Arthur Sherman Phillips – Lizzie Didn’t Do It

Tattered Fabric: Fall River's Lizzie Borden

(Recycled post from June 2008)

Arthur Sherman Phillips wrote the impressive 3-Volume History of Fall River and was a junior attorney assisting on Lizzie’s defense team. The case haunted him all his life and he never gave up on the belief that she was innocent.

As late as June 3, 1939, he wrote to Homans Robinson (1894-1973) of the Robinson-Donovan law firm. He was the son of 3-times Governor George Robinson, Lizzie’s lead attorney at her Trial.   In his 3-page letter shown below, Phillips cites so many of the sources of speculative theories surrounding this case and ones that surface repeatedly in books, articles, and arguments towards her innocence.

It is not known if Homans Robinson, a 1916 graduate of Amherst college, replied to this letter. Surely if he had complied with Phillips request for a copy of the questions Attorney George Robinson presented to Lizzie, along with her…

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Posted by on December 12, 2021 in Uncategorized


Random Nuggets – John W. Coughlin & Josephine McGinn


As Mayor of Fall River


Mayor Coughlin is back row, second from right.  Franklin D. Roosevelt is seated, center.

Coughlin, John W. (1861-1920) — of Fall River, Bristol County, Mass. Born in Fall River, Bristol County, Mass., June 9, 1861. Democrat. Physician; mayor of Fall River, Mass., 1891-94; defeated, 1889; Massachusetts Democratic state chair, 1896; candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts, 1901; member of Massachusetts Democratic State Committee, 1901-20; delegate to Democratic National Convention from Massachusetts, 1904, 1912 (speaker); member of Democratic National Committee from Massachusetts, 1912; candidate for U.S. Representative from Massachusetts 15th District, 1912.  Clearly, he was a

He died December 3, 1920 (age 59 years, 177 days), less than 3 months after the above group picture was taken.


John McGinn purchased the home at 230 Second Street in 1948 but did not tell his wife, Josephine. The Leary Press was already a business abutting the house itself since the 1930’s. There was no yard, grass, or garden and Josephine was not happy. John bought a small home in Westport to appease her and they enjoyed retreating there to “their summer place” in a country setting from time to time. In 1978, when I was first inside this house, Josephine was upstairs in their bedroom (the Andrew and Abby bedroom) but I did not meet her then. In 1992 during the Centennial Conference I called her and we spoke briefly. She remembered me from that very first visit. 


I was in Fall River during the demotion of the Leary Press.  Exploring through the rubble I found this check receipt laying in plain sight payable to Josephine McGinn, written in 1993 by her grand-daughter and my friend, Martha McGinn , in the amount of $10,000.  Martha ran the Leary Press after John died and made periodic payments to her.  (Note:  There’s a certain symmetry to the fact the check is drawn on the Citizen Savings Bank – the bank which Andrew Borden was President when he died.)

Mayor Coughlin died when Josephine was just a little girl.  The Leary Press no longer stands.  The House at “92 Second Street” still stands.  And the enduring fascination of Lizzie Borden grows stronger with each generation.


The Most Factual Telling on the Lizzie Borden Case Has Not Yet Been Produced

One specific letter in The Knowlton-Pearson Correspondence pretty well sums up where we are today relevant to the most interesting book on this case.  Written 35 years after the murders by the son of the prosecuting attorney to the prolific true crime writer who published the first widely read book on the murders we have this:

                         Knowlton to Pearson October 28, 1930

It was only six years after Studies in Murder was published but over three and a half decades since the Superior Court Trial when Frank Knowlton wrote to Edmund Pearson that: 

         “The really interesting book About the Borden case has not yet been     written,”

He could be saying that today, 128 years later.   Knowlton says most of what has been written relates to the circumstances and tries to reason back to find the cause.  He posits that it should be a psychological study of Lizzie imagining her life, comprehensive and in depth.  (We get a shadow image of that through Parallel Lives – Fall River Historical Society – but even that was limited to her society and not the psychology or dynamics of Lizzie and her household).  If a book did deal precisely as Knowlton suggests, we would have a completely different image of this most enigmatic character of American unsolved crime  – now evolved into a bloody icon of almost epic status in the occult pop culture.

