For many believers, ghost stories tend to go hand in hand with tragedy. Indiana has witnessed several dark parts of American history and has been home to crime and scandal. The Slippery Noodle Inn, the oldest bar in Indianapolis, has entertained Indiana natives and celebrity guests such as Jimmy Fallon and Mickey Dolenz. The Inn has also seen many events take place within its walls. With the Halloween season in full swing, ghost hunters are searching for haunted locations, the Inn being one of them. Many believe the Slippery Noodle to be haunted by spirits of those who once roamed the building.
General Manager Marty Bacon explains, “there is not a week that goes by that I don’t hear footsteps or doors slamming or the sound of glass breaking when there isn’t glass breaking.”
When asked about the sightings of an African-American man’s spirit that has been seen in the basement of the Inn, Bacon responds, almost affectionately, “George.” He went on to explain, “I’ve spent the night here with about ten or twelve paranormal groups. And about 15 years ago, Gary Spivey came through right around Halloween, and I got the pleasure of walking them through the bar. As we were going through, I had seen George several times, and he said that a spirit was there named George. He used to do odd jobs around the bar, shovel coal in the furnace and helped people get out. One of the girls who was in the group from the Indianapolis chapter of the Ghost Hunters asked what he looked like, and he said he was an older black man with gray overalls.”
During the Civil War, the bar served as a stop on the Underground Railroad. It is unclear how the Inn became a stop, but, as Bacon explained, “there are several other places around Indy that were also stops. Downtown Indy is filled with underground tunnels, and they would get the runaways in here and hide them out and get them in tunnels from here to the trains where they would go to Chicago, Detroit, and then to Canada.”
In one room in the basement, a hole that once led to an underground tunnel still remains. It is referred to by workers as “the cubbyhole.” “I believe,” Bacon explains, “this room was the admittance for the outhouses. Back then, the night-man would come and collect stuff and sell the urine to tanners to make leather and sell the feces to make fertilizer. And, rumor has it that bodies were buried down here, because where better to bury a body than a room that already stinks?”
During the Prohibition, the Inn served as a tavern, the basement housing the distillery. According to legend, John Dillinger frequented the Inn and was even allowed to use one room for target practice. “People back in the days of the Depression didn’t really trust the government, and Dillinger was kind of that Robin Hood character. We’re not sure who shot into the wall, but the rumor we’ve heard is that they were just back here having target practice. This room,” Bacon added, “really creeps me out.”
“When Spivey walked through,” Bacon said, “he said ‘there’s another spirit here, and he says he’s the boss. He used to run the stables, and he would hide his lockbox up in the hayloft.’ The odd thing is, Spivey described him as a heavyset white guy with slicked-back hair and a pitted face.”
About 12 years after this, Bacon walked through the bar with a psychic from New Orleans, and she told him that many of the spirits in the Inn respect him, except for one. “She said there was a spirit banging into my aura like he wanted to fight me. She said it was a fat white guy with a pitted face, like he had smallpox. They were 12 years apart but had the same description.”
From the 1930s until 1953, the Inn was used as a brothel.
During an argument over a woman in 1953, a man stabbed a fellow patron to death. According to legend, the murderer left the bloody knife on the bar counter before casually walking out. Workers and customers have claimed to see a spirit they describe as a cowboy on the second floor of the Inn. Many believe this to be the man that died in the knife fight. This put an end to the Inn’s involvement in prostitution.
However, at least one of the women, Sarah, seems to have remained in the Inn. She has been sighted on the second floor balcony. “We don’t really see a lot of her,” Bacon explains. “She seems to keep to herself in that area.”
“One spirit that seems to get a lot of play,” Bacon continues, “is the Shadow Man. He doesn’t really have a lot of form; he’s just a human shadow.” Bacon has seen him twice, “once in the bend of the stairs, and the second time was on Easter Sunday. I was in my office and felt someone behind me, and when I turned around, I saw a shadow that faded out.”
The Slippery Noodle has served many people in its time. Now, customers can expect quality drafts and live blues performances. What some may not expect, however, is a visit from one of the spirits that may have stuck around for the show.