Do the troubled spirits of John and Irene walk the Brickyard Trail? Probably not. At the Brighton Library, Matt Bashore unveils the twists and turns of the crime and punishment

Jazz Age Murder in Brighton-page0001The other day, I and a friend were walking the newly constructed Brickyard Trail in Brighton (where we’ve been before). Enjoying our amble on the picturesque snow covered trail, we abruptly had a shocking encounter.

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The 1st of 2 exhibit display cases at the Brighton Memorial Library

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Looking like he saw a ghost! The Brickyard Trail [Photo: anonymous]

From the wooded area we heard faint but distinct voices that could only be human. First a male voice; “Irene, I am so sorry.” Then a female response; “John, I can never forgive you.”  More uncanny rustling and what felt like approaching presences. Terrified — caught on her camera — we ran, speechless.

What could it be?

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Luckily I always walk the trail with the pitchfork found at the abandoned Groos farmhouse on Westfall [Photo: anonymous]

By sheer coincidence, our next stop was the Brighton Memorial Library where librarian Matthew Bashore has created an intriguing display on the famous 1922 Brighton murder. As we read about the grisly and still mysterious circumstances of the case, we saw the names of victim and perpetrator: Irene and John Bott!

Shaken, we found Matt. Fortunately, he reassured us that our seemingly other worldly experience was merely an optical illusion caused by the sunlight glancing off the snow banks.

Relieved, we also learned from Matt the origins of the exhibit:

When doing research on display topics for the Brighton Bicentennial in 2014, I came across about a dozen photographs on the  library’s Rochester Images database on a murder that took place in 1922 in Brighton’s Home Acres neighborhood. Of course, it didn’t seem the type of topic that was suitable for a bicentennial celebration, but even the brief paragraph that accompanied the photos told a fascinating story.

Bott Grave in Irondequoit Cemetery

Bott Grave in Irondequoit Cemetery [Photo: Matthew Bashore]

I began to do more research, and the story got better and better. The story even got personal, when I found out that over the past ten years I had strolled past the murder victim’s grave hundreds of times as I walked my dog through Irondequoit cemetery.  I just had to share John and Irene’s story, and Murder Mystery Month at Brighton Memorial Library seemed the perfect opportunity.

So no ghosts, but Matt did share that he was “haunted by the story, at least metaphorically.”

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Brighton Memorial librarian Matt Bashore in front of CLUE display for Murder Mystery Month. Matt has definitively determined there are no ghosts on the Brickyard Trail or at the old Groos farmhouse. But he has not ruled out Colonel Mustard with a candlestick. [Photo provided by Matt]

Below, is a little tease. As for the rest of John and Irene’s passion play, you’ll have to pay the Brighton Memorial Library a visit.

The Crime

At a quarter past eight, just as night fell, on April 1, 1922, Mr. Fred Wilkes dozed off on the couch in the downstairs 1940.332.11358.tiflibrary of his home on Southern Parkway, in the Home Acres section of Brighton, a town the Associated Press would later refer to as “a fashionable East Side suburb.” His sister Caroline was in the kitchen, and the other seven members of the household were upstairs enjoying a peaceful evening.Suddenly, Mr. Wilkes was awakened by a commotion at the front of the house. The family heard the screams of a woman and the repeated sound of gunshots. Initially, Mr. Wilkes thought it might be a robbery and the would-be thieves were trying to frighten them before they entered the house. But since the noise had ceased, the Wilkes cautiously made their way toward the front door and opened the inner door to the entry vestibule. They beheld a terrible and puzzling sight.

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While firmly convinced there are no ghosts, some strange activity has been noticed at the abandoned farmhouse near the Brickyard Trail. Hmm, that pitchfork wasn’t there last time we looked.

A young woman, whom no one recognized, lay unconscious and groaning on the floor in a pool of blood. It was apparent she had been shot in the head, but there was no other person nearby, and no one in the household had heard anyone run from the scene. Immediately the police and ambulance were called. Minutes later the ambulance from the Homeopathic Hospital arrived. Dr. McLaren examined the mysterious woman. She was still alive, but soon her breathing stopped.

ALSO ON ROCHESTER PUBLIC LIBRARIES AND THE BRICKYARD TRAIL AND THE ROCHESTER CANDLELIGHT GHOST WALK

On Dante’s bust on Monroe Avenue

Not letting the Vietnam War be forgotten at the Vietnam Learning Center with Central librarian Steve Nash

Kitty Jospé provides noon nourishment for the mind at Rundel.

Providing hope for the homeless in the back alcove of Rundel Library

The ground breaking of the Brickyard Trail in Brighton and “Memories of the Crab Apple battles”

Stalker of the Town plays Jack the Ripper at the Rochester Candlelight Ghost Walk