Ghosts, Indianapolis

The Ghost of old George Pogue.

george pogue ghost photo

Original publish date:  November 1, 2018

Halloween is over and once again, it is time to box up the decorations and compost the jack-o’-lanterns to get ready for the next holiday season. This October I spent some time tracking an old muse from my childhood, George Pogue. Not only is Pogue Indy’s oldest cold case, he is also the Circle City’s oldest ghost story. Over the past few weeks I have re-shared past stories on Pogue’s run and the story of his disappearance. This week I’ll talk about his legacy.
The city of Indianapolis owes George Pogue a debt of gratitude. It was Pogue whom most historians credit as being our city’s first white settler. In 1819 Pogue followed a meandering narrow deerpath paralleling the banks of a pristine little stream that eventually fed into the West Fork of the White River. The Genesis of this once craggy little creek can be found near the intersection of Massachusetts and Ritter avenues on the east side. It spills into the White River south of the Kentucky Avenue bridge in the shadow of Lucas Oil Stadium.

pogues-run-covered-bridge-1850s-christian-schrader
Pogues-Run-Covered-Bridge-1850s-Etching by Christian-Schrader

Prior to Pogue’s arrival, native American Indians would often follow Pogue’s Run hunting the wildlife that naturally gathered there. 58-year-old George Pogue, a blacksmith from Connersville, blazed the trail present-day eastsiders know as Brookville Road. Depending on which historian you talk to, on or about March 2, 1819, Pogue built (or occupied) a cabin where Michigan Street currently crosses Pogue’s Run for his family of seven. After Pogue’s mysterious disappearance in April 1821, the creek he followed to arrive in the Whitewater basin became known as Pogue’s Run.
If you Google Alexander Ralston’s original plat map of the city of Indianapolis, you will see Pogue’s run traversing diagonally across the southeast portion of the “Mile Square” area like a giant black snake. Just as Pogue’s mysterious end did not fit the desired narrative put forth by Indianapolis’ founding fathers, Pogue’s run disturbed the orderliness of Ralston’s tidy grid pattern. Before the state government could be moved to Indianapolis from Corydon, fifty dollars was spent to rid swampy Pogue’s Run of the mosquitoes that made it a “source of pestilence”.
Seems that poor old Pogue’s run never had a chance. It was too small to be a canal and too big to be a latrine. So city planners decided that the troublesome trickling waterway needed to be “straight jacketed” once and for all. Pogue’s run was prone to flooding and it had a funky odor hanging over it that wrinkled the tapestry the city’s elite were trying to create. So, beginning in 1914, a year long, million-dollar project variously known as the “Pogue’s Run Drain” and the “Pogue’s Run Improvement” was undertaken to hide the historic waterway. City planners felt that the stream’s submersion beneath downtown Indianapolis (from New York Street on the east side to the White River on the west side) would make the perfect aqueduct to alleviate flooding in the Circle City.
Sounds like a reasonable, viable engineering solution made by concerned public servants to obviate a city eyesore while protecting the citizenry at the same time, right? Well, it may run a little bit deeper than that. A number of factors influenced the decision to “straitjacket” Pogue’s Run, including the economic and human costs from decades of violent flooding, public health risks from diseases, and the stream’s unsightly and unpleasant smell due to years of sewage and industrial pollution. The covering of Pogue’s Run paved the way for the expansion of railroad track elevations, which in turn alleviated congestion on Indianapolis’ busy streets and avenues. It also enabled the city to create Brookside Park in 1898 at the spot where Pogue’s run enters downtown Indianapolis.
Although the legendary waterway now more closely resembles a drainage ditch, make no mistake about it, Pogue’s Run is real. It runs under the city of Indianapolis for nearly two-and-a-half miles, and it’s possible to walk from one end to another. Every underground tunnel presents an irresistible mystery, but Pogue’s Run has a more ghostly history than most. The Pogue’s run tunnels are reportedly home to the spirit of old George Pogue who lords over the dozen or so unfortunate victims of the floods that plagued the city via the waterway for nearly a century before it was covered over.
As detailed in previous articles, one morning George Pogue walked out his front door in search of his lost dog and disappeared forever. He was also trailing a Native American man known as “Wyandotte John” whom he suspected of stealing horses from his farm. Pogue walked over hill and was never seen again. His body was never found. Even though Pogue vanished nearly 200 years ago, his name hits the headlines every few years. It seems that whenever a foundation for a business in downtown Indianapolis is dug and human remains are found, the ghost of George Pogue rises from his unknown grave.
