A warning for our listeners, the story contains descriptions of violence, so please take care while you listen.
If you really want to get into the Halloween Spirit, New England and the fall is the perfect place to visit, you’ve probably heard of Salem, and they’re burning witches, but just a stone’s throw away as the Tiny Town of Fall River tucked away into a sleepy corner of Massachusetts.
There’s Gothic style buildings and old oak trees.
We’re just kind of driving around the town right now and it’s, you know, sort of a classic little New England Town, Vibe, classic until you notice.
Something, sort of strange, the name Borden pops up everywhere.
It’s on buildings.
On street signs.
Now, we’re on board and place separate from board and Street, Borden, Borden Borden.
Thinking, where have I heard that name before?
Well, it might have been skipping rope on the playground.
When she saw what she had done, Charming, isn’t it?
And this rhyme, this gory schoolyard Diddy.
Well, it’s based on a true story.
The legend goes that in a crime of passion, a 30-something, Lizzie Borden packed her parents to death and their stately home, using an axe.
Well, technically a hatchet Some call it.
The prototypical American True Crime, Story over a hundred years later.
People are still obsessed with this case.
In part because it’s never been solved.
From gimlet media.
This is not passed it a show about the stories.
We can’t quite leave behind.
I’m Simone plannin for spooky season, we’re bringing you one of the first True Crime Sensations in America.
It All Began on a hot summer day in 1892. 130 years ago, when Abby and Andrew, Borden were brutally hacked to death in their Massachusetts home, the double homicide of the two wealthy new englanders.
Quickly became the media, sensation and America all.
Because the victims daughter, the seemingly sweet Rim.
Lizzie Borden was accused of wielding, the bloody Hatchet today.
The house is still haunted by the ghosts of the past.
I would know I stayed the night.
I’m like, honestly scared to look in the mirrors.
I’m like worried someone’s gonna be standing behind me will take a whack at the legend of Easy Borden, after the break.
Okay, so here’s my deal.
When I first learned about this, Lizzie Borden story.
I was very hesitant to tell it frankly.
True Crime isn’t really my jam when handled poorly.
I feel like the genre can Veer into this territory of exploiting real life violence for entertainment.
But listen, I get that it’s popular.
I mean, come on, I work in podcasting but I don’t know guys.
But ethics of it are just a little too Tangled for me.
So setting off to tell a story about a double homicide.
Even one from a century ago that just didn’t sit well with my spirit.
So I wanted to lean into the discomfort and talked to some folks in this true crime world, try to understand the appeal of it and maybe why I have such an issue with it.
Luckily we’d found a real deal.
Lizzie fan, someone who’d remembered her name from the infamous nursery.
Rhyme growing up in Maryland and we used to skip rope to it.
So I knew who she was but I hadn’t gotten the Lizzie tizzy.
I guess you could call it.
This is Shelly.
She’s been a board in buff for over 30 years and worked at the board in Murder House and Fall River.
Massachusetts, she spends about two hours a day pouring, over the details of the weld.
Documented case, the witness statements Court, transcripts and trial materials.
They’re all still available for 18 years.
Shelly, even gave tours at the Lizzie Borden house, where the double homicide occurred.
She says, there’s nothing like being in the actual place, the crime scene still there, you can spend the night there if you want.
You can lay on the sofa, you can pose with a hatchet, you can reenact the crime with your family.
You can run down the cemetery and there, they all are side-by-side, the victims, the accused murderous, they’re all there and it makes it real and it was a hell of a crime scene.
The first body to be found with 70 year old, Andrew Borden Lizzie’s father, his face is a pulp one eye is hanging out by the Optic nerve on his cheek.
It’s been bisected and the blood is still running.
It’s bright red and it’s running a little while later as police and Spectators started to swarm the house.
Abby Andrews wife was found in the upstairs guest room.
It’s terrifying, the body of Abby Borden was obliterated and there were only two people in the house at the time of the murders.
The maid who was In and out cleaning and Lizzie Borden was he says she didn’t hear anything, didn’t see anything.
This is very fishy sounding fishy, indeed.
It’s hard to imagine that two people could be bludgeoned, so brutally without notice, but none of the neighbors heard a thing on this very busy street either today that same street has stayed busy.
But now it’s with a gaggle of tourists There’s people coming.
Yeah, there’s a couple people hanging out.
Following Shelly’s, lead my producer.
And I booked a tour.
