Irvington, which was named after ‘Sleepy Hollow,’ has spooky history

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - We continue our Haunted Your Town Friday series this month in Irvington!

Irvington was founded in 1870 by Sylvester Johnson and Jacob Julian. It was originally a suburb of Indianapolis with winding roads of dirt and brick. The town fathers thought the area resembled Sleepy Hollow and named the town Irvington after the book's author, Washington Irving.

In 1902, the city of Indianapolis annexed Irvington, which was the original home of Butler University. The school was located there from 1875-1928.

Butler University in Irvington

We couldn't do a haunted series without visiting Irvington and we got the leader of Irvington Ghost Tours to tell us stories.

His name is Al Hunter.

"Which is kind of ironic because I’m a ghost hunter!" joked Al when we met him this week.

We chatted in a theater where he's sat in silence many times, listening and recording, hoping to catch bumps in the night.

The Irving Theater was built in 1913 at the corner of Washington and Johnson Avenue. Al considers Johnson Avenue the most haunted single street in the community.

"I've always been interested in ghost stories and folklore. Who isn't, especially in October in Indiana?"

“I’m an ex-high school teacher. I’m an ex-high school baseball coach. And I learned a long time ago that telling kids history, if I told them a ghost story, they were more involved. So that's how I started."

He created Irvington Ghost Tours and 16 years later, his tales of the dead attract hundreds hoping for a scare.

"The treasure of Irvington are the people, living and dead. You’ve got people like John Dillinger. You’ve got people like Charlie Manson and Jim Jones came through Irvington. And those are just a few of the stories that I tell."

In fact, America’s first documented serial killer, H. H. Holmes, made a name for himself in the community. He lived at the corner of Bolton and Julian Avenue in the 1800s. Before fleeing the area, he dismembered a 10-year-old boy, and he buried the child in the yard.
Holmes was later hanged for killing and torturing as many as 200 people. The women who currently live there say they hear doors slamming, drawers opening, lights flickering, and glass shattering.

Hunter says he starts each night at Irvington Masonic Lodge Number 666, naturally, and hits eight possibly spirited spots.

"There’s one spot on this tour that things happen regularly. We had one Saturday night. We had another Friday night. I’m not gonna tell you what happens, but once you’re through it and I don’t lose anybody, then I tell them what has happened."

"There are spots on this tour where people often routinely show me things that they’ve captured in their cameras. They will play audio clips of voices that no one else hears. That's regular. This is a main stay for the ghost hunters of central Indiana. They like coming here because they know something is going on."

Al says when he first started 16 years ago, neighbors were a little standoffish, but they soon loved his ghostly tales. And today?

“We’ve now found there’s a certain amount of ghost envy in the houses! Their neighbor has a ghost, so they want a ghost."

The tour is about a 1.5-mile walk and mainly outdoors. It takes about two hours. You get a copy of Al's book on Irvington Haunts while supplies last.

Do you have a ghost tale from Irvington? Al would love to hear it! Click here for more.

On Saturday, Oct. 20, some local celebrities will read testimony from notorious crimes in Irvington. Some of the testimony has not been read aloud for more than a century. "Whispers from the Grave" is at the Irving Theater at 2 p.m.