Haunted: Couple shares why Carmel is a good place to look for ghosts

Nicole and Michael Kobrowski explore haunted places year-round. (Photo by Adam Aasen)

Nicole and Michael Kobrowski explore haunted places year-round. (Photo by Adam Aasen)

For Westfield residents Nicole and Michael Kobrowski, exploring paranormal activity isn’t just for Halloween.

“For us, ghosts are for all seasons,” said Nicole, 47.

The couple has been operating Historic Indiana Ghost Walks & Tours since 2002 and gives about 50 tours all year around, mostly in Hamilton Co.

Nicole has been researching ghosts for more than 30 years since he grew up in a house that she believed was haunted in Anderson. She met and married a friendly German man named Michael, now 44, during her time overseas and they moved to Hamilton Co. in 2000.

In addition to the tours, they founded a niche publishing company called Unseenpress.com in 2006 and Nicole published her first book, “Haunted Backroads: Central Indiana.” She’s published four other books since: “The Encyclopedia of Haunted Indiana,” “Ghosts of Westfield,” “Ghosts of Madison County,” “Indiana and Fractured Intentions: A History of Central State Hospital for the Insane.”

The couple also helps organizations that have haunted buildings by conducting haunted overnight investigations as fundraisers.

For more, visit unseenpress.com/general/tours.htm.

Q: How does Carmel compare to other places like Westfield, Fishers, Noblesville and Indianapolis when it comes to ghosts?

A: Indianapolis is large and older so one would expect more stories. Noblesville was wild and a bit woolly which also lends itself to ghosts. Fishers is interesting because aside from a couple of cemeteries there aren’t many hauntings we know of. Some people believe it is because all of the old buildings are gone, but if anything the new construction should stir them up a bit. Westfield has a lot of lovely ghosts from the Underground Railroad period and beyond.  Carmel is unique. Physically, it is an eclectic mesh of old and new, and we have heard of some stories in newer buildings that we’re going to check out this winter. However, overall Carmel seems to lag behind in the ghost department.

Q: What characteristics are usually found in a place that’s haunted? Is it just old?

A: Ghosts are for all seasons and all places. They don’t just reside in old homes. We’ve experienced activity and interviewed people who live in brand new homes with activity. It is what happened on the land and with the organic things that are in the homes, the furniture and other possessions brought in and what might be attached to people in the buildings.

Q: How do you know which stories of ghosts are real and which ones are not?

A: After years of research, you can weed some out by instinct but you can also weed them out by asking the right questions. When we interview people, we have no reason not to believe them and it is disheartening when someone gives you a “story” when they feel they have something to gain (such as being written about in a book). We also try to investigate as many of the stories as possible through paranormal investigation to try to prove or disprove them. It is always very exciting to get the same personal type ghost story about the same place from people who do not know each other.

Top 3 haunted places in Carmel, according to Nicole and Michael Kobrowski

1. Woody’s Library Restaurant (40 E. Main St.)

2. Illusions (969 Keystone Way)

3. The Old TGI Fridays on US31 (now razed and turning into a Huntington Bank)


Woody’s Library Restaurant (40 E. Main St.)

What they said:

This restaurant is a gem. Housed in the old Carnegie library built in 1913, it has at least one very special ghost. Andrew Carnegie enjoyed donating money to build schools, colleges, and not-for-profits. However, he is especially known for building public libraries. As part of the staff at the library, it employed a janitor, Isiac Bales. Apparently he is still on the job.

A bartender at Woody’s told us that she has seen him in the basement bar. He usually stands next to the bar on the north side. She was shown the picture of him from Hinshaw’s 1987 book, “The Heritage of Carmel, Indiana” and she confirmed it was him. A customer confirmed her story. One evening as the upstairs was closing, an older gentleman with white hair and a droopy mustache came down the stairs, tipped his hat and stood at the northern end of the bar. The customer was about to strike up a conversation when the gentleman disappeared.

We’ve been in the bar at various times over the years and we’ve noticed a misty figure in the same area.

Illusions (969 Keystone Way)

What they said:

Illusions was a restaurant that served good food, table magic and had a night club section for live magic shows. To enter the restaurant, you had to pull a sword out of a stone. After a former owner of the building killed himself upstairs, an odd can with a clown head showed up. With it came footsteps upstairs, footsteps downstairs, mysterious crashes, and lights that went out with no provocation.

Many of the furnishings used throughout the building came from Europe, including private residences, castles, and funeral homes. Some of these items held vibrations of the past. Shadow figures of men were seen in the mirrors. A woman in a peasant skirt was seen behind the bar. Many times, the magician’s props would fail to work. (In fact, the first time Nicole told stories as a warm up act, the magician that went on behind me experienced issues with his props and the battery on our video camera was drained.)

The women’s restroom was a hotbed of action. The first stall would lock when spirit activity was high. This was their signal that you either needed to leave or be prepared for whatever happened. People reported seeing someone standing at the sinks in the bathrooms when they never heard footsteps or the door open. The water would turn off and on by its own power.

Finally, one back room was used for a séance show and many people refused to return to the building after several shadow figures appeared behind the guests around the table and the candle in the middle of the table levitated and was thrown against the wall. In the same room a mirror hung on one wall and that same evening, a face of a man manifested and pushed on the front of the mirror, as if trying to break through. Everyone there stated that they heard a loud screeching sound as the man in the mirror tried to come through. After a loud shattering crash was heard from the bar area, the figures and the man disappeared.

The Old TGI Fridays on US31 (now razed and turning into a Huntington Bank)

What they said:

The building that used to be there was a TGI Fridays and before that it was a restaurant called Marios. The manager died of a heart attack in the building and for years it stood empty before TGI Fridays opened. Managers would feel someone blowing in their ears or caressing their necks. One night, it sounded as though a reggae band was in the kitchen. The manager went in to see what was going on and saw a ladle banging against a pot without anyone around. Other employees reported hearing pots and pans falling in the kitchen but when they looked, nothing was amiss. During closing employees would hear banging in the walls. One day the bartender and a manager heard the banging close to close and described it as if someone were getting a beating or falling heavily. They stayed close together that night and when it was time to close, they turned off the music and began to return downstairs. As they got half way down the stairs, the music started again. When they went up to turn it off again, they saw that the sound system was set to off. Not knowing what else to do, they yelled, “Shut up!” and the music went off. Another time, early in the morning, a set of walkie talkies turned on and a man said, “Boo!” and started laughing. Both walkie talkies were on the base charging. Regardless of who the ghost is (many believed it was the manager of Marios), the employees called her Katherine. The employees had very mixed feelings from a flirting ghost to a hostile ghost. In order to try and calm it down, for many years a sign in the kitchen stated “Respect the Ghost”.

Although this building is gone, it will be interesting to see if the bank being built on the lot will have any activity. Some people believe that construction stirs spirits up and just because the building is gone doesn’t mean the spirits go with it.