Tag Archives: unsolved crimes

Lizzie Borden’s Wallpaper

Lizzie favored the dark floral patterns of the late Victorian and early Edwardian age.  Here are images of the wallpaper she had in her front bedroom at Maplecroft and the golden colored heavy silk drapes.  I received these scraps from Kristee Bates who purchased the property over 2-1/2 years ago but has not met the city’s permit requirements to open it up to the public.  But you can view the interior via these links:

The best assemblage (dozens of never before seen) interior photos are in the excellent book, The History and Haunting of Lizzie Borden by Rebecca Pittman, a book I consider the second best non-fiction book (second only to Parallel Lives) on Lizzie and the Borden murders case.

Meanwhile, here’s what Lizzie had on her bedroom walls.




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Posted by on August 17, 2017 in Kristee Bates, Maplecroft


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New Books on Lizzie Borden Coming This Summer

Coming this summer – new books on Lizzie!  We recently had Christine Verstraete’s Lizzie Borden, Zombie Hunter, and Rebecca Pittman’s The History and Haunting of Lizzie Borden.     The former is fiction horror and the latter is non-fiction.  Christine’s book has been well received and highly praised in reviews by those of its genre, and Rebecca’s book reflects a rare discipline to combine in-depth research with a totally captivating narrative.

But now we will be treated with a few more before the end of the year and I point out the two below worthy of attention.

Sarah Schmidt’s See What I Have Done is a gothic thriller described below.

                                                                                                      Sarah Schmidt

From the May 12, 2017 Critical Eye book reviews in The Guardian:

“Sarah Schmidt’s debut novel See What I Have Done takes a new look at the case of Lizzie Borden, who in 1892 was charged with the brutal murders of her father and stepmother. “A disquieting read,” wrote Antonia Senior in the Times. “There is an ambiguity here that reflects the endless, unanswerable speculation about what really happened that day. This open-endedness will irritate some readers; I loved it.” Jake Kerridge in the Sunday Express found it “dignified and sensual, as though Henry James had decided to tell the tale.  There are multiple well-characterised narrators and a dreamlike quality to the prose that enhances rather than detracts from the horror at the heart of the story.” For the Observer’s Hannah Beckerman, “Schmidt’s portrayal of Lizzie is haunting and complex, a deeply psychological portrait that forces the reader to question their preconceptions about what women are capable of – for better and worse. Both disturbing and gripping, it is an outstanding debut novel about love, death and the lifelong repercussions of unresolved grief.”

Another book to watch for is from an excellent writer who is to be commended for her equally excellent research abilities, Erika Mailman’s The Murderer’s Maid.  Here’s the cover art for that book.

                                                                   Erika Mailman

Erika has written several books:

Check out her website HERE. 



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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… 9, and a slightly fevered brow… 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.


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New Book on Lizzie Borden Unlike Any Other


Been reading Rebecca Pittman’new book which is unlike any other Lizzie book written to date. This 826 page marvel shows deep research, surprisingly probable speculations, and is an overwhelmingly thrilling read. There is a generous number of images – many never seen before in this stunning work. In the “A New Address” chapter readers will find exclusive post-renovation interior images of “Maplecroft“, the home Lizzie lived in the entire second half of her life.

In the “Interviews” section we find a “coming together” (inside joke) of the three major Borden Blogmasters,, i.e., Shelley Dziedzic, Stefani Koorey, and moi revealing our embryonic interest in the case, etc.

I’ll be doing an in depth review when I finish reading this book and after I return from an overseas vacation.  Meanwhile, don’t wait.  Buy it!  Available at Amazon.


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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





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Lizzie Borden in Hawaii

I decided to take Lizzie Borden with me to Hawaii this year.  Aside from bringing the most inappropriate clothing and a few surprising missteps in behavior, she was a most agreeable travel companion.

I usually stay on the more touristy side of the Big Island, Kona, but this year opted for Hilo – the only place in the entire State that is still representative of old time Hawaii.


DSCN6421From the balcony of our hotel room we had a view of the cruise ships harbored in the distance.

