“The True Story of Lizzie Borden” – or Maybe Not

21 Aug


UPDATE: According to this USA Today’s AP report, Mr. Pickel is planning to open up his alleged “True Story” of Lizzie Borden this weekend. CLICK HERE

Mr. Pickel continues to be under the erroneous assumption that most people don’t know what state, let alone what city, in which the Borden case took place. To that I say: “Mr. Pickel – just ask the Fall River Historical Society how many decades people have flocked there ONLY to see the Borden case exhibits. Inquire at Oak Grove cemetery how many people traversed their grounds solely to find Lizzie Borden’s grave until they finally painted footprints on the pavement guiding folks to the Andrew J. Borden family plot. Ask Robert Dube and the Silvia’s how many people have come on to their property or stopped to photograph “Maplecroft” for the past 40 years.

Most importantly, people have been flocking to 92 Second Street since Day One. Indeed, within days of the murders wagon and carriage drivers would transport disembarking passengers from steamers of the Fall River Line coming from New York and Boston requesting to be taken to the “Lizzie Borden house.” This was reported in the local papers shortly after the crime and continued when Lizzie moved to French Street. Visitors to Fall River for the past 116 years have continued to drive by 92 Second Street just to get a gander of the famous structure.

For 116 years local, regional and national papers have continued to write articles about the case. Dozens of books have been published, several documentaries have been made on “Fall River’s” Lizzie Borden. The #1 best selling book on the case, Victoria Lincoln’s A Private Disgrace, has had over a dozen printings and is still in print. Royalties continue to be paid out to her daughters, Priscilla Williams and Louise Lowe Kittredge. This book, written by native of Fall River who emphasized “Fall River’s” close-knit families, left no doubt in the reader’s minds WHERE this crime took place. People who have read only one book on the case, most always have read this one.

And when 92 Second Street was opened up to the public for the first time as the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast/Museum in 1996, it put Fall River on the map as a tourist destination for all those interested in unsolved murders and the Lizzie Borden case.

The Lizzie Borden case is as iconic to Fall River as the JFK assassination is to Dallas.

If you can’t even quote the truth about the general public’s awareness of where these crimes took place, what confidence can one have in your ability to present the “true story” of Lizzie Borden at your Salem “exhibit”?

Get a clue, Lenny. Get a grip on the “true” story. 😉


Looks as if Pickel is already hawking his wares OUTSIDE the facility on a display table with some schlock emphera. This may be an indicator to the “quality” of his exhibit. Also, his statement regarding the exclusion of the Bence testimony on Lizzie’s attempt to buy poison is incorrect. It was excluded because it was deemed to be “too remote in time”, not because no poison was found in the bodies. This news footage uses an old image of the B&B at 92 Second Street, Fall River but includes the newly found photo from Emma’s cabinet photo album of Lizzie as a young girl.


“The True Story of Lizzie Borden” is what Leonard Pickel proposes to reveal to $10 ticket holders ($8 if you use his online $2 discount coupon) at his EXHIBIT, EXHIBIT, EXHIBIT (get it?) in Salem, MA. The “True” story??? Just how does he know what is true?

First and foremost: Lizzie Borden was acquitted on June 20, 1893 in that sensational Trial held at the New Bedford Superior Court. No one else was ever brought to Trial. The Who, How and Why continues to be a major mystery in this most compelling unsolved classic crime. Indeed, from books, blogs and bumper stickers we repeatedly see the phrase: “Lizzie Borden – Did she or didn’t she?” It is absolutely presumptuous of anyone to state – be it in a book, blog, bumper sticker, lecture, Youtube video, or anything else – that they can reveal or know the “true” story. Nobody does.

2005 photo of Leonard Pickel from his Haunted Times magazine website

The person with the most means, motive and opportunity certainly was Lizzie, but it was never conclusively proven and no one knows for certain if she did it. The good money says of course she did, but no one can prove or show that is true.

So I have to wonder just what TRUTH to the Lizzie Borden story Mr. Pickel will impart to his visitors? Is the “true” story going to reveal that Lizzie alone committed the murders? Even the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast Museum and the Fall River Historical Society do not and never have been so presumptuous as to state whether or not Lizzie did it. Nor have they ever claimed to know the truth about Lizzie. Too many questions remain. Far too many.

Lee-ann Wilber, General Manager & co-owner of Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast Museum

Since the opening of the B&B in 1996, the tour scripts have been written for the tour guides to give facts of the case without asserting that Lizzie or anyone else in particular did the deed. They do not purport that Lizzie did it or didn’t do it, or that Uncle John or Bridget or William Borden committed the murders, or that Lizzie had a boyfriend named David Anthony who did it, or that her sister Emma did it, or that even Phoebe Bowen did it. Nor do they state that it is true that Lizzie was a lesbian, actually strangled or cut off the head of Abby’s cat, or that she was actually a shoplifter. None of this is known to be the truth.

But Leonard Pickel, by virtue of the name of his proposed EXHIBIT and from what he’s stated in newspapers, has the audacity to assert he will exhibit The True Story of Lizzie Borden. What yellow brick road is *he* on? The true story of Lizzie Borden will never be known. Whatever it was, Lizzie took it to her grave. Maybe Mr. Pickel has visited “the other side” and knows something we don’t.

Mr. Pickel is also repeatedly quoted in interviews that Fall River has never “embraced” Lizzie nor had the support of the city. Not true. There was a Lizzie Borden symposium in 1986 of which the city and community organizations supported. But it wasn’t until the highly successful 4-day 1992 Lizzie Borden Centennial that Fall River realized money could be made and that Lizzie was a source of new revenue for tourism dollars that they fully embraced her. She’s in both Chamber and City promotional brochures, city department websites, and the “LIZZIE BORDEN MUSEUM” is a prominently displayed huge BLUE I-95 highway sign on the approach to the Braga Bridge just entering Fall River.

Here’s the August 9th Boston Herald’s report of the current litigation wherein Pickel demonstrates his lack of knowledge regarding the relationship between the City of Fall River and Lizzie Borden.

In my opinion, Mr. Pickel not only does not have his thumb on the pulse of what Lizzie means to Fall River, he doesn’t have his hand on the hatchet to exhibit the True Story of Lizzie Borden.


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