RSS

Category Archives: Urban Legends in the Lizzie Borden Case

Finding the source to the fictitious legends surrounding this case.

Lizzie Borden’s Dying Act of Kindness

 (Originally published in June 1st, 2010)

https://phayemuss.files.wordpress.com/2010/06/image055.jpg?w=515&h=412

 

Lizzie Borden died 84 years ago today.  She died at 8:30 pm on June 1, 1927  (a Wednesday) in her home in Fall River, MA.  She had been lingering all day, surrounded by her chauffeur and two servants:  Ernest Terry, Ellen Miller, and Florence Pemberton.  There were others who came to the house as well.

The Reverend Cleveland from the nearby Church of Ascension – a few doors down from Central Congregational  Church on Rock Street – would execute the wishes Lizzie had written out on March 31, 1919.   Vida Turner would come in and be instructed to sing “My Ain’ Country”, tell no one she had been there and then leave immediately.

The reporting a few days later of Lizzie’s Will was regional front page news and appeared in many newspapers across the country recounting the horrific hatchet murders of August 4, 1892, and Lizzie’s subsequent arrest, trial and acquittal.

Her Will was probated for 6 years with four separate Probate Court Accountings submitted by the executor of her estate, Charles Clarke Cook (as shown below from Men in Progress-1896):

Scan_Pic0008 (2)                                     Photo credit (cropped):  Fall River Herald News

 

Probate of Lizzie’s Will.

Proceeding Inclusive Dates Held
1st Accounting June 24, 1927 – May 1, 1929 October 2, 1931(Fall River)
2nd Accounting May 2, 1929 – Jan. 1, 1932 February 17, 1933(Taunton)
3rd (Substituted)Accounting Jan.1, 1932 – Nov. 28, 1932 February 17, 1933(Taunton)
4th FinalAccounting Nov. 28, 1932 – March 3, 1933 March 24, 1933(Attleboro)

The primary reason for the long probate was Mr. Cook’s failure to include the house/property at 328 French Street known as the “Henry House” which was situated directly east of “Maplecroft”.

Mr. Cook claimed the house was his as a gift from Lizzie.   However, Grace Hartley Howe and Helen Leighton, the two major legatees in Lizzie’s Will, were having none of it.  They claimed fraud and the matter went to court – Probate Court – in several sessions.   The testimony in those proceedings are rich in insight into Lizzie’s character as gleamed from those who testified, including Winifred F. French, who was to receive $5,000 as a bequest from Lizzie.  What the witnesses on behalf of Grace & Helen had to say was insightful, but the most provacative was this:

So here we have Lizzie dying and she knows she is about to die but what is on her mind?  She is remembering her promise to Ernest Terry to pay for his house repairs and tells him to write a blank check, which she signs and which he takes to the bank.  She may or may not have remembered she left him and his wife money in her will, but she wanted this to be extra.   A blank check – reluctantly approved by Cook, but cashed at the bank.    And Cook, dear man, tried to convince Mr. Terry that that check of $2,500 was to be considered part of the $3,000 cash bequest from Lizzie.  What a guy.

Ultimately the court ruled in favor of Helen & Grace and the proceeds from the sale of the property was considered a part of Lizzie’s estate.  Although he was judged not guilty of fraud or had bad faith in carrying out the terms of the Will, Judge Mayhew R. Hitch of the Probate Court made Cook accountable for that $10,000 (which was the amount he had sold it for but not yet pocketed) plus interest.   Cook made this right in the Final Accounting.  I find it amusing that he also included the cost of services from the attorney who represented him, Arthur E. Seagrave.  The court approved it.  His submittal of the heating bill for the Maplecroft garage where he parked his car, however, was not approved.  (Good try but too bad, Charlie).

So as she lay dying on this day 83 years ago, Lizzie Andrew Borden made no deathbed confession (and had she, I probably wouldn’t be writing this blog) but she was focused on a potential financial hardship to her faithful driver and friend, Ernest Terry.   Her last documented act was to issue a blank check.

Yes, there were many acts of kindness that Lizzie Borden did throughout her life, particularly the second half of her life when she had the money to use as she wanted.  We will most likely read more about them in Parallel Lives and perhaps finally see a photograph of Ernest Terry (I’ve never seen one and the book is to have well over 500 photographs – yep, you read that right).

I would like say, on this day:  “Rest in peace, Lizzie Borden.”

But we all know that ain’t gonna happen.

