By Chris Goff
Past midnight, only three people remained at the Gas Light Inn. Owner Joe DeMore prepared to close the bar. Debbie Miller waited for her husband Steve, the kitchen manager, to finish chores.
Steve descended down a steep flight of wooden stairs to grab a restock of alcohol from the basement on that dark October evening in 2010.
He stopped short of the storeroom.
“Help me,” Steve screamed. “I can’t move.”
DeMore rushed downstairs and felt a terrible resistance when he pulled Steve’s torso.
“[It was] like a tug of war,” he said. “All of a sudden I felt pressure too, almost like two people standing over the top of you pushing your chest in.”
In an April 9 segment of “My Ghost Story” on A&E’s Biography Channel, the humble, mom-and-pop Gas Light Inn received national attention for its strange happenings. The publicity followed an October investigation by local volunteer organization Paranormal 911. Infrared cameras offered DeMore stunning visual proof—his tavern is haunted.
Located on South Meridian, the Gas Light sits in front of hundreds of yards of cemetery and nearly 50,000 graves.
“The show was on TV because of the ghosts,” DeMore said. “We’re just normal people doing our thing. What I’ve felt and seen is what I’ve told.”
DeMore said he never would have bought the place in 2008 had he known it was haunted.
John and Heather are the famous spirits shown on “My Ghost Story.”
Heather is a playful child of perhaps 4 or 5. She wears a pink dress, black shoes with white anklet socks and a pink bow in her hair. Her attire suggests she died in the 1930s.
Her spirit travels all three floors and she likes to touch the hands or wrists of visitors, often during regular dinner hours.
“We had a lady at the bar who had her earring pulled out, waved up and down, and then laid down on the bar,” DeMore said. “Heather just wants to play with you.”
John, conversely, has a reputation for hostility. His ghost is believed to be that of former owner John Dransfield, who ran the building for more than 40 years in the early 1900s, operating a brothel and making bathtub gin during Prohibition.
“That’s his basement,” Paranormal 911 co-founder Mary Barrett said. “He doesn’t want anybody in it.”
During the team’s investigation, people were pushed and shoved and orbs of misty light started flying around the pitch-black cellar.
John was caught on camera in a suit and appears to be close to 6-foot-7.
“He’s so big, that’s what scares people about him,” intuitive investigator Jeff Poe said.
In 1902, The Indianapolis Star reported that four men were arrested for digging up corpses from Washington Park Cemetery and selling limbs to doctors. Paranormal 911 believes Dransfield was involved and had a makeshift mortuary in his basement where he cut up bodies.
“That’s why he’s stuck in a realm,” DeMore said. “There’s no doubt in my mind there is another side, and there’s an evil side and a good side. He desecrated death and doesn’t want to be judged and go to hell.”
According to Poe, seeing is more likely than feeling, but both are rare.
“Most spirits try to avoid people,” Poe said. “Some of them don’t even know they’re dead. A lot of times they’re as afraid of us as we are of them.”
The Gas Light Inn will start guided tours with a paranormal team in the next week or two.