story by Cathy Shouse
That chill you feel in Indiana’s autumn air is probably just a change in the seasons…or is it more? For years, history buffs and curious travelers have set out on “ghost” adventures throughout the state, enjoying a lighthearted spin on mixing “history with mystery.”
One of Indiana’s oldest bed and breakfast inns, the Story Inn in Nashville, has a long and “storied” history. So it’s no surprise that there have been claims of unexplained experiences. “We‘ve had sightings listed in the guest book since the ‘80s,” said Rich Hofstetter, who runs the inn. “There have been smells, doors open and shut, and lights come on. We have people who smell tobacco. We might say there are spirits here. Some people say they have proof, but I’m skeptical.”
The Story Inn has been called one of the Midwest’s premiere inns and restaurants, and the entire town is an historic district. In the sawmill, there are heated tile floors and a hot tub. Food from their on-site garden is served in the restaurant.
For those who dare, book a stay and ask for the “Blue Lady” room, where past guests claim to see a lady roaming around in a blue gown.
At the Roads Hotel in Atlanta, just north of Noblesville, you can take part in public or private paranormal investigations, all for a good cause. Proceeds go to the Lost Limbs Foundation, which was started in 2014 and provides financial assistance to the families of amputee children who are in need of medical and prosthetic assistance.
Built in 1893, the Roads is a two-story, rectangular, Queen Anne style frame building featuring a two-story front porch and cross gable. Owned at that time by Newton Roads and his wife Clara, it was a popular stop for Al Capone and John Dillinger, and was even a speakeasy for a short period of time during prohibition. Between the infamous gangsters and the tragic deaths of the hotel owner’s family, sightings of ghosts have “run rampant.”
“It’s not a functioning hotel,” Mike Couch, who operates the hotel and is founder of the Lost Limbs Foundation, said. “We have public paranormal investigations as well as private investigations. One Saturday a month we hold a public investigation from 6 p.m until 2 a.m. for $40 a person, limited to ten people. People new to it may bring a camera and turn on the mike on their Apple phone.”
In Sullivan County, Brenda Cook gives tours in the tiny town of Merom, population 191. She’s been a paranormal investigator for 15 years and also goes on tours herself. One of the highlights is the Merom Livery House. “It’s a haunted house that used to be a boarding house,” says Brenda. “There have been a lot of paranormal instigations at the house.” During her tours, guests can use digital cameras, EMF detectors, “sprit boxes,” and flashlights.
In the early 1800s, the state of Indiana was required to provide residence for the poor and disabled. The building in which the Scott County Heritage Center and Museum is housed was built in 1892 for this specific purpose. The building would remain at capacity until 1973, when the last inmate was moved out.
The building then became county offices and court while the courthouse was under renovations. The building sat empty until the Preservation Alliance took possession of the building to be used as the present-day Scott County Museum. Since the early 1970s people working in the building have reported hearing footsteps, voices call out their names and even
a few actual full-bodied apparitions. Today, the museum conducts paranormal investigations on Friday and Saturday nights. Cost is $10 per person. Six-hour investigations are also offered for $200.
Greg Steffe, the Director of the Kosciusko County Historical Society, has been a part of the Old Jail Museum team for over three years and previously led the Spirits of Warsaw Ghost Tours in downtown Warsaw. “In the 17 years I’ve been doing this I’ve investigated some of the most haunted locations in the United States,” Steffe said. “Some of the most active locations I’ve ever seen have been right here in our own community.” Spots include the jail, Barbee Hotel, and “Devils Backbone.”
At the Indiana Dunes National Park, the ghost of “Diana of the Dunes” has reportedly been seen running along Lake Michigan’s shoreline. Diana was a 1920s-era Dunes advocate who lived in the park. Today, you can take the “Diana of the Dunes Dare,” a trail route that follows along the West Beach Dune Succession Trail.
To enjoy some more lighthearted fun for the whole family, mark your calendar for these popular not-so-spooky events:
ZooBoo at the Indianapolis Zoo runs October 5 through October 31, from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays (open until 9 p.m. Friday ad Saturday). There are Halloween activities, amazing animals, and pumpkins galore. October weather means active animals, colorful foliage, and a new season to explore. Combine that with engaging, hands-free activities, spooktacular costumes and trick-or-treating, and you’ve got an unforgettable family tradition.
At Conner Prairie, the annual Headless Horseman Festival runs Sundays through Thursdays October 6-30. During the festival, you can take the iconic haunted hayride through Conner Prairie’s grounds and see if you encounter the horseman himself; enjoy a barrel train ride for little ones; dive into the legend of Amsel Farm and explore the cursed ground of the Haunted Maze; see spooky shows; and more.
Don’t miss the 17th annual Haunted Woods Trail on the Fulton County Historical Society grounds, four miles north of Rochester on U.S. 31, October 21-22 and October 28-29. Hours are 7:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. or until the crowd is done. Free tram rides are available from museums and park to the haunted area. There will be spooky scenes in the woods with many different themes, and food will be available.