22 Things You Should Know About Indianapolis

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Any Hoosier will proudly tell you that there’s more than corn in Indiana. Its capital, Indianapolis, is home to everything from sliced bread to one of the largest sporting events in the world. Here are a few things you might not know about the Midwestern city.

1. An Indiana Supreme Court judge picked the name Indianapolis by sticking the state's name together with the Greek word for "city."

2. Indianapolis wasn’t the first state capital of Indiana. The original capital, Corydon, was given the boot in 1820, just four years after the state was formed.

 

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3. Today, the city's nickname of "Naptown" is thought to be a dig at its sleepy reputation. But the term was actually coined by jazz musicians in the 1930s. One of the first recorded uses was by blues singer Leroy Carr in 1929, who crooned, “When you get to Naptown, the blues won’t last very long. Because they have their pleasure, and they sure do carry on.”

4. In 1911, the legendary Indianapolis 500 race as we know it was born. The prize offered to the winner among 40 qualifiers: $25,000. The ticket cost for each of the 80,200 spectators in the grandstands: $1.

5. Forget champagne: Indy 500 victors take a celebratory sip of milk, as part of a tradition that is said to have begun with three-time winner Louis Meyer in the 1930s. After a hot day on the track, Meyer would refresh himself with buttermilk. Today, the American Dairy Association Indiana announces which local dairy will provide the quaff, and even maintains a list of drivers' milk preferences.

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6. The Indianapolis Children’s Museum is home to the skull of the newly-discovered Dracorex hogwartsia dinosaur. Discovered in Iowa, its name means "Dragon King of Hogwarts.

7. An Indianapolis native is to thank for the traditional tune sung during every seventh-inning stretch. Albert Von Tilzer of Indianapolis penned “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”

8. The great Kurt Vonnegut was born and raised in Indianapolis, where his father and grandfather, both architects, left their marks on the city in the form of historic buildings like the Athenaeum. Vonnegut himself once said that “All my jokes are Indianapolis. All my attitudes are Indianapolis. My adenoids are Indianapolis. If I ever severed myself from Indianapolis, I would be out of business. What people like about me is Indianapolis."

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9. Indianapolis-based Taggart Baking Company launched Wonder Bread in 1921, becoming the first major company to distribute sliced bread.

10. Indianapolis’ Gilbert Van Camp created his own American classic: Van Camp’s Pork and Beans. Van Camp worked as a grocer in the area and found that customers liked his recipe so much, he decided to start selling them to the masses.

11. Indiana is known as the Crossroads of America, and Indianapolis backs that name up, with six interstate highways crossing through town.

12. Washington, D.C. is the only city in the country that has more memorials and monuments that Indianapolis. The Hoosier capital comes in second, with 33 such commemorations.

14. Construction on America's very first Union Station began in Indianapolis in 1849.

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15. Indianapolis has seven bus shelters in its public transit system designed by architect Donna Sink, with a poem from a local artist adorning each one

16. The last concert The King ever gave was in Indianapolis—just three months before his death in 1977, Elvis Presley performed in Indianapolis’ Market Square Arena.

17. Indianapolis claims to be home to the world’s largest Christmas tree, a title the city has held since 1962. The tree sports 52 strands of garland and nearly 5,000 lights in the display known as the Circle of Lights.

18. The Indianapolis Zoo is a triple threat—it’s the only zoo in the country to be accredited by the relevant organizations as a zoo, an aquarium, and a botanical garden.

19. Iconic American magazine The Saturday Evening Post is headquartered in Indianapolis.

20. Indiana’s oldest bar, the Slippery Noodle Inn, is located in Indianapolis. During Prohibition, the bar was frequented by gangsters, and even today, a few bullets from their target practice remain lodged in one of the building’s walls.

21. Pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly and Company, which now has offices in 18 countries, can trace its roots to a building on Pearl Street in Indianapolis.

22. Notorious crime boss John Dillinger, whose gang was responsible for dozens of bank heists and a handful of police station robberies during the Depression era, hails from Indianapolis. He quit school to work in a machine shop in the state capital before moving on to a life of crime.

