Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Lizzie Borden's crime scene photo has a ghost in the wallpaper

A "Brigadoon" photo shoot with the book in today's fog

I'll never forget the first time I looked at the crime scene photos for
the Lizzie Borden case. This predated the Internet and these kinds of
things were not a mere keystroke away. You would've had to have visited a
library or bookstore to see these images.

In fact, I had visited my job. :)

I worked in a law firm at the time, and my boss had a long row of maroon
volumes with gold lettering, the Notable Trials Library. These books are
stunning, with true gold leaf on the page edges, handsome paisley
endpapers, even a little red satin ribbon that operates as a built-in
bookmark. One of these was a reprint of TRIAL OF LIZZIE BORDEN, edited,
with a history of the case, by Edmund Pearson. Pearson dedicated the book,
originally published in 1937, to Hosea Knowlton, the prosecutor in the
case who failed to get Lizzie convicted.

I'm of course wishing I could go back in time and see what other cases
were immortalized in this way--it could keep me busy as a writer for a
long time.

Although the book comes with a handsome built-in bookmark, you can
see I needed to avail myself of more!

Anyway, the crime scene photos were so murky and badly lit that you had to
study them to really see what you were looking at. I'm going to talk today
about the photo of Mr. Borden in particular, for one crazy reason. There's
a gentleman standing in the corner looking over at Mr. Borden's prone body
on the sofa: and you can see the wallpaper through his body.

My first thought was that he was a ghost. It makes a terrifying photo even
more terrifying to think that. Mr. Borden's head cannot be determined in
the photograph because it is a dark mass of blood competing with the dark
of his Victorian settee and the dark Prince Albert coat that had been
bunched up underneath his head. His coat was there presumably as a sort of
pillow for his nap or perhaps the way Lizzie got away with the murder
without having any blood on her (if she wore it during the blood spatter,
then took it off and thrust it under his head). Which reminds me, I want
to go back and look at the maid Bridget Sullivan's testimony as to whether
Mr. Borden hung up his coat in the hall when he came in from errands that
fateful day, or if he kept it with him when he went to the sitting room.

Anyway, the photograph is already upsetting without thinking there's a
ghost in it. But I'll let you either scroll down to see it, or opt out.


it's scary


Besides the "ghost," I incorporated the little round table into my novel

I assume it's part of the extended exposure time required by photographs
in that era. Does that explain the man being transparent while the
wallpaper is more solid? If you know why, I'd love to hear your
explanation in the comments.

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