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Author Archives: phayemuss

About phayemuss

If you've stumbled across this blog, I hope you will enjoy in the musings, images, and perspectives as much as I enjoy sharing them. As a writer, scholar and collector of the infamous Lizzie Borden case of Fall River, MA (1892), I have spent over 40 years collecting rare books, journals, letters, photographs and memorabilia on this most compelling case. I like to say: "Some people play golf - I do Lizzie." My first read on the case was Victoria Lincoln's A Private Disgrace, and my first visit inside 92 Second Street(when it was numbered 230)was in 1978. For the next 15 years, I traveled to Fall River doing research and meeting with long time residents. In 1992, I was a presenter at the Lizzie Borden Centennial Conference in Fall River. Since 1998, I have stayed at the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast two to three times a year, often serving as tour guide and night manager. I've lectured at University campuses, women's groups, genealogical societies, civic clubs and fraternal organizations, and libraries conducting multi-media presentations on Lizzie Borden and Fall River's history. I am the creator of the Lizzie Borden board game: "Journey to Maplecroft" and have produced several research and reference materials in both print and CD formats, some of which are available at the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast. My personal images are copyrighted and not intended for other blogs or internet sites or print publications or any commercial use without permission, however, please feel free to copy them for your own personal collection. Also, feel free to email email me at phaye@npgcable.com. -Faye Musselman Payson, AZ

“Lizzie Borden Took an Axe” – play by Garrett Heater

https://phayemuss.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/lbplay.jpg?w=500

This is such a wonderfully written play, I wish I could see it again….with the same cast from 2011.  ( The below image was swiped from Garrett’s Facebook page).

Lizzie Borden Took an Axe

Production in Fall River, MA
August 2011

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A big THANK YOU to all of our supporters on Kickstarter who pledged over $3,500 to send our cast to Fall River, MA where we performed the show twice in Lizzie’s hometown! Here we are (sans Kate Huddleston, our wonderful Abby Borden) outside the actual home where the murders occurred, which is now a delightful bed and breakfast! We were also able to view vintage Borden artifacts at the Fall River Historical Society including the blood-stained bedspread from the guest room where Abby was murdered, her severed false hair piece, the hatchet head which is still considered the murder weapon, and many authentic photos of the home and it’s infamous inhabitants. Our cast had a truly wonderful time and you helped give Covey Theatre its first official tour! Thanks again!!! 


Tattered Fabric: Fall River’s Lizzie Borden
Review by Faye Musselman

The play delivers absolutely all it says in the program.  Most all voice-overs were lifted verbatim directly from inquest, preliminary or trial testimony.  The play manages to interject the incest theory in a way that will give you pause for re-consideration if you’ve never bought into it before.

What I particularly liked was that the characters, except for Uncle John Morse, were age appropriate.  Even Carmen Viviano-Grafts bore a striking resemblance to Emma Borden from the most known photo of her.  She played Emma with just the right mixture of loyal and nurturing sister coupled with what we know to be Emma’s own fierce dislike of her stepmother.

Garrett Heater, writer/director, did a very, VERY good job interjecting the more known theories such as a possible daliance twixt Lizzie and Dr. Bowen.  The later played by Jordan Glaski was excellent in conveying his concern for Lizzie,while suspending your belief in his actually BEING a doctor.  His portrayal was consistent in the professionalism of his character but was subtle enough in keeping you guessing about their true relationship – again a credit to writing as well as delivery.

Kate Huddleston played Abby Borden and her portrayal was reminiscent of Abby’s character in the 1975 Legend of Lizzie Borden made-for-tv movie.  Often shrill, always unappealing, a person not well read on the case would believe she was just as portrayed.  Poor Abby gets a bad rap because there’s nothing to validate she was anything but kind to those girls for as long as possible.  Kate does a terrific job in showing her loyalty to her husband while still conveying her strong interest in the legacy of his money.  We can understand her, we can even sympathize with the burdens she endured, but we do not like her.  Kudos to Kate!  Not an easy role.

The primary character, of course, is Lizzie and her part was played beautifully by Katharine Gibson.  Through dialog we understand why she hated Abby, through acting and writing we are never certain as to whether or not she did it.  Her particular acting chops, I think, came out when her father wants to take her “down to the basement”, an obvious location and metaphor for sexual abuse.  We know she is 32, we know her father dominates.  But Ms. Gibson does such a wonderful job we find it totally credible that it just very well may have happened that way – thus, explaining the rage of the act, if you choose to believe Lizzie guilty.  Katharine was the obvious standout performer of the cast but I tend to think their talents fed into her own.

