Lizzie Borden Took An Ax—120 Years Ago Today

04 Aug

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

Everyone is familiar with this little ditty even though the author is unknown. Over the decades since this horrific double homicide there has been great discussion and controversy over whether Lizzie did the deed or not. And if so, what her motives might have been.

Adding to the discussion is this excellent article in Psychology Today by my friend Dr. Katherine Ramsland.


4 responses to “Lizzie Borden Took An Ax—120 Years Ago Today

  1. Patti Shinners

    August 4, 2012 at 7:32 pm

    Has anyone ever considered that Lizzie might have removed all or most of her clothing to kill her parents? After all, no one was checking her undergarments for the presence of blood. Knowing that she had time, she could have taken all of her clothes off to kill her mother (who, if I remember correctly, was actually her stepmother), and then washed off her skin with those bloody rags in the basement. She could then have taken off everything but her undergarments to kill her father, which would allow her to redress more quickly, and used her father’s coat to cover her undies against the blood spatter.

    Actually, how would testing the bloody rags in the basement have told the police anything? I know they didn’t have DNA back then, and I also don’t think they had a way to check blood types or even a way to check if it were human or animal.

    Patti Shinners


    • D.P. Lyle, MD

      August 5, 2012 at 7:02 am

      A 1975 made for TV movie starring Elizabeth Montgomery as Lizzie and titled The Legend of Lizzie Borden showed exactly this scenario.


  2. Susan Fleet

    August 6, 2012 at 4:58 pm

    Always an interesting topic to those of us who live in and write about crime in Massachusetts. Interestingly, I just did a blog post about a female serial killer who claimed (falsely) to be related to Lizzie.


  3. Brenda

    August 7, 2012 at 2:51 pm

    There were lots of flaws in that 1975 movie that were fully rebutted by Edward Radin in his book.

    I found the Edward Radin book on the subject very interesting & more likely than a lot of other off-the-wall suggestions like sexual abuse. Radin’s book raised questions of whether the murderer might have been Bridget the maid (who had a death bed confession she wanted to make some years later, but she didn’t give it when she recovered) or Lizzie’s sister whose whereabouts weren’t fully documented or Lizzie’s uncle (ditto about his whereabouts). Radin stressed that the so-called “journalist” Pearson had made stuff up in the 20s and used tabloid newspapers that had and too many authors used Pearson instead of original documents which were hard to come by. Radin said he read a copy of the inquest notes that her lawyer’s daughter had kept in storage.

    One of the Bridget-may-have-done-it points was Bridget said she vomited while cleaning the windows. He suggested that if she committed the crimes she might have been ill over it. Someone did try to poison the family (including Lizzie) the night before the murders and he pointed out how easily that could have been Bridget.

    Regarding what you could and could not see on the stairs — once again Radin had a lot to say on that. You had to be at a very specific spot on the stairs to have seen the body.

    The jury — who acquitted Lizzie — DID hear the actual evidence. Another point that Radin made was that the tabloid journalists of the day pretended Lizzie didn’t care when her father & stepmother’s HEADS were shown to the jury when, in fact, she FAINTED.



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