What we have today is represented by the very latest of Lizzie Borden t.v. docudramas with an emphasis on the paranormal.  It’s the “Curse of Lizzie Borden” premiering this date but I do not recommend it nor provide any information to promote it.  But like so many that have come before it, it has a “hook”.

“Demons” is the hook with this one. When renewed interest in the paranormal exploded in the early 1990’s, the Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast became a recurring focal point for “investigations”. As books, documentaries, films, and t.v. programming grew, so did the need for program content. Productions metastasized and distribution poured into various entertainment programming channels. The caveat is always “entertainment” but the minions of those interested in the occult usually accept the productions as fact. Lizzie Borden, due to her mystique as a person and the case being a classic unsolved crime, was a natural for exploitation. Regurgitation of misinformation has necessitated “hooks” to sustain an audience eager to be thrilled and shriek  with things that go bump in the night.

Spin-off websites and podcasts are part of the metastasizing process. Lizzie Andrew Borden’s evolution from the virginal, church-going middle class daughter of a well-to-do banker and real estate investor, has morphed into a crazed axe-wielding psychopath who haunts 92 Second Street. Thus, the parade of paranormal investigators and their followers continue. “If you build it, they will come.” Alas, we live in an America where half believe in the falsities media presents to them. The subject of Lizzie Borden is a simple case in point to this cancer among us.

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Where did that Lizzie “Noisy Bird” Letter go?

From September 2010.

Tattered Fabric: Fall River's Lizzie Borden

The below image is of a display that once adorned the office wall of Reverend Robert Lawrence, past minister of the First Congregational Church in Fall River.   It contains the 2-page letter Lizzie Borden wrote on May 31, 1900 to John Summerfield Brayton about his crowing bird that disturbed her.  The letter was found tucked in a desk drawer many years later by his son.

First Congregational Church when it was on Main Street at the time Lizzie wrote her letter.

First Congregational Church on Rock Street as it looks today and where the Reverend Lawrence ministered.

On a visit to Fall River late last year, I once again went to view this.  It was gone.  I inquired earlier this year by phone to the Church office as to the whereabouts of this display and was told it was gone.  I was told that “Reverend Lawrence took it with him…

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Posted by on September 1, 2021 in Uncategorized


Lee-ann Wilber Imposter Posts on Her Facebook Account

UPDATE: Mystery solved. Click HERE

An outbreak of indignation followed a posting on Lee-ann’s Facebook account from some “mystery person” writing as if they were Lee-ann herself reaching out from the afterlife. Thank you, Tim Westberg of Spooky Southcoast for reporting on this so promptly. The game’s afoot to identify this sick person.

Read about it HERE.

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Posted by on August 25, 2021 in Lee-ann Wilber


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Knowlton-Pearson Correspondence

Huzzah! Huzzah! The Fall River Historical Society has announced their new publication on the collection of letters regarding the Lizzie Borden case. Before this the only access to copies of the letters was to purchase the entire collection in single photo-copy sheets from the FRHS – which is what I did directly from curator emeritus, Florence Brigham, in the early 1990’s. I recall paying $15.00 at that time – no doubt to cover the copying costs – but I believe the FRHS suspended that access nearly 20 years ago. Having that collection available now for $20 is quite a treat. There is much to be learned from these letters as we follow Edmund Pearson’s journey of discovery. His growing friendship with Frank Knowlton evolves to guide Pearson to those involved, in various measure, with the case and those that knew Lizzie and shared their public and private remembrances.

The finished project first edition looks like this:

What follows are some pages from my collection of the photo-copies. Open image for large type. Let this not deter you from buying the new publication – I’ll be adding it to my bookshelves on our beloved Lizzie. 🙂 In the meantime, here’s the first letter (from Pearson) that started it all……and towards the end.


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Newspapers of August 4th – 10th, 1892

Well, another August 4th has come and about to be gone and we can be done with the regurgitations in the telling of perhaps the most startling, notorious and unsolvable crimes in American history. Yep, it’s her: Our beloved Lizzie Borden of Fall River. Most of us get our news from online or television these days, but in 1892 it was the newspapers – and the Fall River Herald and Fall River Globe, rivals, went nuts with the story that spread across the country – and beyond – like wildfire.

