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On this day in history, August 4, 1892, Lizzie Borden’s father and stepmother are murdered in Massachusetts

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Andrew and Abby Borden, father and stepmother of 32-year-old Lizzie Borden, were brutally murdered on this day in history, Aug. 4, 1892.

Lizzie Borden was later tried and ostracized for the murders. The weapon of choice was believed to be a hatchet.

What’s arguably a sensationalized tale that’s been depicted in film, television and even song remains a mystery 131 years later. Lizzie Borden was acquitted of the double homicides 10 months after they were committed.

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“I think people love true-crime stories,” Jack Sheridan, tour guide at The Historic Lizzie Borden House, which is now a working bed and breakfast, told Fox News Digital in an in-person interview.

“This particular case got national attention in 1892 due to the ferocity of the attack, honestly, because Andrew Borden was a wealthy man. And when people with extraordinary wealth get murdered in America, the public takes interest — it always has. And that’s exactly what happened here.”

In June 1893, Lizzie Borden stood trial — and was later acquitted — in the killing of her father and stepmother with an ax. (Getty Images)

The incident took place in the small town of Fall River in eastern Massachusetts on Second Street reportedly between 9 a.m. and 11:10 a.m., according to Britannica.

Lizzie Borden’s mother died when she was a child. Her businessman father later remarried; his new wife’s name was Abby Borden. 

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Lizzie Borden had an older sister, Emma Borden, who was reportedly not in the house at the time of the murders.

The only people who were home, aside from the two victims, were Lizzie Borden and the family’s 25-year-old maid, Bridget Sullivan (whom the family called Maggie), according to staff members who currently work at The Historic Lizzie Borden House.

andrew and abby borden split

Andrew Borden (left) and his second wife, Abby Borden (right), were murdered in their Fall River, Massachusetts, home on the morning of Thursday, Aug. 4, 1892. (Getty Images)

It’s said that Abby Borden went upstairs to make a bed in a room where Lizzie Borden’s uncle, John Morse, was staying for a few days. 

At some point during the morning hours, Abby Borden was attacked with an ax-like weapon. 

The head of the murder weapon was later found in the basement of the Borden home, the same sources say.

Andrew Borden returned home from errands that day and was murdered on the couch after his wife was murdered. While the amount of blows isn’t clear, it’s been estimated by various sources that the couple may have been struck 10 to 20 times.

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During the trial, Sullivan testified that she came inside the house after washing windows outside. Andrew Borden had trouble with his key, so he knocked, according to Sullivan’s court testimony published online by the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law (UMKC School of Law). 

Lizzie Borden house split

Lizzie Borden was arrested for the murders of Andrew and Abby Borden on Aug. 11, 1892, according to the Library of Congress. She later was found not guilty in a trial by a jury of 12 men. (Donna Hageman/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

Sullivan went to unlock the door to let him inside. The door was jammed and she let out a curse word, according to the testimony.

Sullivan would also testify that as she struggled with the door, she heard Lizzie Borden laughing from the top of the stairs. 

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It’s been argued that if Lizzie Borden was standing at the top of the stairs, she would have seen Abby Borden lying dead on the ground from her view.

Lizzie Borden home staircase

Many people have argued that if Lizzie Borden was standing here at the top of the stairs, she would have seen Abby Borden lying on the ground. (Fox News Digital)

Sheridan described the police response to the crime as “terrible.”

Said Sheridan, “The murders coincided with the day when the Fall River police had their annual policeman’s picnic in Rocky Point, Rhode Island, so a large portion of the department, especially a lot of experienced guys, they had the day off.”

He added, “If you were going to commit a crime in Fall River and you’re looking through your calendar [and asking yourself], ‘What’s a good day to commit a felony?’ You come across August 4th and you [think], ‘That’s it.'”

Lizzie Borden bedroom

Abby Borden was brutally murdered near this spot between the dresser and bed of John Morse’s room. Photos of the crime scene are framed and sit on display in the home to this day. (Fox News Digital)

Sheridan, who has been a tour guide at the Lizzie Borden house for 13 years, said Andrew Borden was quite busy on the day of the murders, as he was taking care of banking matters and was mostly out of the house.

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“I actually don’t think Andrew was an intended target. I think just his wife was,” Sheridan added.

“Andrew came home three hours earlier than he was expected to and [he] kind of walked into an active crime scene with no idea — I think he effectively signed his own death warrant that way.”

Borden basement

Near this brick wall in the Lizzie Borden house — photographed on July 27, 2023 — is where the head of an ax was found after the murders. (Fox News Digital)

He went on, “But, that’s always [what] I found fascinating, that I think they were just going to let him die of natural causes. He was 70. Life expectancy was only 50 [back then].”

Several facts in the case suggest Lizzie Borden may have been guilty, as written in an online article published by the UMKC School of Law titled, “Fourteen Reasons to Believe Lizzie Murdered Her Parents.”

“This particular case got national attention in 1892 due to the ferocity of the attack.”

Lizzie Borden reportedly had a “strained relationship” with stepmother Abby Borden. 

