“You can’t chop your poppa up in Massachusetts”: Visiting Lizzie Borden’s House

I don’t think Lizzie Borden ever worked a day in her life, but we decided to spend some time on Labor Day Weekend touring her home in Fall River, Massachusetts.

The furniture in the house isn’t original, but other details, like the woodwork and the radiators, are. Here is some sheet music (obviously not original) on an old spinet, beneath a portrait of Lizzie looking like she’s staring at a ghost:

I can play that music!

Here’s my beloved wife happily clutching a fake ax on the the spot where Lizzie’s father was hacked to death while he napped.

Here’s the view Lizzie and the maid Bridget had into the room where Lizzie’s mother lay on the floor after having been hacked to death earlier that hot August morning:

The tour was fine — the guide was knowledgeable and delivered the required corny jokes pretty well. So, whodunnit? (I read a book about the case in addition to taking the tour, so I’m an expert.) Lizzie had motive/means/opportunity. She almost certainly lied to the police about some things. She acted oddly in the days before the murders. Whoever did it almost certainly had easy access to the house, since the murder weapon was found hidden in the basement. (We know it was the murder weapon because the blade fit perfectly into the wounds. The police demonstrated this at the trial by producing Mr. Borden’s skull and showing the fit, causing Lizzie to faint.) But…

Lizzie was an exemplary citizen. She learned Mandarin so she could teach Sunday school to immigrant Chinese children. She was active in the temperance association. She founded the Animal Rescue League of Fall River. Also, the motive is a bit fuzzy, as is the opportunity, given the timeline of the events that morning and the fact that the maid was working in the house. It’s not at all obvious to me that the jury got it wrong when they acquitted her after deliberating 90 minutes.

I dunno. I probably need to read some more books.

4 thoughts on ““You can’t chop your poppa up in Massachusetts”: Visiting Lizzie Borden’s House

  1. Fall River Legend is a striking ballet by Agnes DeMille to original music by Morton Gould. Louise and I saw it many times at ABT in New York. DeMille changed the outcome to a guilty verdict. The story goes that Gould claimed he couldn’t write “acquittal” music.

    P.S. I’m not sure being active in the local temperance association is exculpatory.

    P.P.S. Your lovely wife looks a bit too happy gripping that axe.


  2. Of course the temperance association is exculpatory. A touch naive, maybe even wrong-headed, but definitely exculpatory.
    When are you going to read more books? Or do… something? When I come to your blog I expect new insights and amusement, along with the chance to spot any writing mistakes. Not the same old entry.
    One of your cold-eyed editors.


  3. It was soap poisoning. No, wait…it was the mutton. I don’t blame her, being served the same rotting meal over and over in that heat with no icebox.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.