Thank you, dear listeners, for making our podcast a go-to source for the facts surrounding Lizzie Borden’s life. On this August 4th, the anniversary of the tragic deaths of Lizzie Borden’s father and step-mother, we mark this solemn occasion by continuing to make our eleven interesting episodes free and accessible on our website: www.lizziebordengirldetective.com
Richard Behrens, co-founder of Nine Muses books and the late author, wrote both fiction and non-fiction. After his untimely passing, his wife collected his writings and printed into three books:
Of Moons and Monoliths is Richard’s collected essays on mysticism, literature, the arts, historical women, and science fiction. Available in both print book and e-book formats on Amazon.
Garden Bay Stories are Richard’s short stories and vignettes about growing up in Queens, NY. Available in print book format on Amazon.
The Audible Amnesiac is Richard’s complete collection of his Lizzie Borden, Girl Detective Mysteries. Available in e-book and print book formats on Amazon.
Join a clever teenage Lizzie Borden as she solves quirky mysteries that involve an amusing cast of characters in a real life backdrop of Fall River, MA in the late 1800’s. The mysteries are intriguing and the stories are just plain fun! This is a must read for fans of cozy mysteries and Lizzie Borden! And sadly, these are the final stories from the late author, Richard Behrens.
The wait is almost over! In just a few short weeks The Audible Amnesiac and other Lizzie Borden Girl Detective Mysteries will be available on Amazon! This volume of short stories is the definitive collection of Richard Behrens’ intrepid girl detective, complete with quirky characters and clever mysteries. Check back for more updates!
The first of three books is now available on Amazon. Garden Bay Stories includes some of Richard’s most personal writings, semi-autobiographical tales of growing in in Queens, NY in the 1970s and 1980s, as well as some selected poetry written to his wife Anna. The other two books will follow quickly, and be available by August 2018. They include a collection of non-fiction essays on a variety topics including literature, film, mysticism, and true crime, entitled Moons and Monoliths, as well as a complete collection of his completed Lizzie Borden, Girl Detective Mysteries entitled The Audible Amnesiac, which will contain some previously unpublished stories, and some of his fan favorites. Many thanks to all who contributed to Richard Behrens’ GoFundMe campaign, your generosity made the publication of these books possible.
On August 4th, 1892, Lizzie Borden’s father Andrew and step-mother Abby were brutally murdered in their home in Fall River, MA. Lizzie, who was at home at the time of the murders, was accused of killing her father and step-mother. Her trial for murder was a media sensation around the world. The all male jury acquitted her, leaving the homicides unsolved to this day. August 4th, 2017 marks 125 years since the brutal crimes occurred. We at Nine Muses respectfully mark this anniversary of the deaths of Andrew and Abby Borden, whose lives were cut short on that hot August morning in 1892.
The late author Richard Behrens, who wrote The Lizzie Borden Girl Detective Mystery Series as well as non-fiction journal articles about Fall River and Lizzie Borden related topics, sadly will miss the August 4th Borden-related activities in Fall River for the first time in many years. It was his plan to participate on a panel of Lizzie Borden writers and to hold a book reading of his latest book. Because of his illness and subsequent tragic death, his book The Audible Amnesiac and other Lizzie Borden Girl Detective Mysteries has been delayed, but we at Nine Muses plan to publish it before the end of the year, in keeping with Richard’s wishes. Please check back for future updates.
To mark the 125th anniversary, and in memory of Richard, we are printing the second chapter of his last completed Lizzie Borden Girl Detective mystery, “The Audible Amnesiac.” We hope you enjoy it!
The Audible Amnesiac
Chapter Two: A Mind Removed
To Lizzie’s surprise, Homer Thesinger was asleep on the couch, snoring sonorously, his bowler hat slumped over his brow. The young inventor who had joined Lizzie in many adventures looked weak and thin, his hands rubbed black with charcoal dust. Traces of the dust wove patterns on his lower sleeves. She could take in at a glance that he had been awake all night, judging largely from his exhaustion and from the deplorable condition of his wrinkled and creased clothing. She also deduced that he had been working on his iron-ore extraction project, simply because the stains on his hands could not have been caused by anything other than grinding charcoal to roast with iron pyrite to extract gold dust. In fact, it was plausible that he was employing arsenopyrite, a rock that gave off dangerous vapors when heated with coal. The poor boy was poisoning himself, which accounted for his inability to stay awake. As he snored, he would wheeze and twitch his nose, then rub it with his stained fingers before slumbering again.
