Eliza Borden — Lizzie Borden’s Murderous Aunt

Posted by junketseo in Baltimore Ghosts
Eliza Borden — Lizzie Borden’s Murderous Aunt - Photo

As we’re sure you’ve heard, the Lizzie Borden House is infamous for its history of pointed fingers, unsolved murders, and axes! We’ve all heard of Lizzie Borden, but what about Eliza Borden? Lizzie’s name yells loudly throughout the ghost-hunting community, ringing bells in anyone’s mind who hears it uttered. Still, Eliza committed murders just as tragic as the ones Lizzie was accused of.

We know of Lizzie’s alleged murders of her stepmother and father, the anger that lived inside the house with them, and the coverups that occurred after, setting Lizzie free to live out the rest of her life in Fall River, Massachusetts as a free woman.

But have you heard of Eliza Darling Borden? Does this name ring any bells for you? Read on to find out who she is and the unspeakable acts she committed.

Book a Fall River Ghost tour and experience the life of Lizzie Borden for yourself!

The Beginning

The story starts with Lizzie’s great-uncle Lawdwick and has long been a lesser-known footnote to the saga of the Lizzie Borden ax murders of 1892.

Lawdwick Borden was the son of Martha Petty Bowen and Richard Borden. Lawdwick lived a normal life, as normal as it could be for the late 1800s. He was a ladies’ man and enjoyed the company of four wives throughout his lifetime, which was not unusual, as women died in childbirth quite often back in those times.

His second wife, Eliza Darling Borden, has genuinely piqued the interest and the excitement of all who hear of her. Looking back on her unthinkable acts, it is clear that Eliza suffered greatly from post-partum depression, a condition unfamiliar to women of the 1800s. Mental health was mainly ignored and swept under the rug during those times, for it was considered shameful to have any mental issues or disabilities.

Tragedy Strikes

Eliza had three children with Lawdwick in very rapid succession: Holder, Eliza Ann, and Maria. With details clouded by time, all that is known is that she killed two of her three children, sparing Maria, and took her own life soon after. It is said that she brutally murdered two of her children by tossing them down the property’s cellar cistern and afterward went upstairs of the small Cape Cod-style home, slicing her own throat with Lawdwick’s straight razor, as most versions tell.

Other versions claim that she committed suicide behind the cellar chimney, unable to make it up the stairs, her grief so intense. Even worse, to finish the deed, Eliza would have had to spend a reasonable amount of time drowning the children in the cistern, or even just throwing them in, their tiny bodies unable to escape, and soon drowning after exhaustion set in.

It’s even thought that Eliza’s husband, Lawdwick, committed suicide shortly after the ordeal, unable to deal with what his wife had done and the loss of his children. This left Maria to deal with the world on her own, and one can only hope that she did not grow up knowing of the horrors her mother had done.

The Aftermath

Investigators who visit the Lizzie Borden home today make attempts to contact the spirits of the murdered children, who died so many years before Abby and Andrew Borden, their tragic demise caused by a hatchet in August of 1892. Guests of the now Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast leave small toys for the ‘ghost children ’ in the guest rooms and claim that they hear children’s laughter and sounds of play on the second and third floors of the infamous B&B.

Tragedy runs rampant in the Borden family, and it has endured for so long due to Lizzie Borden’s alleged acts and her trial of 1893. Lizzie was carefully examined to determine if she was mentally competent and able to stand trial to be held accountable for the crime she was believed to have committed. Questions were asked about her sanity and the mental state of the Borden family in general. Of course, the prosecution brought up the topic of Eliza Borden and her unfortunate children and was introduced as a possible source of ‘inherited madness.’

The defense quickly shot down this claim, and Eliza was only a Borden through marriage, her bloodline not coexisting with the Borden clan. Mentions were also made that the one surviving child, Maria Borden, was alive and flourishing in the city with her children.

Another strange fact, Maria Borden’s husband, Samuel Hinckley, was a boarder in the Borden house in 1850 when Maria was just a young girl of five. Samuel was 18 at the time. The two wed on October 3, 1866. An age difference of such intensity was expected back in those times, but it is bizarre that he unknowingly became a part of the house’s tragic history, not knowing what would occur there.

Fall River’s Curse

Many people believe that the town of Fall River is cursed, creating the perfect storm for tragedies such as these to occur. Even the ‘Satanic panic’ of the later ’70s swept through Fall River when the Fall River Murders were committed. These were three homicides that took place from October 1979 to February 1980, allegedly by a Satanic cult.

The first murder was that of Doreen Levesque, who was dead under Diman Vocational High School’s bleachers. The second, Barbara Raposa, occurred in November, and her body was not discovered until late January the following year. The third murder was that of Karen Marsden, and portions of her skull were found in April of 1980. Her remains were never recovered fully. Andy Maltais was convicted and sentenced to life for the murder of Ms. Raposa, and Carl Drew and Robin Murphy were eventually charged with the Marsden murder.

No one was ever convicted for the murder of Doreen Levesque. What makes Fall River a hotspot for murders, tragedies, and subsequent ghostly activity? We may never find the answers, but perhaps we can learn more if we visit and listen closely.

For more information on Lawdwick’s family, click here.

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Murder in the Well