By Rick Hinton
Has it already been four years? The Gas Light Inn, famous for cheap well drinks, tenderloin sandwiches and ghosts, ceased operation in July of 2016. The once white building, with a greenish tint, is now painted barn red. The once side entrance is now boarded over. Downtown Indianapolis’s skyline is still visible north as traffic continues along the narrow corridor of South Meridian Street. Little has changed throughout the years in this neighborhood with the exception of ownership. On July 5, 2016, owner Joe DeMore posted the following announcement on Facebook:
“Good morning Gaslight family, Friends, Brothers n Sisters all over the world … The Gaslight Inn is closed!!! Due to Family and Health issues, Art and I are stepping away. … Words can’t express the Thanks we give to you, the Best Customers in the World!!! P.S. Gaslight Inn can be Rented out for Events!!”
When DeMore and Art Kirkpatrick purchased the bar in 2008, they believed they knew what they were getting into – a working man’s dive bar with a history, nestled among three cemeteries. It needed some work. They soon found out their building was also haunted! That aside, they managed a transformation over the next few years into a destination on Indy’s Southside: good food, good music, comedy and a touch of the paranormal.
If only older buildings had a tongue to speak, the stories they could tell! They say John Dillinger made a few appearances back in the day. That would make sense due to his upbringing within close proximity to the neighborhood. And the ghosts that made several appearances throughout the building, generally causing havoc among employees and a handful of customers? Where did they come from? Answers would be nice. DeMore and Kirkpatrick began letting paranormal groups in to investigate. With all the notoriety, the ghost shows soon came to call. In 2011, Biography Channel’s My Ghost Story put the bar on the paranormal radar. It became a trending hot spot in Indy to visit. Business was good. Paranormal groups came, often targeting the surrounding cemeteries. Joe would toss me the keys and tell me to lock up when I was done. The inn became part of a family of familiar places my group would visit.
The Gas Light Inn closed?
According to Laura Frey Ash, who conducted tarot card readings and weekend ghost tours, the daily operation of the bar indeed was shutting down. However, Joe had some catering and event venues planned, along with a full agenda of ghost-hunting opportunities of which she would participate. In the end, things did not pan out. Ash got a few ghost tours in before the wheels rolled to a halt. The building sat empty … the building was sold. I asked Ash about that:
“Joe has attempted to contact the new owners with no success,” she stated, not offering for what purpose. Maybe she doesn’t know. Maybe DeMore has something spinning in his head, or, is simply ready to move on. Laura Frey Ash has moved on, yet there is always a sense of nostalgia that never completely ever goes away. It’s family! “I really miss that place and doing tours and tarot card readings,” she said.
As I sat in the gravel and weed parking lot at the rear of the building on Sunday afternoon, three days after Thanksgiving, 2020, it suddenly hit me that I also missed this place. My wife and I had our first date here (in the haunted basement). Had COVID simply struck down a 2020 business opportunity or is it something more?
Time will tell. …