But none of that was important for the present. Seated next to Homer on the couch was another man, thin and nervous, with a pointed face, a triangular chin, and a peaked brow that sported two bushy eyebrows that crawled towards each other with almost pained reluctance. Balanced on his nose was a pair of pince-nez spectacles while a trembling moustache almost obscured his small mouth. The man was swathed in a tweed jacket that had all the signs of domestic neglect as it was missing buttons on the sleeve, had threads frayed at the edges of the pockets and lapels, but which also whispered of an unusually penurious nature. He had not yet removed his gloves; one hand rested on a walking stick made from stained cherry wood with a polished ivory handle, and his congress boots looked as if he had just purchased them from a men’s dressing shop. Other than the fact that he was a Freemason, had recently walked a dog that was covered in light brown fur, and was currently enduring a competition between his wife and his housemaid to keep up his appearance, Lizzie could tell nothing else about him.
The man’s eyes twinkled when he first saw Lizzie, but then his face slackened into indolence as if his expectations, brightened by her entry, were now diminishing. “Hopeless,” he muttered in a wheezy voice. “It will never work.”
“What will never work, Mr.—“. Lizzie waited for him to complete her sentence.
“That is the problem,” he said. “I do not know my name. When you entered, I thought I knew you. But I think that of everyone I meet nowadays. Everything is so familiar and yet, I cannot recognize anything.”
His voice, despite its thinness, stirred Homer into awareness. The boy inventor shook his checks, grabbed at his tousled hair, and swallowed as if to remove a bitter taste from his mouth, no doubt some residue from his late night experiments. “Who?” he said as if his mind was starting to open its lids. “What?” he continued.
“Exactly,” his companion lamented. “Not only am I plagued by the ‘who’? But also the ‘what’? What am I? I would foreswear the ‘who?’ if I could just ascertain the ‘what’?”
“Oh,” Homer said, realizing where he was. “Yes…Lizzie…allow me to introduce my new friend.”
“What is his name?” Lizzie asked amusedly. “Surely you must—“
“I call him Policeman Lot for lack of a better term, because when I first met him he was babbling those words.”
“Were you?” Lizzie asked, taking a seat just opposite their couch.
“I don’t remember,” the man said, rubbing his chin. “Does that mean I’m a law officer? I hardly know. I can’t remember.”
“When did you first meet him?” Lizzie asked Homer. “For if I am not mistaken, you have been spending all night in your barn laboratory working on your ore extractor, and this man you call Policeman Lot has been up since dawn getting shaved in a tonsorial parlor and buying a new pair of congress boots. Unless you have accompanied him on his shopping excursion, I would estimate that you met him almost two hours past.”
Homer smiled wryly and tapped open his pocket watch. He nodded then muttered, “How did you know about the ore project? Oh, yes, the stains. And I suppose he has particular dust on his shoes that tell you he has been on North Main Street.”
“On the contrary,” she snipped. “It is the lack of dust on his shoes that tell me the story. That plus the advertisement in yesterday’s Herald that there will be a shoe sale at Tyler’s this very morning, doors opening at eight o’clock. Added to that is the left-handed style of his chin shave that could only have been produced by the barber on Columbia Street, which also gives me a good judge of the distances that he covered.”
Lot tapped Homer’s forearm and admitted, “You are right, she is uncanny. I couldn’t even have told you that.”
Homer smiled at Lizzie. “He seems to lose his memory every half hour. Soon you’ll have to introduce yourself all over again.”
“How singular,” Lizzie said, staring at him with renewed interest.
“Yes,” Mr. Lot said glumly. “My earliest memory is being in this room meeting Mr. Thesinger and hearing him describe your unique talents. I am delighted that such a remarkable mind will be dedicated to solving the problem of my identity.”
“I have heard of such a condition,” Lizzie said, tapping her temple. “There have been reports from Europe and a famous case in Philadelphia from earlier in the century. I consider this to be the ultimate challenge, and a mystery refreshingly devoid of any criminal activity.”
