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  • Borden Case Mysteries * Top Ten

    https://jttownsend.com/2015/09/20/jt...ase-mysteries/

    JT’S Top 10 Lizzie Borden Case Mysteries

    Even when you know Lizzie was the killer, plenty of mystery remains in the Borden case. I speculate about each item below – but the answers remain elusive.
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  • #2
    The handleless hatchet does not have blood stains. Modern experts say there is NO way blood could have been so thoroughly removed from the wood handle, that it would be undetectable.

    There is also indication the hatchet used was brand new due to fine slivers of gilt found in the wounds of Mrs. Borden. The handleless hatchet, so far as I know, was not new.

    Therefore the murder weapon was not found but that doesn't mean a lot since the police searches were sloppy and the major efforts were applied days after the crime.

    Concerning the boy with the note coming to the door, Mrs. Borden's neice, "Little Abby" said in an interview many years later, that she was supposed to stay at the Borden household on that fatal day, while her family went to a picnic. For reasons unknown Little Abby stayed with another relative. Little Abby had a small brother who could have delivered a message, perhaps not a note. But then it is asked why no one came forward to validate this. My opinion is this segment of family hated Lizzie so much that they would not life a finger to help her.

    A bigger mystery to me is, the total time between the murder of Mr. Borden and Lizzie calling to the maid Bridget, is at maximum about 10 minutes and maybe as little as five. If Lizzie did it, didn't she need a little more time to collect herself, change clothes, wash her hands real good, or something? Whoever killed Mr. Borden would not have been covered with blood but Lizzie was supposedly searched carefully, including her hair, and there was not a speck of blood found.

    I am one who does not believe Lizzie wielded the hatchet. Was she innocent or did she know what was going on? Did she protect someone who did it? Did she collude with someone to do it? If so, why? It is POSSIBLE she was ignorant of what was happening. If she was in the basement at the proper times it could explain some things.
    The wickedness of the world is the dream of the plague.~~Voynich Manuscript

    Comment


    • #3
      My memory on this is a little vague but wasn't there speculation that the dress that was worn during the murders and the hatched handle were burned in the stove inside the house? IIRC there was some eyebrows raised about why there would be a need to have a fire in the sweltering conditions at Fall River during that time. Certainly a valid question!

      Cheers,
      Adam.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Adam Went View Post
        My memory on this is a little vague but wasn't there speculation that the dress that was worn during the murders and the hatched handle were burned in the stove inside the house? IIRC there was some eyebrows raised about why there would be a need to have a fire in the sweltering conditions at Fall River during that time. Certainly a valid question!

        Cheers,
        Adam.
        The only way to have cooked food, coffee or anything was to have a fire in the wood stove. Coffee, johnny cakes and heated mutton broth were served for breakfast and the fire was allowed to die down.

        Lizzie had a small ironing board set up on the dining room table and was ironing handkerchiefs just before her father arrived home. The fire had died down too much to heat the flat irons and she seems to have tried to encourage the fire to come back to life. The maid Bridget would have begun cooking lunch about 11:30 am.


        There was said to be something like a stick in the firebox but it was a wood stove so that might not be too odd. Considering the poor police investigation I see no reason why the whole hatchet could not be burned in the stove and the metal discarded. However that is, the handleless hatchet is said not to have blood stains and has been tested with modern equipment.


        Lizzie burned a dress several days after the murders. Her sister and friend Alice Russell were present. She did not try to hide what she was doing. She claimed the dress was stained with paint and the fabric had not worn well anyway. Nothing was ever simply discarded in the household so this was found to be way out of character and incriminating. It was a peculiar act but if it was a bloodstained dress why was it torn and burned when anyone other than the sister could observe?
        The wickedness of the world is the dream of the plague.~~Voynich Manuscript

        Comment


        • #5
          Hi Anna,

          Thanks for that.