The set was minimalistic but seemed to be so much more because of the staging.  (Thus, less is more.)  The use of lighting was exceptional during the two periods of time of the slaying.  Bright red lighting as the backdrop to intense music, leaving much to the imagination and leaving the audience to imagine an intruder, Lizzie or an unnamed other.  Totally plausible.  Totally believable.  Strong stuff and very well executed.

My favorite part of the entire play was a monologue delivered by “Andrew” in the second act.  Played by Bernard Kaplan he speaks of “what your mother would have wanted  for you” (meaning their real mother) in a suspended state with Lizzie and Emma frozen on stage.  The writing here was absolutely terrific.  It had me riveted throughout and stayed with me for days.  In fact, as I write this, I am still haunted by it.  Beautiful writing, Garrett, and so well spoken by Mr. Kaplan. “Andrew” also did a very believable job when putting his lascivious hands on Lizzie and first coercing her, then demanding of her that she go “down to the basement”. Not an easy thing to do and it could have come out corny or clumsy but Bernard did it very well.

Beth Schmidt played Maggie with a most believable accent and was quite convincing; Susan Blumer made a good Churchill; C. J. Parsons equally as good as John Morse and Jodie Baum gave us shades of Alice we may not have thought of before.  All in all, the entire cast was excellent.  The set was excellent.  The use of lighting and music was superb, but the writing – the writing which weaves so well the many threads of this tale was absolutely exceptional!!

I’ve seen several plays on the Borden case, including musicals, including a ballet, and so far, this is now my very favorite of all I’ve seen.  I would see it again.  And again.   And if YOU haven’t – you should.  Absolutely.

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2015 in TV, Theatre & Film

 

New! Lizzie Borden Chat Page on Facebook

ajbsofa

Check this out.  Lively discussion on the photo of Andrew Borden on the sofa and preliminary autopsy.  Lizzie Andrew Borden Chat Page on Facebook.

smashedAJB

 

And while we’re at it:   WHO WORE IT BEST?

ricciaxeChristina Ricci

Candy_Montgomery_ax_murdererCandace Montgomery

lizaxe                                                      Elizabeth Montgomery

 

Adapting JFK and Lizzie Borden – Quality vs. Schlock

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I’m excited about this adaptation of Stephen King’s “11/22/63″  novel which I read last summer.  Adapted from a very creative, imaginative and riveting novel on the President Kennedy assassination typical, of King’s superlative writing, this 9 part mini series  (no premiere date yet set) should also prove to be inventive, creative, well produced, and directed (Bridget Carpenter)..  And the acting chops of James Franco makes it even more exciting to me.  So far this adaptation has all the ear marks of being of high quality.

Here we have a fictionalized account of a real life historical event that was front page news the world over.  An event so catastrophic to our country and had significant impacts the world over.  We all knew or now know of John F. Kennedy, his family, his background. Television gave us a visual play by play of his assassination.  Taking this historical event and adapting it onto a relatively new format shown on Hulu, we anticipate the liberties that will be taken but don’t much mind because the adapted plot is already cleverly contrived and promises to be well executed and produced.

Christina_Ricci_Lizzie_Borden_axe

With the “Lizzie Borden Chronlcles” we already have more than just a glimpse of what to expect from this “fictionalized”  8-part mini-series of what “could have” happened to Lizzie post Trial premiering in April.  We already know the manner in which Lizzie is presented – young, psychotic, over-sexed…..  Oh well.   Most of what constitutes this mess could be forgiven if it were a solid, quality piece of television drama.  But it is not.  Nor will it be.  Adaptation of the basic story already sold out artistic excellence for ratings.

Adapted stories, i.e., adaptations of real life events and people from history or contemporary times is as old as the early performances at the Globe Theater in Queen Elizabeth the First’s  time.  But in judging the quality of such productions we must factor in the writing, the directing, the acting – the entire production.  What separates a “good adaptation” from schlock is the end product of all these things.

CRITICIZING WHAT IS DEEMED TO BE SCHLOCK IS LESS ABOUT THE DEVIATION OR ABSENCE OF FACT THAN IT IS ABOUT A POORLY PRODUCED – ON ALL LEVELS – ADAPTATION OF AN HISTORIC EVENT OR PERSON(S).  

