To the editor:
The second annual Ghostwalk presented by the Baldwinsville Center for the Arts was held this the last weekend of October. Our family went for a guided tour of village landmarks and eight spooky stories of real life residents.
It was a dank night with intermittent showers; a damping in energy and cold intensified on the first stop at Riverside Grill bar along the river. The story of Johnny Longcoy and a drunken street fight heart stabbing at the four-corners by a traveling carny, a roustabout over an unidentified woman.
The second stop at Two Twisted Sisters porch included a schoolgirl’s wailing calls to her mother, her boyfriend, with haunting moments of demonism then sudden death onto a chair.
The third stop for warming inside Lock 24 restaurant regaled a chilling story of a couple’s tragic auto plunge into the canal in the dead of winter. On leaving this spot, I thought of the short story of the “Murder on Canton Street,” written by Joseph Virkler. Joe, 92, resides in Syracuse Home at McHarrie Place. His family farm on Canton Street (then Warners Road) had extended to Syracuse Home.
I spoke with him about this in-person. Joseph McGann, 73, died on Sept. 16, 1933. The death was first recorded as a slip-and-fall accident, then changed to a homicide. Joe researched the case between 1990 and ’95 from newspaper articles and published his story in 2001. Joe was a past town historian for Van Buren. At 7 years of age in 1933, he knew McGann per his parents, whose home was directly across the street. Joe knew too something was awry over his death.
The story is a quick read of Norman Baldwin and Mace Blaisdell’s botched $8 robbery of McGann, clubbing him a latent, fatal concussion. The story prefaces for an observance made the day before by his parents. Joe wrote “in the fast thickening darkness a woman got out of a stopped car and walked toward McGann’s house.” Was she the scout for the two men? Joe recollected his family had witnessed then the “prelude to a murder.” The police investigation would continue for two months.
Later, the story triangulated when Baldwin, smitten with Blaisdell’s sister Julia, stirs the ire of Mrs. Baldwin. Joe quoted me the proverb, “Hell has no fury like a woman scorned.” “She squealed on this woman was no riddle,” defended Joe. A clue at the scene was an unidentified, bloody (woman’s) heel footprint on the front porch. According to Joe, “the print must have been an accomplice.” To this day the investigation haunts him, for “why this woman’s complicity was never followed up or reported on?” The Grand Jury records were discarded. And fact or fiction of the detective magazine story: “NY’s Riddle on the Crimson Footprint” to the discrepancy alleging a (man’s) footprint remains a mystery.