The Borden home on Second Street in Fall River, Massachusetts, where the murders of Lizzie Borden’s parents occurred, is now a bed and breakfast. (Donna Hageman/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

In addition, the day before the murders, Lizzie Borden was witnessed attempting to buy poison — prussic acid — at a drug store in Fall River.

“She explained that she needed the acid to clean a sealskin cape,” the UMKC article states. “The druggist refused to sell the prussic acid.”

black case lizzie borden

Seen here is a dress (which did not belong to Lizzie Borden) shoved into the oven at the Historic Lizzie Borden House in 2023. (Fox News Digital)

On August 7, three days after the murders, a friend of Lizzie Borden’s named Alice Russell saw Lizzie burning a blue dress in a kitchen fire. 

Lizzie Borden said the dress was stained with paint, according to multiple sources.

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There appear to be several theories about the crime, who committed it and how; but once police launched the investigation, Lizzie Borden became a prime suspect.

She was arrested for the murders of Andrew and Abby Borden on Aug. 11, 1892, according to the Library of Congress. 

Lizzie Borden murder scene

Andrew Borden was found dead lying on a couch similar to this piece of antique furniture, in a sitting room next to the kitchen. (Fox News Digital)

“Following a grand jury indictment, Lizzie Borden went on trial for the murders in June of 1893,” the Library of Congress wrote online. 

“Although acquitted of the charges against her, the question of whether Lizzie Borden committed the murders remains to this day.”

A lot of the evidence was circumstantial, said one source.

Lizzie Borden was found not guilty in a trial by a jury of 12 men.

Sheridan said a lot of the evidence was circumstantial.

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“However, you have to put yourself in the 19th century mindset. Women were regularly oppressed,” Sheridan said.

Borden gravestone far away

Seen here is the cemetery plot for the Borden family, including Lizzie Borden, in Oak Grove Cemetery in Fall River, Massachusetts.  (Fox News Digital )

“They couldn’t vote. They couldn’t sit on the juries. If you wanted a bank account, you needed to have a man’s permission — and a woman’s only real hope of a life of comfort, she wasn’t going to get that by pursuing education and a job. She really needed to get married.”

He added, “And that never happened for Lizzie and Emma. They got the title ‘spinster,’ which was really a fate worse than death for women, unfortunately.”

Lizzie Borden headshot

A photo of Lizzie Borden hangs today in the Lizzie Borden house, located in Fall River. The entire home is decorated in 1890s decor. (Fox News Digital)

“History has shown us time and time again, if you keep pushing people, eventually, they may just push back. And I think that may be what happened here. I think Lizzie was a 21st-century woman trapped in the 19th century — and I think she had just had it with life in this house.”

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Lizzie Borden, after her acquittal, moved back into the house on Second Street briefly — before moving into a home on French Street in Fall River.

“It was odd,” Sheridan said. “Out of everyone involved in the case, she was the only one that didn’t leave Fall River. Everybody else went far, far away.”

Emma and Lizabeth

Emma Borden’s and Lizzie Borden’s graves are seen in Oak Grove Cemetery in Fall River, Massachusetts. Seen on the Lizzie Borden grave are offerings from public visitors. (Fox News Digital)

Lizzie Borden was apparently ostracized for the remainder of her life and eventually changed her name to Lizbeth A. Borden.

A popular rhyme was said to be made up by an unknown party that was allegedly recited to mock Lizzie Borden outside her home. 

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Sheridan noted the words weren’t “factual at all”:

Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks
When she saw what she had done
She gave her father forty-one

In 1975, actress Elizabeth Montgomery played Lizzie Borden in a TV movie, “The Legend of Lizzie Borden,” which aired on ABC. 

It was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Made for Television.

lizzie borden split

Elizabeth Montgomery, arguably best known for her role as Samantha Stephens in “Bewitched,” took on the role of Lizzie Borden in the made-for-TV movie in 1975. (Walt Disney Television Photo Archives/Getty Images)

Christina Ricci in 2015 took on the role in a Lifetime TV miniseries called, “The Lizzie Borden Chronicles.”

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Indicating its further influence in pop culture, in 1962 the Chad Mitchell Trio released the song “Lizzie Borden,” whose lyrics say, in part, “‘Cause you can’t chop your papa up in Massachusetts.”

Lizzie Borden house sign

(“The Historic Lizzie Borden House” is open daily for tours and for overnight stays, as this sign outside the residence states. (Fox News Digital))

Lance Zaal, who is now the owner of the Lizzie Borden house, operates the facility as a bed and breakfast; guests can actually sleep in the rooms. 

Tours of the house take place daily. There’s also an open gift shop.

Borden gravestone

Lizzie Borden is listed on the burial plot as Lizbeth Andrews. (Fox News Digital)

Lizzie Borden died of pneumonia at the age of 66 on June 1, 1927, in Fall River. 

She’s buried in Oak River Cemetery next to her sister, Emma. 

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Lizzie Borden rests in the same plot alongside Andrew and Abby Borden.



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