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Explore creepy tunnels right under downtown Indy

Posted at 2:16 PM, Apr 28, 2017
and last updated 2019-10-15 12:22:51-04

INDIANAPOLIS -- Hidden tunnels, creepy corridors, and a lot of history. That's what you can find if you go to Indianapolis' City Market ... well, underneath it.

Back in 1886, at the block of Market and Delaware streets, stood Tomlinson Hall and Market Hall.

Tomlinson Hall was used for large public gatherings, galas and musical performances, including the National Prohibition in 1882.

But in 1958, the building was reduced to rubble after a fire destroyed it. The legends say a pigeon dropped a lit cigarette butt on top of the building, but arson or electrical failures are believed to be the more likely causes.

All that remains is the Tomlinson Arch in the plaza.

"Tomlinson Hall was really built with a Romanesque Renaissance style," said City Market PR and event manager Joe Perin. "Which you can see with the archway in the west plaza now, and in the catacombs as well. With the archways, with the barrel-vaulted ceilings -- they really tried to go to that Romanesque, beautiful architecture in there."

The main support system of the catacombs is Indiana limestone.

"It is just incredible because each one of these sections is just one big piece," Perin said. "And just imagine in 1886 -- they didn't have semi-trucks but moving all that from Bedford to Indianapolis is just really astounding."

The space was once used as extra storage for City Market merchants. The catacombs became a home for those escaping the cold Midwest winters.

"As far as we know, nobody has ever died down here, nobody's remains were ever buried here," Perin said. "A large part of the homeless population did stay for a winter down here in 1911 and 1912, but no fatalities."

Exploring the abandoned corridors under the city feels a bit spooky. Workers and others who walk the dirt-lined passageways agree, and have many creepy stories to share.

PHOTOS | City Market catacombs are part of Indy's hidden history

"I am not saying the City Market catacombs are haunted, but we are also not saying they aren't," Perin said.

One story: When a carriage was placed in the catacombs to store it a few months ago, it was found elsewhere with no tracks in the dirt to show it had been rolled.

"It's eerie, it's beautiful, it's historic, and we love it," Perin said. "But I definitely don't like coming down here by myself when I can help it."

If you dare, you can tour the catacombs on the first and third weekends of every month from May to October. You can join a group or set up private tours.

Click here to learn more about how to explore the catacombs.