“That we can’t say,” Mr. Lot shifted uncomfortably on the couch. “I am also filled with a tremendous dread, an anxiety of drastic urgency. My instincts tell me that I am in danger, that someone I am hiding from will find me and damage me. I cannot see the face of the person pursuing me, but I can see a shadow coming up a staircase. I am filled with the most awful feeling, that my most intimate secrets will be exposed and I will be destroyed.”
“Are these the only impressions that survive your recurring amnesia?”
“No. Well, excepting one. I can clearly see the face of a monkey, some sort of howler creature from the jungles of South America. It is laughing at me, as if I am an object of great ridicule.”
“You have been laughed at by a monkey?” Homer said, surprisingly.
“But it is not just a monkey. It is wearing a tricorn hat.”
“Tricorn?” Lizzie gasped. From the wide grin appearing on her lips, Homer could tell she was taking the bait. This was a mystery that she could relish.
“Like in the war of independence,” Mr. Lot explained. “And he has on a printed silk jacket and is holding a lace handkerchief.”
“Not like any monkey I’ve seen,” Homer quipped. “Perhaps he is conflating two exhibits he saw at the menagerie.”
“No,” Lizzie said. “I sense that there is an even more meaningful explanation. But enough of that, we are poised at the beginning of a strange journey. We have a man who clearly is married, lives in comfortable middle class conditions, doted on by his wife, harassed by his housemaid, and sports a rather expensive cherry and ivory walking stick. He can afford the finest of clothing, clear enough from his habit of buying a new pair of boots when the old ones get dirty, and yet wears his jackets until they fray. There are odd contradictions here.”
Mr. Lot looked at his stick as if seeing it for the first time, and then pulled at the threads wafting from his jacket. “Oh,” he said. “So I do! Perhaps I should go buy a new jacket.” He gingerly patted his pockets. “I don’t suppose anyone here can lend me some money. I fear I have come sans sous.”
“And with a knowledge of French customs,” Lizzie added.
“You know so much about me,” Mr. Lot said hopefully. “Can you tell my identity?”
“Nothing other than you are a member of a Masonic lodge or so the ring on your left hand informs me, and at some point this morning, after putting on your jacket but before buying your congress boots, you took a small dog, perhaps a Pomeranian, for a walk.”
The man checked the ring and the hairs on his overcoat with great interest then turned his attention back to Lizzie as if he were profoundly engaged by a doctor’s diagnosis.
“Perhaps it was on this sojourn that you had your morning shave on Columbia Street by a left handed barber, I would say Samuel Borden who is just this afternoon taking off on a vacation to the wilds of Maine, hence the haste with which he missed some patches of growth on your right chin.” Mr. Lot turned to Homer and grinned. “She’s very good! What did you say her name was?”
Before Homer could reply, Lizzie resumed. “Now if we confine our search to this city, we can use various techniques of a mental nature to distill from these clues, as Homer distills gold dust from pyrites, where you would live, who you would have as associates, and make the rounds to ascertain an identification. Your Masonic lodge is a good place to start, or Sammy Borden himself who you may have employed on a regular basis at a time when you knew your real identity. I don’t see this case as particularly complicated, nor do I expect it to take very long, and since it is Homer who has brought you to me and he is a dear friend of mine, I will even perform this investigation gratis, expecting nothing in return but a good evening’s banter over a delightful home cooked meal, good company and a mug of medicinal syrup water. Eh, Homer? Doesn’t that sound grand?”
“Not complicated?” Homer asked. “Lizzie, I don’t think you understand what’s going on here.”
“Don’t I?” Lizzie’s smile had turned sour.
“I met this man outside the police station. He was part of a crowd that was gathering to get news of the murder.”
“Murder?” Lizzie recoiled.
“Yes, the murder of Sam Borden. He was found dead in his barber shop not two hours ago. His throat was slashed with his own razor.”
The room fell into a painful silence as Lizzie lost her sense of direction. She was swooning, watching the walls turn about the ceiling. Homer raced to her side and held her in position as she slowly regained her senses.
When she had found her balance, she stared at the man seated on the couch opposite her, assessing him with a fresh set of eyes. Now his ordinary face seemed sharpened to the point of treachery. His gaze, once blank and neutral, now seemed coarse and cruel. Perhaps the sinister shadow in his memory was himself, and he was on the verge of confronting his own guilt, his own sins. Lizzie’s instinct was to call out to her father, charging it to him that he would confront this beast and save her from this unpleasant feeling of danger.