                                                                                             xxx

 

Note:  Here’s the full article to that posted above as well as the follow -up explaining Charles Cook being exonerated of any fraud in that pesky purchase and sale of the Henry House next door to Maplecroft.  (Catherine MacFarland, btw, mentioned in this article, was also a beneficiary in Lizzie’s Will.)

Added Note:  More information on Charles C. Cook can be found HERE   (Representative Men and Old Families) and from Men in Progress 1896 HERE.

Advertisements
 

“We Love You, Lizzie – Oh, Yes We Do!”

(Originally posted in 2006)

(Think “We Love You, Conrad” from the movie Bye Bye Birdie.)

There was a great deal of sympathy and support for Lizzie Borden from the time of the murders to the time of her Trial – particularly during the time she was incarcerated at the ivy-covered Taunton Jail until June 3, 1893, when she was transfered to the New Bedford Jail.

While at the Taunton Jail, she gained sympathy from the “sob sister” style reporting of her jailhouse interview with Mrs. McGuire which appeared in print on September 20, 1892. In that interview Lizzie tells her of the flood of letters she has received from kind supporters. (Where ARE they? And who has any she may have written back to?)

Then on October 10th, the “Trickey-McHenry” journalistic fiasco by the Boston Globe so promptly retracted with apologies to Lizzie (and John Morse) garnered her more of the “that poor girl” image.

The papers reported the Government had a weak case but the critical revelation of the dress burning incident told by Alice Russell when the Grand Jury reconvened on December 1, 1893, was not published.

By April 1st, 1893, Lizzie was already a popular icon regardless of one’s belief in her guilt or innocence. Her popularity was evidenced by her name receiving the most write-ins for the below contest. The contest was for 5 tickets to the Chicago World’s Fair in 5 specific categories: (1) School Teacher, (2) Policeman, Letter Carrier or Fireman, (3) Mechanic or Gentleman Clerk, (4) Mill Hand, and (5) Lady Clerk – all to be residents of New Bedford. One simply had to cut out the coupon and write the name of the person they felt the most popular and designate which occupation.

Lizzie, a Fall River resident, won hands down for most popular “School Teacher”. Lizzie courteously rejected hers suggesting it be given to another, as it was. (It is believed, however, Lizzie subsequently attended the Columbian Exhibition towards its end run after her acquittal.)

How Lizzie must have relished in the glow of all this popularity. She had never been popular in school and so much wanted to be accepted among her peers. She played her “awful confinement” to the hilt.

Then, exactly one month later, on May 1st, 1893, there was the trumpeting of an “outraged” Mary Livermore at the police for their abuse and sheer adacity to even suspect this virginal Sunday school teacher who was the younger daughter of her long deceased friend, Sarah Morse Borden. And in this same article (below) we learn that even Emma received many letters of sympathy and support.

Lizzie’s Trial would begin on June 5th. She was still perceived as a victim. Her Inquest Testimony was disallowed. Her attempt to buy prussic acid was disallowed. She was acquitted. She was loved. “We love you, Lizzie Borden.”

Well, maybe not so much later.

By the way, just WHERE ARE all those letters Emma and Lizzie received, let alone those constituting their responses if they did correspond back? Emma, I would think, would have disposed of them. They certainly haven’t surfaced in the personal possessions she left Orrin Gardner. Lizzie, on the other hand, may have kept hers. If she did keep them, I have an idea where they might be. She was odd like that. For example, she had no fondness for Abby but she held on to that silver cup Abby gave her all her life.

I think Lizzie would have held on to the mementos that validated her popularity or when she felt loved.

So….

altogether now: “We Love You, Lizzie – Oh, Yes We Do!”

Advertisements
 

McWHIRR’S DEPT. STORE – WHERE LIZZIE WENT A-THIEVING

RECYCLED FROM JULY 27, 2014  and FROM ORIGINAL IN 2008

Mea Culpa Notice:  I was in error. McWhirr’s Dept Store, as shown here was not inside the Cherry & Webb Building.   It was a separate structure subsequently torn down and another building in its place.  The Cherry & Webb building, however still stands as indicated below.

In Lizzie’s day this was McWhirr’s Department Store, an upscale department store where anybody who was anybody shopped. Shown in this photograph, the name “McWhirr” can be made out on the top of the white building in the background.

The Cherry and Webb Building (so stated on the front of the building) is located at 139 South Main and is now the UMASS-Dartmouth Professional and Continuing Education Center a learning center for professionals, night students and other students. On the ground floor is the Café Arpeggio. Bristol Community College has recently leased space for special courses for special needs. Baker Books, once there on the ground floor in April 2007, gone by August 2007. Darnit.

