget claiming something was wrong with her father and that she needed a doctor. Bridget was confused but did as she was told and ran to get doctor Bowen but he was not home. He had been out making house calls so Bridget ran back to the Borden residence. Lizzie would not move from the doorway and claimed to have been in the backyard when she heard a groan and saw the screen door was open. Lizzie told Bridget to run and get her friend Alice Russel. The next-door neighbor, Mrs. Churchill, called out to Lizzie to ask if everything was alright after seeing the maid running across the street and back. Lizzie asked her neighbor to come over and told her that someone had murdered her father. The neighbor was frightened and didn’t want to come inside the house and had asked Lizzie where she was when this all happened. Lizzie told the neighbor she was in the barn looking for iron, a different story then what she told Bridget. Lizzie told her she didn’t know where her stepmother Abby was just that she was at a friends house. She also mentioned that she believed an enemy of her father had poisoned their milk as they had been ill for the past few days.

By the time Bridget returned with Alice, Dr Bowen was also at the residence and Lizzie informed him she believed her father had been stabbed. He figured it had something to do with the family being sick as Abby had gone to him believing the family had been poisoned.

Dr Bowen found Andrew Borden laying on his side, his face was covered in blood and he had been attacked so badly that he couldn’t even be recognized. Dr Bowen still felt for a pulse and felt Andrew was still warm but he knew he was dead. Lizzie had started to ask if someone could go find Abby. She had told them Abby had gone to see a sick friend but now was saying she remembered seeing Abby arrive back at the home. Mrs. Churchill and Bridget went upstairs to look for Abby and at this time Lizzie asked Dr Bowen to send a telegram to her sister about what had happened.

While making their way up the stairs, Mrs. Churchill was able to see into the guest bedroom and noticed a body laying on the floor. She refused to go any further however Bridget continued and stopped at the foot of the bed. She saw Abby Borden, face down and covered in blood. The two women quickly made their way back down the stairs to inform everyone about Abby.

First police investigation

Police finally arrived at the home and began instantly looking for clues and evidence for what happened and who did this. Lizzie had let the police know there would be some bloody clothes soaking in the cellar as she was menstruating. Lizzie went upstairs to Emma’s room for some privacy. Alice went upstairs a short while later to comfort her friend and found that Lizzie had changed her clothes.

The police started to ask Lizzie where she was when all this was happening and Lizzie said she had been waiting for her flat iron to heat up on the stove so she could iron some handkerchiefs and was sitting at the dining room table flipping through a magazine. She claimed she didn’t know if Abby was still upstairs in the guest room tiding up or if she was still out visiting a sick friend. She knew her father was resting in the sitting room and that Bridget was up in the attic. Lizzie said she knew her friends had plans to go fishing the following Monday and she couldn’t remember if she had sinkers on her fishing pols so she went to the barn to look for iron. She claimed she left through the side screen door and left it unlocked behind her.

Lizzie went on to tell the investigators that she gathered some ripe pares from the pare tree and climbed to the loft in the barn to eat the pares. She had sat up there for 20 to 30 minutes before she went to the other side of the loft to dig through some old boxes. She said she heard a groaning or a scraping sound outside and made her way back to the house when she saw the screen door wide open.

The investigator taking down Lizzie's story noted she had no emotions and seemed calm and collected. Her face was blank and they found this odd as she had just discovered her parents murdered. When the investigators referred to Andrew and Abby as her parents Lizzie quickly and angrily corrected them that Abby was not her real mother. Lizzie told them she didn’t know of any enemies her father may have had.

Due to Lizzie's inconsistencies in her story and the history of their family relations, the police began to look at Lizzie as a suspect. A witness came forward later and said that Lizzie had also attempted to buy prussic acid (poison) on the 3rd of August.

A medical examiner arrived shortly after and conducted the autopsies for Abby and Andrew. It was confirmed that Andrew Borden had been struck 10 to 11 times with a sharp instrument to the facial area while Abby was struck 18 times to the back of her head. The examiner had taken a sample of the milk that was thought to have been poisoned and the organs of the two victims and sent them off to Harvard for testing and further examination. The results showed they had not been poisoned.