And any past community college drama teacher (yes, you, Stefani Koorey) – should know that.  Then again, perhaps Ms. Koorey didn’t  teach her students to differentiate between the two.

As to her assertion that it will make people want to read more about Lizzie Borden – I can only say:  “Abraham Lincoln – Vampire Hunter” hasn’t exactly caused a rush of tourists to Gettysburg nor increased interest in our 16th President.

“Lizzie Borden Had An Axe” was a schlock production giving us every reason to believe (not to mention the previews, writer, director and producers) that the new adaptation,  “The Lizzie Borden Chronicles” will be as well. By contrast, there’s a reason why The Walking Dead is the #1 TV show in the country.

Judging from the cast, director, writer, and  producers of “11-22-63″, we can be much more hopeful.

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Lizzie Borden Connection: The Cotton Web: Barnabas Olney & M.C.D. Borden – Fiction Based on Fact?

(Recycled post)

It’s a brand new year, so I’ve changed up my WordPress theme.  I may change it again.   :)

(Originally posted on 2/26/2008)

Too lazy to create something new just yet so here’s a recycled post.

No, it’s not Elizabeth Taylor in this 1960 jacket cover designed by Ray Pollak, but it could have been since Liz looked like that in 1960. Rather the cover depicts the main character, Kitty McCarran, in Barbara Hunt’s 1958, 350 page fictional story centered in Fall River and based on historical fact. It’s basically the story of a poor, 20 year old Irish immigrant beauty who arrives on the steamship Priscilla the day before Christmas in 1901, to stay with relatives.

From the book jacket: “Barnabas Olney, the leading mill owner in Fall River, was a man of deep compassion with a rigid New England conscience that set him apart from the turbulent, grasping commercial world around him. But to Olney’s son, Lucian, sensual and cushioned from the realities of life by his father’s wealth and position, nothing mattered except money and his own pleasure. It was Lucian that Kitty determined to marry. Before long, she discovered that even her iron will was powerless against a code that regarded as unthinkable marriage between an Irish immigrant mill worker and the aristocratic son of a leading mill owning family.”

There are few fiction books on Fall River or the Lizzie Borden case that I would recommend, but I recommend this one. The Cotton Web is a good read because of its basis in fact and the sharp clarity with which Barbara contrasts the lives and lifestyles of these two classes. Anyone who has ever visited Fall River and gazed upon those 5-story granite or red brick mills with their towering chimineys and bell towers, or driven down Main Street, or seen the tenement houses and imagined the weary walk back from a 12 hour work day, cannot help but to relate to the accurate descriptions she so beautifully pens within its pages.

Miss Hunt goes to the heart of the difference between the mill owners/managers and the mill workers in the second and third paragraphs below.

I can’t help but be intrigued by Miss Hunt’s notation preceding the Contents page of her book: “Although the historical events used as the background of this novel are accurate and true, the characters, the plot, and the cotton mills principally concerned in the story are all fictitious. I’m deeply indebted to my Fall River friends for their long memories, their books which they lent me so freely, and their patience in answering my many questions.”

I find it intriguing because of the similarity to a true life scandal involving Matthew Chaloner Durfee Borden’s third son, Matthew S. Borden whose life ended tragically, and the fictional Barnabas Olney’s son Lucian, whose life ended…..well, you’ll have to read the book. But it occurred to me in reading that notation that perhaps Miss Hunt’s “friends”, with their long memories, told her the true story of another of Fall River’s private disgraces concerning a Borden.

MCD Borden was born July 18, 1842 in Fall River. He had one of the best pedigree’s of all Bordens. A contemporary of Andrew Borden (Lizzie’s father), MCD was the 6th of 7 children born to Colonel Richard Borden (1785-1874) and Abby W. Durfee. He married Harriet M. Durfee in 1865 and they had 7 children, including 3 sons. MCD was the driving force that set Fall River back on a path of upward expansion. He represented the Borden-Durfee interests in New York. With the Braytons he founded the BMC Durfee Trust Company, converted the Iron Works completely to textiles and built the largest textile corporation in the United States. He was a compassionate man regarding his employees and his mills were not struck by the labor unions when his relatives’ mills were. He died May 27, 1912 in Rumson, Monmouth, New Jersey.

