The Strange Case of Lizzie Borden

lizzie_borden It’s almost impossible to not know about the bizarre events that took place in the Borden house in 1892, but besides the obvious brutal murders what actually happened? Why were the Borden parents murdered, what was the motive? How was the crime committed? Was it robbery? Was it revenge? Was it an accident? Although based on the crushed skulls, it would hardly seem to be an accident or some random bit of violence. Like the London murders involving Jack the Ripper, there is far more rumor and speculation than hard evidence and facts.

What we find out about Lizzie is that her real mother died while she was very young and her father remarried. While he had money, he was very frugal. Their house was small with no indoor plumbing and no hot running water. There was no reason they shouldn’t live "on the hill" with the more well to do citizens of the town. It’s also brought up that Lizzie and her step mother may not have gotten along very well, especially after their father buys a house for the sister on the mother’s side. It’s seems this was the start of the family rift with them no longer eating dinner together and tensions running high.

To try and restore peace Andrew Borden has guests come to the house and has Lizzie spend time with their more affluent relatives. This seems to only make matters worse. But it was during one of these family visits that the crime occurs. After one of the cousins has spent the night and left the house, Abby is upstairs tidying the room. It was while she was cleaning the room that she takes 19 blows to the head. Within a few minutes Andrew Borden comes home because he isn’t feeling well. After lying down for a few minutes he gets 11 blows to the head. Eleven savage blows that completely destroy his face. Both parents are dead within a matter of minutes.

Lizzie, who has been home all morning, discovers the bodies. She sends Bridgette the house servant to get the doctor from across the street. The doctor comes over and does a cursory exam of the bodies. After some time the police are called to the scene. Lizzie stays in the house and has guests come over to visit as news of the crime spreads. The police don’t secure the house so it is hopelessly compromised as far as evidence is concerned. There was plenty of opportunity for someone to remove the murder weapon, remove something of importance, or help clean up.

Emma, Lizzie’s sister, is out of town so she is not considered a suspect. Bridgette isn’t considered a suspect since she would have no reason to murder her employer. That leaves Lizzie and she has motive since she was at odds with her mother and would inherit a substantial amount upon her father’s death.

The police search the house, but rifling through a woman’s personal things just isn’t something you do during that time period, so where did they actually search? While no definitive murder weapon is found they find what could have been used, the infamous hatchet. The handle looks to have been broken recently, fits the wounds and appears to have blood on it. But is it the right weapon and is that human blood?

And then things begin to spiral out of control. Lizzie is taken into custody and questioned. She gives conflicting testimony and defiantly refers to Abby as her step mother, not her mother. Lizzie is arrested and charged with three counts of murder, one for each parent and one for the pair.

During the trial many additional details come to light. Lizzie is said to have tried to buy poison a few days before. She is said to have burned a stained dress. It’s later found Lizzie is questioned without her attorney present and she’s been given sedatives by the doctor who came over to investigate the crime. One of the main points of controversy is how Lizzie could have been so violent, yet not gotten any blood on her person. Considering the poor state of their plumbing how could she have cleaned herself up? Some people begin to speculate Lizzie committed the crimes in the nude. But there would still be blood. If it wasn’t her, wouldn’t there be someone covered in blood fleeing the scene? Since there are no other suspects, they feel it has to be Lizzie.

But Lizzie has some great legal representation. Her attorney knows the judge presiding over the case and is able to get most of the evidence thrown out because of the way it was obtained and that the poison is irrelevant since her parents were beaten. Legal counsel also coaches her on how to wear subtle black during the trial and hide her face during the gruesome testimony. There is even one point where she faints at the sight of a skull.

The sensation continues with people sending in letters to the police espousing their reasons over Lizzie’s guilt or innocence. Dozens of people send in their confessions taking credit for the deed. Even the townspeople rally behind her claiming she couldn’t have done it. This kind of brutality isn’t something a woman would do.

