Emma Borden & Lizzie’s Lock of Hair

28 Feb


scan0003Emma Borden from a sketch at her 1913 interview

Emma Lenora Borden was Lizzie Andrew Borden’s sister.  She was born March 1, 1851, and died on June 10, 1927, only 9 days after Lizzie’s demise.  Lizzie & Emma parted ways in 1905 when Emma moved out from “Maplecroft” and, so far as we know, never spoke or saw each other again.

On April 18, 1913, the Boston Herald published an extensive interview with Emma by reporter Edwin McGuire.  It was, up to that time, uprecedented that Emma spoke out publicaly.   (It has been speculated her motivation was the April 6, 1913 Boston Sunday Herald’s special edition article entitled: “Lizzie Borden 20 Years After the Tragedy” by Gertrude Stevenson).  In any event, Emma’s interview yielded us the above image.   I can’t help but wonder if she posed for this during the interview or if it was sketched from memory after the interview was over.

When thinking about collectibles in the Borden case, the focus is usually Lizzie.   But one day a couple months ago, an email came to me from a collector attempting to validate an item purportedly belonging to both at different times.

From: Robert S——
Sent: Friday, May 15, 2009 6:50 AM
To: Faye Musselman
Subject: Emma Borden Letter

Greetings from Baltimore.   I have a purported Emma Borden letter.  I am wondering if I sent you a scan of it, if you could just see  if it looks like it is real.  Nothing official, just an off the record opinion.  Thank you for your time.  Regards,

Robert S——

—– Original Message —–

From: Faye Musselman  To: Robert S—–

Sent: Friday, May 15, 2009 2:41 PM

Subject: RE: Emma Borden Letter

Hi Robert.  Thanks for writing.  Yes, feel free to scan and email it to me and I’ll render my opinion.  I am contacted quite frequently by people who have letters, books, photos, other emphera purported to belong to individuals associated with the case.  Some of those contacts are relations/descendants of principals in this most compelling piece of American folklore.  So far there have been only 3 of actually being real.  One was a brief letter Lizzie wrote about having her initials on a vanity case – and this appeared in David Rehak’s book; another was a photo of Lizzie, Emma, Andrew and Abby taken when Lizzie was about 16 years old and unfortunately the owner wished (and still wishes) to be anonymous, making me promise never to show the photo, which I haven’t; and the last was a letter written TO Lizzie from Helen Leighton in 1925, two years before Lizzie’s death, remarkable in and of itself.  This latter find is again in a private collection belonging to a very senior individual who promises to make it public “some day”.  So yes, I’d be happy to accommodate you.  And please do tell me a little something about yourself.


From: Robert S—
Sent: Friday, May 15, 2009 1:16 PM
To: Faye Musselman
Subject: Re: Emma Borden Letter

Hello Faye, thanks for the quick reply. I am an antiques dealer in Baltimore.  I also collect historical objects.  I ran across some interesting items in 2001 which were purchased by me from the grandson of a Mr. Harold Shigley. I am attaching some photos of what I have.   Mr. Shigley (now deceased),was  a prolific collector of historical items from about 1925-1990.  All he did was travel the world and collect things.  He met with relatives of famous people and bought from them personal items including locks of hair from their famous relations.  Hopefully, the photos will appear at the end of this email.  And, thanks for looking!  Regards,  Robert








Below is an actual letter written in Emma’s hand taken from Frank Spiering’s book , Lizzie, Random House, 1984.


After comparing this and other known handwriting of Emma, I responded with the following email:

From: Faye Musselman []
Sent: Monday, May 18, 2009 7:11 PM
To: ‘Robert S—-
Subject: RE: Emma Borden Letter

Ok.  Well, I’ve spent a couple days looking carefully into this.  And here are my conclusions.

Emma Borden did live in Haymarket, NH during the last years of her life.

  1. She bought the home she lived in and had it put in Connor’s name, who was her companion/caretaker.
  2. Emma did not want anyone knowing her true identity and it was discovered only by happenstance the year she died, 1927.
  3. I find it very unlikely she would grant a meeting with a collector and give him family momentos.
  4. Emma parted from Lizzie in 1905, packed up and moved out and they never spoke to each other for the rest of their lives, so far as we know.
  5. Emma DID grant an interview in to a Mr. McGuire with the Boston Sunday Post on April 13, 1913 – it was the one and only time on record she spoke of her and her sister.
  6. Emma always signed her name “Emma L. Borden”….she did not use her initials as Lizzie did.
  7. Emma’s handwriting appears in Frank Spiering’s book “Lizzie” (Random House, 1984) and it is not at all similar to the letter you have.
  8. Emma sent a postcard to Mary Brigham from Scotland in 1906….it is at the Fall River Historical Society.  Over a decade ago while doing research in the basement of the FRHS,  I held that postcard up against the letter (which the FRHS also has) in Spiering’s book.  I can confirm the handwriting on both is the same but  entirely different from the letter purported written to “Shigley”.
  9. The letter is dated November 21, 1926,.approx 18 months before Emma died.  Again, she was a total recluse, 76 years old.  Again, unlikely she would have met with this person, assuming this person even knew how to get in touch with her….even Lizzie didn’t know where her own sister lived.
  10. The letter contains elements that would have been known by any researcher into the case post 1984, and is worded with some transparency (in my humble opinion) that by the way it is crafted, would serve to give it validation…for example her out and out statement “the personal items I sold you”….hence providing an “indisputable” provenance, written in “Emma’s own hand”.   But I don’t buy it.

Most of Emma’s personal family possessions were in storage and she gave it all in her Will, to her cousin, Orrin Gardner, including family photo, family bible, etc.