“Mr. Lot,” Lizzie said shakily. “Do you have any idea what happened to the barber Mr. Borden?”
“Who?” Mr. Lot responded. “I’m sorry but have we met before?”
“We have been in discourse for about ten minutes,” Lizzie assured him.
“Have we?” the man said alarmingly. He turned to Homer and gasped at his face. “Oh dear,” he said. “It’s happened again.”
“What has happened again?” Homer asked desperately.
The man thought for a moment, blinked and then said with all sincerity, “I don’t know.”
Lizzie’s palpated breaths had reached a zenith, but she summoned enough energy to blurt out the only words that she could articulate:
“Father! Call Dr. Bowen!”
copyright 2016 by Richard Behrens
copyright 2016 by Nine Muses Books
It is with profound sadness that we at Nine Muses Books announce the passing of Richard Behrens, author of The Lizzie Borden, Girl Detective Mystery series and the writer, director and host of The Lizzie Borden Podcast. He was 52.
Richard was an extraordinary man, possessor of a gentle spirit and an amazing intellectual capacity that could painstakingly decode Finnegan’s Wake one moment, and laugh heartily at a silent Laurel and Hardy film the next. He was a voracious reader …and easily read more than 10 books simultaneously, and collected an enormous library. He enjoyed the creative process of writing his comic mysteries of his Lizzie Borden Girl Detective series. Roars of laughter could be heard from his office as he wrote a particularly funny scene.
Richard leaves a vast legacy of unpublished works so his widow created a GoFundMe campaign to raise the funds needed to ensure the publishing of these unpublished stories, including his nearly completed Audible Amnesiac. If you wish to contribute, follow this link: https://www.gofundme.com/richard-behrens-publishing-fund
The Lizzie Borden Podcast was written, directed and hosted by Richard, and therefore will end with the 11th (and final) episode of Richard’s radio play The Agitated Elocutionist. Richard’s books will remain available on Amazon.com.
Please check back for future announcements about the upcoming publication of The Audible Amnesiac.
Nine Muses Books is proud to present:
Episode 11: The Agitated Elocutionist: A Lizzie Borden, Girl Detective Radio Play.
In this episode we bring you something completely different: an old-fashioned radio play adapted from The Agitated Elocutionist, one of Richard Behrens’ Lizzie Borden Girl Detective Mysteries. Although set in an authentic 1870s Fall River, MA, with a teenage Lizzie Borden and her real family members, the rest is pure quirky fiction wrapped around an intriguing mystery.
In the world of the girl detective, and many years before her infamous arrest and trial for the murders of her father and stepmother, Lizzie Borden pursued a career as a private consulting detective, and as you are about to hear, in The Agitated Elocutionist, she matches wits with a pompous elocutionist and her devoted man-servant. You have met Lizzie Borden before, but never like this!
This radio play is a departure from our usual history-based podcasts, and it is just plain FUN! The quirky characters of Richard Behrens’ imagination come to life right from the pages of his delightful and intriguing mysteries. The actors are superb and hilarious, and the sound effects beautifully capture the Victorian-era flavor of the story.
The e-book version of The Agitated Elocutionist is available as a free download at Amazon.com along with the rest of the Lizzie Borden Girl Detective Mysteries.
The talented cast of The Agitated Elocutionist as pictured left to right in group photo above:
Aaron Potter-Rychwa as Police Officers Beck, Bence and Oxnard
Wendy Almeida as Madame Arbuthnot
Christopher Pratt as Banters the Valet
Heather Herring as Sarah Borden and the narrator
Tara Sabino-Potter as Lizzie Borden
Ian Hefele as Arthur Tinge
Tyler Strickland as The City Marshal
Richard Behrens as Gerard Gumley and writer/director
Mason Amadeus, audio engineer
Catherine Behrens as Abby Borden (pictured below in red sweater)
Listen to the Podcast here or subscribe to the series on iTunes.
The Agitated Elocutionist Radio Play is copyright 2017 Richard Behrens and Nine Muses Books.
The play was engineered by Mason Amadeus and original music was composed and performed by TAM Productions. The Play was recorded at Manadnock Broadcasting Group, Keene, NH.
