I would be invisible but nonetheless present in a certain house at 92 Second Street in Fall River, Massachusetts, on the sweltering hot morning of August 4, 1892. At breakfast I would join elderly, tightfisted Andrew Borden, his second wife, Abby, rather stout at two hundred pounds and five feet tall, and Lizzie, the thirty-twoyear-old unmarried daughter of Andrew and his first wife. The necessity of my invisibility would become only too apparent later in the morning, but at this point I would be rather thankful to be under no obligation to partake of the cold mutton, bananas, and black coffee.
Following this meal, the last for Andrew and Abby, I would observe Andrew leaving the house for a walk, after meticulously locking the door, as was his habit. I wouldn’t have long to wait—perhaps an hour at most—before learning the secret that has mystified generations of Americans, and put the name Lizzie Borden forever into the annals of American legend.
In the second-floor guest bedroom around ten o’clock I would see the hand that held the hatchet and the nineteen blows that rained down on Abby’s head and shoulders. I would hear Lizzie laughing as the Borden maid, Bridget, struggled with the locked door to let Andrew back in the house about an hour later. I would observe him lying down on the sitting-room couch for a nap and then, within a few minutes, I would be a witness to the third horror of the morning (if you count the breakfast as the first). It wouldn’t be easy to stand by as Andrew’s brains were splattered over the nearby wall in a shower of blood. But I’d know whether the brutal perpetrator was Bridget, Emma (Lizzie’s sister who was supposedly out of town but who conceivably could have returned), John Morse (a houseguest the night before and brother of the first Mrs. Borden), an intruder, or, indeed, Lizzie, who was found innocent of the crimes by a jury ten months later.
I would know, but I’d never tell.