25 Not-So-Corny Facts About Indiana


Nestled between Illinois, Ohio, Kentucky, and Michigan is Indiana, the Midwestern state known for racing, inspirational sports stories, and corn. But as its residents will tell you, there is a lot more to the Hoosier State than Rudy. Here are 25 things you should probably know about Indiana. 

1. The people of Indiana are called “Hoosiers” and the state itself is often called "The Hoosier State," but no one seems to know what a Hoosier is. The Indiana Historical Society notes that a letter from 1827 is one of the earliest known uses of the word, and in the 1830s, poet John Finley wrote a popular poem called “Hoosher’s Nest,” which was published in the Indianapolis Journal. There are many theories about the origin of the name, but most of them have been disproved

2. The name “Indiana” means “Land of the Indians,” or “Indian Land.” It was named for the native people that gave the land to white settlers as restitution for raids on a Philadelphia trading company.

3. December 11 is Indiana Day. Adopted in 1925, it is the anniversary of Indiana’s statehood. It is not a paid holiday, but Hoosiers do participate in museum-based events, and there is an annual essay contest for fourth graders.

4. The official state motto is “Crossroads of America.” It began as a nickname for Indianapolis because of the point where several interstates cross in the city, and it was later adopted by the state in 1937.


5. The Indiana state flag was designed by a resident of Mooresville as a part of a design contest held for the state’s centennial celebration. The torch is a symbol for liberty and enlightenment, the rays are said to represent Indiana’s “far-reaching influence,” and there are 19 stars because Indiana was the 19th state to join the Union.

6. Christmas lives in Indiana year round. In 1856, the town of Sante Fe (pronounced fee) changed its name to Santa Claus so that they could open their own post office (another town had already claimed Santa Fe). Most of the businesses and streets have Christmas-themed names, and there are statues of the jolly gift-giver all over town. The Santa Claus post office receives an estimated 400,000 letters from children around Christmastime every year.

7.America’s oldest magazine,” The Saturday Evening Post, is headquartered in Indianapolis. The magazine is probably best known for its iconic covers, 323 of which were painted by Norman Rockwell over the course of five decades.

8. Indiana bred Vice Presidents in the late 19th to early 20th century. An unofficial nickname for the state was “Mother of Vice Presidents,” because in 10 of the 13 elections between 1868 and 1916, there was a man from Indiana on the ballot. 

9. The capital was moved from Vincennes to Corydon in 1813, when Indiana was still a territory. It became a state three years later, and Corydon remained the capital until it was moved again in 1825 to Indianapolis.

10. There's truth to the state's corny reputation. In 2014, farmers in Indiana planted 91,000 acres of corn for popcorn and harvested 90,000 of it, which was an increase of 10,000 acres from the previous year. An estimated 20% of the country’s popcorn supply comes from those crops.


11. There is no Eerie, Indiana, and no Pawnee, Indiana, either (despite the super official-looking city website).

12. A Christmas Story (1983) is set in Hammond, Indiana, the hometown of Jean Shepherd, the author who wrote the book on which it was based, In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash. There are several references to the town and surrounding areas, but Hoosiers have to travel east to Cleveland, Ohio to visit Ralphie’s iconic home, which is now a museum

13. A lot of famous performers and entertainers were born in Indiana. Janet Jackson, Michael Jackson, and the rest of the Jackson 5 were born and raised in northwestern Indiana, but they weren't the only ones. Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, Freddie Hubbard, Adam Lambert, John Mellencamp, David Lee Roth, Axl Rose, Izzy Stradlin, Deniece Williams, Scatman Crothers, and numerous other rock, jazz, and blues performers were born in the state. Comedians Red Skelton, Mike Epps, David Letterman, and Jim Gaffigan, and actors Florence Henderson, Shelley Long, and James Dean were also Hoosiers.

