Cincinnati Family Magazine

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June 5, 2023

Go Back in Time Visiting Metamora

What do a 30-minute train ride, gourmet grilled cheeses and a peculiar “spirit aura” have in common? A small, historic town in Indiana — Metamora.

“The crown jewel of Metamora,” according to the town’s website, is its Grist Mill. So of course, we stopped there first during our visit to the historic town in Indiana. While the water-powered mill wasn’t operating at the time, we still enjoyed taking in the giant metal gears, paddlewheel and chutes that still produce flour and corn meal.

Visitors can buy these kitchen staples and much more in the local shops. They also sell handcrafted jewelry, vintage clothing, Christmas ornaments, hunting knives, decorative items, and duck feed, something that the ducks gathered round the canal seem to appreciate greatly. In the canal, horses draw the Ben Franklin III boat to and from the Duck Creek Aqueduct, possibly the only one in the country.

When we visited, we didn’t get a chance to board the boat, but we couldn’t miss the White Water Valley Railroad. Like the canal boat, the train runs 30-minute rides each hour at $5 per passenger. A train fanatic, my husband asked, “Can we ride anywhere?” as we climbed the ladder steps to board. When the ticket taker said “yes,” we dashed to the caboose. Inside the car, we passed two benches, facing sideways, and then my husband smiled. “He said we can sit anywhere.” He grabbed hold of an iron ladder, climbed three rails and swung himself into a seat atop the “gondola.” Across the aisle, I tried the same thing. Being short, wide and uncoordinated, I got stuck. Twice. But I finally pulled myself into the seat and two elevated windows rewarded my efforts with a comfortable breeze and views of cornfields, wildflowers, trees and the canal. Meanwhile, the train chugged along, whistled at crossings, and started back at the End of the Line.

Ready for lunch, we asked the conductor about local eateries. He raved about the homemade waffle cones and delicious ice cream at Grannie’s Cookie Jar, and also suggested the tasty hot dogs for a dollar at the depot, but we opted for the specialty gourmet grilled cheese paninis at the Smelly Gourmet. “Good choice,” said the gentleman behind us as we walked up the back steps. The man happens to play music at the restaurant. Civil War-era tunes complimented the reenactment scheduled in the town that day, and on other days, he plays cowboy songs for Wild West weekends.

“Hey, you don’t have any popcorn,” said the musician, and he remedied that situation and took our order. I was curious about the Spam sandwich, but I had a delicious Philly cheese steak while my husband enjoyed pulled pork. We ate our sandwiches accompanied by deep fried tortilla chips on the porch while a pleasant breeze teased the curtains, the train whistle blew, and live music played.

Before leaving town, we paid another $5 each for admission to the Metamora Museum of Oddities. Owner Paul J. Hendricks warned us at the entrance that the place was haunted, “Just so you know what you’re getting into.” On the first floor, we walked through a collection of arrowheads and shrunken heads, pottery and photos of a German concentration camp, along with idols and religious pictures. Upstairs it got weirder. “They say it starts on the fifth step,” Hendricks said. I didn’t feel anything, my husband only noticed that he had to duck his head, but of the two women who came in behind us, only one made it to the top. “She couldn’t go on,” said Hendricks. “She started feeling the spirit aura and had to leave.” I never experienced ghostly sensations, but felt chills looking at stakes described as vampire protection, a doll in a casket, a feathered wolf-man mask, a crystal ball, and a ouija board labeled “especially dangerous.”  “I have another ouija board, it’s even more dangerous,” said Hendricks as we left. “I hesitated even putting that one out, I’m thinking about putting the other out, but that might be too dangerous.”

Metamora, IN

Whitewater Valley Railroad

Whitewater Canal Trail, Inc.

About the Author

Barbara David

Barbara David, mother of five and an award-winning columnist for Cincinnati Family Magazine, enjoys travel, writing, and restoring her century-old, west-side home.