Things that go bump in the night!

by Mike Linderman, Angel Mounds Site Manager

Last Friday night we hosted our first paranormal investigation of the Angel Mounds State Historic Site Interpretive Center, thanks to the Paranormal Investigators of Henderson Kentucky (PIHK), who led the “hunt.” For years, the staff at Angel Mounds have encountered all sorts of strange things in the building, from knocks on doors, weird human-like sounds from deep within the exhibit space and the occasional shadow that moves, even though the people in the room are not moving.

The investigation started about 11 that night and went on until 4 a.m. the next morning. Tickets were sold so that the general public could experience what goes bump in the night in the building. About two hours into the investigation, the three “hunters” working upstairs came running down with audio evidence of the sound of finger snapping and one of the largest bangs we have ever heard in the building, even though the rest of us in the building did not hear it. We usually chock these sounds up to the building popping and cracking as it cools or heats up through the day. Both of these sounds that night were foreign to the staff. Listen to one of the whines heard in the building — it comes in at about the four-second mark.

In the past, the staff has set up audio and video recording devices in the building and have picked up the sounds of boxes being moved on desks, high pitched whines and the most impressive piece — a video of a shadow passing in front of the camera with enough translucence that you can see the furniture behind the shadow. These all occurred when no one was in the building.

Many people ask us about the village site and whether or not it is haunted. We like to think of the village site and the mounds as a peaceful place, and no one has ever been afraid to be out there, even after dark. Our modern Interpretive Center is another story. Maybe you too can join our ghost hunt next October!

Digging up treasure

by Mike Linderman, Site Manager at Angel Mounds State Historic Site and Western Regional Supervisor

A profile of the floor of one of the Mississippian houses, with the fire pit in bright orange.

The sounds of shovels and trowels can be heard at Angel Mounds State Historic Site! Students from IUPUI are peeling back the surface of the site to reveal the remnants of the culture that lived here 900 years ago. Under the direction of the Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology at IU, these students are spending the next six weeks on the grounds, following in the footsteps of 72 years of archaeological work here. Due to the recent river flooding, they are currently plagued with mosquitoes and gnats of all sizes. This week, they are being lulled into a false sense of what lies ahead with the southern Indiana summer weather. Highs have been around 60 for the week, but we are sure the 90s and high humidity are not far away. More to follow over the next six weeks …

A piece of painted Mississippian pottery sticking out of the wall trench.

The river runneth over

The mighty Ohio River has been spilling over its banks onto our State Historic Sites this week … Lanier Mansion’s gardens in Madison got more than watered, and Angel Mounds in Evansville saw more than their share of flooding as well.  Hopefully better weather this weekend will help to dry things out. We’re also hoping that all these April showers bring beautiful May flowers!

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Early to Rise…Morning on the Mounds

Election Day came very early to Angel Mounds, but staffers who showed up early had quite a sight to behold.  The fog rolled slowly across the mounds, and in the peace of why-am-I-up-this-early morning, the sounds of civilization far away, it suddenly seemed like it was no longer 2010.  Perhaps the beauty of this Ohio River valley is what drew Mississippian cultures of Native Americans to the area in the first place, some 700 years ago!

Building bridges, part 2

Written by Mike Linderman, Sectional Archaeology Manager at Angel Mounds State Historic Site

On Tuesday morning, the three 60-foot sections of the new bridge arrived from Wisconsin. Three semis carrying the bridge parts left central Wisconsin Monday morning from the fabricator. When they arrived at the site, they had to negotiate the front gates of and then back down to the edge of the slough where a crane lifted the bridge off the trailers. Within two hours they were set in place awaiting the final attachment to the bridge piers.

Next step is building the landscape up to meet the height of the new bridge so that a walk can be poured from the building and across the bridge to the village site. We expect to have the bridge project completed by the end of the month.

Read part 1 of “Building Bridges.”


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Building bridges

Written by Mike Linderman, Sectional Archaeology Manager at Angel Mounds State Historic Site

Work began last week at Angel Mounds State Historic Site on the construction of our new visitor access bridge. An enormous crane has been set up on the site to begin driving the bridge supports into the slough waterway behind the building. Each metal support is 35 feet long and will be filled with concrete upon final placement. This is what the new metal and concrete bridge will sit on.

The new bridge will be of steel construction with a concrete walking surface. This replaces the third bridge at this location, which was taken down in 2009 due to severe wood rot.

The new bridge will be 180 feet long crossing the waterway behind the building and allowing public access to the Mississippian village site.

A rendering of the new bridge. The old bridge is featured in the inset.












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Snow on the mounds

Written by Mike Linderman, Sectional Archaeology Manager at Angel Mounds State Historic Site

Mound G covered in a light blanket of snow.

Evansville rarely gets any measurable snowfall, so when we do, we rush to get photos of the mounds being blanketed with the white precipitation. Several week ago we had a little over an inch, and it came down gradually, looking more like a fog on the site than snow.