When all is said and done Lizzie is acquitted of the crimes and is free to go. But the town that once rallied to her side now turns their back on her. While they might not think she’s guilty that doesn’t mean they want to socialize with her. Undaunted, Lizzie does indeed buy her big house on the hill; a 14 bedroom complete with housekeeper and servants. The name Maplecroft is stamped into the concrete steps leading up to it. This is all seen as out of character and not something women of the town should do. Lizzie further alienates herself from the town as she begins to mix with theater folk. This is seen as cavorting with prostitutes and causes a scandal with the townspeople. Rumors fly that one of these unsavory characters committed the murder, or that Lizzie is having an affair with one of them.

Emma, who realizes there will be no peace living with Lizzie decides to take her leave and move out. She moves away and it’s the last time the sisters speak. Lizzie remains alone until her death, never quite achieving the status she craves. But the murder is never solved. Once Lizzie is found innocent no other suspects are found, no one is questioned and certainly no one stands trail. Over a hundred years later the speculation is as wild as ever with Lizzie murdering her family because of incest, a love affair gone wrong, greed or revenge. There are certainly more questions than answers and if Lizzie did commit the crime, how did she clean up and get away with it? Who helped her? Did one of the dozens of guests who showed up after the murder was discovered help her with her plan? Did she destroy evidence and get away with murder because of a good defense attorney? Was she an innocent patsy? Was Lizzie abused and justified in her revenge? Was she a spoiled brat who didn’t get her way? If Lizzie is truly innocent, who would be so angry with her family as to murder her father and step-mother in broad daylight and leave no evidence? Innocent or guilty? Victim or criminal?

lizzie_borden_hatchet No matter how you look at it, there’s more to this story. So many questions left unanswered. So many pieces that just don’t make sense. We will never know what truly happened on that fateful morning, but there is no denying it was a brutal crime and whoever the killer is, they got away with it and left behind one of the great unsolved mysteries.

Lizzie Borden on Wikipedia
Lizzie Borden on Prairie Ghosts
Lizzie on TruTV
Lizzie Borden Virtual Museum
Lizzie Borden Trial and Legal Documents
The Strange Case of Lizzie Borden (Netflix)
The Strange Case of Lizzie Borden (Amazon)

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Ghost Hunters International

The season is almost over and GHI has been to some of the coolest places I can think of. Castles, ruins, forts, monasteries and plenty of other unusual places have all been on the list. Who wouldn’t want to go visit those wonderful castles, let alone the fact they may have a troubled past? I mean going to see the castle Frankenstein, the castle of Dracula or the ruins of the castle occupied by legendary Lady Bathory would be a once in a lifetime experience. And probably one of those trips where you need to make sure you pack an extra set of undies. They are the stuff of legend. But if that wasn’t enough what about a Satanic monastery or a fort that has the spirits of those who died in battle? And one who seems to want to push you over the edge, literally. The places these guys get to go are just unbelievable.

While we started off the season with Donna and Bryan in tow, their time with the group was somewhat limited and soon they both leave for personal reasons. Even Andy has to take his leave as a new edition to his family takes precedence. Justin jumps in to help lead the team with Rob and Barry while other members of the Ghost Hunters team come and go to take up the slack.

Now Barry just cracks me up. He is probably one of the most excitable guys when it comes to the paranormal, but when things start bumping, it seems like he wants to lock the doors and batten down the hatches. It’s all fun and games to chance down the boogey man, but when he bears his teeth, it might be time to take a step back. He seems a little overly jumpy at times. But I do like the full spectrum camera he’s been working with. That’s a pretty cool setup with the two cameras side by side taking pictures at the same time. Strange anomalies in a picture could be nothing more than a camera glitch or improper settings, but you never know, something could be there.

Where Rob came from, I have no idea, but I like him. He seems a pretty down to earth sort of guy. He keeps his cool, is ready to charge down that dark corridor or into that small dark space. And although he does seem a little hit and miss with calling things haunted he does have command of the situation and of the team; even though that teams keeps changing on him.

Trekking across Europe in search of the paranormal has got to be surreal at times. They are going deep into the countries where people have always believed in spirits, even vampires and have plans and rituals for dealing with them should they rise up out of the grave. It’s hard to imagine going to the places that actually inspired the legends of Dracula and Frankenstein. For some of these places a 200 year old castle is a modern dwelling. The fact that Andy will jump up on a rickety ass ladder he just happens to find lying on the ground in a castle cracks me up.