The first widely used cemeteries in Indianapolis didn’t start popping up until long after George Pogue disappeared. While the “City Cemetery”, ironically located on Kentucky Avenue near the White River where George Pogue disappeared, can be traced back to 1821, it was not at all what we would consider a cemetery today. Greenlawn Cemetery was added around 1834 as an 8 acre addition. By 1852 this pioneer cemetery had reached 25 acres and was quickly running out of room. Crown Hill opened in 1864 and Greenlawn quickly fell out of favor. By the 1890s, Greenlawn was gone. In George Pogue’s time, people were often buried where they were found or nearby where they worshiped, worked or lived. Burial records are scarce, wooden markers disintegrate and landmarks disappear. So it is not uncommon for human remains to pop up from time to time even today. So, needless to say, George Pogue does not rest in peace.
When the city of Indianapolis buried their troublesome waterway in 1915, Pogue’s run, like its namesake, disappeared. The trickling little stream is now forever trapped underground. And so is the ghost of George Pogue. Legend claims that Pogue is doomed to walk this underworld purgatory until his remains are found and he is given a proper burial. Pogue leads a small army of ghosts whose souls were lost in the flooding that once plagued the area.
Today, no one thinks much about the creek that runs underneath downtown Indianapolis. True, Hoosiers cling tightly to the White River by naming parks, streets and events in its honor. But unlike other major American cities, the Circle City has very few myths or legends surrounding its chief waterways. That is unless you count the tales of late-night TV host David Letterman and his friends attempting to traverse the central canal via canoe back in the “naptown” days. As a homegrown Hoosier, it has always been a mystery to me why the Pogue’s run waterway has not been more prominently featured in our city’s weird history.
During George Pogue’s era, antebellum times and the years after the Civil War and Reconstruction, flooding was not really a concern in Indianapolis. The Circle City really had no riverfront development to speak of, roads were sparse and unpaved and any excess winter water thaws had plenty of places to go. In past columns I have detailed a few of the many floods that plagued Indy in the years before the Pogue’s run tunnels were created. The Easter Sunday floods in 1913 brought twelve inches of rain in a five day period and the White River crested to 31.5 feet; 19.5 feet above flood stage. No one knows what the true crest was because the city’s measuring equipment and gauges washed away at 29.5 feet. 70,000 cubic feet per second, an amount 50 times greater than normal, sent torrents of water rushing through the city. In Indianapolis, 7000 families lost their homes and over 25 deaths were reported as a result of this flood. Statewide, 200,000 people lost their homes and over 200 lives were lost. More than a few of those bodies were never found and their spirits, like that of its namesake, haunt the Pogue’s run tunnels today.
A couple of Sundays ago I was joined by several Irvington Ghost tour volunteers in a search of the Pogue’s run tunnels. Rhonda and I were joined that day by our daughter Jasmine, friends Elise Remissong and Jada Cox, Kris and Roger Branch, Steve Hunt, Tim Poynter, Christy and Cameron McAbee, Trudy and Steve Rowe and Cindy Adkins. WISH-TV Channel 8 TV’s Joe Melillo also joined us for a pre-Halloween trek in search of the ghost of old George Pogue. The results of our trip can be found on the WISH TV website under Joe’s banner. Joe’s segment captured only a fraction of what took place down there.
That day, the Colts were playing the Buffalo Bills at Lucas oil above us. (the Colts won 37 to 5) Inside the century old pitch-black tunnel the water had slowed to a trickle. The entrance to the Pogue’s run tunnel is hidden in a thickly wooded area within sight of the downtown skyline. The city of Indianapolis maintains Pogue’s run very nicely and has recently constructed a two-story wooden walkway leading down to the tunnel entrance. Upon entering the mouth of the tunnel the original stream can be seen entering the concrete spillway looking much as it has for nearly two centuries.
The concrete walls leading into the tunnel are festooned with spray-painted graffiti indicative of its big city location. The water stream is contained down the center of the trough with dry foot paths on either side. About 100 yards down stream inside the tunnel, a separate parallel tunnel is revealed through large round vents in the walls that are easy to step through. The upper channel is the spillway used for relief of excess water flowing through Pogue’s run when necessary. These walls are also peppered with graffiti as expected. Mostly introspective, sometimes profane, the graffiti is often nonsensical; logical only to whomever placed it there.