The examiner estimated that Abby had been killed between 9 and 10:30 that morning and Andrew had been killed shortly before Lizzie discovered his body and screamed for help at 11:10 am.

While one officer was taking Lizzie’s story, others had began to search the house for evidence of a possible murder weapon. Bridget told the officers that Andrew kept all of his tools in one place in the cellar. Officers discovered two hatchets, one was a claw hatchet covered in rust and what appeared to be a red mark smudged on the handle as if someone had tried to wipe it off. They also noted finding two axes in the cellar. The officers only really had interest in the claw hatchet with the red smudge on it.

Claw hatchets have hooks on the back unlike regular hatchets.
Claw hatchets have hooks on the back unlike regular hatchets.

Lizzie is a suspect

Emma returned home and was shocked to learn her father and Abby had been murdered. From what she was told in the telegram from Dr Bowen, it sounded as though her father was simply ill.

The police investigated the house again after the funeral of Abby and Andrew Borden. They were now looking into the clothing Lizzie had been wearing the day of the murders. They knew if she had been the one to do this crime there would surly be blood on her clothes. They searched both Lizzie and Emma’s rooms and even asked Lizzie what she was wearing on that day. Lizzie complied and handed over a dark blue blouse, a patterned fabric skirt, and a white underskirt.

While this investigation was going on, the Mayor asked Lizzie if her house guests could stay in the house for a bit longer to remain out of the pubic eye. Lizzie asked if anybody in the home was a suspect in what happened and when the Mayor didn’t answer Lizzie demanded an answer and he informed her that she was a suspect in the murders. A few days went by and on the morning of August 7th, Alice came down the stairs and found Lizzie at the stove holding a dress. When questioned Lizzie claimed the dress was covered in paint and was now unwearable and she was getting rid of it. Alice found this odd and quickly left the room.

On August 8 police came back to the home for a more in-depth search of the house and barn. They searched the entire barn and house until they made their way down into the cellar. During this search of the cellar, they discovered half of a hatchet that they somehow missed on the previous search. This hatchet’s handle was broken off and it was smaller than the others they found. The officers noted that this hatchet had an ashen like substance on it as though it had been in the same spot for a long time but decided to take it with them for further testing.

Around this time the officers had also began to question Emma, Lizzie and Alice. Emma and Lizzie cooperated and Alice decided to tell the officers about seeing Lizzie burning one of her dresses. At this point they already had an arrest warrant for Lizzie.

The broken hatchet found in the cellar.
The broken hatchet found in the cellar.

Lizzie is arrested

On August 9th the police asked Bridget Sullivan to come down to the station to answer a few questions as she was one of their key witnesses. Bridget, being from Ireland, didn’t fully understand the law system and was scared that she was being arrested. They police insured her she was just coming in to answer some questions and so Bridget agreed. She came in and answered their questions fully and clearly. The police felt Bridget was being truthful in her answers and brought Lizzie into the courthouse and placed her on the witness stand. They found that when Lizzie was answering their questions, her answers didn’t match up with Bridget’s answers and she seemed to be contradicting herself quite often in her storyline.

Lizzie was asked to come back the following day and was once again asked to recount what she was doing and where she was on the day of the murders. Once again, Lizzie’s story changed and when the interviewer pointed these out Lizzie had to quickly think of answers to support her changes. When Lizzie was asked where she was when her father came home she claimed she was in the kitchen reading a magazine however Bridget stated she heard Lizzie laughing from the second floor when Bridget was trying to open the front door. Lizzie then said she thought she might have been in her room at that time but that she couldn’t remember. She also mentioned going to the barn to put sinkers on her fishing pols but the interviewer pointed out that her poles didn’t even have line on them. Lizzie’s excuse was that she wanted to make sure she had sinkers before she went and bought a new line.

After all the questioning was done, Lizzie Borden was arrested and once the news hit Emma she was devastated. Lizzie didn’t want to hear what the warrant was for and when she was taken to her cell she finally broke down. She had began to cry so hard that she started to vomit and a doctor needed to be called. Once the news of Lizzie’s arrest hit the town a lot of people, including family, began to accuse her and her biological uncle John of killing her father for the money.

