The Indianapolis Poltergeist:

They say there’s more than corn in Indiana. I find that to be true. There’s diversity everywhere you look, city or statewide: whether it be industry, civic developments, sports or just plain promoting to those visiting. And the paranormal? Yes, there’s that, too.

Locked into the past, there are the stories. Indianapolis has its share. Some received local and national media attention. One, in particular, also garnered the attention of the local police department. It was known as The Indianapolis Poltergeist. Fact, fake, folklore or just good old urban myth? You decide.

The definition of a poltergeist: German, for noisy ghost or spirit on the physical plane. Disturbances can include noises, objects (even heavy furniture) being moved, levitation, pinching, biting and hitting. To describe them as troublesome spirits might just be an understatement!

Steven Spielberg’s movie of the same name in 1982 brought the subject into recognition. It would seem however, they’ve been around for longer than that.

An old Northside stretch of Delaware Street in Indianapolis is an avenue of stately homes that retain their own history. Once a venue of single-family residences separated from downtown Indianapolis, yet still a part of, they’ve compiled their own personal histories of families coming and going and lives lived. Over the years, these homes were converted into apartments. It would seem to be a sign of the times — and not a pretty one! Yet currently, these very houses are in a reversal stage of conversion back to their original intent — single family residences. In 1962, at 2910 N. Delaware St. however, it was one such family residence. And one that surfaced quickly into the public’s eye.

Present day view of the home on North Delaware Street.

Are the folks inside aware of what went on there?

Renate Beck, 32, a local restaurant operator who was born in Vienna, moved into the then four-bedroom, two-bathroom home, built in 1900 in the Mapleton/Fall Creek area. The house is less than two blocks from the current Indianapolis Children’s Museum She was not alone. Her elderly German diabetic mother, Lina Gemmecke, 61, and daughter Linda, 13, joined her. Renate was recently divorced, and this was a new beginning. It was a stable place to raise her daughter, care for her mother, and get on with her life. That was the plan anyway, but sometimes life is what happens while you’re making other plans.

On a Sunday in March of 1962, a few minutes after 10 p.m., it started. A heavy German beer stein lifted from the kitchen sink, sailed through the air, and exploded upon the floor. Shortly after, the family heard a loud crash from upstairs. Upon investigation they found that some of Renate’s mother’s crystal glass, moving on its own accord, had met its destruction upon the floor. The family fled to a nearby hotel, not returning until the next day.

Was that the extent of the occurrences? Could they put a period on the strange oddity? No. It was just a prelude for what was to come. Was it a poltergeist? Some have varying opinions. Regardless, this wild ride of Renate Beck and family had just begun.

When Renate Beck moved her mother and daughter into a house on North Delaware Street in 1962, I’m sure she anticipated a few glitches along the way. There’s always painting, plumbing or electrical issues to deal with. What she didn’t anticipate, however, was a poltergeist. How does one deal with that?

When the family returned from an overnight hotel stay around 1:30 p.m. the next day, they hoped the previous night’s events were behind them. They weren’t! Again, crystal glass objects started exploding and a cup of hot coffee shot through the air toward Renate’s mother, narrowly missing her. On that second night they notified the Indianapolis Police Dept. (their second call).

The first call was to a family friend, Emil Nosedo, a respected Indianapolis businessman who operated the city’s Sheffield Inn. He would be over the next day. Sgt. John Mullin arrived at the house. He surmised it was the result of pranks.

His theory: a pellet gun or a hi-fi stereo either in the home or area, emitting sound waves shattering the glass. The Becks scratched their heads over that summation. And relatively soon, the newspapers caught wind and the house quickly became a sightseeing tour. Nightly events began to add up, often experienced by the police department, who now scratched their heads:

  • Rapping from upstairs when the family was downstairs.

  • One officer hearing a crash from upstairs, and when investigated found a crystal swan lying shattered below a shelf in daughter Linda’s bedroom.

  • Phantom bites, punctures and bruising appearing on all three of the women, but especially the youngest daughter. Renate’s mother, Lina, claimed she had been choked.

  • Renate’s purse, with $125 inside, disappeared. It eventually reappeared on March 25 at the feet of her elderly mother, and with $80 missing. Hmm?

Private investigations from Emil Nosedo and his wife cataloged a variety of poltergeist phenomena, including feathers being ripped from pillows and heavy furniture moved of its own accord. They also reported sitting in the dark of the kitchen (sounds like a seance to me… bad, bad move!) when noises from the dining room brought them to discover silverware ( knives) arranged on the floor in the shape of a cross. At least, that’s the story…

Sixteen days passed with continual activity. Then… somewhat of a breakthrough: officers claimed to have witnessed Renate’s mother throwing objects. She was arrested and charged with making a false report. Maybe she had thrown some things, yet her daughter defended her actions, claiming she had been having a “nervous” attack due to her diabetes and all the strange things happening. On a footnote, there were a lot of occurrences, it would seem, for which the grandmother could not have been responsible.

Theories: It could have been a result of human agents, grandmother Lina or daughter Linda? Renate had recently divorced, with stressful implications focused not only upon her daughter Linda, but also her mother. Poltergeists according to lore tend to envelop emotionally disturbed individuals —especially adolescent girls!

The Delaware Street house was not an example of a typical haunting in the traditional sense, but rather a repressed manifestation of psychokinetic energy exploding from someone unconsciously manipulating physical objects. And… the Beck family was certainly not Ozzie & Harriet, even before the strange stuff started. Friends and neighbors told investigators the family didn’t get along well, and that noisy and unpleasant fights could often be heard coming from the house.

Grandmother Lina was offered a deal to drop all charges on the condition she return to her homeland of Germany. She accepted. The activity in the home subsided by March 22, 1962, ending as suddenly as it started.