Lizzie Borden Took an Axe…

For my final project in my Digital History class I’m making a game on Twine. Twine, for those of you who may not know, is a free to use program that allows you to make choose your own adventure style point and click games. Unlike a choose your own adventure book though, there are some ways to program it. You can keep track of a player’s inventory or their health, and you can block off certain options until the player has completed certain tasks.

My game is centering around the Borden family murders which occurred in August of 1892, more commonly known as the Lizzie Borden murders despite the fact that she was acquitted of the charges. The player plays the head detective on the case and the idea is for the player to interview suspects and collect evidence to find the killer. Now, there are definitely some difficulties with this. Historical accuracy, for one. The original investigation was very poorly done, even by the standards of the time. So how do you channel that into a game played by someone who knows modern forensics and likely is coming into this game with a strong bias against Lizzie Borden as the killer? The honest answer is that I don’t know! I’m still working away at it, trying to make the main character accurate to how the actual investigation went down while also not make that character a bumbling fool. It’s a tough balance to find and I’m not sure I’ve found it!

But overall it’s been a very interesting project so far. Researching the Borden family has made me know a lot more about the murders than I did before (most of what I knew was the old rhyme, “Lizzie Borden took an axe/ and gave her father thirty hacks/ and when she saw what she had done/ she gave her mother thirty one”). Now this rhyme is not entirely accurate. It was never proved that Lizzie was guilty (though the court of public opinion passed a very different verdict than the actual court did). It was not Lizzie’s mother but rather her stepmother who was murdered, and there were only eleven hacks on her father’s body and nineteen on her stepmother’s (still quite a lot, but not thirty or thirty one!) and the weapon used was likely a hatchet, not an axe.

Do I think Lizzie was guilty? Honestly, it seems likely. But then again, I’m coming at this from a perspective of someone who was raised in a world where Lizzie Borden Is Guilty is the most common narrative. A friend of mine who is a bit obsessed with the murders and spends a significant amount of time on forums dedicated to Borden insists that Lizzie must have been innocent though, so there are people out there who do believe in her innocence!


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