The only thing new this year is the Fall River Historical Society announcing the soon to be published Andrew Jennings Journal donated to that august organization in 2011. Oh, and of course the “virtual” tours/re-enactments by the Lizzie Borden House.

The Fall River Historical Society states: “Included in the Appendix of this volume is the complete transcript of an interview with Andrew J. Jennings that appeared in the Fall River Daily Globe on August 6, 1892.” I believe the image shown here is that article:

Part of my collection of Bordenia stuff is a 10 volume set of most all the regional newspapers who reported on the crimes, the legal procedings, and Lizzie’s post-trial life. These copies of articles were collected and organized by Ed Thibault, donated to Donald Woods in 2004 and given to me by Donald later that year. Put on your reading spectacles because I’m posting here just a tiny fraction of those reports. The 10-volume set starts before the crimes and goes up and through 2012, when I stopped collecting. Remember, I’m only showing partial extracts from the Index to Volume I and only some selected pages of the hundreds of articles in that one Volume. Click images to enlarge OR OPEN IN A NEW TAB – to read the articles. Enlightening.

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Posted by on August 4, 2021 in Uncategorized


Timeline of Events Around and During the Borden Murders

Tattered Fabric: Fall River's Lizzie Borden


It’s almost that time of year when focus on Fall River, MA is dominated by Lizzie Borden and the unsolved hatchet murders of her father, Andrew, and her stepmother, Abby on August 4, 1892.

A regurgitation of media mentions, short site and sound bytes, videos of the “murder house” (a Bed & Breakfast Museum since 1996) accompanied by eerie music and bloody graphics, and the gratuitous recitation of that inaccurate quatrain, “Lizzie Borden took an axe, gave her father……” (please, don’t make me go any further) will surely play out on various TV channels throughout the country.

So…. before you indulge yourself in the hash and rehash (pun intended) put down the bong and get a focus on what was going on in Lizzie’s Fall River and her life in general before, during and right after the crimes. 

Below is an extract from my “Lizzie Borden Historic Timeline” which is…

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Posted by on August 1, 2021 in Uncategorized


Lizzie Borden House: August 4th Re-enactments

Many of you may know of – or even attended – the annual August 4th re-enactments of the discovery of the murders of Lizzie Borden’s father and stepmother on that same date in 1892 in Fall River, Ma. Well, so much has changed since the new owner took over. For example, they no longer accept phone calls so if you know (and/or communicate) with people who work there, you’ll get some information, slim as it is. Here’s a tidbit from a friend of a friend on Facebook:

Lance Zaal, new owner

Vic Leo Hey everyone! I work at the house and am directing this year’s re-enactment. In order to keep things safer and less crowded in the house (covid cases here in MA are beginning to spike again 😞) we are doing things a little differently this year. There are going to be three days of reenactment events. It’ll be performed live inside the house and live-streamed out to a projector in the parking lot where more people will be able to view it safely. The events are on August 8th, 15th, and 29th. I’m unsure if it’ll be online, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t be. Let me double check that and I’ll update asap.”

In the meantime, check out this Timeline on the events that happened the two weeks before and the day of August 4th, 1892. As you read it, put yourself in the action. Click HERE.


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Still Thrills and Delights 161 Years Later

The woman who gave birth to Lizzie 161 years ago. Sarah Morse Borden

Had Lizzie Borden lived she would be 161 years old today. Well, she didn’t live but she endures. In the hearts, minds, and revenue generating creations of those who contribute to the perpetuation of her compelling mystique, Lizzie continues to intrigue one generation after the other. For 131 years. (She was 31 when the murders happened and 32 when she went to Trial).

I often give pieces of my Lizzie and Bordenia collections to those who have fallen victim to her spell. Kate Lavendar was one such person. She made this video upon the shipment’s arrival. I think her excitement is a true and appropriate example of the impact this enigmatic woman has had on people all over the world.

An enduring – and endearing – fascination.

View it here.


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Erika Mailman wrote a lengthy piece for the online Smithsonian Magazine in which she describes more changes to take place as stated by new owner Lance Zaal. Opinions of its transformation shared by Shelley Dziedzic and myself were given in interviews for the same article.