Previously “one of the city’s most underutilized downtown structures”, Mayor Lambert is credited with its current public use.When I spoke to security, building maintenance technicians, administrators and students, one of the things I learned is that this facility is being used to assist with GED education for a number of the nearly 900 employees who lost their jobs by the closing of Quaker Fabric. I also learned that the only interior “original” to this building is the grand staircase shown below.

There was a time when the building was known to all Fall Riverites as “McWhirr’s”. Imagine Lizzie in her blue India silk bengaline inside this store moving about amongst the crowd. Imagine Lizzie taking a five fingered discount of oh, say, a pansy broach and sliding it up inside her so conveniently fitted gloved hand. Then, with a casual grace and the deportment of “a Borden” strolling towards this staircase and ascending to the second floor.

Without batting an eye nor turning her head to see if she’s being followed, she would maintain a steady but lady-like gait as she faked interest in nearby displays of hats, porcelain figurines, and petite carved bottles of French perfume. With a skill only acquired from experience, she would be diligently aware of any store employee watching her from a near distance.

Her heart beating to the exhiliarating thrill of this familiar challenge and satisfied no one was following, she would turn back to the stairway and begin her descent, one lady-like step at a time. Below her she would survey the vast array of glass table top and standing shelved display cases, filled with products from near and abroad. Men, women and children busy shopping, strolling and admiring all the goods. Busy store clerks packaging purchases and preparing sales slips. Busy, busy, busy. She would survey it all, calmly determined in her objective.

One gloved hand on the railing, the other modestly angled upright, her fashionable cloth purse looped over it. Posture perfect, a lady of some stature, she would have looked straight ahead, a seemingly blank stare masking a steeled will. She would descend, slowly, each step measured with her resolve and comforted in the fact her broach not the least bit detected as it nestled securely inside her modestly priced but exquisitely stitched leather glove.

Pausing at the bottom step, brazenly she would hold up that gloved hand with its secret deposit and there she would act as if only adjusting the fitting. Only a moment, but pause enough to quickly ascertain once more with a quick scan if any authoritative and watchful eyes were upon her. They are not. Only a fresh-face counter girl who looks directly at her and says: “Good morning, Miss Borden”. She would respond with a tilt of the head, a forced, kindly smile, and she would begin her walk towards the front door. A slight turn to the left and she would be on her path, curving here, curving there passing the cases, dodging a small child, brushing skirts against other ladies. Closer, each step closer. The front door now in sight.

Only 32 paces,…. now 20, and the heartbeat accelerates,….. now 12, and the breathing more pronounced…..now 9, and a slightly fevered brow…..now 7 and a quivering chin….the uniformed doorman sees her approach… now 2 steps, two steps only as the doorman pulls upon the door and tips his hat…the step across the threshold…, now daylight. No arm upon hers. No hand upon her shoulder. Big exhale. The quivering chin ceases to quiver, the pulse rate subsides, the fevered brow cools in the bright sun. A liberating wave of relief engulfs her. She feels…. a profound sense of…..special achievement by way of genetic entitlement.

Actually, considering the fashions of the day, forget the broach. She could have concealed a Virginia ham under those skirts. And many of the “ladies who went a-thieving”, in fact, did just that. But not at McWhirr’s.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Regarding that Chloe Sivigny-Kristen Stewart Film on Lizzie Borden

Prepare yourself for another grossly fictitious telling of the Lizzie Borden story – this one showing her as having a lesbian affair with the maid, Bridget Sullivan.  Read about it HERE.

Aside from the two female stars, everyone else now attached to the project are pretty much unknowns.  Sadly, the work of the Director tells us a lot about the genre and qualilty of this yet to be produced film.

When, oh, when will we ever have a true depiction of this most compelling case?

Sigh.  And so it goes.

Meanwhile, enjoy this “Then and Now” image depicting the Sitting Room at the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast Museum in Fall River.

SOFA LBBphoto credit Joey Razda

 

 

 

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

REVIEW – CHRISTINA RICCI AND THE LIZZIE BORDEN CHRONICLES

LBC

On April 2, three days before the Lizzie Borden Chronicles aired, I posted this on my Facebook “Lizzie Borden Chat Page”:

“The Lizzie Borden Chronicles is the new Sharknado. It will have as much to do with the post Trial life of Lizzie Borden as Sharknado has to do with marine biology. Yet their common denominator is ratings. And high ratings create sequels. They are both comedic, tongue in cheek, fraught with blood and guts and appeal to those that favor this genre.

shark

“I concede the Chronicles may have a little entertainment edge because of its campy soundtrack and the sexual component of Christina Ricci’s portrayal of the much maligned Lizzie Borden. I plan to watch it, not only to credibly critique afterwards but hope to see Ricci fly through the air above Fall River, chain saw in hand, slicing off the bell towers of all those long abandoned mills– with Nine Inch Nails playing in the background of course. It could happen.”