There are rats down here along with spiders, snakes and the occasional stranded fish from floods past. There is also evidence that the homeless population of Indianapolis occasionally seek shelter in the tunnels, but most of that evidence gets washed away by the floodwaters on a regular basis. The temperature outside is just above freezing, but it is warm here in the tunnels. So warm that it is easy for our team of urban spelunker’s to feel overdressed. The water can be deep in places depending on the rainfall. The total blackness of the Pogue’s run tunnels cannot be understated. Without the aid of a trusty flashlight or lantern, it is impossible to see your hand held in front of your face.
The ceiling and sidewalls are cracked in places, betraying rushing floodwaters of years gone by. The side tunnels are made of brick and occasionally they branch off the main route to parts unknown. Cell phones are useless in the tunnel; there ain’t no service down here . There are manholes and open grates that I suppose could be accessed to determine one’s location, but thanks to Stephen King’s “It” (and Pennywise the sewer clown) I wouldn’t recommend it. In places, perhaps owing to the day’s Colts Sunday atmosphere, it is possible to hear activity on the streets above including music and conversation. But mostly it is quiet. Occasionally cars passing above make high-pitched traffic sounds that can be confused with the cries of a baby or wounded animal, but the logical mind soon determines the source. Once in a while one of these vehicles will pass directly over a manhole with a thunderous result that echoes through the tunnel and shakes even the most resolute of subterranean urban explorers.
Upon closer examination, evidence remains of those original pre-World War I era tunnels. Brick troughs and well foundations pepper the tunnels as do the rotted remains of wooden trusses and the occasional displaced iron train rail, the presence of which immediately elicits the thought “how did that get down here?” Oddly, there’s not much of an echo down here. The voice carries, but it doesn’t carry far. When the visitor cups the mouth and lets loose a “Hello”, it rolls only a few rods before disappearing into the darkness. But is there anything else down in the old Pogue’s Run tunnels?
As a student of history, I often find myself asking that question. Is there anything else? I rely on a few friends with deeper insight in that department to answer that query. Tim Poynter, founder of the SPIRIT Paranormal team, observed a few spirits lingering in the tunnels of Pogue’s run, “I encountered the spirit of a light-skinned black man dressed in mid 20th century clothing within a few hundred feet of the opening. His attitude seemed to be one of ‘stay back’which is not uncommon. I imagine this was the spirit of a homeless man who passed while living down there in the tunnels.” Intuitive Cindy Adkins echoed Tim’s feelings at the mouth of the tunnel, “I did not see the gentleman until we got into the tunnel. I was not getting a bad feeling at all just that we were invading his space and he did not like that too well.” Cindy would encounter this man further down in the tunnels of Pogue’s run.
WISH-TV Channel 8 TV reporter Joe Melillo segregated three of our number, Cindy Adkins, Christy McAbee and Steve Hunt, deep within the depths of the Pogue’s Run tunnel. Here, light and sound go to die. Joe watched as the trio “spoke” with the dead. Cindy Adkins is a gifted intuitive and the only person I have encountered who has had an actual conversation with a ghost on tape (or EVP). When Joe Melillo turned on his camera, this man’s spirit came out to play.
“The gentleman is over 6 feet tall,” says Cindy. “He told me there was a house fire and his big two-story home was completely engulfed in flames. He told me his family was killed in the fire. His house was near Pogue’s run and he lived down there in the tunnels. He likes it down in the tunnels and he doesn’t want to leave. But while we were down there and Joe was taping, a woman joined us. Her initials were C. L. and I kept getting the date 1964. She was lost down there in the tunnels and said that she died of a drug overdose. Christy, Steve and I managed to clear her spirit and send her on her way to the light. But the man is still down there. He just laughed when I asked him if he wanted to leave too.”
As I write this article, Joe Melillo’s segment has yet to air. His WISH-TV Channel 8 Pogue’s run segment airs on Halloween morning. When asked for his thoughts and impressions on the Pogue’s run adventure, Joe Melillo siad, “I would say the best way to describe the experience for me was stifling… Almost suffocating. Very dense down there and it made me have a headache. Overall I did feel something, but I am more of a history guy so the paranormal things don’t hit me as hard. When we sat with the group of paranormal investigators I was there to document the exercise, but nothing happened to me specifically. I was so ready for someone to touch me or to see a shadow figure, but I got nothing. At least this time. Maybe next time I’ll have better luck.” Yes, Joe, maybe next time. Sounds like the Pogue’s run entities will still be there, waiting for you.

