|The driver, a woman, stares out
her car window. She remains in her spot for about three minutes,
then drives away.
"There she is again," said Diana French, a neighbor
watching from her front porch across the street. "That car
comes every day. A lot of them do.
"I guess they're just sitting there and praying or
Some do pray -- in their cars, on the sidewalk, on their knees
-- leaving behind handwritten notes or a rosary hanging on the
fence. Others bring gifts such as candles and teddy bears.
Experts call it a form of voyeurism, reflecting a dark
fascination with crime scenes that draws streams of passers-by who
crane to peek into the bullet-riddled or burned-out house. Where
tragedy strikes, the crowds soon turn up, not just neighbors but
strangers from miles around.
While some come to pay their respects, others are motivated
less by compassion and more by simple curiosity. And then there
are those drawn by the sensational.
Most just cruise by or stop for a few minutes, gawk, then move
Seven members of a Hispanic family were killed in the June 1
It was Indianapolis' worst mass slaying, and now the 500 block
of North Hamilton Avenue has become the city's latest crime scene
to draw crowds
"People have always been fascinated with the macabre; it's
human nature," said Scott Michaels, a Los Angeles collector
of morbid information (www.findadeath .com) who also runs Dearly
Departed Tours for those who want to see where the
Charles Manson murders took place or the home of the Menendez
brothers, who murdered their parents for their inheritance
"Locations where these notorious events occur become
landmarks. Some of national significance, some local. And when
something that horrible happens down the street, or just a few
streets over, you can't help wanting to have a look,"
Gary J. Gorman, a retired New York Police Department officer
who runs a tour business that takes people to famous New
York crime scenes, explains it this way:
"Some people want to go just to answer the question:
'Could this happen to me, or, why this family?' " said
Gorman, who charges $25 per person for a tour of the World
Trade Center site. "Were they rich? Drug dealers? Gang
members? (They are looking for) things they feel may not be in the
Similar streams of traffic rolled through a quiet Southside
neighborhood where in August 2004 a heavily armed Kenneth Anderson
shot and killed three people, including a police officer, before a
SWAT team member shot him dead.
Nearly two years later, people still come.
"Even today we see people stop, especially police
officers," said Joseph Wheeler, 44, who lives at the corner
of Dietz and Gimber streets, where one of two permanent shrines
have been erected in honor of IPD officer Timothy J. Laird.
"You would think it would pass, but they still stop and
honor what those police officers did," said Wheeler.
Similarly, a Northside home where two young girls died in a
fire in March still shows signs of frequent visitors. This week,
graduation balloons were laid at the base of a tree that has
become a shrine in front of the burned-out home.
Other notable area crime scenes include the Gertrude
Baniszewski house on New York Street, where a 16-year-old girl was
tortured to death in the mid-1960s; and the Westfield estate of
Herbert Baumeister, where the bones of 11 murder victims, mostly
teenage boys, were found buried 10 years ago.
Evenings and lunch hours are the busiest times on Hamilton
Avenue. People tend to cruise by on their way home or when they
have a few extra minutes.
Some, like Jamie Williams, 23, who lives on the Southside,
stopped to take a picture because, she said, the shrine was so
touching. "I think the neighbors did a good job of showing
Thomas Peek, 44, who lives Downtown, rode his bike to the
neighborhood and stopped to pay his respects.
"I was on my way to do some business over on Michigan
Street. I stopped here because I'm angry," Peek said. "I
don't know anything about them, never met them, but that's not
what is important. Bless those babies. . . . This just takes a
The fence line in front of the home has become a congested
shrine of more than 300 stuffed animals and candles -- more than
200 of them, mostly with images of Our Lady of Guadalupe, an image
of the Virgin Mary and a popular icon in Mexico.
Tabitha Culvahouse, 21, a lifelong Eastsider, added one more
stuffed bear Thursday, "to show support for the family."
It was her second trip to the scene. A few days earlier, she
had driven. "It was a long line of traffic," she said.
Busy, but peaceful
Neighbors say it's the kind of traffic this narrow street,
connecting 10th and Michigan about two miles east of Downtown,
So far, nobody seems to mind.
"It doesn't bother me," said French, 49, who has
lived here for three years. "It's been busy, but it's been
Keeping the peace is one job Frank and Wanda Dodson are eager
From their front porch immediately across the street from the
shrine, they have kept an eye on gawkers and visitors to the home
where their friends were killed.
"I watch it all the time," said Wanda Dodson.
"If I saw someone or some kid get out and try to take
something, believe me, I'd say something."
So far, they haven't had to.
And they seem to be enjoying the fact that the added traffic
has kept speeding cars to a minimum, making the street a little
more safe for children.
Safety is a big issue for residents, who complain about high
crime rates and abandoned homes in the neighborhood.
"I think it will be three months at least before it gets
back to normal here," said French. "But I don't know if
I want it to be normal again."
Call Star reporter Dan McFeely at (317) 444-6230.
If you must stare
Nobody is urging you to drive by a crime scene. But it happens.
So how should you behave? Here are some tips from Scott Michaels,
who runs Dearly Departed Tours in Los
Stay on public property.
Park your car and walk; you don't want to obstruct traffic.
Don't upset the neighbors.
Loose stones are acceptable, but do not break anything to steal
a piece of the place.
And we would add:
Stay out of the way of working police officers.
Don't cross the yellow- tape line.
Be considerate of others who are present, especially those who
might be praying.