Today we will be talking with the Fall River Historical Society curators Michael Martins and Dennis Binette who will discuss the story behind their phenomenal book Parallel Lives: A Social History of Lizzie A. Borden and Her Fall River, published by the Fall River Historical Society in 2011.
Parallel Lives: A Social History of Lizzie A. Borden and Her Fall River is a ground-breaking work and arguably the only professional biography of Lizzie Borden. Michael and Dennis worked on this book for approximately ten years, tracking down material related to Lizzie and the Borden family, cultivating relationships with owners of private collections and descendants of those who knew Lizzie, and piecing together a vast puzzle: a portrait of Lizzie Borden, Fall River’s most notorious resident and historical mystery.
Parallel Lives received a starred review from Kirkus Review, one of publishing’s highest honors, and Kirkus declared it one of the best books of that year. It is certainly one of the best books for a hard core Lizzie Borden enthusiast. Here to help us gain some insight into Parallel Lives are the co-authors and curators of the Fall River Historical Society, Michael Martins and Dennis Binette.
Listen to the Podcast here or subscribe to the series on iTunes.
In this Episode of The Lizzie Borden Podcast we conclude our Lizzie Borden Primer with Sarah Miller, the author of The Borden Murders: Lizzie Borden & The Trial of the Century. For those listeners who are unfamiliar with the details of Lizzie Borden’s life and the Borden Murders of 1892, this Primer will help orient them and give them important contexts for future episodes.
This part of the Primer covers Lizzie Borden’s life at her home Maplecroft after her controversial acquittal. Previous to the publication of Parallel Lives: A Social History of Lizzie A. Borden and Her Fall River by the Fall River Historical Society, little was known about Lizzie’s private life in her beloved home on the Hill. She moved into the French Street house with her sister Emma shortly after her murder trial and lived there until her death in 1927. Over the years, urban legends have accumulated about the infamous recluse who led a lonely and besieged existence. Rumors of scandalous affairs and forced confessions to the murders have dominated our narrative of the Maplecroft years, but Parallel Lives recasted Lizzie as a woman leading a very composed life behind her wall of privacy. A Lizzie Borden Primer Part 4 explores that private life, attempting to separate the mythic Lizzie from the very real woman who maintained her dignity in the face of great odds.
This episode concludes the Lizzie Borden Primer. Anyone who wants to hear the life story of Lizzie Borden from her birth in 1860 to her death in 1927 could listen to these four episodes.
Listen to Episode 9 here. Also available on iTunes.
Fall River, MA has been described as “a city built to burn.” In this episode Dr. Stefani Koorey takes the listener through the major conflagrations that destroyed large swathes of Fall River throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. This episode also takes the Lizzie Borden Podcast on its first detour away from Lizzie Borden’s personal story, however it remains in Lizzie Borden’s city of Fall River, which has its own richly textured and fascinating history. Fall River’s nineteenth century textile boom brought with it a series of fiery disasters. The Big Fire of 1843 left more than one thousand people homeless and destroyed two hundred buildings, as well as more than twenty acres of land. After the Steiger Store Fire of 1916, mill owners pressured the city to replace its horse-drawn brigades with more modern fire engines. The intense heat from the Kerr Mill Thread Fire of 1987 melted hoses as first responders battled the blaze. Author Stefani Koorey chronicles these and other historic infernos of the Spindle City and celebrates the community’s resilience in the face of adversity. Click here to listen.
Exclusive! Get a sneak peek of our NEW Lizzie Borden, Girl Detective Mystery, The Audible Amnesiac, to be published Feb. 2017 in a new short story collection by Nine Muses Books. The excerpt is available only in our FREE Lizzie Borden, Girl Detective Newsletter. To get your exclusive preview, Sign up to get your free newsletter at http://eepurl.com/bCtr6b.
Happy Holidays from all of us at Lizzie Borden, Girl Detective!
Lizzie Borden Girl Detective Mysteries author and Lizzie Borden Podcaster Richard Behrens finds Lizzie Borden’s photo (lower left) on the wall of Rogues in Sherlock Holmes’ bedroom at 221B Baker Street. Perhaps Mr. Holmes knew something we didn’t, as she was acquitted of the crimes of murdering her father and step mother! Lizzie Borden herself visited London while on her European Grand Tour for her 30th birthday, just a few years before the infamous murders.
