What Lives in the Endless Midnight of Indy’s Catacombs?

Beneath the picturesque paths of Indy’s City Market lies 20,000 square feet of perpetual blackness, illuminated only by naked lightbulbs and flashlight beams.

The Catacombs of Indianapolis are the last substantial portion of the city’s first convention center/public auditorium Tomlinson Hall, destroyed by a runaway blaze in the 1950s. All that remains is a single archway in the City Market…and the Catacombs. 

Tomlinson Hall, 1904

I grew up reading Stephen King, and you couldn’t wish for a better horror story premise than that. It’s a Tee-Ball-at-the-World-Series kind of premise. So what DOES slouch and scurry in the cloying darkness below the streets of Indianapolis?

Nothing. Maybe some rats or raccoons, but that’s it. Sorry if that’s a disappointment. No ghosts haunt these subterranean halls because they never actually served as catacombs in the European sense. Or in any sense. The Catacombs of Indianapolis aren’t technically catacombs at all.

Although the subterranean structure has held that nickname for nearly a century, true catacombs are constructed to serve as an underground cemetery, which those below City Market never were or did. 

In the days before refrigeration, a convention center like Tomlinson Hall had an epic need for cold(-ish) storage. Workers piled foodstuffs into the hall’s massive cellar, packed them in sawdust and ice blocks, and this kept everything crispy and fresh(-ish), the turn-of-the-century’s equivalent of a crisper drawer; your great-grandparents probably had something similar, on a much smaller scale. The Indy Catacombs started life as a giant icebox in a more giant basement.