Local Author Madalyn Kinsey
Writer and Photographer / Kara Reibel
Madalyn Kinsey spent her summers at her grandparent’s farm in Fishers. Back in the 1960s, driving from Indianapolis to Fishers seemed like a long journey out into the country. During these visits, Kinsey and her cousins would explore the farm, which included a creek, woods and a cemetery containing a mysterious gravesite for a Civil War soldier.
“As kids, we always wondered about this man’s story,” recalls Kinsey. “I recall being able to view the cemetery off into the distance from the back bedroom window and wondering if we’d see wisps of translucent white rising from the graves when the clock struck midnight.”
It’s not surprising that Kinsey pulled from these childhood memories certain elements for her coming-of-age Vanessa Mysteries Series. The books feature Vanessa, a 14-year-old city girl who visits her grandparents’ farm during the summer of 1967.
In her first book, “The Ghost of Cheeney Creek,” Kinsey focuses upon a mystery of a nearby abandoned home and its possible ties to a Civil War soldier’s gravesite.
Gatewood is Kinsey’s family name, and her grandparents and other family members owned most of the land north of 96th Street along both sides of Allisonville Road. Her grandparents’ farmhouse was on the northwest area off Allisonville and 106th Street (a portion of their land became what is now the Gatewood subdivision). The cemetery still exists for local snoopers to respectfully explore.
Kinsey’s latest release, “The Mystery of Gatewood Airport,” features the heroine Vanessa back in action to solve another confounding situation, this time involving some strange goings-on at a local airport (Indy Metro). This adventure involves illegal exotic animal smuggling. Vanessa and her friends spy on the airport from a treehouse built near the perimeter and adventure ensues. Such a treehouse existed back in 1967.
Not only did Kinsey pull inspiration from memories of locations from her childhood, but her characters are based on her cousins, one of which is Jeff Gatewood, owner of Allisonville Nursery. The character of Daniel in the books is based on Jeff.
“We had the greatest childhood running around the fields, woods, creek and barn around the farm,” shares Jeff. “It’s fun to see these characters loosely based on what we were and what we did, the places we went to and the music we listened to. Madalyn brings back the whole culture of what it was like growing up in the ’60s, including the mischief we got into.”
Kinsey features nostalgic landmarks that no longer exist, such as the Rainbow Roller Rink, the old Dairy Queen and the ABC Drive-In in Noblesville in addition to several other destinations.
It’s been revealed that the Civil War gravesite belongs to James Payne, a Civil War veteran. “Fact or Faked,” a show on the Syfy Channel, investigated his grave for the show in 2011. Payne is listed as being a deserter and reportedly haunts the area which the show was unable to debunk after spending several days on-site investing the grave and the cemetery.
“I feel like I am celebrating an era and also Hamilton County and Indianapolis,” shares Kinsey. “I’m also sharing what it was like growing up during the politically and socially tumultuous summer of 1967.”
“The Man Who Defied Gravity” will be the third and final book of the Vanessa Mystery Series trilogy. Kinsey’s books are sold at Black Dog Books in Zionsville, Conner Prairie’s Gift Store, Wild Bookstore, A Corner Cottage, Allisonville Nursery and Women and Children First Bookstore in Chicago. The novels are also available on amazon.com.