Compelling evidence? I think they’ve found some. Lots of the EVPs sound like they could be anything, especially when they are supposedly in a foreign language. Is it really speaking back in German or Romanian, or does it just sound like something we want to hear? There’s certainly noise in the background, but don’t all abandoned castles that are falling apart make weird noises?

What of the picture evidence? Well, a lot of that could be anything. Shadows, tricks of the light or wishful thinking could make you see just anything you want. Is that a boy in the glass or just an odd reflection? Are those muddy pictures capturing the essence of something in the full spectrum or do we see improper camera settings or even the camera focusing on the wrong thing? Or maybe in the dark someone put their thumb in front of the lens. But again, when you get enough odd pictures and strange sounds, is it just coincidence or do you really have something unusual?

But I guess that’s why we watch, to find that evidence and judge for ourselves. Apart from the paranormal aspect I like GHI because they go to some of the most remarkable places. I would love to have that kind of opportunity. It’s like a tour of Europe visiting famous castles, all in the dark.

I was a bit nervous about this spin-off show, but so far GHI is showing they have plenty of places to visit and their own personality to keep people watching. We’ll have to see how things turn out for next year. They have some drastic crew changes so we’ll see who comes back for the next season and where they plan to go. And I’d be curious to see if they will be allowed to investigate any actual homes. It’s all been castles and massive structures, I wonder if they will get the chance to investigate some personal residences as time goes on…

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Ghost Hunters Season 4

Just as the new season of Ghost Hunters gets underway, I finished the episodes of season 4. Once again, they been all over the place and covered a massive amount of ground. Homeowners aren’t the only ones calling on Ghost Hunters to explain noises and shadows, they’ve been to Forts, an Air Force base, asylums, a lighthouse and even some investigations on a set of boats. Of course the big event of the year was the multi-hour live investigation which did ultimately have a few moments that seemed a little unusual.

I did find the episode with Tango and his dad to be pretty entertaining. It was more for the fact that they both can be involved in such an off beat line of work. Plus we get to see Tango boss his Dad around, but still have a good time trying to figure out what’s going on.

While the locations are certainly entertaining not all of them turn out to be the real deal. I’m still amused by the disappointment people show when they find out their site isn’t haunted. It’s like Jason and Grant just took away the cool factor and left them with some run down old building. As equally amusing are the people who just don’t want to believe the place isn’t haunted. If the team doesn’t find anything that just means the spirits didn’t want to come out and play. They might be able to explain all the events away with perfectly logical explanations and even make some of the problem go away, but yet some people are just convinced other worldly figures reside in their homes. Some times people want that unique identity and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Also, we see some new pieces of equipment coming into place, specifically the K2 meter. It’s hard to say whether this is the real deal or not. I remember first seeing this when they investigated the site of the Manson Family murders and Sharon Tate. It has shown up more and more in recent investigations, but is there any validity to it? Is it really responding to the energy of the spirit world? It is the electronic representation of the cold spot? Or is this crazy gizmo just picking up interference from anything and everything in the room? Is this a clever debunking tool or grasping at straws?

When it comes to EVPs the quality seems to have gone down over time. During the first two seasons the EVPs were pretty clear and it wasn’t too hard to tell what was being said, or at least justify to yourself. But now they seem to be so faint that I can’t hear anything anymore. Even when they put up the subtitles I don’t hear anything but a hiss. If they’re still picking them up I’m not following along. Maybe their process is different these days or maybe the spirit world needs some better mics but I’m not hearing anything.

And speaking of not hearing things, why is there always some dramatic music or drum pulse right when a knock, bang or door creak is supposedly heard. I don’t know why they have to do that, but it’s really distracting. I know it’s added for dramatic effect but it’s going beyond that to completely mask any noise which might be there. Combine that with the poor quality audio during the reveal and I think they might just be trying to make more out of what they find than there really is.

But overall, Ghost Hunters is still fun and entertaining. Steve, Tango and Kris have become staples of the show and offer a certain level of predictability to the show and how things will run. Was there any true stand out evidence for this year? The Halloween episode had some interesting moments. Some of the noises and voices were interesting when you could actually hear them. It’s all still good fun to see the places they go and the experiences they have. Walking through the dark recesses of abandoned buildings in the wee hours of the morning, or trying to wake the spirits on a site where strange and bizarre events have occurred certainly seems like a fun way to make some money.