          Is this the same hatched head that was placed in a box and was supposed to have been smeared over with ash from a fire in order to give it an older, more unused appearance to match the other dusty equipment there? Do forgive my vagueness, it's been a while since i've read the book.

          Re the burning of the dress, perhaps she went the other way with it and figured that if others saw her burning the dress, it would appear as if she had nothing to hide? Whereas if she had tried to disposed of it discreetly and had been found out it would have looked much more suspicious?

          Cheers,
          Adam.

          Comment


          • #6
            Yes, I think a dress with paint on it would have been cut up and put in the cleaning rag box.

            The biggest mystery for me is why the jury bought the b.s. She would not have been the first woman hanged in America-not by a large measure.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Adam Went View Post
              Hi Anna,

              Thanks for that.

              Is this the same hatched head that was placed in a box and was supposed to have been smeared over with ash from a fire in order to give it an older, more unused appearance to match the other dusty equipment there? Do forgive my vagueness, it's been a while since i've read the book.

              Re the burning of the dress, perhaps she went the other way with it and figured that if others saw her burning the dress, it would appear as if she had nothing to hide? Whereas if she had tried to disposed of it discreetly and had been found out it would have looked much more suspicious?

              Cheers,
              Adam.
              Yes, Adam, the hatchet head is as you describe. It was found on a shelf and appeared to have been deliberately coated with ash, rather than there having been an accumulation of dust over time.

              The mystery for me with this hatchet head is that modern techniques do not find blood soaked into the wooden handle and it has been said there is/was NO way for Lizzie or anyone to completely remove blood that would have soaked deeply into wood.

              In addition, there were fine bits of gilt found when Mrs. Borden's head was...uh....boiled. (There isn't a delicate way to put it.) These fine particles of gilt indicated the hatchet used may have been new as new hatchet blades were, at least sometimes, coated with gilt.

              The dress incident was indeed peculiar. Some have suggested Lizzie felt liberated with the passing of her thrifty father and she could burn an old dress rather than use it for rags. Her sister Emma testified that SHE had suggested Lizzie get rid of "the old thing." The sister Emma, to me, is very interesting but she was 15 miles away when the murders happened.

              Lizzie was on a certain amount of morphine after the murders, and for about a whole year afterward. Some blame her peculiar behaviour on that. I do not. The amount of morphine did not seem sufficient to make her lose touch with reality.

              I do not believe Lizzie committed the murders but honestly have to accept that she could have had some knowledge. I have wondered if she burned the dress in response to a stray comment made by a policeman or someone, that if a drop of blood was found on any of her garments, she would hang. Or something. Pure speculation on my part. I figure she may have burned the dress she wore on that day to make sure she wouldn't be incriminated by any POSSIBLE bloodstains such as could have been obtained by passing her father's body on the couch on the way to her room to change clothes.

              I have mentioned my long held--though recently punctured--belief that several old mysteries could be solved by a good journalist. My list is JtR, Lizzie Borden, William Desmond Taylor and the Voynich Manuscript. To that end I have been involved in forums on all but the last. (IMO I am solving the fourth item and the other three are great exercises for learning about the people and times.) I mention this because some of my comments about the Borden murders come from ideas of others on a forum.

              Lizzie Borden, like JtR, reaches a point where nothing really matches up but the solution continues to elude. Of the murder mysteries I mentioned, the field of JtR has the widest possible area of research. New, strange possible JtR's keep turning up and the peripheral characters are colorful.

              The Borden jury set her free because the police investigation was botched among other things. The dress she said she was wearing on the fatal day was not even collected by police until quite some time after the murders. It doesn't matter that the hatchet head matched the wounds. How many hatchets were manufactured and owned that were that size? Solid evidence was very much lacking. IMO the murder weapon was never found though that need not mean the killer took it away or that it proves innocence. More likely it means the police messed up from the very beginning.
              The wickedness of the world is the dream of the plague.~~Voynich Manuscript

              Comment


              • #8
                Thanks for that Anna, very interesting. Yes, from all I have read it does seem as though the original investigation was quite careless and not very thorough - today a crime scene would be immediately cordoned off. In this case, quite the opposite happened. Lizzie was perhaps her own worst enemy in a lot of ways, and it surprising that she chose to live out her life in the same neighbourhood.