Recently Richard was interviewed about the lasting fascination with Lizzie Borden in the UK’s Guardian Newspaper. Read the story here.
In this Episode of The Lizzie Borden Podcast we continue our Lizzie Borden Primer with Sarah Miller, the author of The Borden Murders: Lizzie Borden & The Trial of the Century. For those listeners who are unfamiliar with the details of Lizzie Borden’s life and the Borden Murders of 1892, this Primer will help orient them and give them important contexts for future episodes.
This part of the Primer covers the Preliminary Hearing, the Grand Jury Proceedings and the Borden murder trial, which was held before the Superior Court in New Bedford in June 1893 and ended in her acquittal.
The Lizzie Borden Primer series will give the listener a grounding in the historical facts of the Borden Murders of 1892 which have become a part of the American imagination for 124 years, listen to find out why, and form your own informed opinion about her guilt or innocence.
Episode Six of The Lizzie Borden Podcast: Lizzie Borden Live! with Jill Dalton has been published to iTunes and our Podcast Page.
This coming Halloween weekend marks a very special day for Lizzie Borden fans. Lizzie Borden herself will speak once more. She’s being resurrected by a very talented actress and playwright Jill Dalton. Jill wrote Lizzie Borden Live! a one-woman play about our favorite murder suspect back in 2005-2006 and performed it at the East Lynne Theater Company in Cape May NJ. It subsequently went on to open in New York City, Arizona and Fall River where it was enthusiastically received by audiences who found it to be a revelation. Meticulously researched, Jill’s play has set a high bar for plausible interpretations of Lizzie Borden as a suspected murderer and as a Victorian woman. Set in 1905, just after her sister Emma Borden has abandoned her to a solitary life in her home Maplecroft, the play allows Lizzie Borden speak candidly in a way that she was allowed in real life. Jill gives us a complex Lizzie, alternating between dream, reality, and memory, confirming and denying our worst suspicions, and finding stunning but plausible nuances of her personality and psyche.
Jill Dalton and her creative partner Jack McCullough the director of the show are resurrecting Lizzie Borden Live this Halloween season with performances at Polaris North in New York City, 245 W 29th Street (bet. 7th & 8th Aves.) 4th floor. The performances will be Oct 28, the 29th and the 30th and best of all ITS FREE TO THE GENERAL PUBLIC. More information about the play and how to get tickets is available on their web site lizziebordenlive.net. If you can make it, I guarantee you it will be a wild night of quality theater and a great eye opener about the real Lizzie Borden.
We’ve invited Jill back on the show and she’s graciously accepted so let’s take a listen and hear her talk about her career, her play, and of course, Lizzie Borden.
NEW! Watch the Visual Edition of Episode 5 of the Lizzie Borden Podcast, which details the happenings on the day of the Borden Murders of 1892. With author Sarah Miller!
Episode Five of The Lizzie Borden Podcast continues A Lizzie Borden Primer, a three-part series that will present the life and times of Lizzie Borden. This episode is an exceptionally good starting part for anyone who has no more knowledge of Lizzie Borden and the Borden Murders than what they have heard in the notorious jump rope jingle. This episode covers the day of the Borden murders on August 4, 1892, the police investigation, and the arrest of Lizzie Borden.
Sarah Miller is the author of two historical fiction novels, Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller, which was called “an accomplished debut” in a starred review from Booklist and was named an ALA-ALSC Notable Children’s Book, and The Lost Crown, about the Romanovs, hailed as “fascinating” in a starred review from Kirkus Reviews and named an ALA-YALSA Best Book for Young Adults. The Borden Murders: Lizzie Borden & The Trial of the Century is her first non-fiction book and has been hailed by Kirkus and the New York Times as a perfectly concise and lively historical account of the Borden Murders of 1892.
Visit http://www.sarahmillerbooks.com for more information.