Lizzie so enjoyed watching them sailing in and out and told me of her voyage on the Grand Tour in 1890.DSCN6657




DSCN6685  I was surprised at her exploratory nature at my friend’s 5 acre estate just north of Hilo.


“Lizzie get down from there, you’ll hurt yourself.”


“That’s better.”


One day we drove straight across the middle of the island on the new between the two volcanoes.





Lizzie was in awe of its beautiful terrain.


We lunched in Kailua Kona.



We visited the old stone church across from the Queen’s Palace…….


….where Lizzie suddenly became distressed that no one was in the pews.  I had to remind her it was Thursday.


At one point she even climbed aboard the display of the ship on which the missionaries sailed from Boston in the 1870’s.


Lizzie loved the many beaches and when she asked “Will we see more up the roadway?” , I answered “Since we’re on an island, I’d be saying Yes.”





At the famous Rainbow Falls.

LB Rainbow


“Lizzie, you’re too far out…..come in closer to shore.”


“Thank you.”






Always conscious of her deportment, I was surprised on one occasion having to say:  “Lizzie, get up off the table, you’re embarrassing yourself.”



But in all fairness, this is what occurred a little earlier.



Aside from that misstep, the trip was amazing for both Lizzie and myself.   I may even take her next year.


Aloha and Mahalo.




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Leonard Rebello is Dead!!!


Leonard Rebello, Fall River native and author of Lizzie Borden Past & Present


Leonard Rebello has been proclaimed dead by certain Lizzie Borden Forum sleuths from the Lizzie Borden Forum.  I kid you not.   It has to do with the silver cup Mr. Rebello’s states was a gift from Abby to Lizzie.

The posting LBCUPexchanges evolve from speculation that the claim is not authentic and the veracity of Rebello is questioned because he did not give a provenance to the cup, to the cup being meant for another “Lizzie” by another “Borden” and ends with the assertion that no wonder he couldn’t cite his source of the cup because he is dead!  (BTW, he is alive and well).

Now what I find excruciatingly funny is that these sleuths, laboring over layers of minutia to solve the case, fail to apply the most readily available techniques and processes for verifying facts.  For example, they could Google Mr. Rebello and look for his death certificate or newspaper reports of his unexpected passing, or even called the Fall River Herald News.  Instead, they remain fixated on the misspellings and even assert such a cup would only be presented to a person of the Jewish faith because of the decorative engraving on the bottom!

See for yourself:  I have underlined key sentences in this evolution of error.

Re: Breaks in the Pattern

Postby Curryong » Tue Mar 04, 2014 6:30 pm

Back to breaks in the pattern! In court Emma did a good, very equivocal job on her sister’s behalf didn’t she? Skate, skate over the very uncomfortable truth (as Lizzie did at the Inquest) that neither of them called Abby ‘mother,’ or that they went nowhere with her unless they had to, and that, for the last five years of Abby and Andrew’s life, the tension in the home was getting worse.

Incidentally, hadn’t Andrew stopped going to Church? I can’t remember the details but it was something to do with having to pay some tax and he objected so much he didn’t go anymore, as the man who imposed the tax was a Church elder he would have to meet every Sunday. So Andrew became a heathen!

Postby debbiediablo » Tue Mar 04, 2014 6:56 pm

Andrew seems to have worshiped at the Altar of the Almighty Dollar.

Postby Mara » Wed Mar 05, 2014 10:00 pm

Sorry, Curryong, my trail stopped there! I wasn’t ab;e to determine what a “youth cup” was used for. At first, I thought maybe a punch cup of some sort. I don’t know. I’m swamped with work right now, but I’ll put this on my list for something fun to do this weekend. 🙂

Postby Curryong » Thu Mar 06, 2014 12:01 am

I’ll look forward to it! It sound like the sort of thing that might be handed over, unengraved, of course, as a Sunday School prize, or something of that sort. I got the book ‘What Katy Did’ once, but a cup sounds nicer!