                Incidentally, you mentioned that you believe Lizzie didn't commit the murders. Apologies if you've posted it elsewhere before but do you have a favourite suspect by any chance? In the book that I read, "Uncle John" was among the more prominent suspects.

                Cheers,
                Adam.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Like How said on another thread recently, the Fall River police were more Victorian than the English Victorians. They wouldn't really go through a lady's bedroom, etc. There were MANY ways bloody dresses and a hatchet could be successfully hidden. All those issues are useless in solving the case. We will never know what could or could not have been found if the house had become a modern crime scene. (In support of the police, I think the idea of the modern crime scene, everyone out, we're taking over, is a new concept. Of the old cases, Mary Kelly's room comes the closest to being handled like a modern crime scene, IMO.)

                  Adding a humorous complication, Lizzie had her menstrual cycle. In those days, what women used was not disposable and so was soaked in a pail and washed. The police noted such a pail and the doctor, Dr. Bowen, assured them it was alright! Author Victoria Lincoln based her theory ("A Private Disgrace") on the idea the hatchet and any clean-up supplies were stored in this pail. On the forum someone figured out Lizzie was at the end of her cycle so how much blood would there have been?

                  Also humorously, at some point when Lizzie turned over her clothing she was asked if there was any reason there would be blood on her clothes. She replied that she had had "flea bites" which was a proper Victorian euphemism for the monthly.

                  I do not have a suspect. This was my first experience of being able to immerse myself in a case and then realise you reach a point you cannot get past. Some of the top researchers in the field compiled a book called "Parallel Lives". I do not own it but should get a copy. The sale of the book supports the Fall River Historical Society. The book is about other people who lived there contemporaneously with Lizzie, sort of like what we compile here surrounding JtR and his victims. Anyway, the mysteries remain mysteries because the final pieces remain missing.

                  Uncle John was odd to say the least. He PROBABLY could not have committed wither murder since he was known to be miles away. However he remembered the numbers on the caps of the ticket takers on the various cars in which he rode. When he arrived back at 92 Second St. he said he first went in the backyard to eat a couple pears and that he did not notice anything abnormal! By the time he arrived the alarm had already been raised and people were there with more arriving. He had planned to come back for dinner and maybe he saw the commotion and figured there wouldn't be any dinner. Peculiar!

                  Lizzie's attorney's family, think it was Jennings, turned over a bunch of his papers in the past few years--known as the hip bath papers because they were stored in such a bath--which are at this time withheld until they are preserved. Supposedly there are some nice comments therein that shed a more positive light on the Borden family. I am not sure why it has taken so long to publish these or what we could learn from them.

                  Lizzie's attorneys took some good pictures inside the house, one of a downstairs closet where they thought an intruder could have hidden. For what it's worth.

                  What I have instead of a suspect are some very good questions and thoughts. I looked at the case for consciousness or innocence or guilt. What did Lizzie say to people around her at the very beginning? She said her father's face looked like it had been cut. I think she once suggested a razor had been used. She never once used words like beaten, hacked, etc. In the beginning the doctors thought the attack was committed by a "sharp instrument" and we could reason Lizzie picked up on their opinions. But if she did the crime, wouldn't she have slipped at least once and used a term that more or less described a hatchet attack?

                  Mrs. Borden told the maid to wash ALL downstairs windows, outside AND inside. NOBODY entered the downstairs parlour that day. The door was closed. There is NO testimony about this room. The maid does not mention it as a room in which she washed the inside windows.