Producer: Nine Muses Books
Engineer: Mason Amadeus
Writer/Director: Richard Behrens
Music: Melora Creager
Cartoons: Chip Cooper
In this Episode Sarah Miller, the author of The Borden Murders: Lizzie Borden & The Trial of the Century, helps out with a Lizzie Borden Primer. For those listeners who are unfamiliar with the details of Lizzie Borden’s life and the Borden Murders of 1892, this Primer will help orient them and give them important contexts for future episodes. This part of the Primer covers the day of the murders and the events leading up to Lizzie Borden’s arrest. This is a must-listen for anyone who wants to know what happened on August 4, 1892 and why Lizzie Borden was suspected and then arrested for the crime. The Lizzie Borden Primer series will give you a grounding in the historical facts. We can’t answer the question of whether she was guilty or not, but we can give you the evidence available at the time of her arrest. The Borden Murders of 1892 have been a part of the American imagination for 124 years, listen to find out why, and form your own informed opinion about her guilt or innocence. Listen now, as we mark the 124th anniversary of the August 4th 1892 unsolved murders. click here to listen
Listen to the fourth episode of The Lizzie Borden Podcast, produced and directed by Richard Behrens for Nine Muses Books. In this Episode Joe Radza discusses the dramatizations at the Lizzie Borden Bed & Breakfast this August 4th and his role as John Vinnicum Morse.
John Vinnicum Morse (1833-1912) was the brother of Sarah Anthony Morse Borden, who was the wife of Andrew Jackson Borden, and he was the biological uncle to Lizzie Andrew Borden. Sarah died when Lizzie was very young, but “Uncle” John stayed in touch with the family even after Andrew remarried a few years later, marrying Abigail Durfee Borden who then became Lizzie Borden’s step-mother.
Morse was a guest in Andrew’s house on Second Street the morning the murders occurred, arriving the previous afternoon. His alibi, however, was air-tight since he left early that morning to visit some relatives on Weybosset Street, who later corroborated his story. He left Andrew and Abby Borden who had just finished breakfast and were preparing to perform their daily chores. When Uncle John returned early that afternoon, both of his hosts were dead, brutally murdered with a hatchet. For several days he remained confined to the house on Second Street. When he ventured out to mail a letter, he was surrounded by a hostile crowd and had to be rescued by the police. He testified at the Inquest, the Preliminary Hearing, and the Trial. He was never seriously suspected to be the murderer but many researchers have doubted that he was entirely innocent.
In the late 16th century, it became quite fashionable for young aristocratic men to travel abroad to France and Italy to complete their classical education. There they studied literature, art and architecture in such cities as Paris, Florence, Venice and especially Rome, giving birth to what would become known as the Grand Tour. By the late 19th century when steamship and train modes made travel somewhat less arduous, chaperoned young women of means were also embarking on Grand Tours of Europe.
Lizzie Borden was no exception, and in July of 1890, Lizzie sailed on the Cunard Line’s steamship RMS Scythia from Boston to Liverpool, England to begin her 19 week Grand Tour. Lizzie was joined by four young ladies from wealthy Fall River families, as well as a female chaperone, a Fall River high school teacher. The girls were all unmarried, living with their parents and ranging in age from 25-32. Lizzie would celebrate her 30th birthday during her travel abroad, the tour itself likely being a birthday gift, along with a fashionable seal skin cape, gifted by her father Andrew Jackson Borden. As was custom of the time prior to photography, a passport contained physical descriptions of its holder, Lizzie’s describing her as having a full face, gray eyes and light brown hair. It also described her as having a pointed chin, a medium forehead and mouth, as well as a straight nose. Her height was listed as a diminutive 5’3” and her age as 29 years, 11 months.
According to the Fall River Historical Society’s tome Parallel Lives, Lizzie likely met her travel companions through her church, the Central Congregational, and through her work for church-related charities. Unlike many other parts of society of its day, church was a place where members of different social classes mingled superficially. Although Lizzie was traveling with two fellow Bordens (Anna and Carrie) who shared a common great-great grandfather with her, Lizzie was not known to them outside of church activities. At Lizzie’s trial nearly three years later, Anna, who shared a cabin with Lizzie on their return journey, testified that she was not a relative of Lizzie’s. Anna went on to testify that during conversations that she had with her while on the ship, Lizzie regretted returning home after such an enjoyable trip because her home was such an unhappy one.
By all accounts the Grand Tour was indeed a happy time for Lizzie. Traveling first class with wealthy companions likely gave Lizzie her first taste of what it was like to be a member of high society. Lizzie collected more than 168 photographs of various sites throughout her travel, and after her return in November 1890, she painstakingly collected them into two large albums. She included quotes from famous authors such as Byron, Shakespeare, Twain and Hawthorne as well as information from travel guides she had brought on her trip, which she neatly hand wrote above and below the photographs. Lizzie proudly shared these albums when she spoke of her trip, particularly the British Isles.