Postby PossumPie » Thu Mar 06, 2014 6:39 am

I still think we need to exercise caution. First it could be another Lizzie and Abbie. Leonard Rebello who presented the cup (as far as I can tell) never proves beyond reasonable doubt that it is BORDEN. 1868 date strengthens the claim, BUT it is easily added later, or the whole engraving may be forged. Most of the time items like this come with a letter of authenticity, often tracing who owned it, showing a relationship to the original owner. If Rebello could show HOW the current owner came to be in possession of it, I would be less skeptical. Either way, it’s authenticity does nothing for the case.

Postby Curryong » Thu Mar 06, 2014 6:54 am

Isn’t Mr Rebello dead, or have I got hold of the wrong end of the stick? I thought he died some time ago.

Postby Mara » Thu Mar 06, 2014 5:09 pm

The only youth/child cups I’ve been able to find that have a grapevine or grapes motif are intended for Jewish children’s use at the formal Shabbat meal celebrated weekly in observant homes, or for the special Passover Seder. (Children are given watered down wine.)

Further enlightening us along Jewish traditional lines, “Abbie” can be a Hebrew name, either on its own or short for Abigail (which was the name of one of King David’s wives). It can also be a male Hebrew nickname (think Abbie Hoffman). Some of you might remember “Abie’s Irish Rose,” about a cross-cultural romance.

So I think this cup was a gift to a Jewish young lady/girl named Lizzie by a family friend, beau or sibling named Abbie in a Jewish household in 1868, rather than from our Abby to our Lizzie.

Postby Curryong » Thu Mar 06, 2014 5:19 pm

Wonderful work, Mara! Well done! So the cup (probably) isn’t our Lizzie’s after all. No wonder Rebello couldn’t answer questions about the provenance. There wasn’t any!

By the way, Mara, I posted a link with information on your favourite girl, (Nance,) on the ‘Life after Murder’ link!

Postby Mara » Thu Mar 06, 2014 7:04 pm

I see that, Curryong, thank you!

Postby twinsrwe » Thu Mar 06, 2014 9:45 pm

Good job, Mara! I agree with you; I think this cup was a gift to a another Lizzie, from another Abbie. If our Lizzie disliked Abby as much as we are led to believe, then I highly doubt she would have kept the cup for sentimental reasons.

Postby Catbooks » Fri Mar 07, 2014 11:40 am

i didn’t know mr. rebello had died 😦

he was so meticulous about being accurate, it surprises me he’d include the cup in his book if there wasn’t good reason to think it was lizzie’s. but i thought it odd that in the other thread apparently people had or were going to contact him about it, and then nothing more was said.

the only thing i can think of is perhaps the owner or donor of the cup was absolutely convinced it really was lizzie’s, and mr. rebello didn’t want to offend him or her, so included the photo in the book. without a caption, just the photo itself.

thanks for all of your detective work, mara 🙂

Postby PossumPie » Fri Mar 07, 2014 1:12 pm

As I said earlier, for something that vague (two first names) to be included in the book, one would almost have to be able to trace it’s ownership back. If we were told that it came from the grandson of a known friend of Lizzie, THEN we could be more sure. But a cup without a “pedigree” is meaningless.


What are the odds a woman named Abby would be giving a silver cup to both a Lizzie AND an Emma in 1868?  In any case, I know Mr. Rebello.  I’ve known him for almost 20 years.  I’ve been to his home.  He showed me the cup.  Mr. Rebello is an expert on the case, fastidious, generous, and completely honest.  He did not cite his source for the cup – which he owns – as it was a condition of anonymity by the person from whom it was acquired.  (Much like items that have been donated to the Fall River Historical Society).

There is a unique dynamic intrinsic to internet forums.  Cliques are formed. The desire and need to be included in the clique makes one conform to opinions of the others, even to the extent of making judgements of others without all known and available facts.  It reminds me of high school.
Within the irony is the humor.  It is ironic the people posting are supposed to be “investigating” the Borden case.  The humor is that they would appear to share the same gene pool as Inspector Clouseau.  😉


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