What I’ve often referred to as “Mecca” is now a chrysalis morphing into a place where “mindless paranormalizers who pretend to see ghosts to get TikTok likes” (-Erika Mailman) is its current destiny. Now guests can squeal with contrived delight while case purists who’ve spent the night before will shake their heads and say what the f*ck?

From replacing the antique replica stove with a modern one, to adding a bedroom in the basement – these changes can be read in the article HERE.

Clearly, the experiences of those who booked overnight stays at this iconic edifice have been terminated. The factual historic residue has dissipated under the weight of contrived ghostly and paranormal experience options.

The House has been a tourist destination under three “generations” of Innkeepers. The first was Martha McGinn and Ron Evans from 1996 to 2004. They purchased most of the furnishings and fixtures that still remain, ensuring the House retained its 1890’s feel. The gift shop was in the abutting Leary Press. People came from all over the world.

The second generation was with Donald Woods (75% owner) and Lee-ann Wilber from 2004 to 2021. It was Donald’s money and Lee-ann’s oversight that gave southern exposure to the first floor windows, and freed up space for the barn replica to be constructed when the entire Leary Press was demolished. People came from all over the world.

Now comes the third generation with U.S. Ghost Adventures (aka Lance Zaal). His planned changes will transform the essence of The House forever, or at least for as long as he owns the property. And who can say how long that will be? Will people bother to come to Fall River from all over the world?

Mr. Zaal says he wants to “export” Lizzie to those who can’t visit Fall River, meaning an emphasis on online content.” “Lizzie Borden needs to adapt and move into a different century if it’s going to appeal to a new generation.” (Note: Lizzie Borden has continued to fascinate generation after generation since 1892). Oh, Mr. Zaal, informed perspective is so often absent in the minds of the unread.

Meanwhile, for me, it’s as if Godzilla surfaced from Mt. Hope Bay, stomped his way over to 92 Second Street (230) and fell, full body, on that iconic drab green structure. The gawking crowd weeps – for it was Lizzie he loved.


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Lizbeth-A Victorian Nightmare

Ric Rebelo, award winning documentarian and Fall River resident, created this film over 11 years ago. This week he posted the film and promos on YouTube, making it available for the first time to the general public. He also posted my 16-minute interview bonus feature, “Tattered Fabric” in which I tell of my theory as to how the murders were committed.

The Special Feature is HERE.

The full, 56-minute film is HERE.

When Mr. Rebelo completed this project he gave me CD’s of the raw footage of each of the people interviewed. I’ve enjoyed these over the years. I hope you will enjoy the finished product.


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Update on the Lizzie Borden House

(Note: On all my previous blog posts, click the title and you’ll be able to see Comments in the column to the right).

Read about the latest changes HERE.

Image from Spooky Southcoast

Clearly, a new era. I feel as if Godzilla surfaced from Mt. Hope Bay, stomped his way over to 92 Second Street (230) and fell, full body, on that iconic drab green structure.

The most novice of Borden researchers can spot the obvious error here. But more to the point are the changes.

Mr. Zaal continues to cast aspersions on the way the B&B was operated under the prior management. He fails to realize the lack of marketing was because it marketed itself, resulting in repeat customer visits.

Also, reviews in Trip Advisor, newspaper reports, etc., guests frequently remarked how comfortable the beds were. He states he has replaced the mattresses. Perhaps he has wired them for spooky sounds in the night.

He says he’ll be doing a re-enactment of the crimes on August 4th. Oh boy. Some sequels fail miserably when compared to the classic original.

Goodbye Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast. Hello Son of Godzilla.


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Remembrance of Lee-ann Wilber?

UPDATE 6/8/2021: Official Obituary Notice

Lee-ann Wilber, long time General Manager and part-owner of the “Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast Museum” passed away on June 5, 2021.

For over 17 years, the excellence in service, operations, and exceptional visitor care were primarily due to this lady. Bountiful praises can be read on Trip Advisor. All comments reflect when Lee-ann operated this iconic structure. I believe strongly the “Lizzie Borden House” – as it is now referred – should have some kind of acknowledgment as a tribute to the “Lee-ann Era”.