5 Weird American Cemetery Legends

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iStock/grandriver

These strange, spooky cemetery tales of vampires, ghosts, and bloody headstones will keep you up at night. (If you're not too scared, add them to your next cemetery road trip, and keep this guide of common cemetery symbols handy for when you visit.)

1. The Vampire of Lafayette Cemetery

Perhaps it's not surprising that a grave with "born in Transylvania" etched on it would invite vampire comparisons. Local legends say that a tree growing over this grave in Lafayette, Colorado, sprung from the stake that killed the vampire inside, and that the red rosebushes nearby are his bloody fingernails. There are also reports of a tall, slender man in a dark coat with black hair and long nails who sometimes sits on the tombstone. It's not clear what the man who bought the plot—Fodor Glava, a miner who died in 1918—would have thought of all these stories, especially since he might not have actually been buried there.

2. The Green Glow of Forest Park Cemetery

The abandoned Forest Park Cemetery (also known as Pinewoods Cemetery) near Troy, New York, is known for several urban legends. One of the strangest concerns local taxi drivers, who say they pick up fares nearby asking to go home, only to have the passenger mysteriously vanish when they drive by the cemetery. Others tell of a decapitated angel statue that bleeds from its neck—although the effect may be attributed to a certain kind of moss. But one of the eeriest parts of the grounds is a dilapidated mausoleum said to be home to a green, glowing light often seen right where the coffins used to be located.

3. The New Orleans Tomb That Grants Wishes

Famed "Voodoo Queen" Marie Laveau is buried in arguably the oldest and most famous cemetery in New Orleans, St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. (Or said to be, anyway—some dispute surrounds her actual burial spot.) For years, visitors hoping to earn Marie's supernatural assistance would mark three large Xs on her mausoleum; some also knocked three times on her crypt. However, a 2014 restoration of her tomb removed the Xs, and there's a substantial fine now in place for anyone who dares write on her tomb.

4. Pennsylvania's Bleeding Headstone

The Union Cemetery in Millheim has one of the nation's weirder headstones: It's said to bleed. The grave belongs to 19th-century local William (or Daniel) Musser, whose descendants tried to replace the tombstone repeatedly, but the blood (or something that looked like blood) just kept coming back—until they added an iron plate on top.

5. Smiley's Ghost in Garland, Texas

A single plot in the Mills Cemetery is home to five members of the Smiley family, who all died on the same day. Rumor has it that if you lie down on the grave at midnight (especially on Halloween), you'll find it very difficult to rise back up, as the ghost of old man Smiley tries to pull you down, hoping to add one more member to the family's eternal resting place.

8 Fun Facts About Muppet Babies

The Jim Henson Company
The Jim Henson Company

Before prequels were a thing, Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies imagined a world in which the felt-covered characters of Henson’s Muppets franchise—Kermit, Miss Piggy, Animal, and Fozzie Bear among them—met up as children in a nursery. Left to their own devices, the animated cast led a rich fantasy life while in diapers. For more on this 1984-1991 show, including why it’s so hard to find anywhere except YouTube, keep reading.

1. Frank Oz didn’t really want Muppet Babies.

The idea to infantilize the Muppets came from Michael Frith, a longtime collaborator of Jim Henson’s, in the early 1980s. Frith believed that regressing the characters could allow them to impart moral or educational messages to children already familiar with them. But Frank Oz, a Muppets performer (Miss Piggy) and film director, argued that the Muppets needed to maintain their subversive edge. It was Henson who found a compromise, suggesting that younger versions of the characters appear in a dream sequence for 1984’s feature film The Muppets Take Manhattan. The response to the scene was overwhelmingly positive, and Henson soon teamed with Marvel Productions and CBS for an animated series that began airing in September 1984.

2. Skeeter was the result of a gender imbalance on Muppet Babies.

Most of the principal Muppet Babies cast was made up of recognizable characters, including Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Rowlf, Gonzo, Animal, Bunsen, and Scooter. But Frith, Henson, and producers Bob Richardson and Hank Saroyan decided that the babies were skewing a little too male. Aside from Piggy and their caretaker, Nanny, there were no female characters. To balance the scales, they introduced Skeeter, Scooter’s twin sister, a brainy problem-solver.

