Indianapolis Things That Make You Go "Hmm..."


Indianapolis is a city that embraces the odd and proudly lets its freak flag fly. From the Great Brain Caper to a former pimp's mansion, here are the top five Indianapolis things that make you go "Hmm..."

5) Sideshow Art and Odditorium, Indianapolis City Market

If you like odd art, you'll find a steady supply here. Located on the second floor of Indianapolis City Market, the Odditorium has a selection of art ranging from medical drawings to miniature furniture. Bottled photographs are also sold here, as are wearable horns and a string of lights made from Mexican playing cards. The place has a little bit of everything, most of it offbeat and unusual.

A recent Facebook post tells a humorous story of being asked to remove "offensive art". The post reads " We were told that the wedding planner holding reception in City Market has requested we remove 'offensive' art. We have no fornicating specimens (now there's an idea Carla Knopp). There are no blatant penises or vaginas or gruesome decapitations or, well, anything we can see that's 'offensive'. Turns out, she was referring to the doll head on top of our spineroo - a doll head that still has its original eye balls - unlike Paul Moschell's many different doll heads - whose eyeballs are removed as soon as the dolls are acquired. Ironically, it's a gay wedding - something we find rather normal but many Hoosiers find 'offensive' in and of itself. Censoring a baby doll display topper in a public space - now that's offensive."

4) The Crazy House, Kessler

The real name is the Jerry Hostetler house or Kessler Mansion, but locals call it the Crazy House. Stretching an entire city block, the Crazy House at 4923 Kessler Boulevard East Drive was once owned by a pimp-turned-construction contractor nicknamed "Mr. Big". Hostetler's mansion is 26,000 square feet, according to the Huffington Post, and has been described as "Midwestern Vegas Versailles." The house has five bathrooms and four bedrooms, and, according to the Indianapolis Star, "he cobbled (five ranch houses) together, dug a swimming pool, dug ponds, imported fountains, added ballrooms, added life-size statues of gorillas, added--of all things--a stone grotto (into which he installed a hot tub)." After that, according to Curbed.com, he added "life-size Stormtrooper statues, jester-themed velour chairs, purple carpeting, antique weaponry, granite columns, animal pelts, a multi-colored kitchen", and two urinals.

After Hostetler's death, creditors seized the place and the declining condition of the house earned several complaints from neighbors. One even planted three trees to block his view of the house. The place was featured on HGTV Extreme Home and can now be rented for events hosting up to 2,000 people, according to KesslerMansion.com.

3) Walmart, Beech Grove

In addition to the traditional white trash vibe, the Beech Grove Walmart has the unique distinction of legally being a public nuisance. Multiple shopliftings have escalated quickly here. First there was a shoplifting case that resulted in a high-speed chase involving two police departments that killed a 63-year-old woman and left two other people critically injured, causing major public outcry. Then there was the suicide of a shoplifting suspect in the bathroom at the nearby Egg Roll #1 Chinese restaurant, leading to the "public nuisance" designation, which gave Beech Grove police the opportunity to fine the chain $2,500 plus court costs per call. Finally, there was the infamous shampoo aisle fistfight. The Beech Grove mayor insists people from outside Beech Grove cause all the trouble, and that it is unique to that particular Walmart.

2) Marjorie Jackson Murder Case

According to the Indianapolis Star, Marjorie Jackson was an eccentric millionaire who was murdered in 1977. Jackson, who was known for shouting racial slurs, talking to birds and animals, kept a table set for the return of Jesus Christ, and claimed to grow money out of the ground, was heir to the Standard Grocery chain. Due to a distrust of banks (an employee of the Indiana National Bank embezzled $700,000 from her account), Jackson kept an estimated 11 million dollars hidden around her house at 6490 Spring Mill Road. Unfortunately, everyone knew this, and Jackson was soon burglarized by Walter Bergin Jr. and Douglas Howard Green, who made off with $817,000 in cash and a lot of jewelry--according to Green, he threw the jewelry in the Canal along Westfield Boulevard--an unknown number of diamond necklaces, diamond rings, "three or four watches," a necklace with a jade setting, and one pearl necklace. Bergin and Green were soon arrested after flashing wads of cash and boasting about their heist--at the time the largest from a residential burglary in U.S. history--but when the police went to Jackson, who hadn't reported the burglary, to ask her to press charges, she pointed a cap gun at the officers and ordered them off her property. The jewelry was never recovered.

On May 1, 1977, Jackson was burglarized again. The thieves escaped with an estimated $1 million. On May 7, 1977, Jackson was found dead on her kitchen floor, shot in the stomach. The murderer, Howard "Billy Joe" Willard and his accomplice Manuel Lee Robinson tried to hide the crime by burning the house--they failed to do much damage, attracted considerable attention, and were quickly arrested. The crime was described as impossible to solve, the trail the perpetrators left was described as impossible to miss. Police recovered $1.6 million from arresting Robinson, and found another $1.7 million buried in the Arizona desert. The lawyer assigned to the case was accused of telling Willard to hide the money, and stated "I told him I would represent him only if he would surrender and return the money ... I suggested for the safety of the child (who was traveling with them) he place the money somewhere for safe keeping while I negotiated his surrender and not keep the money in the camper."

Police found $5,013,389.93 at Jackson's house, most of it stuffed in a 32-gallon trash bag in the hall closet. The police estimate $5 to 6 million may have been stolen, and some of it has never been found. There are allegations that the FBI may have pocketed some of the money.

1) The Great Brain Caper (because "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" is taken), Indiana Medical History Museum

One of Indy's hidden gems, the Indiana Medical History Museum has an exhibit of preserved human brains--which belonged to patients at the now-closed Central State Hospital, a psychiatric facility. The brains, which are preserved in formaldehyde and stored in jars, are from autopsies performed in exchange for free funerals. In September of 2013, David Charles broke into the museum several times and stole sixty brains, estimated to come from autopsies from the 1890s to the 1940s, according to the Associated Press. He also made off with an EKG machine, a baby scale, and ten intestinal scopes, according to FoodWorldNews.com and Blumhouse.com.

The Indianapolis Star reports that Charles then sold six jars on eBay for $600 and $70 shipping--the buyer said he liked to collect odd things. He also posted on Facebook "Yo I got a bunch of human brains in jars for sale hmu for details u know u want one for Halloween." After noticing labels on the jars and reading about the theft online, the San Diego buyer contacted the museum, who contacted police, who set up a sting operation in a Southside Dairy Queen parking lot. Most of the material was recovered, and Charles got one year of home detention plus two years probation, according to Reuters. He was also banned from the museum and ordered to earn a high school diploma or a GED.

Becky Oberg is a professional writer who has lived in Indianapolis on and off for nearly thirty years. She enjoys acting, cooking, playing video games, singing, and writing. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and on her blog, One Woman and a Laptop.

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