Stillness falls over the site during a snowfall and you can forget that we are surrounded by a major city. It can give you a glimpse into what life may have been like almost 600 years ago at the time the site was abandoned.

Our wildlife becomes more apparent during times like this. Although we may not see them during the day, we see that they are actively leaving tracks all over the site after we leave at 5 p.m. Conservation Officers have counted a herd of over 80 deer in one evening on the site. Angel Mounds consists of 603 acres, over ½ in woods and therefore a great place to animal watch, especially in the winter. Jim Burton, our Site Naturalist, recently counted over 40 varieties of birds on the site, along with our year round residents the beaver, muskrat, fox and coyote.

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Looking for a good home: Bobcats, Bear and Deer

Written by Mike Linderman, Sectional Archaeology Manager at Angel Mounds State Historic Site

It’s not everyday that someone calls and offers up a collection of bobcats, bear and deer. But Charlotte Skelton did just that when she decided to retire from her taxidermy business. Skelton had been working in her taxidermy shop for nearly 20 years, all starting with a dare from her husband. Years ago he had a goose mounted, and she claimed that she could do better than the shoddy job they received with the bird. That started her career. Skelton came by Angel Mounds State Historic Site one day and spoke with me about whether or not we would want some animal mounts. Thinking she was talking about a couple of ducks and maybe a squirrel, I was amazed to find out she was talking about over 60 mounts, ranging from bobcats to black bears to mountain lions to deer in a full run.

I quickly called Damon Lowe, curator of biology at the Indiana State Museum, and we agreed that this was not a collection to let slip through our fingers. With the help of the New Harmony State Historic Site staff, over 10 loads of animal mounts were delivered to Angel Mounds.

We initially kept them in a secure room out of view of the public, but every time we opened the door, the prying eyes of the visitors caught a glimpse of this great collection and they were wowed. So, with that in mind, we decided to create an exhibit with the mounts for the winter and it has been one of most popular exhibits.

We plan to have the exhibit up for sometime until it gets shipped to the Indiana State Museum for processing. Our goal is to incorporate some of the mounts into a more permanent situation with our Mississippian exhibit at the site, with hopefully a rotating showing of them periodically through the years.

              Animals of North America: The Charlotte Skelton Collection
              Dec. 21, 2009 – Jan. 25, 2010
              Tues. – Sat., 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Sun., 1 – 5 p.m.
              For one month only, an impressive collection of animal mounts originating from Texas all the way to Alaska is on display. Highlights include deer, black bears, birds, coyotes, pheasants, a badger, a wolverine, rattlesnakes and much more.

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Windows on history

Written by Mike Linderman, sectional archaeology manager at Angel Mounds State Historic Site


Barracks at Camp Breckenridge, Kentucky

Angel Mounds staff is heading to Old Camp Breckenridge in Kentucky to retrieve windows from three army barracks that date back to World War I. The buildings are scheduled for demolition and our goal is to salvage these pieces to one day use in potential reconstructions of the laboratory and barracks that stood at Angel Mounds from 1939 until the early 1970s. The original buildings at Angel Mounds were former CCC barracks that Dr. Glenn A. Black scrounged around and found at Vallonia State Nursery; and prior to that they were WWI barracks from an undetermined army base. Since Angel Mounds is a co-op of sorts with The Glenn A. Black Laboratory of Archaeology (GBL) at IU, both of our agencies have a desire to reconstruct these buildings, not to be museum pieces, but usable facilities for archaeology in the southwestern part of Indiana. Only the exteriors of the buildings will look like the original structures.  The interiors would be modern to accommodate lodging for students and guests, and lab space for archaeological field work at Angel Mounds and other locations in the area.


Barracks III, the original WPA lab building, getting scraped before painting.

Camp Breckenridge is now the Earl C. Clements U.S. Dept. of Labor facility. When the army was there, the camp was primarily training African American troops during WWII. Such famous names as Joe Lewis and Jackie Robinson did basic training there. The barracks that we are taking apart are the last three from the old base, which once had over 300 of these type of buildings. The camp also served as a German POW camp. So, in salvaging these items to potentially recreate history at Angel Mounds, we are preserving some broader history in the process.

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Angel Mounds says goodbye to weeds!

The fire!

The fire!

Yesterday we conducted our annual/biannual burn of the mounds at Angel Mounds State Historic Site. We were able to take care of three of the mounds (A, E and G) with great success on a total wipeout of the “bad” plants (we hope). While they were at it, DNR Fire Headquarters staff burned about five acres of the fields around the site in an effort to rid us of broom sage and give our wildflower plantings a chance to take off well this spring.

The results.

The results.

After a burn, the site takes on a post-apocalyptic appearance, especially right after the fire goes out because the ground is “steaming” with the last of the smoke. I’m sure the neighbors wondered why huge plumes of smoke were blowing through the neighborhood. Fortunately, the wind dissipated the smoke quickly and we received no irate phone calls.

We are planning on more for next year, tackling one of the largest fields where the temple mound is situated.

Mike Linderman is the sectional archaeology manager at Angel Mounds State Historic Site.