Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Lizzie Borden claimed her stepmother received a note from a sick friend

Lizzie at her most nubile, perhaps

One of the prevailing mysteries of the Lizzie Borden murder case is the note Mrs. Borden purportedly received the morning of August 4, 1892, which Lizzie claimed called her away to care for an ill friend.

The note was never found.

And Mrs. Borden was not visiting a sick friend. She was lying upstairs in the guest room dead for hours before her body was discovered.

Did the note even exist?

Did Mrs. Borden receive a note from a sick friend?

Or was it a way for Lizzie to explain to her father, when he returned from errands, why Mrs. Borden wasn’t home (although she was, in a manner of speaking)? And further, once Mr. Borden had been murdered and “discovered,” was it a way to explain why Lizzie, for a while, displayed no concern or worry about where Mrs. Borden might be?

Mrs. Borden never told any living witness other than Lizzie about the note. Although Irish maid Bridget Sullivan testified about it, she was only repeating what Lizzie had told her. Notices were placed in the newspaper to try to locate the person that might’ve been sick or sent the note, with no success.

People conjecture that perhaps the note was sent to Mrs. Borden by the killer. But, in Victoria London’s book A Private Disgrace, she makes a good point. Why would anyone “write a note to get her away when he was going there to assassinate her?” (London 342)

Perhaps the note writer only wanted to kill Mr. Borden, thus trying to get Mrs. Borden out of the house and out of harm's way. But then why wouldn’t Lizzie be pulled away too? And perhaps even Bridget?

Emma, Lizzie’s sister, was away visiting friends in another town. Lizzie was supposed to be away, too, at the seashore. Perhaps the killer (if it wasn’t Lizzie herself) knew this, but wasn’t aware she had changed her plans and decided to stay home?

Is it possible Mrs. Borden did indeed slip out, visit a sick friend and then return, all without being noticed? It’s unlikely. The household was small and Bridget was washing windows, indoors and out, moving back and forth to refill her bucket. It’s possible Mrs. Borden left without it being remarked if Bridget was temporarily in the barn where the tap was, or by Lizzie who was always avoiding her anyway…but the houses were close together and neighbors watched. 

In fact, neighbors witnessed and testified about Mr. Borden returning from his errands, and about poor Bridget running across the street to fetch a doctor when Mr. Borden’s body was found scarcely an hour later.  

Borden house, center. To the right, the white house is where a neighbor saw Mr. Borden
returning from errands. The house on the left is not seen in this view, but is also very close by,
and from the window Mrs. Churchill saw Bridget run across the street. The small structure
with one window is the barn where Lizzie claimed to be when Mrs. Borden was murdered.

Even if Mrs. Borden did go to the sick visit, what happened to the note? Did she burn it, drop it?

Or was it all just an invention of a frazzled murderess?

. . . .


Unknown said...

At the Superior Court Trial's summation, prosecutor Hosea Knowlton emphatically said he believed there was no note, that no note came.

-Faye Musselman, California

Erika M said...

Thank you so much for commenting on my blog, Faye! It's like a visit from Elvis. :) I agree with Knowlton that I don't think there was ever any note.

Austin said...

Great post! I long have believed that the note was a fiction, told in order to either delay looking for the missing Mrs. Borden or to
Give a reasonable excuse for her (apparent) absence. Since it couldn't exactly be disproven, I'd say the ruse worked all too well. I also think that Mr. Borden was the main target and that killing Abby was secondary...more to eliminate an obstacle by Lizzie.