EDITOR’S NOTE: Several of the locations in this article are privately owned or have “No Trespassing” signs. Be cautious of any warning signage and land ownership if you attempt to visit these areas.
WXIN/WTTV — Every state has locations that are unoccupied and instead have been left to the devices of its natural environment.
These locations often served the surrounding community in some capacity. Whether they were former race grounds or amusement parks, they served as a location where community members could come and enjoy company with one another. Other locations, like Oolitic’s Empire Quarry, provided economic opportunities to local quarry workers to feed themselves and their families.
As the list below will illustrate, Indiana is home to a variety of places that, although abandoned in the year 2023, contain rich, unique and sometimes frightening histories that check all of the boxes for adventure-seeking enthusiasts.
Jungle Park Speedway
While most Hoosiers and people outside of Indiana think of the Indy 500 when the topic of racing comes up, Indiana is also home to a former racing venue that hosted popular races and large crowds.
The Jungle Park Speedway, located about 50 miles west of Indianapolis in Parke County, was originally constructed in 1926. During its heyday, the track hosted several important racers of the time, including three-time Indianapolis 500 winners Wilbur Shaw and Mauri Rose.
According to Atlas Obscura, the venue’s history is unfortunately tainted by numerous examples of deadly accidents that resulted in the deaths of multiple racers (and spectators).
In the venue’s first five years of existence, four drivers were killed, a track manager lost his life after being struck and a spectator was killed.
This was largely due to a lack of fencing between the track and the stands where the spectators were.
While additional safety measures such as protective fencing and road surface improvements were eventually implemented, this did not prevent more accidents from occurring until the venue eventually closed down in 1955.
The venue briefly reopened to host a midget car race in 1960 but that also ended with the death of a woman from Terre Haute.
Rose Island, nestled within Clark County’s Charleston State Park, opened in 1923 and it served as a popular destination for families for a little over ten years until a flood destroyed the park.
Atlas Obscura documents how the amusement park was founded by an entrepreneur named David Rose who built a hotel, swimming pool and roller coaster alongside other attractions to promote the area as a tourist destination.
This gave rise to “Rose Island” as families and couples flocked to the shores for some fun. Unfortunately, this fun did not last for a long time as the island was taken over by the Ohio River Flood of 1937.
All of the park’s attractions were covered in upwards of 10 feet of water. By the time the flood lessened in severity, the site had to be abandoned due to widespread damage that could not be salvaged.
Southern Indiana is home to some of the finest limestone that can be found around the country.
The town of Oolitic, like many southern Indiana towns, was shaped by the practice of extracting the limestone, shaping it and shipping these massive stone slabs around the country for building purposes. This led to the formation of multiple quarries in small towns dotted throughout the southern region of the state.
The number of prominent buildings that were constructed with Indiana limestone is staggering. The list includes, perhaps most significantly, the Empire State Building, the Washington National Cathedral and the Pentagon.
Preference began to shift during the second half of the 20th century from the use of stone to glass and metal when it came to the construction of skyscrapers and other buildings. Oolitic’s Empire Quarry was not immune to the shifting fortunes of these generational stonecutters as this inevitably led to an economic downturn in many towns throughout southern Indiana that is still felt to this day.
This led to many quarries, including the massive Empire Quarry, becoming vacant and abandoned.
Central State Hospital
Marion County’s Central State Hospital was established in the mid-19th century on a 100-acre parcel of land west of downtown Indianapolis to serve as a psychiatric facility.
According to Killer Urbex, the hospital’s campus featured two separate residences where the patients were separated by gender. The campus also had a facility designated for the treatment of medical illnesses, a recreational facility, a bakery, a pathology department and more.
The campus was previously known as the Central Indiana Hospital for the Insane in 1889 and the Central State Hospital in 1926.
At one point, the hospital reportedly had 2,500 residents in its care and hundreds of staff who worked there.
The campus eventually closed in 1994 amid the backdrop of patient abuse allegations and financial difficulty.
Anyone who stumbles upon Bloomington’s Zoom Flume today will find a large slide covered in colorful graffiti.
According to Freaking Travel, this slide formed part of a waterpark that was a popular attraction in the late 1970s and early 1980s near Lake Monroe.
To this day, it remains unclear what led to the closure of the park but it definitely worth paying a visit.