2020 Road Trip Photos #33: The Market Underground

Please Watch Your Step!

Do you dare enter…the CATACOMBS OF CREEPINESS? (If you do, watch your head.)

Once again we flout MCC’s “road trip” branding on this miniseries, as the final tourist attraction of our 2020 vacation was a five-minute walk from my workplace. It’s been on our local to-do list for years, but was tough to schedule because it’s held rarely, sells out quickly, and goes forgotten for months at a time till one of us randomly remembers it. This year we had the foresight and a perfect slot in our schedule for all the wrong reasons.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year since 1999 my wife Anne and I have taken a trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. Then came 2020 A.D.

Even in an ordinary average year, sometimes you really need to get away from it all. In a year like this, escape is more important than ever if you can find yourself one — no matter how short it lasts, no matter how limited your boundaries are. Anne and I had two choices: either skip our tradition for 2020 and resign ourselves to a week-long staycation that looks and feels exactly like our typical weekend quarantines; or see how much we could accomplish within my prescribed limitations. We decided to expand on that and check out points of interest in multiple Indiana towns in assorted directions. We’d visited many towns over the years, but not all of them yet.

In addition to our usual personal rules, we had two simple additions in light of All This: don’t get killed, and don’t get others killed…

DAY SIX: Saturday, July 11th.

Office workers in downtown Indianapolis with the good fortune to be located east of Monument Circle have enviable access to the Indianapolis City Market, one of the best food courts in town. The Market as an entity has been around since 1821; their current building dates back to 1886. During the spring and summer months they hold a righteous farmers’ market out front. In ordinary years, I mean.

Whistler Plaza!

Whistler Plaza is the City Market’s front-facing welcome mat.

City-County Building!

Across the street is their largest client base, the Indianapolis City-County Building, which contains the mayor’s office along with numerous other functionaries for the city and nearly synonymous Marion County.

City Market!

Inside the City Market, admittedly not bustling on Saturday mornings or during pandemics.

USS Indianapolis sailor!

Plaza features include a salute to the USS Indianapolis, a Navvy cruiser sunk by the Japanese in 1945. The sailor pictured here, one James E. O’Donnell, was the lone surviving actual Hoosier aboard.

Next to the Market once stood Tomlinson Hall, a meeting and performance venue that held 3500 people and numerous events. Raging fire destroyed it in January 1958. Much of it had to be demolished, leaving few traces.

surviving arch!

The only above-ground trace is a freestanding arch out in the plaza.

Tomlinson Hall’s most interesting remnants are its catacombs running beneath the Market. They haven’t been used for conducting business per se in decades, but tourists can sign up for a City Market Catacombs Tour and check out those abandoned, decaying, underlit guts. During the month of October they become City Market Catacombs Paranormal Tours, replete with ghost stories and ghost hunting equipment and presumably some themed decor. For some folks it’s a fun Halloween recommendation. This being July, our guide briefly alluded to such stories but didn’t do a Vincent Price voice or bug out his eyes or make monstrous clawing hand gestures. That probably would’ve cost extra to perform off-season.


All around us loomed arches, discarded objects, and unfinished projects.

Stay Out Seriously!

Access to several sections was forbidden for reasons unexplained. I like to think those sections were magical hot spots claimed by various sinister conspiracies.

Rats Welcome!

I also like to imagine whoever wrote “RAYS WELCOME” on this pipe cackled wildly while painting.

Prior to 2020, tours were only held twice monthly and had limited spots available. In the Age of Coronavirus, July 11th was a sort of grand reopening, their first tour after being shut down for four months. City lockdown restrictions had been sufficiently lightened that businesses could reopen at half capacity, including this very tour. Masks were mandatory for all. Physical standoffishness was a must. Nine of us plus the guide managed to find safe spaces away from each other as we inched through the tunnels as a single, sprawled unit.

Tour Guide!

Our tour guide struggled to keep his nose covered while talking. He really did try.

spooky cart!

Goosebumps Presents “Death A La CART”.

wall of pallets!

Was a dead Indiana military officer responsible for making this pallet fort?

surviving floor!

The ground is mostly dirt except for a few square feet of the original flooring. Maybe those who tried to peel it off mysteriously DIED.

ceiling lights!

Ceiling lights point the way toward a discovery at the back of this hallway: a table with a bottle of hand sanitizer. But, like, possibly HAUNTED hand sanitizer.

Threshold Choir chairs!

Sincerely coolest spot: these chairs mark where a group called the Threshold Choir once performed in 2012 — not as a public concert but more as a ritual healing act for Mother Earth, or words to that effect.

jazz hands me!

THEN OUT JUMPED A MASKED BUG-EYED MONSTER. Wait, no, that’s me in my most “underground” themed shirt.

jazz hands Anne!

Anne’s cute jazz hands defy any attempts at spooky captioning.

We had hoped to follow up the tour with snacks at one of the City Market restaurants. On this Saturday pandemic morning only one was open, and they weren’t a snack joint. As it was in July, so it remains in October 2020 that one of the spookiest sights downtown Indy is all the deserted businesses.

City Market customer!

And lo, a man emerged from the shadows to become…The One Customer.

To be continued!

* * * * *

[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for other chapters and for our complete road trip history to date. Follow us on Facebook or via email sign-up for new-entry alerts, or over on Twitter if you want to track my faint signs of life between entries. Thanks for reading!]

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