On the path of the strange

INDIANAPOLIS – In these days of COVID-19 when social distancing is heavily promoted, many of us have had to find our own fun. But with author Ashley Petry’s new travel guide in hand – “Secret Indianapolis: A Guide to the Strange, Wonderful and Dark” – curiosities and adventures are just around the corner.

As a lifelong Hoosier who had lived in central Indiana for more than 40 years, I was surprised at how many places I had never heard of. For example, I had no idea that Indianapolis is home to the Teeny Statue of Liberty Museum (2907 E. 10th St.). The museum started when Tim and Julie Harmon (owners of another Fine Mess salvage store – a curio stop in itself) noticed a statue of Liberty imprinted on a packing box, followed by a selection of Statue of Liberty erasers delivered to the store. Since then, the Harmons have practiced collecting images, figures and representations of the Statue of Liberty. The collection has been expanded to include a Statue of Liberty Barbie doll in a red, white, and blue Bob Mackie dress and a print of Miss Piggy disguised as a Statue of Liberty. Entry is 50 cents.

Little did I know that the Antique Fan Collectors Association was forced to move its extensive collection from Witchita, Kansas to Zionsville. Fanimation (10983 Bennett Pkwy.) Open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Or did you know that the Indiana State Museum (650 W. Washington St.) has a collection of art and jewelry made from human hair, among other things? The grounds of the museum itself offer afternoon fun at the 92 County Walk Scavenger Hunt: sculptures representative of all of Indiana’s 92 counties are found in the architecture on the outside of the building, on the sidewalk, or on the stairs. For an incomplete listing, see Secret Indianapolis or a full listing in The Art of the 92 County Walk, available from the museum.

The story continues under the gallery

For those who need an educational experience every outing, learn to slaughter a whole pig at Smoking Goose Meatery (407 Dorman St.). Or visit the Indiana Medical History Museum (3045 W. Vermont St.), formerly the Central State Hospital for the Insane.

There is something to arouse for every interest. Those who love history will be intrigued to read about “The Great Squirrel Invasion of 1822”. Apparently, thousands of gray and black squirrels came on the crops of local farmers and destroyed them. One farmer reported killing more than 250 people in a single day, while another farmer and his sons patrolled their fields during the day and formed balls at night. Another eyewitness reported that squirrels couldn’t swim but could claim rivers and streams by walking over the bodies of dead squirrels that had drowned. Insert a big-eyed disbelieving emoji here.

Do you remember the strangely fascinating sport of curling that we all reintroduced every four years during the Winter Olympics? Believe it or not, Indianapolis is home to the Circle City Curling Club, which has enough practical curling instruction to make you the office expert for the next Winter Olympics. A visit to the website at circlecitycurling.com provides information on lessons and even a curling league that meets at the fuel tank in Fishers.

The book dredges up the old urban legends surrounding the House of Blue Lights – the house is gone now, but they say the surrounding woods are still glowing blue – and the Hannah House (3801 Madison Ave.) which is the one on most haunted home is considered Indiana.

If you’re into science – or the inexplicable – head to Mooresville on Keller Hill Road, where cars supposedly roll uphill. Legend has it that a ghostly woman whose grandson was killed in a car accident pushes the cars uphill. When you put your car into neutral and let the powers of … whatever … Taking over makes you nervous, the phenomenon can be simulated with a ball or a beverage can.

A quick look at Petry’s list of credible sources includes books and articles by Howard Caldwell (longtime news anchor for WRTV-6); Reid Duffy (known for 18 years of restaurant reviews); George Geib (noted history professor who taught at Butler University); Lou Harry (author, journalist and playwright); Dave Lindquist (entertainment reporter for the Indianapolis Star); Steve Mannheimer (former fine art writer for The Indianapolis Star); Columnist Dick Wolfsie; and Alan E. Hunter, who most recently spoke and signed books at the Riley Boyhood Home.

Petry, a freelance writer, graduated from Greenfield Central High School in 1999. She has been a freelance travel writer for 17 years. Her previous book, 100 Things To Do In Indianapolis Before You Die, is now in its second edition.

“Secret Indianapolis: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure” with Fortville’s giant pink elephant on the cover can be found at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, or your local independent bookstore.

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