Although the exact itinerary is unknown, Lizzie’s albums indicate she first traveled to Ireland, seeing such sites as the Blarney Castle and then she visited Scotland with its magnificent lochs and Highlands castles. She had an affinity for Scotland in particular, and in future years would name her beloved Boston terriers with Scottish names such as Donald Stewart, Royal Nelson and Laddie Miller. “My Ain Countrie,” a Scottish hymn from a temperance songbook was sung at her funeral and words from it are carved into Maplecroft’s second floor library mantelpiece.
Lizzie traveled extensively throughout England, including the Lake District, Oxford and Windsor Castle, likely viewing the statue of Queen Victoria erected for her Jubilee only a few years earlier. Anyone who prefers the image of Lizzie as one of the infamous murderers of the Victorian Age should note that in 1890, England was still reeling from the Jack the Ripper serial murders that occurred just two years earlier.
Lizzie also visited The Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland, including such sites as the Statue of Bavaria in Munich and the Clock Tower in Bern. In Italy Lizzie visited art galleries in Florence, the Milan Cathedral and took a gondola down the Grand Canal in Venice. She bought most of her photos in Italy, many of them reproductions of the great works of art she undoubtedly viewed in the galleries and cathedrals. In Rome she viewed such sites as St. Peter’s Basilica and the Coliseum, and in France she traveled to Nice and then on to Monte Carlo. In Paris she went to the Louvre and Notre Dame, among other great sites. Lizzie spent nearly five months traveling through places of great beauty and history, viewing classic art and architecture, and all with first class accommodations.
Traveling first class with wealthy companions may have given Lizzie her first taste of what it was like to be a member of high society, but she did need to request additional funds be wired by her father while away on the trip. The trip itself, a possible 30th birthday gift, or perhaps a way to appease Lizzie by offering something equal to her after Emma was sent to the prestigious Wheaton Female Seminary. Either way, shortly after Lizzie’s return, she would inexplicably switch bedrooms with her sister Emma, taking the much larger, sunnier room while older sister Emma took the cramped, darker adjoining room, that had formerly been Lizzie’s. The sisters would remain in these rooms up until the hatchet murders of their father Andrew and step-mother Abby Borden, less than two years later.
Although Lizzie was arrested for the crimes, she was subsequently acquitted and she and her sister then purchased Maplecroft, a large and stately home in a wealthier part of Fall River, after inheriting their father’s fortune. Although Lizzie would travel later in life, there is no evidence that she ever again traveled to Europe.
The impact of the European Grand Tour on Lizzie’s imagination and sensibilities can only be guessed at, but if the crafted care that she put into the composition of her scrapbooks is any indication, she was mesmerized and possibly transformed as a person. Her return to a life of church service, domestic tasks and spinsterhood with only her scrapbooks to remind her of an elegant and romantic life beyond the sea may have changed the way she experienced her home life and the relatively provincial nature of her own Fall River.
Either way, she was about to go down in history in a way none of the Fall River debutantes on the steamship R.M.S. Scythia could have ever predicted about their mysterious cousin from below the Hill.
Happy Birthday Lizzie Borden! Born July 19, 1860.
The second episode of The Lizzie Borden Podcast, produced and directed by Richard Behrens for Nine Muses Books is now available on iTunes and on this blog. This episode was recorded on June 5, 2016. In this Episode we interview Sarah Miller, the author of The Borden Murders: Lizzie Borden & The Trial of the Century, published by Random House Children’s Books. Sarah discusses the challenges of researching Lizzie Borden and the Borden Murders of 1892 and how she came to write a children’s book that has since been recognized to be one of the best general purpose book on Lizzie Borden for readers of all ages.
Sarah Miller is the author of two historical fiction novels, Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller, which was called “an accomplished debut” in a starred review from Booklist and was named an ALA-ALSC Notable Children’s Book, andThe Lost Crown, about the Romanovs, hailed as “fascinating” in a starred review from Kirkus Reviews and named an ALA-YALSA Best Book for Young Adults. The Borden Murders: Lizzie Borden & The Trial of the Century is her first non-fiction book and has been hailed by Kirkus and the New York Times as a perfectly concise and lively historical account of the Borden Murders of 1892.