14. The home where Michael Jackson and the rest of the Jackson family grew up is still standing in Gary, Indiana. Located at 2300 Jackson Street, the home (and the rest of the block) has been renovated since The King of Pop’s death in 2009, and a memorial statue has been erected in the front yard of the property in his honor. 14660974313_484d861359_z.jpg

Abi Skipp, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

15. Colonel Sanders was from Indiana, not Kentucky. The American businessman, Colonel Harland David Sanders, was born in the small town of Henryville. After an honorary discharge from the United States Army, Sanders moved to Alabama, then Tennessee, then back to Indiana before finally landing in Kentucky, where he bought an old roadside motel and began selling fried chicken.

16. The Reno Brothers gang made crime history on October 6, 1866, when they became the first robbers to knock off a moving train in Jackson County, Indiana. Before then, trains were robbed while they sat in stations, which carried a higher risk of being caught by the law. The gang made off with $10,000, which is around $260,000 when adjusted for inflation.

17. There are nearly 100 historic covered bridges in the state of Indiana. In the 1800s, there were over 10,000 covered bridges built across America, but only around 800 still exist. Pennsylvania has the most (approximately 224), but Parke County, Indiana is known as the “Covered Bridge Capital” with a total of 31 within its 450 square miles.


18. It’s where Johnny Appleseed is buried. The man who inspired the American folktale, John Chapman, died in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in 1845. There is a marked grave in what is now known as Johnny Appleseed Park (formerly Archer Cemetery), but there are some who contest the location and say that Chapman was actually buried on the other side of the St. Joseph River.

19. Indiana is home to the world’s largest Batman memorabilia collection. Kevin Silva of Indianapolis began collecting at age five and has since collected his way into the Guinness Book of World Records with over 2500 Gotham City souvenirs. His personal batcave boasts everything from gumball machines, signed posters, replica costumes and themed underwear to lots of vintage and new toys.

20. Garfield (the cat, not the President) lives in Muncie, Indiana. mental_floss sat down with creator Jim Davis last year to talk about the iconic cat and he explained why the town is, for the most part, not explicitly mentioned in the comic strip: 

I would like for readers in Sydney, Australia to think that Garfield lives next door ... Garfield is very universal. By virtue of being a cat, really, he’s not really male or female or any particular race or nationality, young or old. It gives me a lot more latitude for the humor for the situations.”

21. There is a road in Amity, Indiana, with a gravesite right in the middle of it. In 1831, Nancy Kerlin Barnett (whose husband was a descendant of Pocahontas and John Rolfe) was buried on a hill that overlooked Sugar Creek. Others graves were established in the area, but plans to build a road through the site meant that the bodies would have to be moved. Barnett’s grandson guarded her grave with a shotgun while the others were moved, and the county officials eventually agreed to leave it be, building the road around the plot. The concrete slab protecting the grave and historical marker were added later.

22. Indiana’s racing legacy runs deep. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway opened in 1909, and the first race held before construction on the oval was completed was between helium gas-filled balloons. The Indy 500 has been called the largest single-day sporting event in the world in terms of attendance, with an estimated 350,000 spectators flocking to the stadium in Speedway, Indiana, every year for the 200-lap Memorial Day weekend race. 

Barbara Ann Spengler, Flickr //CC BY 2.0

23. On March 25, 1995, the deadliest tornado in United States history struck Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri. The category F-5 “Tri-State Tornado” traveled 300 miles, claimed 695 lives, and injured over 2000 others.

24. The first professional baseball league game was played in Fort Wayne, Indiana, in 1871. The National Association of Professional Base Ball Players season kicked off with a match between the Fort Wayne Kekiongas and the Cleveland Forest Cities. The Kekiongas won 2 to 0 in front of a crowd of 200 people.

25. The first city in the United States to use electric street lights was Wabash, Indiana, in 1880. The population at the time was 320, but an estimated 10,000 people showed up to witness the lighting of the lamps for the first time.

DNA Analysis of Loch Ness Could Reveal the Lake's Hidden Creatures

Stakeouts, sonar studies, and a 24-hour video feed have all been set up in an effort to confirm the existence of the legendary Loch Ness Monster. Now, the Associated Press reports that an international team of scientists will use DNA analysis to learn what's really hiding in the depths of Scotland's most mysterious landmark.

