Rooftop Quarry, Bloomington’s BIggest Breaking Away Legacy

The 1979 Breaking Away struck a chord with its Indiana audience, especially in Bloomington, where director Peter Yates set the story. This coming-of-age film centers on four friends, all recent high school graduates, one of whom hopes to “break away” from his rural life by winning the Little 500 bike race. Most of the filming locations still stand, although the old Memorial Stadium was torn down a few years after filming. By far the most famous is the Rooftop Quarry.


In the film, the four friends leap into Rooftop Quarry, sometimes referred to as Sanders Quarry. This became a common tradition for students and residents of Bloomington. In fact, locals announce the beginning and end of quarry-jumping season every year.

Bloomington residents did not look on the quarry as favorably. Besides the inherent danger in leaping 65-feet into a quarry, nearby homes had to deal with strangers parking near their homes or trespassing to reach the quarry. Literally, during the summer HUNDREDS of car would block area roads as explorers came to visit Rooftop.

After injuries and a fatality, Rooftop Quarry is coming to an end. Patrolling and policing the quarry had little effect, so the town has slowly begun filling in Rooftop with nearby stones, fallen trees, and other material. Today, well over half the quarry had been filled.


In their list of the 100 Most Inspiring Films, the American Film Institute (AFI) ranked it #8. In AFI’s list of top ten sports movies, Breaking Away ranked #8 again. In probably the most touching bit of praise, film critic Roger Ebert called it a “precious cinematic miracle.” You might enjoy learning of other Indiana filming locations in our article “Five Movies You Didn’t Know Were Filmed in Indiana.

200 “Demons” House of Gary, Indiana

I add this one reluctantly, since it’s the focus of some of the worst ghost hysteria I’ve ever seen. What happened there? In summary, a mother found herself in some hot water with local police for not sending her children to school. DCS came to investigate. She blamed their truancy on the Devil and coached her children to act possessed. The police officer in charge of the investigation added credence to her claims; he too was a ghost enthusiast.


Psychologists and DCS case managers that questioned the children stated very clearly they had been coached. In fact, the children also used this to deflect any line of questioning they couldn’t answer. But the rumor persisted. The family moved out in 2012, and the tenants afterwards reported no disturbances. Eventually a film maker—not weighed down by decency or scruples—created a documentary about the haunting case. Then had the house town down.

The story of Gary’s 200 Demons House isn’t one of malevolent spirits troubling the living, but of the malevolent living exploiting the beliefs and fears of others.  If you’d like to know more about this absurd story, read the article “The ‘200 Demons’ House: A Skeptical Demonologist’s Report.

Jefferies Ford Covered Bridge in Rosedale, Indiana

Built in 1915, the Jefferies Ford Covered Bridge spanned over 200 feet across Big Raccoon Creek in Parke County, Indiana. Constructed by famed bridge builder J.A. Britton and his sons, the bridge was added to the National Historic Registry in 1978, along with several other Parke County Bridge.

The original bridge is visible in this 1998 satellite image.

In 2002, Parke County native-turned-arsonist Jesse Payne burned down the Jefferies Covered Bridge, and then the Bridgeton Covered Bridge in 2005. He was arrested in 2005 after attempting to set a third bridge on fire. He is currently serving 90 years in prison.

Jefferies Bridge Before & After Arson

Parke County wanted to rebuild the bridge, but after the Bridgeton bridge’s destruction, the county realized they had only enough money to reconstruct one bridge—the Bridgeton. A modern concrete bridge replaced the Jefferies Ford Bridge, visible in the satellite photo below.

Photo from 2017

To learn about another infamous cases of Indiana arson, read our appropriately-titled story “Infamous Acts of Indiana Arson.