The strongest point to me is the handwriting.  I’m afraid I would need much more information and you would also, to validate the authenticity of this letter.

I suspect Mr. “Higley’s” grandson was, himself, the perpetrator of this hoax.

Also, would you object to my posting them on my blog, which has a very wide readership of Lizzie scholars, to get their opinions?  We may learn more one way or the other.

Thank you,

Faye Musselman

And then the plot began to thicken….

—– Original Message —–
From: Robert S——
Sent: Tuesday, May 19, 2009 4:17 AM
Subject: Re: Emma Borden Letter
Dear Faye,  Thank you very much for your informed opinion.  I have to forward this to a Special F.B.I. in charge of my case here in Baltimore.   There are some indications that the grandson did forgeries and that is why the F.B.I. has the case.  He has got me for about $100,000 from 2001 -2006. The name on the letter FYI is actually “Shigley”.  Thanks again for the bad news.  Regards,  Robert
—– Original Message —–
From: faye
To: Robert S—-
Sent: Tuesday, May 19, 2009 9:14 AM
Subject: Re: Emma Borden Letter
I do find it curious that as an antiques dealer, as you stated, you would be bilked for such a considerable sum on a letter so easily able to be verified for its authenticity.  What a shame.

—– Original Message —–
From: Robert S—
To: faye
Sent: Tuesday, May 19, 2009 7:59 AM
Subject: Re: Emma Borden Letter

wasn’t just one item, it is a whole collection!

Curious, isn’t it?  Well, I don’t believe it, none of it.  And I’ll tell you why.  I periodically receive emails, packages, phone calls, letters from people claiming similar circumstances and in possession of something that belonged to Lizzie or others of the Borden family.  They don’t say outright they are selling rather asking my opinion as this collector did.  I call it “baiting.”  They hope I’ll get excited and offer to buy it.  There have always been predators out there that prey upon collectors of all types of items.  It’s not exclusive to Lizzie.

Anyway, I thought it was interesting enough to post about here.  Hope it serves to forewarn.   🙂



13 responses to “Emma Borden & Lizzie’s Lock of Hair

  1. Bill Richter

    November 17, 2009 at 10:59 AM

    I am a history buff and came across your article. Unfortunately, I’m not an expert on the Borden family. Just thought I should mention that there was a elderly gentleman named Harold Shigley who used to bid and buy at auctions many years ago. I first met him at an auction in Philadelphia in the 1970s at Freeman’s and talked to him at several other auctions in the NY area during that time.

    Hope this helps, Bill

    • phayemuss

      November 17, 2009 at 1:30 PM

      He was (or if alive) is a fraud. According to “Robert” in my post, he is being investigated by the FBI. I would be leery of the authenticity of any artifacts, letters, etc. acquired from Harold Shigley.

      • Mark Chauppetta

        February 20, 2013 at 8:15 AM

        Phaye I sent you an email I am a PI looking into harold Shigley can you drop me a line thx

    • Mark Chauppetta

      February 20, 2013 at 6:59 AM

      Bill my name is Mark Chauppetta I am a PI working on a TV show in the UK and the focus of my investigation is Harold Shigley. I would love to chat my number is 508-889-2882 Thanks

  2. Michelle N.

    May 24, 2010 at 5:40 PM

    Your website is fascinating. I’ve been interested in the Bordens ever since writing a term paper about the case as part of my criminal justice studies in the early 1990s. After reading the webpage, I was puzzling over a few things. During my research at the Boston Public Library, I came across excerpts from a newspaper interview the heir (Orrin Gardner) gave some time after the death of the Borden sisters. He mentioned that he had visited Emma Borden after she had become somewhat senile and partially paralyzed from a stroke a few years before she died. I haven’t seen this mentioned anywhere on the website. Considering this, it seems that she couldn’t have possibly written a letter in 1926 if she had already suffered a stroke? Also, if the Gardner family already knew about her physical condition and where she was living before she died, then how could her whereabouts have been a complete secret? Since the letter written to Higley is obviously not in Emma’s handwriting, is it possible that her caregiver could have written it?
    Is there an example of Connor’s handwriting for comparison to the Higley letter?
    Thanks, and keep up the great work!


  3. Daunt

    October 6, 2015 at 11:55 AM

    Wasn’t this the name of the individual selling locks of hair from hitler? On the show Dead famous DNA.

    • phayemuss

      October 8, 2015 at 5:13 PM

      I think so.

  4. Frances W.

    January 23, 2016 at 6:12 AM

    Great blog!
    I think Orrin Gardner claimed that Emma never participated in this interview and that the entire article was fabricated. I forgot where I saw this, but I’ll keep looking!

    • phayemuss

      January 30, 2016 at 3:02 PM

      Yes, I would definitely like to know your source for Orrin Gardner claiming Emma never held this interview. That would validate theory it was fabricated. Please keep in touch. I will email you. 🙂 Sorry I did not reply sooner but I’ve been in Hawaii. Lizzie went with me, and I’ll be writing a blog post about it soon. 🙂

  5. Maxwell Schumann

    March 10, 2016 at 3:26 PM

    It appears that Alice O’Connor wrote the above letter as dictated to her by Emma Borden. Is that correct? It is in Alice O’Connor’s bizarre slanted handwriting.

    • phayemuss

      March 10, 2016 at 9:36 PM

      I can neither confirm nor deny. 🙂

  6. Erika Mailman

    January 9, 2017 at 6:17 PM

    Pretty sad–it has 18 bids and is up to $76 now. Wish there was a way to do a “caveat emptor” notice on ebay and/or link to your blog post!

  7. Christine Verstraete

    January 15, 2017 at 2:14 PM

    I’m sure someone can come up with Jack the Ripper’s hair too!


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