The team, led by Neil Gemmell, who researches evolutionary genetics at the University of Otago in New Zealand, will collect 300 water samples from various locations and depths around the lake. The waters are filled with microscopic DNA fragments animals leave behind as they swim, mate, eat, poop, and die in the waters, and if Nessie is a resident, she's sure to leave bits of herself floating around as well.

After extracting the DNA from the organic material found in the water samples, the scientists plan to sequence it. The results will then be compared to the DNA profiles of known species. If there's evidence of an animal that's not normally found in the lake, or an entirely new species, the researchers will hopefully spot it.

Gemmell is a Nessie skeptic, and he says the point of the project isn't necessarily to discover new species. Rather, he wants to create a genetic profile of the lake while generating some buzz around the science behind it.

If the study goes according to plan, the database of Loch Ness's inhabitants should be complete by 2019. And though the results likely won't include a long-extinct plesiosaur, they may offer insights about other invasive species that now call the lake home.

[h/t AP]

Hulton Archive/Getty Images
19 Facts About the Franklin Expedition, the Real-Life Inspiration for The Terror
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The last Arctic expedition of Sir John Franklin began in 1845 with the hope of discovering the northwest passage, but it turned into a grim fight for survival. As seen in AMC's supernatural series The Terror, the story of the Franklin expedition still has the power to fascinate historians more than a century and a half later. (Spoiler alert: Though the expedition happened in real life, this list also mentions key scenes in The Terror—so if you haven't seen the show and plan to, read at your own risk!)


John Franklin was born in Spilsby, a village in the English county of Lincolnshire, in 1786. By marriage, he was a step-cousin of Royal Navy captain Matthew Flinders, who inspired Franklin to join its ranks when he was only 14. Franklin circumnavigated Australia with Flinders in 1802-1803, served in the Battle of Trafalgar during the Napoleonic Wars, and fought in the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812. His brave actions caught the eye of the Second Secretary of the Admiralty, Sir John Barrow, who had big plans for the young lieutenant.


From a report from whaling captain William Scoresby, Jr. relayed by Sir Joseph Banks, the president of the Royal Society, Barrow learned that the Arctic appeared to be relatively ice-free in the summer of 1817. The time seemed ripe for a voyage to find a northwest passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, which would give England a lucrative trade route to Asia. In spring 1818, Barrow organized an expedition of four navy ships—the Isabella and Alexander would explore the eastern Canadian Arctic, and the Dorothea and Trent would attempt to sail over the North Pole by way of eastern Greenland and Spitsbergen. Franklin commanded the Trent but both vessels were stopped by violent storms and pack ice. (The Isabella and Alexander also turned back for an entirely different reason.)


Despite that failure, Franklin was appointed to lead an overland expedition to explore subarctic Canada in 1819. His route would take his party—which included physician/naturalist Sir John Richardson, three naval personnel, and a crew of voyageurs—from Hudson Bay to the Coppermine River delta on the Arctic Ocean. Disaster struck quickly: The party failed to return to their base camp before cold weather set in, their canoes fell apart, and they ran out of food. A voyageur allegedly killed and ate several men. Franklin and the others survived by nibbling shoe leather. On the brink of death, they were saved by Yellowknife guides who brought food and supplies. When he returned to England after this three-year calamity, Franklin was hailed as a hero—the "man who ate his boots."


By 1843, just a few blank spaces remained on the map of the North American Arctic, and the discovery of the passage seemed entirely within Britain's reach. In spring 1845, the Admiralty would send HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, freshly returned from a grueling four-year voyage in Antarctica under the command of Sir James Clark Ross, back to previously charted Lancaster Sound, which most navigators believed was the main channel leading west. From there, the men were expected to be through the Bering Strait and in Hawaii by the following year.