Indianapolis, Uncategorized

George Pogue and why he matters.

 

imag41962

Original publish date:  October 25, 2018

George Pogue, a 54-year-old Carolina blacksmith, had no idea he was making history when, on March 2, 1819, he settled on a hill overlooking a stream that connected to the White River a short distance away. George had simply followed a trail blazed by Native American Indians and wildlife through the wilderness made long before him. Pogue is widely regarded as the first white settler in Indianapolis and that trail he followed is now known as Brookville Road. As more and more white settlers arrived in the area in the months to follow, the shallow waterway became known as “Pogue’s Run.” Pogue migrated to the area now known as the eastside of Indianapolis from Connersville. The cabin he built for his family of seven sat roughly where Michigan Street crossed Pogue’s Run. The waterway that bears his name is as mysterious as the man himself.
imag41952Some historians argue that Pogue simply moved into an existing cabin that had been built and briefly occupied by Newton “Ute” Perkins. Others claim that John Wesley McCormick accompanied Pogue to Indianapolis from Connersville and deserves to be mentioned as the first settler in the Capitol city. But Perkins moved to Rushville “on account of loneliness” and McCormick settled near Bloomington where he later had a popular state park named in his honor. But for this historian, George Pogue is the man. Why? Because one day, George Pogue simply vanished from the face of the earth.
Whether Pogue was the first white man to settle here or not, he was certainly the first white man to die here. According to one contemporary account, George Pogue was a large, broad shouldered, stout man with dark hair, eyes, and complexion. His appearance was that of a Pennsylvania Dutchman; colorless, functional clothing with no ornamentation, a broad brimmed felt hat and a mustache-less beard stretching from ear-to-ear. One look at George Pogue would make anyone think twice about challenging him. He was one of the few in the area unafraid of the indigenous Delaware warriors that roamed the woods encircling them. After all, Pogue was one of the first to leave the comfort and safety of Fort Connersville in search of new lands to settle.
imag41972One evening at twilight, an Indian brave known as “Wyandotte John”, stopped at the Pogue family cabin asking for food and shelter for the night. Although wary of the request, some of Pogue’s horses had been recently stolen and he was determined to track down the thieves. The Indian had a bad reputation and the rumor was that he had been banished from his own tribe in Ohio for some unknown offense and was now wandering aimlessly among the various Indiana tribes in the area. Wyandotte John had spent the previous winter living rough, but comfortably, in a hollowed out sycamore log perched under a bluff just east of the area that, a decade later, would become the spot where the National Road bridge crossed the White River. On the inside of the log he had fashioned hooks by cutting forks from tree limbs, on which he rested his gun. At the open end of the log near the waterline he built his fire, which kept the wildlife away while heating the enclosure at the same time.
After Wyandotte John was fed, Pogue, aware that his guest was known to travel from one Indian camp to another, asked him if he had seen any “white man’s horses” at any of the camps. The Indian Brave said he had left a camp of Delaware’s that morning about twelve miles east at a settlement on nearby Buck Creek (Near present day Southeastern Avenue) where he had seen horses with “iron hoofs” indicating that they had been shod. Wyandotte John’s description of the horses led the blacksmith to believe they were his missing mounts. However, George Pogue was nobody’s fool. He began to think that Wyandotte John had described the horses so accurately that it might be a ploy to lure the blacksmith into the woods. He shared his suspicions to his family who begged him to let the matter go. George Pogue was not that kind of man.