At the place where it all went down.
When we walked up to the front of the house, we were greeted by a sign.
Welcome to the historic.
Lizzie Borden house, top 10 haunted places.
Open daily for tours and overnight stays visit us in the gift shop behind the house.
And next to it is a handy, little QR code with a pair of hatchets in the middle.
The Lizzie Borden Mania, oozed out of the houses walls.
Oh, a teddy bear with an attached.
It sure is.
What and And wow.
An embroidered piece that says what is home without a father?
The place was wrapped and Peak Grandma core aesthetic?
Everything is so it’s like, you know, floral wallpaper floral carpet, floral upholstery on the seats.
Assuming your grandma was really into gory murders.
Since every few inches was some sort of bloody axe embroidered onto a pillow or some shit like that, it felt less like an Old Victorian home and more like a Lizzie Borden Museum, / theme park, they even have a gift shop.
So this is I guess this is the shed where Lizzie was supposedly doing stuff at the time of her parents murder.
It’s a dream for any board and Stan hats.
Bobbleheads, I survived, the Lizzie Borden house, t-shirts, you know, the standard fare, And then there were also some questionable choices in the bathroom.
Why not right above the toilet.
That’s a metaphor.
At this point I’m thinking okay why did I come here?
Again part of me was excited to see what this place was all about who makes up this Lizzie fandom.
But a larger part of me was like, okay, this isn’t such poor taste.
What if this whole leaning into discomfort exercise ends with me being like, this is fucked up as expected.
And I just knowingly participated in a Fucked-up thing.
Now I have board and blood on my hands but before I could really start spiraling.
It was time for the tour, our tour guide Emily really, set the scene of what it was like that summer and 1892, we weren’t allowed to tape the tour, but we learned all about how this, double homicide took, the nation by storm.
So let’s go back in time to when the newspaper headlines were set, Ablaze a rich man, His wife killed stealthily at home, double axe homicide in Fall River, wardens, brutally hacked to death, a man and wife to and not one, clue left by which the murderer can be traced.
In 1892 Lizzy was 32 years old, with light brown hair, and striking gray eyes.
And some of the town’s folk found it hard to believe that their little Lizzy could be a vicious Axe Murderer.
She was a Sunday school teacher for crying out loud.
And everyone knew that killing people with axes women.
Simply didn’t do that.
For Shelly, the time period is one of the most important pieces.
When thinking about the case you have to sort of get the late, Victorian mindset, to wrap your head around the expectations of women in those days, the dominance of males, the sort of Life, a person like Lizzie Borden would have lived, she was in that upper middle class, where she didn’t have a lot to do all day.
Sep, good works, and church, despite the disbelief from many townspeople Lizzie was quickly.
Arrested charged and put on trial for murdering her parents.
When her case was presented and the evidence was made public, well, their opinions of Sweet, Lizzie started to change and I have to tell you, people lost their mind, trying to get in to hear this.
Shelly says, the public hearings turned the local story into a national sensation, women packed lunches and came in was sandwiches and pies in their purses, to get a seat.
So they didn’t miss a thing.
A lot of them were women.
This this was hot stuff and it was Sensational each day, a new piece of salacious evidence was yield.
Let’s just say, the T was scalding the case.
Against Lizzie seemed pretty strong.
Police supposedly found out that she had bought prussic acid, AKA cyanide the day before the murders that she had burned, a bloody dress that she hated Abby Borden who was not her biological mother but rather her stepmother.
And when Lizzy went on trial in 1893, the nation, read the dailies in suspense, it’s like TMZ when we turn our TV on, you know, Scandal juicy.
And it went wide, it had so much human interest, you know, this was just a woman.
What a hatchet?
She kills who, what her father the stepmother.
Oh, my goodness.
Case was the trial of the century, the 19th century that is you and your kitchen in Ohio, or California, or Georgia could follow along every single day.
And what does Lizzie look like today?
What is she wearing?
Oh, she’s holding a fan up to her face.
Oh, she’s smiling.
Oh, she looks guilty.
Don’t you think you know, Gossip gossip gossip gossip, too many was he was looking, extremely guilty, but her lawyers seemed to have an answer for every suspicious detail.
In the case Lizzie did admit to burning address, but it was because it had been stained by paint, which may have given the appearance of blood.
And anyway, the investigators had previously searched the home and likely would have noticed a blood-soaked dress.