I have been approached by a woman who has offered to make a plaque (at no charge) in remembrance of Lee-ann. She is a professional who makes gravestones for a living and knew Lee-ann quite well. I have prepared a letter to Lance Zaal asking if he would approve such a plaque being placed inside the Lizzie Borden House. Before I proceed further, I am curious to know what those who knew her would want the wording to say. Suggestions would be much appreciated.

Example: “Lee-ann Wilber 1970-2021. Beloved part owner and General Manager of the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast. Her heart and spirit remains in this place.”

Please email me at with your responses. Thank you.

Operating the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast was her life. The residue of her heart and spirit must surely reside there.

I’m hoping Mr. Zaal will respond.


Posted by on June 6, 2021 in Fall River, MA, Lee-ann Wilber


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Sequence of Events – Lee-ann Wilber

UPDATE: Saturday, June 5th at approximately 9:30 pm, Eastern time, Lee-ann Wilber passed away .


His watch has ended.

The confusion, misinformation, speculation, hushed inferences, and no harm/no foul regurgitations compel me to set the record straight. The tipping point came when a woman in Pawtucket, Rhode Island emailed me she was Lee-ann’s sister (which I found out she was not) and scolded me for being so abusive and inconsiderate of the family. I will not give her name, though certain parties can figure it out. Neither will I credit nor give names of the sources I’m using as some people are unnecessarily offended when names are cited with expressed remarks.

My sole intention here is to stop those traveling on the pebbled pathway leading them away from facts and left to trip over themselves. (I know this because I fell upon that pathway myself.) I also want to ensure my readers – who never knew Lee-ann or even been to Fall River but are Borden case devotees – to get the correct information.

So let us begin.

On Thursday May 27th, Escrow closed on the sale of the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast to Lance Zaal, aka U.S. Ghost Adventures.

On Thursday, May 27th, Lee-ann was found unresponsive in her home and was taken to the hospital. She had a life threatening condition that caused massive internal bleeding. Due to the bleeding and other medical conditions, she was placed in a medically induced coma for treatment.

On Friday night, May 28th, She had two procedures to correct the bleed but her blood counts were declining.

On Saturday, May 29th, Lee-ann’s mother was informed Lee-ann started having brain seizures. Some of her blood levels were at toxic levels. Dialysis would be needed to help flush out the toxins.

On Sunday, May 30th, She was taken for CT scans which showed swelling of the brain.

On Tuesday, June 1st, Lee-ann was taken off the ventilator and given an IV drip of morphine to ensure she had no pain.

On Tuesday, June 1st in the early evening, Shelley Dziedzic posted on her blog, Warps and Wefts that Lee-ann had died. Immediately, that information was shared on Facebook with dozens who knew her who exchanged hundreds of posts and private messages on their own FB pages, blogs and websites.

On Tuesday June 1st at 6:46 pm, Stefani Koorey posted a lengthy remembrance of Lee-ann, written almost like an obituary,

On Tuesday, June 1st at 6:45 pm Pacific Time, I received an email from Stefani Koorey: “I thought you should know that Lee Ann passed away tonight. Very sad and tragic news.”

On Tuesday, June 1st at approximately 8:30 pm Eastern Time, Shelley took off her post without any further word. Stefani reported this on her Facebook page, chastising Shelley for the shock and confusion she caused. I did the same on my Facebook page, calling it a Giant Klusterphuck.

On Tuesday, June 2, Shelley posted on her Warps and Wefts blog that: “Last night, I had received incorrect information from two sources, one being from the hospital where she is in the ICU. It was an honest error and I am sorry to have caused anyone pain”.

Social media, particularly Facebook and specifically in private messages, continued to run rampant with pleas for prayers for Lee-ann’s recovery, citations of how strong she was and would pull through, a continuation of false information and speculation. I myself have received over 550 combined emails and PM’s.

There is nothing that can be done at this point. She will not recover. She will not wake up. She will not survive. She remains in a coma. As a close friend said, “We are on Lee-ann time.”

For those that pray, pray for her family. Consider a GoFundMe page to help with her hospital bills, if not a donation to the Faxxon Animal Shelter as Shelley has suggested.

As for me, I want to see a permanent plaque and image of her appropriately placed at The Lizzie Borden House for all future visitors to see. Those that visited before need to remember, – and those that come for the first time need to know – that the heart, soul, and true spirit of the historic and iconic place they stand belongs to Lee-ann Wilber.


