Everyone knows the rhyme that accompanies the story of Lizzie Borden. Despite the lyrics in the rhyme, there's little proof or evidence to definitively say whether or not Lizzie took an ax to both of her parents. Since the murders happened in 1892, the notion of forensic science was still roughly a century away, and crime scenes weren't scrutinized as well as they are today. Many people pegged Lizzie as the obvious choice and while she went to trial, nothing definitive or outstanding ever stood to say whether it did - or didn't - happen the way most people thought it did.
With that being said, it's still one of the most fascinating crimes in U.S. history, and today, you can visit the Lizzie Borden house and see the crime scene for yourself. While it's morbid, it's a strange source of intrigue leading up to the crime. So, what exactly happened, and how can you separate myth from fact? According to Criminal Element, much of what people believe to be true is actually incorrect.
The Bordens Were Cheap And Disagreeable
It's commonly believed that Mr. Borden was incredibly cheap while Mrs. Borden was very disagreeable and not friendly at all. This claim may have helped to shape many people's images of the Borden family, while also shaping the circumstances in which Lizzie lived. While it would fit a certain narrative, the truth is that Mr. Borden was not cheap. The biggest 'evidence' for this is the accusation that on the day he and his wife were murdered, the family had eaten week-old mutton for breakfast. In truth, the mutton that was served was made only the day prior.
Additionally, Mrs. Borden was not an anti-social recluse as many would believe. Rather, she was very intimately involved in the Borden's lives, as it was her half-sister's family, and neighbors confirmed that she was there often. Others claimed that Mrs. Borden was one of the most caring and friendly neighbors they'd ever met, thus contradicting the notion that she was anything but.
Mr. Borden Took A Hatchet To Lizzie's Pigeons
It's rumored that Mr. Borden had a bone to pick with the pigeons that Lizzie kept in the barn, thus, he took an ax to them all (not unlike what Lizzie was accused of doing). Allegedly, Mr. Borden did this as a punishment since they were pets of Lizzie's, but this wasn't actually true. Rather, the pigeons made a home in the barn with the other livestock and there was no hatchet involved. Rather, Lizzie testified at the trial that her father while her father did kill them, it wasn't in the manner many people believe.
Lizzie Burned A Book That Incriminated Her
The book in question was The Fall River Tragedy written by Edwin H. Porter. While this was rumored by a woman named Victoria Lincoln, who wrote it as such in her award-winning biography of Lizzie Borden in 1967, there's no factual evidence of it. The New York Times was responsible for writing a contradictory story about how the book didn't sell well, thus it was not added to many bookshelves. Copies of the book do exist although they are expensive and this, alone, contradicts the notion that Lizzie burned all of the books.
The Murder Took Place On The Hottest Day Of The Year
This was disproven by none other than the weather report. The temperature, as reported by the United States Signal Service, was actually only 83 degrees that day.
During Lizzie's trial, however, the prosecution claimed that it was at least 100 degrees that day. This was an effort to throw Lizzie's alibi that she had been in the loft the day of the murders; if it was, indeed, 100 degrees out, it likely would have been too hot to spend any significant amount of time up there.
Lizzie First Attempted To Poison Her Family
While it's not a fact, this is still under speculation and remains to be fully proven. Therefore, it's possible but not entirely certain. The only testimony that contributes to this is the one given by the drugstore clerk on August 3rd, the day before the murders happened. The clerk claimed to have remembered a 'Miss Borden' who came into the store to buy hydrogen cyanide, which was known as prussic acid back then. However, the problem with that is that there were more than 125 families with the last name of Borden in Fall River at the time, according to Criminal Element. Therefore, with no additional witnesses, no receipts, and no toxicology reports, there's no way to verify that this was the Lizzie Borden. The clerk also remarked that he didn't know the woman to be the daughter of Andrew J. Borden until that morning when a customer remarked out loud about the family connection.