                  Researchers feel fairly certain about times in the last half hour of Andrew Borden's life. Time between the murder and Lizzie summoning the maid is very short. Maybe 10 minutes, maybe as little as five minutes. Hardly enough time to thoroughly wash hands or check clothing, just in case. (It is unlikely the killer was saturated with blood. Lizzie COULD have done it and simply not had blood on herself.) If Lizzie committed murder, why not take a bit more time to compose herself or whatever? (One possible reason is that her father may have told her Uncle John was coming back for lunch. IF she was guilty this may have impelled her to kill her father and get it over with before Uncle John returned.)

                  If she is innocent, how could that be? The house is said to be small even though it has three stories. I figure it is about 2/3 as wide as my Victorian house. A big argument against her innocence is that she should have heard/noticed an intruder. She said she was in the basement (cellar) at least a couple times that morning. Her story of going to the barn was fairly odd. I have wondered if she was back in the basement, perhaps heard the murder of her father and subsequently acted odd because of survivor's guilt. I think it is possible.

                  Five people regularly lived in the house. Business people came to the house. Customers sometimes came to buy farm produce Andrew Borden sometimes had for sale. There was a maid scurrying around doing various chores. I live a fairly solitary life so I really cannot understand how cognizant a person would be of noises and comings and goings in a larger household. (I come from a very small family and have no children so my adult living situations have consisted of just my husband and self.)

                  Considering what Lizzie would've/could've/should've heard that day, there is an interesting question put to her at some point in the investigation. She was asked if she heard her stepmother using the sewing machine in the guest room/murder room. Nobody has ever commented on this. The sewing machine would have been a treadle machine--worked by foot. Those machines make a thump, thump noise as they are worked. Was this a clever way to ask Lizzie if she heard any whacks? Were they somehow insisting she should have heard the crime happening? But if she was in the basement would she have been expected to hear anything?
                  The wickedness of the world is the dream of the plague.~~Voynich Manuscript

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    There were two threads posted here at the same time, this one and another that I think were based on work of the same writer/crime blog. A point was made about Mr. Borden's Prince Albert coat "stuffed" under his head. The writer said this ABSOLUTELY showed Lizzie was the killer, she had worn the coat backwards over her clothes, then stuffed it under her father's head. That has long been a theory.

                    I decided to refresh my knowledge of the case and re-read certain parts of the inquest and trial testimony. (Of course I have all this bookmarked and the "find" function works great on these volumes consisting on thousands of pages.) I can produce actual testimony but for now will just comment.

                    The argument is that Andrew, being a thrifty, miserly, careful old man, would NEVER have stuffed his coat under his head to take a nap. (I agree. Further I have made a number of comments on this Forum about fabrics of the day which were unforgiving and hard to care for. My grandmother was a tailor and seamstress and my mother told me many things about old fabrics. People didn't mistreat their clothes in those days.)

                    Lizzie--must have been at the inquest because she never testified at trial--said her father had removed his coat and donned a "reefer" or cardigan. (It was a very hot day but he wore a coat to town and donned a sweater(?) at home. Wow!) There is at least general lore that there was a coat tree in the room, a pole with pegs, and that Andrew hung his coat there. At trial the prosecution argued that he would have carefully put his coat on a hanger. However that is, he took off the Prince Albert coat and there is NO evidence or testimony about how it ended up under his head.

                    IMO this MIGHT point away from Lizzie's guilt. In another interpretation it could do the opposite.

                    What I wanted to find in the testimony was WHERE EXACTLY was this coat, was it "stuffed", "wadded", folded, etc.? (In an aside, press accounts of the day said there were some changes made to the corpse before the famous picture was taken. For instance Mr. Borden's shoes were put on his feet because it would have been undignified for "one of Fall River's leading citizens to be photographed in his stocking feet." I do not believe this affects the position of the coat.)

                    On that particular arm of the sofa there was also an afghan and a small pillow. Where was the coat in relation to these items? The lineup is afghan first, then coat, then pillow upon which the victim's head rested. If something was to be "stuffed" or "wadded" under his head for a nap, why not the afghan? (Beyond that I'm sure the average Victorian house had MANY pillows of all descriptions readily available.) The coat must not have ever been used as a pillow.