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It Was Reported Lee-ann Wilber Had Died

UPDATE 6/3/2021: Shelley has since owned up to her mistake and posted an apology on her website.

UPDATE: Misinformation posted by Shelley Dziedzic of Warfs and Wefts, to which most others posted the news, has caused a Giant Klusterfuck! Apparently Lee-ann DID NOT DIE. SHE HAS BEEN TAKEN OFF LIFE SUPPORT. SHE IS BREATHING ON HER OWN BUT REMAINS IN A COMA. SHAME ON YOU, SHELLEY, FOR CAUSING SUCH UNNECESSARY SHOCK. I APOLOGIZE TO MY READERS FOR THIS PREMATURE BLOG POST.

In the above photo, a visitor dressed as Undertaker Winward talks to Donald Woods and Lee-ann on August 4, 2005

Lee-ann Wilber died on June 1, 2021. There’s kind of a macabre symmetry to the fact Lizzie Borden died this same day in 1927, and the fact the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast closed escrow this week, putting Lee-ann out the door. Managing the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast was her life.

If the new owner, Lance Zaal (U.S. Ghost Adventures) of the Lizzie Borden “House” had any class he would put up a nice photo with remembrance remarks about Lee-ann Wilber, the long time and much loved GM and former part owner. It should be placed prominently on the wall, perhaps in the entrance foyer or the Parlor where it can be looked upon and noted by all future visitors. In this way, she would remain in the place where she gave so much loving care, and would know her spiritual residue remains – ensuring her enduring presence.

Donald Woods, Lee-ann Wilber, Len Rebello, Shelley Dziedic and me. White Horse Tavern Newport, Rhode Island 2004.


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LIZZIE BORDEN HOUSE – If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

LIZZIE BORDEN HOUSE – If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

The article below is an interview with the new owner, Lance
Zaal, on some of the changes and additions he is making to this popular Fall River attraction – from solar panels on the Gift Shop to no on-site parking for guests.

But you really don’t get the full picture of what is changing and how those changes will alter the visitor experience that has endured for 25 years. To absorb that information, one must delve deeply into the Lizzie Borden House website HERE Please take the time to read it thoroughly.

Rates have gone up. Breakfast costs you extra. (Hence the name change from “…Bed and Breakfast” to Lizzie Borden “House”). No more roaming wherever you want anytime for overnight guests. Radical changes in cancellation policy, just to name a few. Those that are into the paranormal like touring the whole house, especially Knowlton’s room. Sorry, not any more.

The business model and operations at the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast Museum have hardly changed since this Fall River landmark opened in 1996 by my long time friend, Martha McGinn. Except for the accommodations to support the exploding interest in the paranormal and to capture that market, the overall experience in the daily tours and overnight stays has remained the same. The formula has worked because people keep coming back again, and again, and again. It’s precisely that experience that has sustained this business for two and half decades. People book long in advance excited in their expectations for when they return. It’s like when you dine out to a very special restaurant – you go back again and again because you want that same experience. Well folks, it just ain’t gonna be the same.

It’s not like discovering they put a Starbucks on Disneyland’s Main Street. That is but a mere pimple upon the landscape that fails to alter your overall magical experience. But what the Lizzie Borden House experience will become is a totally different thing. Pock marked. No longer will we feel the texture of that tattered fabric and its pulsating historic residue. Instead we will scurry through a neon-lit bounce house with sequined bedspreads and a carnival barker, “Get your tickets here!”

To Donald Woods and Lee-ann Wilber I say, thank you for keeping the experience alive as long as you did.

To Lance Zaal, I lament with a hollow plea: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Goodbye, old friend. I’m so glad I knew you when.


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May be a black-and-white image of 1 person
On her veranda at Maplecroft, circa 1922

The information below was provided by Michael Martins and Dennis Binette
August 2013:

Fiction: Abby and Andrew Borden were killed by 40 and 41 whacks. Fact: The actual number of blows was 19 to Abby and 11 to Andrew.

Fiction: Abby and Andrew Borden were killed by 40 and 41 whacks.
Fact: The actual number of blows was 19 to Abby and 11 to Andrew.

