Throwback Thursday: The Discovery of the Slain Borden Parents

They were found hacked to pieces on August 4, 1892.
lizzie borden

Photos via Wikimedia/Creative Commons

On one oppressively hot day 124 years ago, police met a gruesome scene on 92 Second Street in Fall River.

August 4, 1892, marks the day Andrew and Abby Borden were found hacked to pieces. Both of their heads were brutally bludgeoned—Abby was discovered upstairs, and Andrew on the downstairs sofa.

Who would commit such a ghastly crime? Speculation pointed to Elizabeth Andrew Borden, daughter of Andrew Borden and stepdaughter of Abby Borden. After finding no concrete evidence pointing to her guilt, police arrested the 32-year-old woman a week after the murder.

Lizzie Borden was an unmarried woman, further adding to the media sensation that was her trial. Charged with a double homicide, she was one of two people who were home when the bodies were found, the other being the maid, Bridget Sullivan.

Borden claimed she had been in the barn behind the house. Somehow, she didn’t hear the brutal murders while looking for fishing sinkers in the barn’s storage loft. Police found no footprints to back up Borden’s story, and since it was so extremely hot in the loft, they couldn’t imagine anyone would stay there long enough for the murders to happen without noticing.

Investigators also thought it odd that Borden burned one of her dresses in the days before her arrest. Borden claimed it was stained with paint, while others speculated it was covered in blood. Still, no physical evidence connected Borden with the murder. The fact that no blood was found on her or any of her belongings led some to believe that Borden must have committed the murders in the nude.

There were other things, too, like Andrew Borden’s strained relationship with his Lizzie and his other daughter, Emma, the sisters’ hatred of their stepmother, Abby, and Lizzie’s purchase of poison before the murder. But there wasn’t enough. The lack of physical evidence and Borden’s convincingly docile nature acquitted her of the crime.

Lizzie and Emma inherited a large fortune upon the death of their father, worth about $7 million dollars today. They bought another home in Fall River, where Borden remained until her death in 1927. The home at 92 Second Street, though, still stands. It’s open to the public as a bed and breakfast, where guests can watch a performance of the crime, tour the home, and then sleep there. In the morning, there’s the option to eat the same breakfast the Borden family ate on that fateful August 4. Mmmm.


Madeline Bilis Associate Editor at Boston Magazine @madelinebilis
mbilis@bostonmagazine.com