******************************

I didn’t get around to watching it until late Monday afternoon, and posting a Review has not been a priority in my life.  Even when Deborah Allard-Dion, resident writer of all things Lizzie for the Fall River Herald, contacted me for what I thought I could not bring myself to respond right away.  However, I now post my impressions.

Nielson ratings showed it to garner only 1.1 million viewers – pretty much at the bottom of the heep for the week’s ratings of shows ending on that Sunday night.

The first two episodes were sent out to TV critics to review and after last Sunday’s (April 5, 2015) airing of the first episode, the general consensus is that it should get the axe.  The Hollywood Reporter calls it “unexceptional trash”.

Introducing real name characters who died prior to the 1892 murders (William Almy) and yet are resurrected as some avaristic business partner who “wants it all”.  So far fetched I moaned out loud “Kill me quick, Bill.”

I didn’t expect Christina to play the role of Lizzie Borden with the nuances of a Meryl Streep but I also did not expect her to go so far off the rails.  It was like Anna Nichol Smith’s stupor meets Baby Jane Hudson’s vengeance. Her portrayal reminded of Dorothy Parker’s famous one-liner review of Tallulah Bankhead, “Her acting ran the gamut of A to B.” 

We can at least feel sorry for the real life Anna Nichol Smith and the fictional Baby Jane.  We can even find a way to rationalize T.V. “Dexter’s” acts has having some social redemption.  But with Ricci’s Lizzie?  Not so much.  She plays her as  totally self-serving for the sake of self preservation.  Not an attractive quality we  want to see in our Villains.

And the music?   More appropriate would have been Miley Cyrus’ “I came in like a Wrecking Ball”.   What?  No money budgeted for Billboard Top 100 royalties? Seems the budget was blown on costumes, that big orange house (supposedly “Mapelcroft”) and all the TV promos to generate excitement for the first episode.

Casting name/face actors, i.e., Jonathan Banks fresh off Breaking Bad and appearing regularly on Better Call Saul, is just a ploy to get people to watch.  He’s probably gonna be killed before Episode 3.

There was no rhythm or pace to sustain any suspense or intrigue – more like Scattershot and Soundblaster, symbolically making our eyes and ears bleed.

I doubt it will make much of an impact on driving tourism to Fall River or the B&B certainly not like the notoriety of ghost-hunting and paranormal investigations shows have done in the past. Had they used Fall River backgrounds/locations or even 92 Second Street exteriors as POV’s it would have enticed viewers and resonated because it would be showing the actual location. People like to visit places, occupy the same space in a different time, where actual history or something infamous took place.  They like to ooooh and awww and be simultaneously thrilled and reflective about being there.  But I imagine there may be people going up and down Second Street in Fall River looking for a blue and white house. or driving up and down French Street looking for an orange mansion.

Richard Behrens, author of the smartly written series Lizzie Borden Girl Detective, commented about thegIRL dETECTIVE program with this added post script:  “P.S. You are trying to tell me that the police searched the Borden house and didn’t find the dead baby in the basement? And when they searched the barn looking for Billy Borden, they didn’t climb up the ladder to the second floor? There were gaps in the plot logic you could park your car in.”

The Serious Issue of Why I’m So Against This Series

The primary reason I dislike this series is not so much for its lack or even a feeble attempt at any historical accuracy whatsoever, but the irreputable harm the Lifetime Channel has already done to the factual Lizzie Borden.  Now another new generation who Tweet more than they read believe the characterization of Lizzie Borden – to a considerable extent anyway – as is portrayed.

All those goofy legends and misinformation have been further imbedded in the uneducated viewing public’s mind. As Michael Martins said, the FRHS will be further challenged in correcting the misconceptions and false perceptions of the case – as will the staff at the B&B. As to the LB Chronicles as entertainment value – I enjoyed Sharknado more. As to any artistic quality of the series, I think American Horror Story and Bates Motel do a better job.

Lizzie has long been portrayed as a one dimensional psycho sociopath wielding a bloody axe.  She has been cemented in the minds of the general public via that inaccurate quatrain; she has been depicted in hundreds of online images so far removed from the actual Lizzie when there is an abundance of easily accessible sources from which to learn the truth about this woman.  Lifetime Movie Channel and the Lizzie Borden Chronicles can only add fodder to further regurgitations of gross misiniformation.

