Honouring Esther Cox

Artists sign mystery mural

Darrell Cole webcomments@ngnews.ca
Published on July 20, 2009

AMHERST - When Susan Tooke and Richard Rudnicki went to work on the Great Amherst Mystery Mural, they wanted to create something that celebrated North America's biggest unsolved haunting.

"This mural was really a lot of fun to put together and it was fun to research," Tooke said soon after joining her husband in signing the latest addition to the Amherst Mural Project on Friday. "We wanted to show some of the drama and some of the humanity. She was really a tortured soul in what's really an amazing story that happened not just to Esther, but the community as well."
The mural, the 10th to be signed as part of the multi-year mural project, tells the story of Esther Cox and the Great Amherst Mystery. By using a style similar to old-time circus posters, Esther's story is brought out in bright colours on the north wall of the Preview Realty building on the corner of LaPlanche and Victoria streets.
"We actually designed it off of a Wild Bill Hickcox circus poster that would have been around during the same period," Rudnicki said. "It shows the different stages and different aspects of the story."
The centre of the mural features Cox reacting to lit matches falling from the ceiling while the bottom of the mural includes the family home and ordinary Amherstonians coming to see it.
Other parts include the stacking chairs associated with the mystery, the messages left by the poltergeist that haunted Cox, the flying hymn books, the man who wrote Cox's story on the road and the barn fire allegedly set by the poltergeist that got her arrested.
"She was actually arrested and put in jail and acquitted by the judge when the townspeople petitioned saying she couldn't have possibly burned the barn down because she was haunted by a poltergeist," Rudnicki said.
Rudnicki enjoyed listening to people talk about their recollection of the Great Amherst Mystery and how they'd say they didn't believe in ghosts but this haunting really happened.
The mural was Tooke's fourth after the Signature Mural she completed with Bruce Rickett more than a decade ago. She also painted the Women's Mural and completed the Nova Scotia Highlanders Mural.
Downtown businessperson Bob Barnes is impressed with the latest addition to the mural project and is pleased with how the town is trying to preserve its history.
"It's important for the nation to record its history and Amherst is doing a great job of doing that," said Barnes. "We're adding to that record today."
Mayor Robert Small credited the work the Downtown Revitalization Society and its partners have done with the mural project.
"It's been something that has been talked about any time someone walks through the town," he said.
"It has been an excellent project for the town. People who come through town can't help but notice the murals."