Out front, a sign covered with ivy reads, “All are welcome except commie planning and zoning pinheads.”
Behind it is a series of rusted train cars.
Look a little closer, and there’s a real hearse with a skeleton in the driver’s seat.
The property is owned by John Baker, a one-legged Vietnam veteran whose life’s work is turning those rusted train cars into a haunted train museum.
Among the exhibits on his property in south Bloomington are a horse drawn hearse and a homemade mausoleum called the “Time Castle,” which contains his granddaughter’s ashes and a time capsule, which he says will outlast him by a thousand years.
Every one of his train cars is filled with dark collectibles, such as an old dentist’s chair, and an entire room devoted to blacklight posters and glow-in-the-dark planets.
He developed his interest in trains when he was a child when both of his parents worked for the railroad. In 1976, when he saw the Indiana Railroad was going to scrap some of the old trains, he built his own trailer and bought the train cars to build the museum.
“I had bone cancer, and they told me I probably wouldn’t live through it, and I just happened to be by the train station,” Baker said. “I figured it would be a nice thing to do with my life.”
However, maintaining both the property and relations with local government has been a very expensive process for Baker. He is even selling part of his own index finger for $5,000 to pay for a new roof on the train depot.
“I was running the steel saw over my head, cutting out the top of a window, and the thing just came off. They said they couldn’t sew it back on, so I just stuck it in my pocket and brought it home,” he said of his amputated index finger.
The finger is on display in a glass case in one of the train cars. So far, no one has taken the bait.
He also opens his property to the public during weekends in October and adds more scary displays and charges admission to pay for more repairs.
To indicate the haunted train is officially open for the season, the Baker family raises a 5-foot metal pumpkin over the road on an old farm windmill.
“It’s not Halloween until the pumpkin goes up,” he said.
The haunted train officially opened Sept. 30, and tickets are $10 per person.
During the off seasons, Baker stays busy building concrete skeletons, tending his garden and drawing up new plans to improve the museum.
Right now it’s full steam ahead with his latest improvement, which is building a basement dungeon in one of the depots, he said.
He recently purchased a real heavy-duty stairway from the local junkyard for his future basement dungeon and said, “It couldn’t be more perfect.”
Despite decades of collecting death-related objects and building his museum, Baker said he is still unsure about the reasons for his unusual interests.
“Well, I don’t know, maybe I’m kinda like everything on this property — it was all junk that was salvaged,” Baker said.