It’s been a weird
month. It’s been a weird summer. It’s been a weird year.
Scratch all that. Let’s just say it’s been weird for awhile and it will likely remain weird. To conclude the weird summer of the even weirder 2021, here’s an article to usher you into 2022: weird Indiana locations and landmarks that you can enjoy from space…via Google Maps, Google Earth (free and awesome), Apple, AllTrails, or Magellan. I don’t know why, but there’s something about seeing our history’s oddest artifacts from the cold vacuum of space that is comforting.
That might just be me. Enjoy it anyway!
Avon’s Haunted Bridge
Considered by many Hoosier hauntings fans as the most haunted place in Indiana, the Avon Bridge has stretched across White Lick Creek since Irish laborers built it in the 1850s. In fact, Avon culture has connected so deeply with the famous/infamous bridge that it has become the official town seal (above photo, bottom left).
The numerous and sometimes conflicting supernatural stories orbiting the Avon Bridge turned into a kind of historical quagmire. Years ago, I did write out one of the more popular tales associated with the bridge (“Buried Alive: The Horror of Indiana’s Haunted Avon Bridge“) but everyone seems to have a personal story or two to share involving screaming babies, banshees, and bricklayers. That place is the Grand Central Station of hauntings, apparently.
“The entrance is boarded up now, but there’s a pathway in the center that runs from one end to the other. I’ve been in rooms inside the pillars where hobos hide, and at night you can hear a baby cry when the train passes.”
~Anonymous Avon resident
(I drove under it a half-dozen times years ago, and all I heard was the AC/DC on my stereo)
Dr. Stamp’s Concrete Block (of Human Teeth)
Those that are both adventurous and morbidly curious might want to check out the intersection of South Riverside Drive and West Lexington Avenue and stroll across the street to the grassy roadside median. There, you’ll find—Well, nothing. Because they removed it.
Once upon a time, a large concrete block sat in the grass of that apartment building, put there by a colorful dentist. A block composed of pulverized stone and human teeth.
About 70 years ago, an Elkhart dentist named Dr. Joseph Stamp decided to memorialize his deceased pet by collecting scores of extracted teeth from his dental practice. He immersed these in a preservative and then imbedded the teeth in the fresh cement, creating a concrete memorial stone so bizarre, it borders on art. For 30 years he continued adding to this block, and his eccentricity became a neighborhood ritual. Kids would follow him like he was the world’s strangest Easter Bunny.
Dr. Stamp passed away over 40 years ago, but the block remained in the same spot until residents woke up one morning and saw vandals had toppled it to one side. Concrete and teeth might be tough to the elements, but they’re brittle to jostling, so Elkhart moved the stone to the city’s The ‘Time Was’ Museum, a quirky and communal museum dedicated to Elkhart’s “creativity.” The museum placed Dr. Stamp’s block in a fenced area outside the museum as an exterior exhibit, where it now sits today.
*I can’t share the museum’s hours: according to the owners, the museum is “open by chance or appointment.”
Sun Aura’s Giant Lady’s Leg Sun Dial
First off, Sun Aura Resort ISN’T a nudist resort in the traditional sense. Not anymore. It is now “a unique clothing-optional resort with RV camping, tent camping, and cabin rentals in Northwest Indiana.”
There’s plenty of easy jokes that could be made about a clothing-optional resort tucked away in conservative south Lake County, but its current owners have done an excellent job straddling the Region’s social fence on personal privacy vs. public decorum.
This resort is actually one of the oldest and, sadly, one of the most controversial nudist resorts in the Midwest. It began as Club Zorro in 1933 and remained prosperous and peaceful until it fell into the sticky hands of Dick Drost. Dude’s a creep.
Thinking himself a half-baked High Hefner, Dick Drost renamed the resort Naked City (subtle?) and founded such contests as “Miss Nude Teeny Bopper”. Eventually, Dick Drost’s lascivious lifestyle caught up with him and Indiana authorities gave him the choice of the highway or the county jail. Drost skedaddled.
He did leave one admirable artifact behind. At nearly 19′ tall and over 30′ long, the Giant Lady’s Leg Sundial has emerged as a symbol of pride and accomplishment for the resort’s current owners. Nearing a half-century old, the sundial received a top-to-bottom “leg-lift” and now looks brand new.
The Naughty Dinosaurs of the Indianapolis Children’s Museum
120,000 artifacts, five floors, and almost a half million square feet of museum space make the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis the LARGEST children’s museum in the world. It seems only fitting that such a masterpiece of enjoyment and education should sprinkle a few monstrous dinosaurs to stand out.
One one end of the museum campus, a full-sized Brachiosaurus and its baby try to slip unnoticed through a window; on the other end, an adult Alamosaurus and its young try to affect an escape through the city, only to freeze in the bustle of modern traffic. The cost and effort to manufacture these sculptures must have been extraordinary, but I appreciate it, then and now, because it makes the city more…playful.
These sculptures served as bookmarks for the Dinosphere, a comprehensive, interactive, and completely immersive exhibition that transports kids (and let’s be real—adults too) 65 million years into the past. I’m serious when I say it’s not just for kids. When the Dinosphere first opened, I spent 15 minutes with my face pressed against a wall of observation glass, watching a paleontologist (or an assistant) extract a real dinosaur fossil from its sandstone matrix, somehow working through stone with puffs of air and a soft-bristled toothbrush. Now that I think about it, I must have creeped then out.
*A word of warning: the museum has closed the Dinosphere from Winter 2021 to Spring 2022 for a $27 million renovation. Anyone who needs their dino fix can find a well-made designed virtual tour on the museum’s website HERE.
Goshen Police’s Gangster Blind
Law enforcement had good reason to fear gangsters in the age of Dillinger, Capone, Pretty Boy Floyd, and Torrio. Waves of crime spilled out of Chicagoland in the form of robberies, murder, extortion, and bootlegging. These street battles were seen as a war by both sides, and gangsters viewed police and FBI as willing combatants. These gangsters were well-supplied, well-liked, and resourceful. And they were all coming Goshen’s way.
Goshen was nervous. The town sat right on Lincoln Highway, a perfect stop for any criminals fleeing Chicago police or heading to New York. And Goshen had two delicious downtown banks, ripe for the plucking.
The good people of Goshen didn’t screw around, especially after hearing Dillinger had held up a South Bend bank with the aid of automatic weapons and bulletproof vests.
Construction crews hauled in limestone blocks, cut from the legendary Indiana quarries of Bedford and stacked them into an octagon about twice the size of a phone booth, four feet above the street level.
It stood sentinel on the corner of Lincoln and Main, just south of the Elkhart County Courthouse. Each of the police booth’s eight sides contained a thick sheet of bulletproof glass with small portholes cut into each for their gun barrels. Its builders installed heating and ventilation to keep occupants comfortable.
Dillinger could swoop down with a dozen gangsters armed to the teeth, and as long as none of them had anti-tank weaponry, two or three officers in this hardy Midwest pillbox could hold their own indefinitely.
Unfortunately, by the time Goshen completed the fortified police booth in 1939, Prohibition was repealed, Dillinger had been dead for five years*, and Al Capone had just been released from prison, his mind turned to mush by late-stage syphilis. Instead, Goshen police used the fortress as a kind of utility building: police telephone center, radio center, dispatch, traffic and parking headquarters, visitors’ center, and finally, a historical site. But never for a last stand.
It remains there today, as solid as ever, and one of the city’s most popular attractions.
*To be fair, Goshen never intended the booth to protect them from Dillinger directly, only gangsters with the same combination of ferocity and resourcefulness.