But he had his own scandal. His son, Matthew, had fallen in love with the daughter of a Jewish tailor, one Mildred Negbauer. Not having the kind of pedigree for a Borden to marry into, this incurred MCD’s wrath. It turned into a scandal when it was found out the impetuous Matthew had actually secretly married the “low class” Mildred. MCD stepped in and persuaded her to accept payment to have the marriage dissolved. She accepted the payment, and the young Matthew went on to graduate from his father’s alma mater, Yale University. Matthew then went on to medical school and became a doctor. However, after which, he and Mildred renewed their torrid romance. About 4 years later, they re-wed, again without his father’s blessings and the angered MCD Borden actually disinherited this youngest son. In fact, it was reported that Matthew asccepted a million dollars not to contest his father’s will. In the summer of 1914, Dr. Matthew S. Borden, while driving in Cape May County, New Jersey, was racing a locomotive to a grade crossing. The train won. Matthew lost his life, taking the lives of three others with him.

So, did the parallels in The Cotton Web find some inspiration from the tragic true life events? Was MCD Borden Barbara Hunt’s inspiration for the character of Barnabas Olney? Were some of the characteristics and experiences of Lucian Olney meant to be partially based on Matthew S. Borden? Maybe. Maybe not. But the similarities are striking.

Sources:

Rumson, Shaping a Superlative Suburb (The Making of America Series), Randall Gabrielan, Arcadia Press, p41.

The Durfee-Borden Connection, Men in Business, Robert K. Lamb essay, edited by William Miller.

 

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Is the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast Haunted?

Originally posted on Tattered Fabric: Fall River's Lizzie Borden:

The explosion of interest in the paranormal in today’s society has resulted in several “ghost hunting” investigative t.v. shows, cottage industry “entertainment mediums” who proliferate the ‘net with their blogs and websites, bona fide mediums and psychics whose best-sellers help launch their own talk shows, increase manufacture and sales of evp recording devices, increase demand for Ghost Hunter University applicants, and hundreds of bookings at the Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast. Why is this? Why now at this time, post 9-11 in this new millenium? What is it in our culture, our society, that draws people from all professions, and all religious and educational backgrounds? I don’t know, but I do know that it’s a phenomena which continues to grow as well as those who would capitalize from it. It’s the American way.

The Lizzie Borden house from the north looking south from the space the Churchill house used to…

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Posted by on January 31, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

To Haunt or Not to Haunt – The Lizzie Borden B&B

(Originally posted October 6, 2011 – See related posts at bottom).

The reputation of the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast Museum being haunted has escalated over the years due to its exposure from the many television  paranormal “entertainment” shows.  Unlike the made-for-t.v.documentaries that focus on Lizzie herself, the town of Fall River, her sister Emma and Uncle John, these ghostly presentations are served up in abundance.

Spin-off and copy cat shows recycle, repackage and replicate attempting to satisfy the masses who can’t seem to get enough.  The popular Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures are only two of the many paranormal/investigative sub genre.  But let us not forget these programs are pure theater  They ARE entertainment.  They ARE produced, programmed and broadcast by companies that are in business – and the purpose of ANY business is to make a profit. Some productions are better than others, but most are like Howdy Doody on steroids.

Before the crush of competitive paranormal and ghost hunting shows there were the lesser known features.  This early one, featuring my long time friend Martha McGinn is one I particularly like because it has many of the original employees of the B&B.  Eleanor Thibault, who tells of the “smoke” holds the distinction of having the record for the longest, continuous employee.  She is the wife of Ed Thibault who has been featured in so many documentaries playing Andrew Borden.

So now we have autumn and the Halloween season upon us.  Expect to see repackaged repeats of the haunted Lizzie Borden House.  Yech.  Is it haunted?  I don’t think so.  But if you sell it, they will come.  And they have; both production companies and those seeking the paranormal experience.

Oh, Lizzie.  You never really liked that house, but you wouldn’t believe it now.

Happy Halloween, darlin’.  And try not to let those treading footfalls around your headstone disturb you too much.  Pretend it’s Princess Summerfallwinterspring come to play Magda.  Or maybe it’s just Clarabell the Clown – wearing a hockey mask.

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Christina Ricci’s Lizzie Borden Marries Abraham Lincoln – Vampire Hunter

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If you enjoyed last January’s (2014) showing of “Lizzie Borden Had an Axe” on the Lifetime Movie Channel, did (do) you also like the series Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter?  (The latter was developed from the 2010 film  produced by Tim Burton)  Did the ALVH series make you want to –

Visit the Lincoln monument and tour Washington, DC?

Study the Civil War?

Tour Gettysburg?

Visit Springfield, Mass.?