They didn’t find anything as far as the cyanide goes.
Her defense said she used the stuff all the time to clean her.
Sealskin cape and the autopsies never showed any evidence of poisoning.
But really, for some the case wasn’t even about the murder of Andrew and Abby Borden at a certain point, it became political the suffragettes, rallied behind her women’s rights people, in its infancy rally behind her.
Her ministers her church, the Borden Clan, For the suffragists, the real issue at hand, wasn’t whether Lizzie killed her parents or not.
Rather some of them argued that because Lizzie was a woman, she couldn’t get a proper Shake in The Justice System.
Since a jury of her peers was impossible women at the time, could not vote.
Let alone, sit on a jury.
And underneath all these arguments was the fact that a rich white woman could be sentenced to death.
If she was found guilty, that would have been an unthinkable.
I’ll fate especially in an area where a small group of wealthy.
Native-born Protestants were lording over a foreign-born population.
Many of whom were Irish Catholics after a two-week media.
Circus at the local courthouse, the case was decided from guilt Lizzie Borden acquitted by the jury acquitted of the horrible, double butcher, not guilty.
So say twelve good men and true one reporter at the time.
I’m wrote the dignity and the decorum of the courtroom vanished, a cheer went up, which might have been heard a mile away and there was no attempt to check in.
As for Lizzie, they noted that her head came down upon the rail in front of her and the tears came.
So that was it, the verdicts came in. 1893 almost a year after the murders and Lizzie just went home though.
She lived as a social outcast, until her dying day and 1927 standing in the Borden’s house, after more than a century.
All of this still felt so fresh.
Shelly was right.
That really was like stepping into a time machine and you really could pretend to bludgeon your loved ones on a replica of the very couch that Andrew was murdered on.
They give you like Andrews face like on a stick but you can hold up in front of your face and then like a, like a plastic, bloody Hatchet.
So you do pretend, like, you’re getting ax-murdered on a couch, a little photo opportunity.
The photo opportunity that I may have taken advantage of.
Yes not saying I’m proud of it.
I was trying to get into the spirit of this place you know when in Fall River if you look at the photo I’m smiling but one of those she is clearly uncomfortable Smiles our tour guide Emily a standing above me, wielding the plastic Hatchet and throughout this whole tour.
I’d keep having whiplash Lash from weird uncomfortable moments like this to other moments of genuine Fascination like being able to see Lizzie’s own handwriting scribbled onto the pages of her personal books or seeing old family photos Lizzy.
As a toddler these personal human touches a reminder.
That these were real people with real lives, I almost felt connected to the board ends.
But I don’t feel like I can express Joy.
I don’t think I should.
I don’t think I should not and I’m also not experiencing Joy but it’s just like things are being presented in a way that’s like who and this and that and this and that and like, usually I would be like, oh hell yeah.
Like let’s go and I’m like I can’t get to that level because because it’s were talking about a real-life double homicide but as day turned into night, so did the energy in the house, it went from a true Rhyme theme park into something more haunting.
Alright, Simone, are you ready as ready as I’ll ever be, it’s 8:35.
And what are we about to do?
We are about to go ghost hunting at the Lizzie Borden house.
After the break and unexpected connection.
At one of the most haunted houses in America.
Welcome back, my Lizzie lovers, my board and Buffs, my double homicide Divas, okay?
But last one might have crossed a line before the break.
We learned all about.
The case against Lizzie Borden, the 1892, Hatchet murders.
She was accused of took the nation by storm and since then the interest in the gruesome mystery has not let up.
Now while the True Crime Enos of it all did Bob Bother me.
When I heard that the Borden house was also a hot spot of Paranormal Activity.
I have to admit my ears perked up because confession, I totally believe in ghosts.
I believe that Energy’s linger.
I believe you can contact the other side.
I believe those experiences are Indescribable ineffable impossible to capture.
And yet here I was trying to do not that I wanted to see if there really was anything or anyone still lingering and if so could we connect with them?
I clearly wasn’t the only one with this ghostly, curiosity as the sun set, the house began to fill with other overnight guests.
I wondered who they were, where they had traveled from why, they’d voluntarily spend the night at a haunted murder house.
Before our guide Emily left for the night.
She gave us a nice little explainer on how to use the ghost-hunting equipment.
How is used in a paranormal sense is holds of right alongside you.
So when it got dark we were ready.