The Trial

Lizzie’s trial began on June 5, 1893 in New Bedford where she pleaded Not Guilty. The community was divided with half believing Lizzie was innocent and the other half believing she was guilty. This case was so abnormal that it got a lot of attention and rumors had begun to fly around leading to speculation and misinformation. The District Attorney leaned a lot on Bridget’s testimony as it was clear, concise and consist. With her testimony, the District Attorney said it would have made it impossible for an intruder to have entered the home and killed two people without anybody seeing or hearing anything. Another point was that witnesses put Bridget outside the home washing windows when Abby was murdered leaving only Lizzie inside.

Professor Wood from Harvard was called to the stand to explain the results he got when he tested the milk samples and the stomach contents of Andrew and Abby Borden along with the hatchets and axes that had been found. He determined that the family had not been poisoned and that the hatchets and axes did not have blood on them.

The defense argued that someone who was experienced in using an ax or hatchet would have been the one to commit the murders as the wounds were distinct and parallel. He made mention that the murder weapon had never been found and that Lizzie had no real motive to kill Andrew and Abby Borden. He brought up the two times the house had been broken into in the past year and the one time the barn had been broken into as well. He brought forward two witnesses that claimed to have seen Lizzie exiting the barn around 11:30 am thus backing up Lizzie’s story and said that the police had no physical evidence that Lizzie had been the one to commit the crime.

The District attorney countered saying Lizzie had an immense hatred for her stepmother Abby and that she was alone with them both times when they had been murdered. Bridget had been outside washing windows when Abby was murdered and Bridget had left Lizzie alone with Andrew when she went upstairs to take a nap. He also pointed out that the note Abby supposedly got from a sick friend was a lie. If she had gotten a note then why didn’t the friend or the messenger step forward to confirm this. He continued to say Abby never left the house and Lizzie lied about the whole thing.

At the end of the arguments for both sides, Lizzie was allowed to speak to defend herself but she only stated that she was innocent and said her council would speak for her. The jury came back with a verdict of not guilty. Lizzie broke down crying and was then released. She wanted nothing more than to leave this nasty ordeal behind her. The community felt differently though and many people began to distance themselves from her including her fellow church members.

Life After the Trial

After the trial, Emma and Lizzie had to figure out what to do with the money and property they had now inherited. Abby didn’t have a will and so everything she owned went to Andrew who had died just a few hours after her and so all of his belongings along with Abby’s went to the sisters. Emma and Lizzie divided up Abby’s property to Abby’s sisters and other family and kept none of it for themselves and gave $788 in cash to each of Abby’s sisters.

Emma and Lizzie decided to move out of the family home and moved into a large corner house in Fall River. Lizzie named the home Maplecroft and were inseparable for many years. Emma and Lizzie fought in June 1905 over Lizzie’s relationship with actress Nance O’Neal and Joesph Tetryl. Emma disliked both people and but Lizzie wouldn’t hear it and this caused Emma to move out of the house and the two never spoke again.

Lizzie worked hard to give back to her community and would buy groceries and books for the poor. Even through this generosity many members of her community still hated her and thought she was guilty of murder. She was never fully accepted back into society.

Lizzie Andrew Borden died of pneumonia on June 1, 1927, in Fall River Massachusetts. In her will she left $30,000 to Fall River Animal Rescue League. Her sister Emma Borden died just a few days later in Newmarket New Hampshire.

Lizzie and Emma's new house, Maplecroft
Lizzie and Emma's new house, Maplecroft

Paranormal Activity

This house has been investigated by many paranormal teams including Ghost Adventures, Ghost Hunt, and many other local and less popularized paranormal groups.

Guests of this bed and breakfast have reported hearing male and female whispers, doorknob’s rattling, phantom footsteps and knocking. One couple even fled the house due to paranormal activities.

Many people believe the house is possibly haunted by Abby, Andrew and Lizzie however I don’t think Lizzie would have returned to this house after she passed.

How you can visit

The Lizzie Borden house is now a bed and breakfast that you can reserve a room in. If you just want to take a tour they have tours from 10 am till 3 pm every day of the year with the exception of Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s $20 for adults and $15 for children. You can find more information here.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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