I’m looking forward to Season 5, I’m already a couple of episodes behind. Seriously, trying to talk to Betsy Ross?

Ghost Hunters: Season Four, Part 1 (Amazon)
Ghost Hunters: Season Four, Part 2 (Amazon)

Ghost Hunters: Season 4 Part 1 (Netflix)
Ghost Hunters: Season 4 Part 2 (Netflix)

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Paranormal State – Season 2

Ryan and his team are back for more adventures and even more unusual cases. Tagging along of course is Chip Coffey, who to me, is a real gem for the show. While the season is shorter this time around, the group seems a little more serious about the cases they take on. While the first season dealt with people who heard noises and felt uncomfortable, the second season deals with much darker forces bordering on the demonic. There seems to be a lot more bitch slapping from the spirit world and Ryan is going to step in and put someone or something in a sleeper hold.

We have a family who believes their parents are trying to identify their killer from beyond the grave, a young man who believes he is being visited by the spirit of his grandmother who took her own life in the house, and even a girl Ryan and the team think is actually possessed and a priest who performs the exorcism ritual. Throw in some animal abuse and a dark voodoo doll and you basically have a little bit of everything and a whole lot of events that really make you think.

While Lorraine sits this season out (Ryan does call her a couple of times, especially during the exorcism), Chip is on the scene through a vast majority of the episodes. He feels the presence of evil just about everywhere he goes, but you have to ask, can someone really pick up those kinds of things just by walking into a house? It makes you wonder, good guess or psychic impression? And even more compelling, what impressions does he get when he goes into a Starbucks?

PRS is branching out, going to locations in a variety of different states. They are crossing the country in their efforts to do battle with the demonic. Again, the evidence they collect is minimal at best and while they don’t capture anything on their thermal cameras and EVP sessions are non-existent they still move forward to cast out the demons. I think the best piece of evidence they gathered was a chair that moved slightly. However, people were near the chair with dozens of explanations on how it could have happened. While certainly cool if it were real, nothing suggests that only the paranormal could have done such a thing.

There is no doubt they come across some interesting situations with people who seem to have some odd things going on around them. The two most interesting episodes are about a teenager who sees and feels the presence of his dead grandmother in the upstairs of his house, especially the bathroom. He sees shadowy figures, nearly broke his leg running away from something he saw, and feels queasy repeatedly when he’s upstairs. The one part that really bugged me was that the father knew of the death, knew the details of what happened, but didn’t feel it necessary to share those details to Ryan when he was being interviewed. Those are the kind of details you should mention.

The other compelling episode is the finale which involves an exorcism. A young girl and her parents believe she is in fact possessed by an evil entity. Not just that odd things are going on, but that an actual evil spirit has invaded their daughter’s body. The evidence mounts that a spirit called “Six” is in charge of her and an Episcopal priest is called in to exorcise the demons. Real or not it would be one hell of thing to witness and would probably scare the hell out of me. That priest didn’t seem to be fooling around. He was liberal with the Holy Water and those beads of sweat looked real enough to me.

So is Paranormal State still worth watching? But of course. It’s too much fun not to. Again, these people believe, truly believe something has invaded their homes and that alone makes the problem real. Do Ryan and his team find compelling evidence of the paranormal? I have to say no. They don’t really discover anything that defies some other type of explanation. Even the exorcism could be nothing more than an unfortunate girl with a mental condition. But the stories are interesting and it would be so cool to be a part of them. It’s certainly one of those experiences that would be hard to duplicate. Plus, there’s plenty of atmosphere and things that make you think while you’re watching it at night, with the lights off.

I like Ryan and his style. In fact all of them have level heads even when they see some really bizarre events. And Heather is a take charge kind of gal as she heads down to the basement alone to see if the spirits want to have a bit of a chat.

This season was far too short for me. Let’s hope the next season gives us some more episodes to work with. I like what these guys do and there is no doubt I’d tag along if given half a chance.

For those that already believe this show will support their beliefs. For those that don’t this certainly won’t change their mind.

Paranormal State: The Complete Season Two (Amazon)
Paranormal State: The Complete Season Two (Netflix)

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