Forty Whacks: The Story of Lizzie Borden

Born on July 19th, 1860, Lizzie Borden was a New England resident who was accused of murdering her father and stepmother with an axe. Oddly enough, the murders, legal trial, and media attention caused Lizzie to become a pseudo celebrity, similar to our modern tabloids causing train wrecks like Charlie Sheen to become the center of attention. And now, thanks to whoever came up with the song all of those many years ago, we have this little jingle to remind us of the horrors of Lizzie Borden:


Lizzie Borden took an axe

And gave her mother forty whacks.

When she saw what she had done

She gave her father forty-one.


Lizzie Borden

If you look hard enough, you can see the crazy in her eyes.

While some sources claim that the song was written by an anonymous writer to sell more newspapers, there are others that claim it was the anonymous Mother Goose. To be honest, though, the focus should not be on the song or the catchy lines about a woman murdering her family. We should be focusing on the truth behind this little limerick.

On August 4th, 1892, Lizzie Borden found the deceased body of her father, Andrew Borden. Sometime later in the day, the Borden’s maid found the body of Lizzie’s stepmother, which was located in a guest bedroom. Both Lizzie’s stepmother and father had been killed by a hatchet, with blows to the skull being the final kick into the afterlife.

Lizzie Borden

Photo of Andrew Borden’s body.

While Lizzie was being questioned, her stories about finding the bodies were inconsistent and suspicious. Plus, Lizzie had a reason to kill her father Andrew was trying to split the family’s estate. Some days after the trial started, Lizzie tore apart a dress and burned it on the kitchen stove. This is believed to be the dress Lizzie was wearing when she killed her parents, but the evidence was gone and forever lost.

After an extensive investigation and trial, Lizzie Borden was acquitted of all charges. Because both of her parents were dead, her parents estate was split between herself and her sister, leaving both of them with great wealth.

Whether Lizzie Borden actually killed her parents or not, its too late to even speculate. But we did get a nice song out of it.


Lizzie Borden took an axe

4 thoughts on “Forty Whacks: The Story of Lizzie Borden

  1. April Lynn Kelley

    I still have mixed feelings, even though I have studied this story over, and over for many years. It is a true unsolved mystery!

  2. SharonH

    Oh, Lizzie did it, no doubt. The circumstantial evidence is overwhelming. Relatively new forensic analysis has discovered damning evidence in the cellar, indicating where Lizzie washed off the weapon and then broke the handle (very cleanly) and tried to disguise it. Couple this with her odd actions, esp. the night before the killings, and I think the case is pretty much wrapped up. I think she murdered her parents over (surprise) alterations being made in the father’s will re: disposition of some real estate.

    That said, the family was extremely dysfunctional and even, at times, bizarre. And Andrew was not loved in the community. The attitude was “someone finally got to him”. Despite the verdict, the citizens believed her guilty. Today the case would be open and shut. Still fascinating!

  3. Lolo

    Ghost Adventures October 2011 episode brought a physic on to the premises and the medium stated that Mr. Andrew Borden molested his daughter Lizzie and the wife Abby covered it up and kept her mouth shut hence giving Lizzie a reason to wack em both. Go girl.

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