Fiction: Andrew Borden forced his family to eat rancid mutton stew for days leading up to the murders.
Fact: According to the testimony of their maid, Bridget Sullivan, at the preliminary hearing, the Bordens had actually had a menu that included fresh swordfish, pork steaks, cakes, cookies, and johnnycakes, along with cold mutton and soup, in the days leading up to the murders.

Fiction: Skinflint Andrew Borden deprived his family by forcing them to live in substandard conditions.
Fact: On the contrary. The Borden house had city water immediately after it became available on Second Street (and before many families on the Hill). There was also a pan-type water closet in the basement of the house that was fed by city water, so there actually was an indoor flush toilet. And, the house was centrally heated, as evidenced by radiators in photographs. The fact that there were no gas or electric lights was not uncommon at the time, especially in that neighborhood.

Fiction: A maniacal Andrew Borden slaughtered Lizzie’s pet pigeons with a hatchet, thereby planting a bloody seed of discontent.
Fact: Although pigeon keeping was a popular hobby in nineteenth century Fall River, there is absolutely no evidence to document that Lizzie ever maintained a loft. During the inquest, Lizzie was questioned by Atty. Hosea M. Knowlton regarding “any killing of an animal” that may have taken place on the Bordens’ Second Street property. Her rather matter-of-fact reply was that her father “killed some pigeons in the barn last May or June.” When asked “With what,” she said, “I don’t know, I thought he wrung their necks.” The birds were subsequently brought into the house, presumably the kitchen, where Lizzie noticed “all but three or four had their heads on.” She asked her father, “Why are these heads off,” to which he replied, “they twisted off.” Asked by Knowlton if the heads were “cut off or twisted off,” she stated, “I don’t know, I didn’t look at that particularly … the skin, I think was very tender.” The somewhat vague exchange of words on the topic of the pigeons, coupled with the unemotional manner in which the responses were delivered, differ from the reaction to be expected from a woman recalling the massacre of her pet birds. The fact that the birds were brought into the house make it apparent that they were likely a utility breed, raised for culinary use, and customarily killed by wringing their necks. It appears that the Bordens were simply going to enjoy a meal of squab.

Fiction: “Lizzie Borden took an axe…”
Fact: The murder weapon was probably a hatchet, not an axe, and, following Lizzie’s acquittal, no perpetrator of the crimes was ever found.

Fiction: The hatchet in the collection of the Fall River Historical Society, that was brought into the courtroom as evidence, was the murder weapon.
Fact: This hatchet, found in the cellar of the Borden house, was never proven to be the murder weapon. No blood was found on it, and the single strand of hair on it was animal, not human. Also, flecks of gold were found in Mrs. Borden’s brain matter at the autopsy. This led the examining doctors to believe that it was a new hatchet that was used to kill her. (New hatchets had gold foil along the edge of the blade, and the manufacturer’s label was also stamped in gilt on the blade – any loose gold would come off with the first use.) No gold was found in Mr. Borden’s wounds. The hatchet found in the Borden cellar was not new at the time.

Fiction: Andrew Borden was a mortician and embalmed bodies, some say in the cellar of the Borden house.
Fact: Andrew Borden never embalmed bodies; in fact, there were no embalmers listed in the Fall River city directories until the 1880s, well after he had retired. As many furniture dealers did, Borden served as an undertaker. In the 19th century, many dealers sold burial furnishings and “undertook” the arrangements for funerals and provided supplies – rented chairs, shrouds, coffins, and transportation from the home to the cemetery. Existing receipts in the collection of the Historical Society clearly detail the services provided by Borden, Almy & Co., and embalming was not among them.

Fiction: Andrew Borden was one of the wealthiest men in Fall River.
Fact: At the time of his death in 1892, Andrew Borden’s estate was worth approximately $250,000 to $300,000. By comparison, Mary Brayton Durfee Young (B.M.C. Durfee’s mother), upon her death in 1891, left an estate worth “in excess of ten million dollars.” There were many individuals in Fall River whose fortunes far exceeded that of Andrew Borden.

Fiction: Lizzie Borden was, in her later life, a friendless recluse.
Fact: As is evidenced by recent research done by the Historical Society, Lizzie had a considerable number of friends, both in Fall River and elsewhere, who were extremely loyal to her. The children of these friends consistently referred to her as “Auntie Borden.” To this day, the descendants of these people still hold her in high esteem.