Skeeter has made only fleeting and sporadic appearances in the Muppet franchise since, leading to speculation she might be caught up in rights issues between CBS and the Jim Henson Company, which was purchased by Disney in 2004. Fortunately, the somewhat murky situation appears to be at least partially resolved: It was recently reported Skeeter will resurface in the new computer-animated iteration of Muppet Babies, which is currently airing its second season on Disney Junior and has been renewed for a third season.

3. One of the major creative forces behind Muppet Babies was Moe Howard’s grandson.

In 1985, Muppet Babies writer Jeffrey Scott received a Humanitas Prize from the Human Family Educational and Cultural Institute for an episode of the series which the Institute declared did the best job of any kid’s show that year to “enrich the viewing public.” The episode centered on the group fearing one of them might be sent away. The prolific Scott actually wrote all 13 episodes of the first season. His father, Norman Maurer, worked at Hanna-Barbera Productions and got Scott’s foot in the door. His grandfather was Moe Howard, founder and head Stooge of The Three Stooges fame.

4. The Muppet Babies live-action segments were a result of budgetary constraints.

A hallmark of Muppet Babies is when the cast finds themselves thrust into scenes from famous films, a Walter Mitty-esque bit of fantasy fulfillment that blends live-action sequences with animation. According to Frith, devoting a portion of each episode to clips wasn’t entirely a creative choice. By inserting clips, producers could save money on animation. It was also easy for Henson to secure the rights to popular films like Star Wars or Raiders of the Lost Ark because he was friends with George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. While some believe those clips are the reason the show isn’t available to stream—sifting through the legal entanglement of reairing the segments might prove costly—that’s never been confirmed.

5. Muppet Babies never explained what the Muppets were doing in that nursery.

Given time to reflect, it seems odd that the Muppet cast would find themselves in a nursery without being supervised by their own parents. Speaking with the Detroit Free Press in 1987, Michael Frith said that the situation was purposely left vague. “I really appreciate the fact that they don’t [ask],” Frith said of his kid viewers. “Is this a day care center? Is this a foster child home? The more we talked about it, the more we felt it should just exist. The kids accept it.”

6. The voice recording sessions of Muppet Babies included copious farting.

Speaking with CNN in 2011, actor Dave Coulier (Full House) recalled that recording sessions for Muppet Babies sometimes involved flatulence. Coulier, who portrayed Animal and Bunsen, among others, said that “lots of fart humor” punctuated the recording studio. “In one scene, Fozzie [played by Greg Berg] and Animal had to climb a ladder,” he said. “As Animal was pushing Fozzie up the ladder, they were making [grunting] sounds. In mid-scene, Greg Berg farted. I looked at [actor] Frank Welker and we couldn’t contain ourselves. Uncontrollable laughter ensued. I was literally on the floor of the studio laughing.”

7. There was an offshoot of Muppet Babies called Muppet Monsters—and it never aired in full.

Following the success of Muppet Babies, CBS and Jim Henson decided to expand on the Muppets' potential as Saturday morning stars by creating a 90-minute block in 1985 titled Muppets, Babies, and Monsters. (Muppet Babies often aired consecutive half-hour installments for an hour total.) In addition to regular Muppet Babies episodes, the program featured another half-hour of Little Muppet Monsters, which featured puppets of new Muppet monster characters named Tug, Molly, and Boo. The three appeared in a framing device that introduced animated segments of adult Muppets. Only three episodes aired out of 15 produced, reportedly due to both Henson and CBS being unhappy with the finished product and Muppet Babies standing strongly on its own. The remaining episodes have yet to see the light of day.

8. Muppet Babies was turned into a live stage show.

To further incite their juvenile audience and monetize their popularity, the Muppet Babies franchise eventually wound up live and on stage. Muppet Babies Live! debuted in 1986 and featured performers in oversized costumes dancing and acting to a prerecorded track. In one skit, the cast appeared in a Snow White homage. In another, Rowlf became Rowlfgang Amagodus Mozart and played the piano. The arena show toured the country. Hank Saroyan, one of the animated show’s producers, wrote the stage show. The performer for Baby Piggy, Elizabeth Figols, also appeared in a live production of Dirty Dancing. The show ran through 1990.

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