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October 4, 2016 • Headline News
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Despite calls, no creepy clowns found by police in county

Mary Mattingly

Many have heard of the creepy clown sightings in several states, including Indiana. It’s been posted so much on social media that some school children are afraid to go to school or out in public. However, Ripley County Sheriff Jeff Cumberworth points out that despite several calls into dispatch, they have not had any sightings. Officers have yet to apprehend or see a clown in the county. “We get calls but once we get there no one is there. No one has been hurt or harmed that we know of at this point,” Cumberworth told Ripley Publishing. Dispatch has received a couple of calls every week for the past few weeks about this, he said.
Creepy Clown sightingsThe latest report was over the weekend, a sighting of a clown peeking into a house window around CR 500N. Again, Cumberworth said officers did not find anyone in the vicinity. The criminal offense at this point would be voyeurism. There have been numerous postings on Facebook and Instagram of clown sightings, one being on Benham Road Sept. 29, another on Old Michigan Road. It’s not clear if the postings are accurate or just rumors. Nonetheless, authorities don’t think it’s funny. A teenager in Northern Kentucky was found to be perpetuating the clown myth on Facebook and has since been arrested with false reporting. A Twitter clown clan account insinuated clown activity against schools including East Central High School and Harrison. It doesn’t help that it’s also the Halloween season so people may be dressing up in costume.

It was recently reported by national media that many of these creepy clown sightings actually started as a promotion for a scary movie made in North Carolina that is to be released soon. In the meantime, local children are anxious about possibly seeing clowns. “I think these are pranks, but I’m afraid someone might get hurt because of the panic it has caused,” Cumberworth noted. He has had calls from a mother who said her child doesn’t want to go to school because of clown fears.

Joyce Druba, a counselor at South Ripley Jr. High said the staff has heard students talk about online clown postings. “It’s a social media phenomenon, and blown out of proportion,” she said. Nonetheless, it has caused children to be afraid to go out in public. To alleviate fears, Druba advised, parents “to discuss what is fact vs. fiction, and what is reality. Just because you read something on Facebook does not make it true,” should be brought up in the discussion, she said.

With many communities already in a panic, the sheriff is worried someone dressed in a costume or mask might get hurt. Authorities also warn people of making false claims to police or even on social media.

Local gym photos exhibited at museum

Ripley County’s rich basketball history will be on display when the Indiana Historical Society (IHS) launches a new exhibit on Saturday, Oct. 1. The exhibit, called “The Hoosier Hardwood Photo Project: A Journey to Indiana’s Historic High School Gyms,” highlights the work of photographers Michael E. Keating of the Cincinnati area, and Chris Smith of Aurora.

“In 2013, we began a journey to document some of the places where high school basketball has lived,” Smith said. “By the summer of 2016 we had traveled more than 10,000 miles in all kinds of weather, visited 130 gyms, watched countless hours of basketball and shot more than 150,000 digital frames.” And he’s not finished!

Versailles Frenchies 1937SUBMITTED PHOTO
This photo Chris Smith found of the Versailles Frenchies team was his inspiration for the project. His dad Glen is in the back row, far left.

The photographers chose 42 of those images to be included in the exhibit at the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center. Like the collection as a whole, the photographs highlighting Ripley County reveal a wide-range of Hoosier basketball moments. There are tributes to the storied Men of Milan and to tornado recovery in Holton. The gym floor in the former school is included from the old school. Other images feature Mark Comer’s dairy barn in Osgood, which now holds remnants of the old gym in Lawrenceburg. Smith was actually the one who informed Comer of the demolition of the gym. He knew Comer had converted a barn into a gym, and ended up with some pieces left from the old Crocker farm barn that was destroyed by a hurricane about 8 years ago. “This was where boys in Holton, Madison, Versailles, all over, gathered on Sundays to play ball,” Smith said. He photographed all that was left, the painted floorboards and a damaged rim.

Comer managed to salvage the Lawrenceburg school gym floor under the bleachers and hauled 1500 square feet of maple flooring to his barn, now converted into a gym where his grandchildren play ball. “I guess we have a love-relationship now because it was quite a project!” Smith said. While Comer never won a game against Lawrenceburg when he played for JCD, “He told me he now has sweet revenge!” Smith said since he acquired the hardwood. Smith, whose father Glen was from Versailles and his mother Charlotte from Aurora, also took photos of the old Tyson gym and interviewed Rob Moorhead, who he knew had a history with the historic gym with his dad, Gus. It’s also the gym where the 1954 Milan team played regularly. “The Versailles Tyson gym is well worth preserving,” he commented. His favorite Indiana gym? “1926 Rushville gym. It’s so well-maintained and cared for.”