With our specialty ghost-hunting equipment we started in a room way up in the attic.
Simone are you ready?
I’m as ready as I’ll ever be, the gabled ceiling, cramped us up together tight next to the bed.
The first thing we noticed was a bronze crucifix above the headboard.
Is that good or bad?
Does it protect?
You just make sure that doesn’t turn upside down.
Keeping our eyes, on the crucifix, we pulled out our equipment.
We walked through the house using a radio scanner.
It’s basically a small radio and it shuffles through the am and FM frequencies for words and phrases.
That might be coming through from the great beyond.
All right, radio Test, - when that didn’t work, we moved on to a pair of two bronze.
Rods that the ghosts can control if you are here.
Please cross these rods will be a, yes.
Yes, cross the rods, be to get them to me.
Feel more comfortable.
You can say what your intention is.
Oh, that is a good question.
So, how do I say this?
Okay, we are just two people.
And our intentions are really just to explore this house and and to see if anybody is present, there’s really no motive beyond that.
But again no luck.
We wanted some kind of contact to feel some sort of connection with that Indescribable ineffable presence and then after 45 minutes something changed, hi a squad of people showed up from upstairs.
At first, they seem like a group of old friends but we quickly found out otherwise.
These people were also staying the night in adjacent rooms upstairs and within a couple of minutes, Julie and I also became quick friends with this group.
We talked about all their haunted experiences, all the places they’ve traveled to in order to commune with the Beyond places like Sleepy Hollow and the hotel from The Shining.
But even these experienced ghost lovers struggled with the real-life tragedy that brought us all here, the whole thing with a murder, it’s sad.
Because obviously any loss of life is sad and, you know, regardless of why or what but of historical part of it, being like an unsolved mystery, you know, that still to this day, they can’t figure out.
I don’t think that’s more what I’m drawn to than, you know, the murder part of it.
It kind of reminds me of Shelly did sick and her community of Borden Buffs who gather around this one hundred and thirty year old Cold Case, which is part of a paradox of True Crime.
Its gory and violent, and shows the worst of humanity, but it also brings people together in the mystery and empathy with both victims and perpetrators kind of, like, what was happening with this group of five, people who eventually gathered within the Sitting room.
It’s the room where Andrew was murdered but it was also the most spacious one in the house.
Our first collective decision was to put away the Andrew mask and bloody Hatchet used for the photo op.
They were still sitting on the sofa from our tour earlier in the day.
What kind of person would take a picture like that?
Then we turned on all of our ghost-hunting equipment, word, catchers, and radio scanners all buzzing.
As we sat in a circle, we talked about stuff.
I don’t even talk about with my friends because you’re like historical like fast-paced because I sometimes think I’m a little crazy.
I think like there are just certain things that like we just can’t measure and we just can serve and we just Will not get like definitive you know, evidence for.
And this feels like one of those things.
And I think those things can coexist, right?
Like you can have the hard facts and you can have the Unexplained and I think it’s about trying to reconcile those two things.
And in the end, we found out one of the main reasons.
All these people came to this house in Fall River Massachusetts and I think that it’s almost like a we want to help people like and then we just want to like If that means connecting with someone who’s not necessarily here and we help them and I don’t know, it sounds silly but it’s I think that that I think it’s true.
What do you want to help with in this instance?
Because the, the specifics are very, you know, well-known, right.
Someone was hacked to death right there.
I don’t think there’s any help in that it’s just it is what it is.
Like some kind of closure.
I like, what exactly happened.
Yeah so it’s more of just Like the unknown in like trying to figure out there, trying to figure you out, you’re trying to figure them out.
So it is a connection.
Connection and trying to understand the unknowable.
I did not expect this conversation to get this thoughtful, get so deep.
And my normal life.
I actually have a pretty hard time warming up to strangers, but with this group, we quickly settled into an ease with each other.
I never did end up connecting with the Paranormal but that’s okay because these connections with people were real The next morning, we were both feeling pretty good.
The world was alive with nuance and connection but we wanted to try one last time to commune with the dead.
So, as per Shelly’s advice, we made one final stop.
Are you rolling?
Okay, so we’re at the cemetery where the Borden family is buried.
The cemetery is a short drive from the house and it’s beautiful.
Like any historic graveyard.
You’d see in a movie, there were the tall obelisks that towered over the Lichen.