Illustration of members of the Franklin Expedition
Portraits of the officers on the 1845 expedition, based on Daguerrotypes taken prior to the voyage.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

By this point, Franklin was a decorated naval officer and experienced explorer—but he was also 59 years old and out of shape. So when Sir John Barrow began considering commanders for the 1845 voyage, Franklin was not at the top of the list. Veteran Arctic hands Sir William Edward Parry and Ross were Barrow's first choices, but both declined. Parry hinted that Franklin desperately needed the validation of a final, triumphant voyage to crown his naval career after his disappointing stint as the lieutenant-governor of Tasmania (where Franklin and his wife Lady Jane served from 1837 to 1843). Franklin lobbied hard and convinced the Admiralty that he was the best man for the job.


Franklin commanded the flagship Erebus, which was helmed by an up-and-coming captain, James Fitzjames. On the Terror, Captain Francis Rawdon Moira Crozier was the expedition's second-in-command. Both ships had been reinforced to withstand the pummeling of Arctic ice and stocked with supplies, including scientific instruments, navigational tools, one hand-organ per ship, daguerreotype cameras, and a pet monkey named Jacko (a gift from Lady Jane). A huge library was stocked with accounts of previous polar expeditions, devotional books, volumes of Punch magazine, and novels like Oliver Goldsmith's The Vicar of Wakefield. The ships also took an immense amount of provisions to feed 134 men for three years, including 32,224 pounds of salt beef, 36,487 pounds of ship's biscuit, 3684 gallons of concentrated spirits, and around 4980 gallons of ale and porter.


On May 19, 1845, Erebus and Terror left Greenhithe, England, and sailed for the west coast of Greenland. At Disko Bay, five men were discharged due to illness, bringing the total number of expedition crew to 129. On July 26, en route to Lancaster Sound, Franklin met two British whaleships [PDF], the Enterprise and the Prince of Wales—the last Europeans to see the Franklin expedition alive.

The Erebus and Terror continued west in the summer of 1845 and circumnavigated Cornwallis Island via Wellington Channel. The crew overwintered on tiny Beechey Island, where three crewmembers died and were buried in the permafrost. If Franklin followed the Admiralty's orders, in the spring and summer of 1846 the Erebus and Terror would have continued west to Cape Walker at 98-degree west longitude, then proceeded south [PDF] and west down Peel Sound.


On September 12, 1846, the sea froze around Erebus and Terror just north of King William Island, signaling the start of winter. The following May, a party of two officers and six men led by Lieutenant Graham Gore left a note in a cairn (tall piles of stones used as information kiosks in the treeless terrain) on the northwestern coast of King William Island. After noting the date and position where the two ships were beset in the ice, Gore wrote,

"Having wintered in 1846-7 [this was an error, the true period was 1845-1846] at Beechey Island, in lat. 74° 43' 28" N., long. 91° 39' 15" W., after having ascended Wellington Channel to lat. 77°, and returned by the west side of Cornwallis Island.
Sir John Franklin commanding the expedition.
All well."

Explorers knew that the sea usually froze in late August or early September, and then broke up the following spring—but in 1847, spring and summer never arrived in their corner of the Arctic. Erebus and Terror drifted slowly and helplessly with the pack ice down the west coast of King William Island.


The Admiralty had provided Erebus and Terror with three years' worth of canned foods, including 33,289 pounds of meat, 20,463 pints of soup, and 8900 pounds of preserved vegetables.

The provider of the canned goods was Stephan (or Stephen) Goldner, who a few years later would be caught in a scandal regarding his canned foods going off rapidly—one report from 1853 said a ship needed to throw 1570 pounds of horrifically putrid canned meat overboard. Whether the Franklin expedition’s provisions suffered the same fate is debated, with one 1920s study concluding their canned meat was in perfect condition. In The Terror, assistant surgeon Henry Goodsir, who suspects there's a problem with the food, encourages poor Jacko to test the contents of one of the cans—and it doesn't end well for the monkey.