JCD’s love of the game

The exhibit and project is more than pictures of gyms or unique architecture. The exhibit reflects the people who love the game and what it meant to their community. One photo in the exhibit is of the Jac-Cen-Del Lady Eagles involved in a call-and-response cheer just minutes before a tipoff. Smith saw the empty JCD gym but it didn’t capture the personality or spirit he knew of from the small basketball town. He and Keating followed the team as they went to sectionals and semi state the previous year, using the excuse also to photograph other gyms in the state. “We worked the Ripley County, Switzerland, Ohio County area pretty heavy,” he admitted.

Three years later he has a clear picture of Hoosier basketball, particularly in the rural area. Osgood is a perfect example. “It’s not so much the game, but the community pride these places have. Years ago on a Friday night you went to the school gym to watch the game, and then Sunday to church. These were the social events and gathering place.”

Indiana’s big gyms
It’s no wonder that nine out of the 10 largest gyms in the world are in Indiana. New Castle’s is No. 1 seating 9325. Seymour’s is fourth. The only one not in Indiana is in Texas and is No. 7. “A backyard basketball goal is a necessary accessory when moving to Indiana!” Smith said. He’d prefer photographing a 1 or 2A tournament game, where the community still comes out in full force, than a big city game any day. Smith talks about how JCD filled one whole side of the Jeffersonville gym for a girls game. “It’s a sense of pride and history in that community.” Four class basketball changed some of that, losing some of the strong rivalries local communities had with tournaments and regional contests. “It was bragging rights and it disappeared.” He did mention Ripley County tournament is still a big deal and draws large crowds.

Special program on Oct. 8
The Hoosier Hardwood Photo Project opened Oct. 1 and runs through Saturday, Nov. 12, at the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center in downtown Indianapolis. The exhibit is included with admission to the Indiana Experience, open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. Visitors can also hear stories from the road, when IHS holds a special behind-the-scenes event with Keating and Smith. “These kids and coaches are such good representatives of the community,” Smith added. “The response from the people has been great.” He mentions 97 year old Loretta Black who played basketball in the early ‘30s before girls programs were dropped . “The amazing thing is I’d talk to people and they’d say ‘have you talked to so and so or seen such and such gym.’ All have a story to share.” The program takes place at the History Center, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., on Saturday, Oct. 8. For more information about this exhibit, presented by Roberts Camera, call (317) 232-1882 or visit IHS online at
About the Photographers
Michael E. Keating and his wife, Sarah, live near Cincinnati and have two grown children. Keating, a former newspaper photojournalist, retired from The Cincinnati Enquirer in 2012. Keating began work on The Hoosier Hardwood Photo Project after a suggestion by his friend and partner in this project, Chris Smith. For 33 years, Chris Smith has traveled the United States and Caribbean making images for Fortune 500 companies and editorial outlets such as National Geographic Traveler, Smithsonian Magazine, and the Wall Street Journal.  He has shot the annual report for Hillenbrand Inc., for years and just recently was on assignment for the Wall Street Journal in Bedford. He and his wife, Elise, live on a farm 10 miles east of Milan, in the long shadow cast by the legendary Milan ’54 state team. He has been teaching photography at Northern Kentucky University for 13 years, and in addition to his professional photography work, coached girls soccer at South Dearborn from 1997-2007, and even worked for Ripley Publishing in the ‘70s. He is a 1976 Ohio State graduate.

As for how this project came up, Smith said inspiration was from the Versailles Frenchies photo. (That’s what the school team was called until South Ripley changed it to the Lions). His dad had managed the team and as he scrutinized the photo, noticing the old floor and signs, the thought began to develop, why not shoot Indiana’s favorite game. “I’ve always done personal projects that interest me,” Smith said. He also knew Michael Keating had retired in 2012 as a photojournalist from The Cincinnati Enquirer and lived nearby. The two partnered on the project and a fraction of their work is now hanging in part at the museum in Indianapolis. Smith said they are not finished and he still has several gyms and games to capture the Indiana spirit.

Local Bulletin Board

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Ripley Publishing Co. will be running a continuous candidate list beginning Sept. 8. For $125 your name, along with the office you are running for, will appear in both newspapers through the Nov. 8 General Election. In addition, you will receive a free press release along with a photo in one of the newspapers. The press release must be written in third person and submitted to our office along with a photo. Arrangements can be made to have a photo taken in our office. You can sign-up to get on the list beginning Aug. 31. Please call 812-689-6364 or email us at or stop by our office at 115 S Washington Street in Versailles to get your name on the list.

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