Haunted places around metro area offer
Published: Friday, October 31, 2008
Updated: Thursday, March 10, 2011 16:03
Haunted houses can be a staple for many people who, like me, enjoy Halloween. As we grow older, though, sometimes the cheap thrills aren't enough.Sometimes, some of us want the real thing.
Well, have no fear (pun intended). The Gateway has your back with this year's guide to haunted places in or around Omaha.
These spooky places vary from the eerie to the just plain dangerous - so be careful, watch your step and remember to think before you find yourself somewhere you don't want to be. Like the bottom of a grave. Or in the back of a police cruiser.
It should also be noted that The Gateway in no way encourages trespassing, vandalism or any other violation of the law or campus policies. That said, it is the case that some of these places might best be visited in the dead of night.
The first Omaha haunt that comes to mind is actually now a commercial haunted house, but was once the site of a gruesome triple murder.
Mystery Manor, located at 719 N. 18th St., has been a commercial haunted house for the past 25 years. In 1929, however, the property was the home of William and Gretna Hall and was dubbed Hall Manor by the elite of Omaha.
The economy, not too far from how it was today, collapsed on Oct. 23, 1929, when the stock market crashed and signaled the start of the Great Depression. The collapse claimed William Hall's fortune among many others, driving him crazy.
That night, in a fit of madness, he took an ax and attacked his wife, chopping her body into pieces. The next morning, he buried Gretna's remains in a shallow grave in the front yard of the manor.
A week later, on the night before Halloween, Gretna's brother, John Martin, avenged his sister's murder using the same ax. He buried the couple together in the shallow grave. The next night, Halloween, Martin was found on top of the grave, the ax buried into his skull.
According to the professional haunters at Mystery Manor, some believe the ghost of William Hall killed Martin. Authorities, though, never solved the case.
Once the site of an alleged lynching in the area's territorial days, Hummel Park is one of the most well known haunted places in the area.
It's overgrown in places with trees. Just driving through the park after nightfall can be spooky - I'll freely admit to being a little nervous at times myself. Partly, this is not just Hummel Park's association with horror as with crime.
Located at 11808 John J. Pershing Drive, Hummel Park was where the body of 12-year-old Amber Harris was found in 2006. It's also seen many auto accidents over the years: in February, the body of 16-year-old David Murillo was found in his Honda Civic in a wooded ravine.
The October 1947 issue of The Alumni Gateway also reported the crash that killed senior Freddie Freelin and injured six others. The accident occurred during a Phi Sigma Phi fraternity hayride.
Drugs, gangs and vandalism have also been reported in the park. Last week, the Omaha World-Herald reported that a recently rededicated historical marker at the north entrance to the park had been destroyed by vandals. The Nebraska Daughters of the American Revolution is still raising funds to help pay for that statue.
As for the park's rumored horrific background, much of it has its roots in fantasy and legend. The park was not really the location of any lynching, although that story is heard time and time again.
Another fabled park feature is the "Morphing Staircase," a long, stone stairway at the top of the park that visitors always count a different number of steps while traversing. Legend also has it that tree-dwelling albinos also reside in the park - although I've not personally met anyone who has encountered them.
Spirits of murder victims, Satanist cult members and other frightening entities are also supposed to have residence in the park at night. The truth, though, might be in the eye of the beholder.
Council Bluffs' version of the infamous Black Angel statue is supposed to cry tears of blood, come to life and many other spooky things.
The statue, located at 308 Lafayette Ave., is actually being confused with a similar statue at the Oakland Cemetery in Iowa City, Iowa. Here are some of the myths associated with both, though:
- The statue was originally bronze, but turned black because of evil acts, freak storms, infidelity or murder, depending on the storyteller;
- Any girl who is kissed at the angel's feet in the moonlight will die within six months;
- Touching the angel on Halloween night would lead to death in seven years;
- Kissing the angel itself would make your heart stop beating;
The statue in Council Bluffs was the work of American sculptor Daniel Chester French, who is famous for his portrayal of the seated Lincoln in the memorial in Washington, D.C. It honors Ruth Anne Dodge, the wife of General Dodge.
Villisca Ax Murder House
Although Villisca, Iowa, is a bit of a drive from the metro area - about an hour and a half - it is one of the spookiest attractions in the region.
On June 10, 1912, the small town of Villisca woke up to find that eight people - Joe B. Moore, his wife, four children and two visiting children - had been murdered in their beds the night before. Two of the children were hacked apart so much they could only be identified by their personal Bibles near the beds.
This haunted attraction offers tours during the day and by lamplight at night. Adventurous visitors can even make arrangements to spend the night in the house.
For more information on murders, the house and tours, visit www.villiscaiowa.com.