Did you feel compelled to order some biographies on Abraham Lincoln?

Rush out to Redbox or sign up with Netflix and order some documentaries or films on Abraham Lincoln?

No?   Didn’t think so.

If you enjoyed Christina Ricci in the Lifetime Movie Channel’s version of Lizzie Borden and looking forward to her coming back as a serial killer with unleashed sexual lust, do you think it will make you want to –

Visit Fall River, MA?

Tour the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast/Museum where the actual murders of 1892 took place?

Book a room for an overnight stay at the LBB&B?

Explore the Fall River Historical Society and Oak Grove Cemetery?

Travel to Fall River and gaze upon “Maplecroft”, the real house she lived in post Trial?

Rent documentaries on the Borden case?

Purchase or rent books written on the Borden case?

Do some genealogical research on the Borden family?

Google “Lizzie Borden” for sites that deal with facts of the case?

No?  Didn’t think so.

I don’t think a single one of 8 upcoming episodes of the “Lizzie Borden Chronicles” will inspire or motivate the viewers to any of the above.  I think the series will attract those who like their television dramas sexy, bloody, and requiring a minimal amount of cerebral effort.  Now, that’s not to say it won’t have entertainment value and draw a big audience.  On the contrary.  I’m just saying it won’t bear any resemblance to the real Lizzie Borden or anything about what she did and what happened to her post Trial.   The Network and producers (including the executive producer, Ms. Ricci, who has a stake in the ratings and not just a salary)  have already verified this by stating it is all fiction not based on fact.  To this I say, then why pimp out the name “Lizzie Borden”?  Could it be just for ratings?

Clearly, the Network sold the series by capitalizing on the 4.4 million viewers from last January, knowing their odds where so much better than to come up with the same story-line with a title like, oh, say “The Lizzie Schwartz Chronicles”   That would have been a  much harder pitch.

I like what Richard Behrens, author of the fictional but highly entertaining and well written, Lizzie Borden, Girl Detective  had to say on Stefani Koorey’s Facebook page about the Christina Ricci version of Lizzie Borden:

behrens

Richard BehrensStef, its great you loved the movie. I can definitely see how someone would like it and I’ve watched it about three times so far I’m just not there with you. Although I admire a few things about it, I just don’t like it. I thought it was a misfire for many reasons. I’m not objecting because of any historical inaccuracies (I loved the off-Broadway musical which left historical accuracy behind in the dust). I do feel that it would have taken very little to patch up some of the inaccuracies, and their failure to do says a lot about their desitre to have another teen slasher film rather than make a film about Lizzie Borden. The film seems highly targeted to a specific type of audience, those who devour Jane Austen Zombie Slashing mash-ups in which the Bennett Sisters court Mr. Darcy while occassionally cracking open zombie skulls with axes. And they turned Lizzie Borden into a teenager (by choosing an acress who looks about 15 years old) rather than Montgomery who portrayed her as a woman. It was lush, slick, atmospheric and had a few good acting performances, but I thought Ricci was horrible and the absolutely worst actress for the role. I would have preferred a strong performance by a better actress. As for the upcoming TV series, I think my historical accuracy hat must prevail: it’s one thing to depict Lizzie killing her father and step-mother (she may have in real life), but depictiong her as a serial killer, that’s as dumb as depicting her a girl detective…uh…hmm. No comment.”

The above was in response to her blog post HERE.

There was a time when Stefani would have blasted to high heavens the inaccuracy of that January production.  However, I think it more than just a bit transparent she is playing it safe in deliberately not maligning – but rather praising – the production in hopes her self-declared “talking head” celebrity on the case will garner her future connections for on-screen time as a case scholar or credited consultant.  Give it a rest, Stef, ain’t gonna happen.

A production company that doesn’t even bother to shoot in the State of Massachusetts, incorporate photographs or depict what the house at 92 Second Street actually looks like, let alone utilize the expertise of the curators or the archives of the Fall River Historical Society in its first production “based on the real Lizzie Borden”  is sure as hell not going to seek out “talking heads” on the subsequent 8 episodes advertised as “fiction”.

If there’s a marriage between the Lizzie Borden Chronicles and Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter any offspring will surely be maniacal, blood-sucking, size 2 teenagers with axes for hands, pansy broaches for eyes and a passion that all people are created equal – especially programming execs on the Lifetime Movie Channel.  ;)

 
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Posted by on January 27, 2015 in Uncategorized

 
 
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