Covered name markers set right into the grass through the sprawling grounds, it should have been hard to find the Borden’s plot but not only is a tagged on Google Maps, but at nine in the morning, there was already a lot going on at the site that made it hard to miss.
And there’s already a Crew here taking pics.
I feel like we should give him some space, the crew and question seemed to be a family.
And when they drove off in their minivan, we walked over to the Borden’s family grave site.
It’s a pretty big Monument.
That looks sort of like a giant pain.
Chest piece with brick sighs name markers on the ground beneath.
Andrew, Borden lies next to a b lies next to her sister.
Emma, Who Lies next to Lizzie?
It’s a little odd to see the family resting together when one of them was accused of violently offing, another to.
But to be honest, that was not the strangest part of the Borden’s gravesite.
Oh, I’m sorry, what the high noon god with the passion.
Fruit vodka and soda High Noon right there?
Yeah, Lizzie’s marker looked like the aftermath of a high school party and was adorned with liquor like that freshly drunk, High Noon.
Hard Seltzer and an empty little nip of watermelon.
Smirnov there were also two spent joints and between the eye and the Z of her gravestone but this wasn’t arranged in a way that seem disrespectful.
In fact, it felt more like an offering.
And it wasn’t just for Lizzie the other Graves had stones and shells.
And dried out flowers honoring the dead gross feelings crept back into my mind but now it was complicated by this strange community and reverence for everyone involved the old True Crime Paradox rearing its head again it was all very confusing so I did the only thing I could do.
I feel like we should do like a moment of silence.
I just want to just be reflected for a moment.
Man, I just what an intense life, and it’s kind of incredible that it has such staying power.
Yeah, I really, I don’t know what it says about us as as Humanity but it says something something.
I left Fall River with these complicated feelings, complicated ideas.
I still felt weird about glorifying the violence.
I mean, I did I take that picture on the couch.
Why did I do that?
But on the other hand, I was genuinely Blown Away by the connections made through the living and the dead.
It’s hard to square but I’m okay with that.
Maybe it’s because this story like all the stories we do.
Are about people there complications their reality.
Their Humanity complexity is inherent to those stories to our experience on this Earth.
Flatten that complexity and you may miss out on huddling with a bunch of strangers, and the middle of a Murder House, sharing your Reflections on life and just how precious it is.
Not passed it as a Spotify original produced by gimlet.
And DSP media, this episode was produced by Julie Carly next week, the legendary performer Josephine, Baker fights for her rights.
She gets up from the table and she heads to the telephone, she calls her attorney and she calls someone in the local NAACP.
And she basically says, I’m being discriminated against, this is against the law in New York state.
I want something.
What about this?
Our associate producers are remotely.
Phillip and Nick, Delle Rose.
Laura Newcomb is our production assistant the supervising producer is Erica Morrison, editing by Zakia Gibbons, and Andrea be Scott been Brighton.
Read newspaper headlines.
The Lizzie Borden Took an Ax nursery.
Rhyme was directed by Jason, a show, fionn, recording session.
Produced by Aaron, Kenny singers asita ramanathan errand.
Ambry, Olivia Kaiser Giselle bottorff Avery Walker and Mia Walker.
Fact, checking by Jane, Ackerman sound design and mixing by Emma Monger original music, by Sachs kicks, Ave really green, Jay bless, and Bobby Lord.
Our theme song is Toko, Liana by cocoa with music supervision by Liz Fulton, technical Direction by Zach Schmidt show art by Elysee Harvin and Talia Rahman.
The executive producer at CSP media is extort Ponte the executive producer from gimlet is Matt schulze, special.
Thanks to Joe radda, Carol and shogi Jared Jack and Emily from the historic Lizzie Borden house and to Lydia pull green Abbie ruzicka Dan Behar, Jen hon.
Emily wiedemann, Liz Styles, Ella Walsh, Ariel Joseph and Joshua Bianchi follow not past it.
Now to listen for free exclusively on Spotify, click the little bell next to the follow button to get notifications for new episodes on.
Why are there?
Hey why don’t you write as 5 Stars?
You can follow me on Twitter at Simone palana in.
Thanks for Hangin.
We’ll see you next week.
I’ve actually re-enacted that with a cantaloupe, it’s a long time, 19 wax with a lot of time to think what you’re doing.
While you repeat that motion over and over and over and it has to be driven by motivation.
That’s very, very personal to do that to another human being. motivation.
That’s very, very personal to do that to another human being.