obsession_warriorWhen the Indian left the next morning, Pogue grabbed his gun and his dog and followed as Wyandotte John walked towards the river and the pioneer settlement. Pogue followed for some distance waiting for the Indian to turn towards the native camps, but the Indian kept walking towards the white settlers. The two men disappeared over a rise and George Pogue was never seen or heard from again. The settlers formed a company of armed men to search all the Indian camps within fifty miles of the settlement looking for some trace of Pogue, but his fate remains a mystery to this day. The conclusion is that he was killed by Indians. Locals claimed to have seen his horse and several of his possessions in the hands of local tribes. The dog was purportedly killed, cooked and eaten.
Pogue’s Run occupies a strange place in our city’s history. The creek almost continuously alternating between the pride and the pest of the city. Starting as a large reed-choked puddle of water resting between a railroad track and a construction business near the intersection of Ritter and Massachusetts on the eastside of Indianapolis, Pogue’s Run meanders 11 miles through, alongside and at times beneath downtown streets and under some of our most famous buildings. And like old George Pogue, many lifelong Hoosiers have no clue about it.
7762As every Circle City student knows, Indianapolis was laid out in 1815 by Alexander Ralston, an assistant to French architect Pierre L’Enfant, the man who designed Washington D.C. Ralston chose to design the city in a grid pattern, similar to the District of Columbia. There was just one problem; Pogue’s Run. The swampy little creek named after the ghost of an enigmatic city pioneer, called a “source of pestilence” because of all the mosquitoes it attracted, disturbed the orderliness of Ralston’s master plan and required him to make contingencies for it.
Soon the decision was made to move the state capitol from Corydon to Indianapolis (then known as the “Fall Creek Settlement” an area sparsely populated by fur traders) but not before the state government paid a local $ 50 (roughly $ 750 today) to rid Pogue’s Run of the nuisance mosquitoes. Pogue’s Run was too small to be a canal, too unreliable to be an aqueduct and too big to be a latrine. Ralston had no choice but to incorporate the twists and turns of the wayward wandering waterway into his master grid plan. Pogue’s Run cut diagonally southwest through the original plat of Indianapolis, necessitating changes in the original layout of streets. Starting near what is now 34th Street and Arlington Avenue, it crosses Washington Street (the National Road) and drops below downtown Indianapolis before joining White River.
oregon_trailSince much of Pogue’s Run downtown path was diverted underground via hidden tunnels, it is hard for us to imagine today what it must have looked like to the eyes of Indianapolis’ earliest residents. However, the atmosphere of the original waterway was perhaps best captured in an 1840 painting by Jacob Cox. Titled “Pogue’s Run, The Swimming Hole”, this tranquil and pastoral landscape depicts a pair of cows drinking from a stream under a bridge where Pogue’s Run crosses Meridian Street. The image presents a realistic portrayal of the location as it appeared before it became the site where Union Station (which was originally built on pylons over Pogue’s Run) rests today . Although relatively unknown by today’s Circle City denizens, Antebellum Pogue’s Run was the subject of many works of art and poetry by our forefathers.
pogue's_run_white_riverToday, as the waterway runs south it most closely resembles its original creek form as it winds through a housing development fronting Massachusetts Avenue and continues through Brookside Park. Skirting the south edge of the Cottage Home neighborhood, between 10th and New York Streets , it disappears into an underground aqueduct. It continues flowing under Banker’s Life Fieldhouse and Lucas Oil Stadium, and empties into the White River at 1900 S. West St. near Kentucky Avenue.
