Millionaire Skiles Edward Test was president of Indianapolis Motor Inns, part-owner of the Test Building on Monument Circle, and heir to the Diamond Chain Company fortune. In 1913, he bought the farmhouse at 6700 Fall Creek Road as a home for himself and his first wife. (Test eventually owned hundreds of acres on the northeastside of Indianapolis and donated the land for the Skiles E. Test Elementary School.)

A white, frame farmhouse with a front gable and a porch sits next to a water tower on a wooded site.
The farmhouse that later was known as the “House of Blue Lights,” 1897 Credit: Indiana Historical Society View Source

An amateur inventor and architect, Test sided the farmhouse in white opaque tile, added glass brick additions, and decorated the interior with glass as well. He strung the trees around the house with blue lights. He also added a three-story bathhouse with a basement, sun deck, and elevator, and a 40-by-80-foot swimming pool with a solar heating system, a three-story diving complex, and a motorized surfboard. Extremely fond of animals, Test created separate dog and cat parks for his hundreds of pets and also maintained a private pet cemetery.

Test was already known for his lavish parties when, in the early 1940s, the “House of Blue Lights” legend began to circulate. In the most common variant, Test was a recluse who kept the body of his wife in a glass coffin surrounded by blue lights and guarded by vicious dogs. Adolescents invaded the property at night to investigate the story in what became a local initiation ritual. Test tolerated the trespassing until the 1950s when the vandalism forced him to erect a fence around the property. As the House of Blue Lights legend spread, vandalism increased. Trespassers set fire to the outbuildings, broke into the house, injured the animals, and on several occasions exploded dynamite on the property.

Exterior view of a dilapidated porch of a house.
House of Blue Lights, 1978 Credit: Indianapolis Parks and Recreation via Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library View Source

Following Test’s death, a three-day public estate auction in May 1964, drew over 50,000 souvenir seekers, who vied for such items as hundreds of pet caskets, cases of canned food, pairs of shoes, record albums, and nail kegs. The Test estate bequeathed the property, including the house and 86 heavily wooded acres, to the Department of Parks and Recreation. Despite widespread public protest and interest in the structure by the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana (Indiana Landmarks), the Board of Parks and Recreation razed the house and all outbuildings on the property in 1978. The site was developed as Skiles Test Nature Park, the northern trailhead of the Fall Creek Parkway.

Revised March 2021

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