I want people to know the real Lizzie Borden and the best book on that subject is the Fall River Historical Society’s Parallel Lives – A Social History of Lizzie A. Borden and Her Fall River.

I want the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast Museum to stay in business, not just because its the best bang for the buck of any B&B, but because people can occupy the same space where Lizzie lived and reflect upon how her life at the time she lived there.  The furniture and fixtures are immaculately maintained and so closely resemble how the rooms were in Lizzie’s time that it invites your imagination to transport yourself to that era.

I would love for people to explore the Fall River Historical Society about the world Lizzie lived in and her town’s history.  They have the world’s largest collection of Lizzie Borden related material, including objects of evidence presented at her Trial. The  staff will now have to exert an even greater effort in correcting all the “wrongs” shown in the Lizzie Borden Chronicles to all those that call and visit with their questions based on what they’ve seen in the series.

On Sunday evening last, same day the Chronicles aired, person(s) unknown defaced the Andrew J. Borden monument.  While understandable outrage has been expressed, no one has remarked on the subliminal symmetry represented here.  By that I mean here you have a grotesque “artistic” expression plastered over the “Borden family”.  The same could be said for the series, in my opinion.

graffiti

Below is the monument a few days after the story broke in the Fall River Herald News. ” Blast Off Surface Restoration, a Fall River company that specializes in coating removal, including headstone cleaning.  Company owner Jeremy Larkin cleaned up the Borden monument at no cost to Oak Grove Cemetery” reported Deborah Allard Dion..

graffiti2

If this were a forgiving review I would like to think of the cleaning of the monument as further symbolism — sort of  like wiping the slate clean of a dismal Episode 1, giving us hope for Episode 2..    Not likely.  Not very likely at all.


 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Much Out of Whack With The Lizzie Borden Chronicles

DSCN4562

Get a jar and label it “The Lizzie Borden Chronicles – Things That Could Not Have POSSIBLY Happened After Her Trial.” The first nugget to put in that jar is illustrated above from my Historic Timeline book.  The fact William Almy portrayed by John Heard in tonight’s airing of The Lizzie Borden Chronicles (I live on the Pacific Coast so it hasn’t been broadcast yet) died in 1885, Lizzie could NOT HAVE POSSIBLY had any relations, business or otherwise, with him in her post-Trial life.  That’s just for starters.  When historical fiction touted as “what could have happened” transcends all possibilities of actually happening it not only trips the light fantastic it fantastically falls on its face.

I expect this series to be campy, cheesy, titillating, musically creative, fraught with gross misinformation, and absolutely nothing to do with Lizzie Borden at ANY point of her life.

It’s traditional for production companies and networks to give out copies of early episodes to TV critics so they can get a jump on writing their reviews.  This has been done in the case of the LBC and critics are repeatedly using phrases such as “female serial killer”, “crazed murderess”, “axe murderess” and the like.  The common thread of many of the reviews is the transparency that the writers themselves know very little of the case.  Worse yet, they write with a false knowledge of previous misinformation that they regurgitate as fact.  I have found only one review with any merit and that is Caitlin Gallager’s piece posted today.  It SHOULD BE READ and can be read HERE.

For those viewers who have Googled Lizzie Borden or The Lizzie Borden Chronicles and landed on this blog, I’m going to post excerpts from my Timeline blog book to help put things in focus.   It was created to provide significant events in Lizzie’s life, but also the history of Fall River and significant events regionally, nationally and world wide.  It is within this focus we get a good view of what was happening in the town and in the world in which she lived. As you watch The Sharknado Chronicles, excuse me – the Lizzie Borden Chronicles – keep in mind what could NOT possibly have happened.

I still maintain the series should have been called The Lizzie Schwartz Chronicles, but who ever heard that inaccurate quatrain “Lizzie Scwartz took an axe….”  Hence, Lifetime’s pimping out of Lizzie Borden. DSCN4561DSCN4546 DSCN4551 DSCN4553DSCN4554 DSCN4559

DSCN4564

The above is nearly 200 pages and loaded with essays and blog posts mostly based on historical fact and a generous serving of my special brand of humor.  Available at the Fall River Historical Society Gift Shop. I’ll have more nuggets after I have a chance to view the first episode myself – but after Mad Men.   But hey, I’m confident you’re gonna need a bigger jar.  😉

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

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.

About these ads

Occasionally, some of your visitors may see an advertisement here.

Tell me more | Dismiss this message

Edit

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,