Franklin expedition note found in the cairn at Point Victory
A facsimile of the note found in the cairn published in Carl Petersen's Den sidste Franklin-Expedition med "Fox," Capt. McClintock, 1860
British Library, Flickr // Public Domain

By spring 1848, the ships were still beset, the men were approaching the end of their original food supply, and they were without their captain: Franklin and several officers and crew had died of still-unknown causes. Crozier was now leading the expedition, with Fitzjames as his second-in-command. They decided to abandon Erebus and Terror in a last-ditch attempt at survival. The men hoisted two boats on sledges and packed them full of provisions and items refashioned for survival, such as a table knife with a sharpened blade inside a sheath made from a marine's bayonet scabbard [PDF].

Then they set off in search of rescue, returning to the cairn where Gore had left his note a year before. Now, Fitzjames and Crozier wrote:

April 25, 1848—H.M. ship Terror and Erebus were deserted on the 22nd April, 5 leagues N.N.W. of this, having been beset since 12th September, 1846. The officers and crews, consisting of 105 souls, under the command of Captain F.R.M. Crozier, landed here in lat. 69° 37' 42" N., long. 98° 41' W. Sir John Franklin died on the 11th June, 1847; and the total loss by deaths in the expedition has been to this date 9 officers and 15 men. And start to-morrow, 26th for Back's Fish River."

The 605-mile Back's Fish River (now more commonly referred to as the Back River), navigated by Sir George Back in 1834, led toward Hudson's Bay Company trading posts in the interior. But they were hundreds of miles away from King William Island.


No one outside of King William Island had the faintest idea what had happened to the Franklin expedition when it didn't show up in the Bering Strait by 1846. The Admiralty resisted sending a rescue mission, since the Erebus and Terror had been provisioned for three years; some thought the food supply could be stretched to five years (to 1850). But Lady Jane Franklin launched a relentless campaign to force the Admiralty to act. Beginning in spring 1848—at exactly the same time that the 105 survivors abandoned ship—a series of massive search-and-rescue expeditions began combing the Arctic for clues. On August 27, 1850, a ship discovered the three graves on Beechey Island, the first tangible clue of Franklin's route, but found no letters or records. Despite that important find, subsequent expeditions in 1852 came up empty-handed.


In April 1854, Hudson's Bay Company surveyor John Rae met with several Inuit a few hundred miles east of King William Island. Rae asked if they'd seen white men or ships. One man said some families had encountered about 40 survivors marching south along the west coast of the island, dragging a boat on a sledge. Franklin's men, appearing thin and low on provisions, intimated that their ships had been crushed and that they were headed toward the mainland, where they hoped to find game. Rae relayed the Inuits' next observations to the Admiralty:

"At a later date the same season [1850], but previous to the disruption of the ice, the corpses of some 30 persons and some graves were discovered on the continent, and five dead bodies on an island near it, about a long day's journey to the north-west of the mouth of a large stream, which can be no other than Back's Great Fish River … Some of the bodies were in a tent or tents, others were under the boat, which had been turned over to form a shelter, and some lay scattered about in different directions. Of those seen on the island it was supposed that one was that of an officer (chief), as he had a telescope strapped over his shoulders, and his double-barreled gun lay underneath him.

"From the mutilated state of many of the bodies, and the contents of the kettles, it is evident that our wretched countrymen had been driven to the last dread alternative as a means of sustaining life. A few of the unfortunate men must have survived until the arrival of the wild fowl (say until the end of May), as shots were heard and fresh bones and feathers of geese were noticed near the scene of the sad event."

To support the oral history, Rae purchased artifacts from the Inuit that were clearly tied to the expedition: silver spoons and forks, a star-shaped medal, and a silver plate engraved with "Sir John Franklin, K.C.H." In England, the public reacted with shock and disbelief when his account was published in newspapers.


Though research in the 1990s [PDF] and in 2016 strongly supported the cannibalism account, most Victorians thought it inconceivable that Royal Navy men would resort to "the last dread alternative." Charles Dickens captured the racist sentiment of the time when he wrote in his magazine Household Words, "No man can, with any show of reason, undertake to affirm that this sad remnant of Franklin's gallant band were not set upon and slain by the Esquimaux themselves … We believe every savage to be in his heart covetous, treacherous, and cruel." Yet physical evidence collected over the past 160 years has consistently proven the accuracy of Inuit oral histories of the expedition's final days.