Some Eastsiders (like my dad who went to Tech and was born and raised on Oriental Avenue) recalled Pogue’s Run as a tributary stream (he called it a storm sewer) that originally started near the old RCA plant north of Michigan Street, headed south through the Michigan / Rural Street intersection near Rupp’s subdivision & Lange’s nursery, down to East New York Street and Beville Avenue before veering off through the State Women’s Prison before following the Sturm Esplanade and entering Noble’s Subdivision. My dad went to junior high school in the old arsenal building on the Tech campus in the 1950s. He remembered playing football outside at recess after lunch on the southern end of the campus near a brick arch at the campus boundary. He claimed that arch was the spot where the Crooked Run tributary entered an underground pipe to join up with Pogue’s Run.
I grew up near the left-hand tributary of Pogue’s Run known as Brookside Creek just east of Sherman Drive north of 16th Street near Brookside Park. There, the creek still flows above ground. So as a child, I could easily conjure up images of wild animals, Native American Indians and buckskin clad pioneers roaming the ancient waterway. The spirit of the spectral pioneer waterway occasionally bubbled up to the surface within the concrete jungle of modern day Indianapolis.
When Union Station was refurbished in the mid-1980s, the original architectural drawings didn’t reflect the creek running underneath the station’s sub-basement. It had been a typical rainy season in the Circle City. As the construction crew dug deeper, the heavy equipment caused the floor to cave in and water came pouring into the work area like a scene from the Poseidon Adventure. The subterranean work crew barely escaped before the waters from Pogue’s Run filled the area. It can be assumed that the mistakes were not replicated when Lucas Oil & the Fieldhouse were excavated above Pogue’s Run.
For my part, I can remember sneaking into the massive mysterious concrete tunnels built to accommodate Pogue’s Run. Historically, most of them were created in 1915 with near continuous updates every decade or so since. There are some great photographs available on the net of that 1915 excavation (particularly underneath Meridian Street) for the Pogue’s Run tunnels that are well worth looking up. My memories revolve around massive oval shaped tubes that could easily accommodate the height of an average sized man. In spots, the tunnels were filled with ankle deep water (at least I told myself it was water) that could mostly be avoided by using a hybrid crab walk posture, but many areas of the tunnels were bone dry.
What I remember most was the darkness. I’m talking pitch darkness. You might enter thinking a match, candle or lighter would suffice, but you quickly availed yourself of that notion and returned later armed with a trusty flashlight. Inside the tunnels, you were greeted by the remains of civilization: shopping carts, empty beer cans, mattresses, graffiti of every imaginable type, discarded clothing and the sounds of scurrying little animals that you could never quite seem to fix your flashlight beam on. No matter how many times you ventured down there, you never really knew where you were. The scariest moment always came whenever a large truck drove over one of the many manhole covers above your head. It sounded like the scream of a Banshee from Irish mythology to me and I must confess that it drove me out of the tunnels in panic on more than one occasion.
As a kid, I imagined the mattresses were placed down there by make out artists who brought their girls down there for some “alone time” and that the clothing and beer cans were remnants left by teenagers having fun. The graffiti was their way of marking the scene of their glorious triumph. I could never figure out how the shopping carts got there. But now, as an adult, I realize that it is far more likely that the refuse I inadvertently stumbled across was more likely left by those less fortunate Hoosiers among us who descended into the underground tunnels in search of a warmer place to spend the night. If so, I’d like to think that the Pogue’s Run homeless might have a patron saint that protects them down there. A bearded former blacksmith with arms like Popeye dressed in clothing from a long time ago named George Pogue.

Next Week…Part II…The Ghost of old George Pogue.