Fiction: As a child, Lizzie Borden was a peculiar child who was kept out of circulation by her father.
Fact: Thanks to the recent discovery of the diaries of Louisa Holmes Stillwell (“Lulie”), there is the first indication as to what life was like for Lizzie Borden as a teenager. Lulie was a contemporary of Lizzie’s and the two attended high school together and socialized. Through mentions in Lulie’s diaries, we see that Lizzie’s adolescence was no different than that of other girls her age.

Fiction: Andrew Borden was tyrannical and suppressed his daughters.
Fact: By all accounts, Lizzie and Emma were allowed to come and go as they pleased. Both were active in various charitable and social organizations. Lizzie’s proposed fishing trip to Marion indicates that she likely was in the habit of attending house parties, as Emma was, and, of course, Andrew Borden sent Lizzie to Europe on the Grand Tour. Again, Lulie’s diaries show that Lizzie engaged in the same social activities as her contemporaries.

Fiction: Andrew Borden’s strict, penny-pinching ways left his family deprived of any luxuries.
Fact: The Borden family appears to have been well provided for. All existing photographs show the Borden women to be well dressed, and Lizzie and Emma were each provided with allowances from their father. Also, Andrew Borden employed a live-in domestic, Bridget Sullivan, even though there were three adult women who did not work living in the household; if he were as unreasonable as he is made out to be, he could have foregone the expense and forced his family to do all of the housework, cooking, and laundry. Recent evidence recently uncovered by the Historical Society shows that Andrew Borden was also in the habit of hiring outside help on a per diem or weekly basis.

Fiction: Lizzie Borden was a kleptomaniac.
Fact: One story concerning Lizzie shoplifting at Tilden-Thurber in Providence appeared in select newspapers, but only for a couple of days’ duration. Then, the story disappeared as quickly as it had appeared, with no evidence to substantiate the claim. It was also rumored that she stole things from Fall River stores, but no evidence has ever surfaced to indicate that this was true.


Lizzie Borden and the Month of June

Tattered Fabric: Fall River's Lizzie Borden

(Originally created and posted June 1, 2009 without images)

Partial extracts from my historic timeline for the month of June follows.    It helps one gain a perspective on what influenced Lizzie Borden and the world she lived in.   Well, sort of.  One can also watch old films like Pollyanna to get a peek into the mores, customs, societal hierachy of the Victorian and Edwardian eras.

Speaking of Pollyanna, I watched it the other day and was particularly struck by its accurate depiction of the power the founding families had within their communities, including the Church.  Just as Polly Harrington (Jane Wyman)  dictated what her church minister (Karl Malden) would trumpet from the pulpit, made me wonder if the Bordens and Durfees influenced what their ministers would speak on for the Sunday sermons at the Central Congregational Church.

June 20, 1635 John Borden, wife, and two children set sail for America.

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Posted by on May 5, 2021 in Uncategorized


Meet the New Owner of the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast Museum

Welcome to Lance Zaal - Entrepreneur | Philanthropist | Veteran

UPDATE (4/20/21): A seemingly valid “rumor” has come to me that Mr. Zaal has not been able to secure a sufficient number of investors to actually purchase The Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast Museum under the current “Agreement Contract”. Other attempts, though comparatively quiet, have also failed to obtain more properties to add content for his ghost hunting experience enterprise, so says my rather reliable source. We shall see. OTOH, my personal opinion as to his statements to the media as to its future use: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Assuming escrow closes without a hitch, meet the new owner, Lance Zaal, who definitely appears to be an Alpha male. He has something in common with Donald Woods, owner of the LBB&B Museum since 2004, both are Ex-Marines!

From reading his background it would appear the “ghost hunting” (i.e., paranormal investigations) will continue if not taken to a dynamic and expanded level. A new era has begun for this tourist destination – be it in person or virtual.

I wish him much success ensuring Bordenia enthusiasts who trek to Mecca will continue to reap the thrill of being “in the same place at a different time” where one of America’s truly great unsolved crimes occurred.

You go, guy!

More detail on Lance can be found on his Linked-in page HERE.

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Posted by on March 24, 2021 in Uncategorized