In 1859, Lieutenant William Hobson, part of a search expedition led by Captain Francis Leopold McClintock, found a trail of bones and other evidence along the southwestern coast of King William Island. Along with a boat with two skeletons and piles of supplies, Hobson located the cairn and retrieved Fitzjames and Crozier's note, the sole piece of written evidence from the Franklin expedition. According to searchers, some Inuit families had found papers and books—possibly the expedition's log books and official charts—but they had been given to children to play with and had blown away.


Back in England, Franklin was again hailed as a hero. His old friend Sir John Richardson wrote that Franklin had accomplished the mission: "They forged the last link of the Northwest Passage with their lives." Though there's no evidence of Franklin ever completing the passage, one of the rescuers, Captain Robert McClure, had a more likely claim. In 1853, his ship Investigator, approaching from the west, got stuck in ice north of Banks Island and McClure's men were forced to march to another ship that had approached from the east. They traversed the Northwest Passage in the process. But the first explorer to navigate the passage by ship, the original goal of the Franklin expedition, was Roald Amundsen in 1903-1906.


Map showing the locations of Franklin expedition relics
A map based on a 1927 Admiralty chart showing the locations of Franklin expedition relics found by search parties in the late 19th and early 20th centuries
Canada Department of the Interior, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In the early 1980s, Canadian anthropologist Owen Beattie and his research team exhumed the three bodies on Beechey Island and conducted forensic testing. He found very high levels of lead in all three, as well as in bones previously collected on King William Island. In his 1987 bestseller co-written with John Geiger, Frozen in Time: The Fate of the Franklin Expedition, Beattie suggested the lead solder used to seal the expedition's canned provisions had leached into the food, resulting in neurological impairment that could have contributed to the men's deaths. More recently, historians have moved away from the lead-in-the-cans theory. Researchers now believe the men probably succumbed to a combination of exposure, starvation, scurvy, tuberculosis, Addison's disease, and even severe zinc deficiency. The Terror gives a nod to the lead-cans hypothesis when Sir John Franklin (Ciarán Hinds) bites into some meat and spits out a metal blob; later, the Inuit woman named Lady Silence (Nive Nielsen) has laid out a collection of lead bits on an overturned bowl—perhaps meant as a warning to the crew.


Multiple search efforts and scientific research projects tied to Franklin's last voyage continued in the late-19th and 20th centuries. They collected relics and bones, located graves, and partnered with Inuit communities to conduct long-term searches for more clues to the expedition's fate. Yet two significant artifacts remained missing for more than 165 years: the ships themselves. Many researchers believed that the Erebus and Terror could hold a trove of clues to the men's final activities, but the brutal climate and brief research season on King William Island stymied progress. In 2014, with funding from the Canadian government and new sonar technology, archaeologists and Inuit historians, including Franklin scholar Louie Kamookak, finally found the HMS Erebus in Victoria Strait. Two years later, a report from an Inuit hunter, Sammy Kogvik, pointed archaeologists to Terror Bay, on the southwestern coast of King William Island, where they found HMS Terror.


Without the journals from the expedition, we may never know some key facts about its fate. Historians still wonder what killed Franklin and so many of the officers and men before the Erebus and Terror were abandoned. Why did Crozier decide to march toward Back's Fish River, where possible help was hundreds of miles away, when he could have marched north to a depot of supplies and food left by an 1825 shipwreck, and where rescuers or passing whalers could have rescued them? Were the men's judgments really impaired by lead poisoning? How long did they survive? Archaeologists and Inuit oral historians continue to search for answers.


Books, tools, boots, buttons, spoons, combs, pocket watches, food tins, Crozier and Fitzjames's note, and even a piece of canned meat from Franklin's last expedition are stored in the collection of the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, London. Artifacts retrieved from the Erebus and Terror, including the ships' bells, and other relics are part of the critically acclaimed exhibit, Death in the Ice, currently on display in the Canadian Museum of History through September 30, 2018.


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