                    The coat appears in the picture to have been folded, maybe quartered and laid over the sofa arm. The main fold appears to be under the pillow and under Mr. Borden's head. It was said there were heavy blood stains on one portion of the coat. (It was subsequently put into a tub in the basement with all the other bloody clothes and finally buried in the backyard, I think on Uncle John's orders.) Apparently forensics were far enough advanced that blood drops could have been found on other parts of the coat had they been there, had Lizzie worn the coat and gotten droplets on her front and the coat's back.

                    To say Lizzie used the coat and then stuffed it under her father's head is to suggest she was extremely hands-on with the very bloody, gruesome and fresh remains of her father. Could she, would she have been able to do that? Of course it's possible. But considering the amount of blood, so doing would expose her cuffs, sleeves, hands, etc. to a heavy amount of blood. Why wouldn't she have lifted the whole mess via the afghan and stuffed the coat under the afghan? Good question.

                    Another thought is if Andrew DID lay down ON his own coat? It has long been thought he had some papers, perhaps a will, that he brought back from town. He also had a small package that no one ever accounted for. Lizzie said and I think the maid backed it up, that Andrew got his key and went upstairs to his bedroom when he first came home. Surely he could have deposited any sensitive material there and locked the door. But what if he didn't? What if he had something he wanted to protect, perhaps in an inside pocket of the coat? Might he have laid on top of the folded coat to prevent, yeah, probably Lizzie, from obtaining the item? If so, that could indicate a motive for murder, IMO.

                    If Mr. Borden was originally half reclining against the arm of the sofa, the bulk of his body might have weighed down and protected the coat and any contents. Surely after the attack which he experienced, his head must have been pounded downward to a certain extent?

                    The coat does not appear neatly folded in the photo but it also does not appear wadded or stuffed. It looks like it was once folded and that it had been tugged upon, partially unfolded but not removed fully from an original folded/laid on the sofa arm position. Someone, yeah, probably Lizzie, could have tugged at the coat until s/he--if it was a male killer--obtained the papers, parcel, whatever.

                    Many think Andrew had just drawn up a will. Whatever he may or may not have had on the fatal day, nobody came forward to suggest what it was. I suppose an attorney would need to keep confidence but it would seem a few other people would have had some concrete ideas to offer at the time or to later drop as gossip and folklore. There is always the idea about a will but there are many reasons why this seems unlikely on that particular day.
                    The wickedness of the world is the dream of the plague.~~Voynich Manuscript

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Off topic..... for one second for Stanley D:

                      Philadelphia Inquirer
                      June 26, 1889
                      ************


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

                      A rarely seen two part documentary on The Borden Murders....from 1994....narrated by John Vernon ( 'Dean Wormer' from Animal House )

                      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P25T1s0vltQ

                      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHXGSebMiS8
                      To Join JTR Forums :
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                      • #12
                        Doesn't Massachusetts have a problem with the death penalty for women because they hanged a pregnant woman way back when?
                        The wickedness of the world is the dream of the plague.~~Voynich Manuscript

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Anna Morris View Post
                          Doesn't Massachusetts have a problem with the death penalty for women because they hanged a pregnant woman way back when?
                          A pregnant woman was hanged here in the UK, Edith Thompson.
                          http://www.capitalpunishmentuk.org/edith.html
                          Sir Bernard Spilsby who carried out the post mortem was of the opinion that she was pregnant and miscarried as she died.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Anna
                            You're correct. That's the reason.

                            Phil:

                            I remember watching Murder Maps...the episode about Thompson and Bywaters...and the fact that it appeared to those who attended her hanging that her entire insides had fallen out was mentioned.
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                            • #15
                              Good stuff Anna, thanks again for the elaboration!

                              Cheers,
                              Adam.

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