Every city has its urban legends and supposedly-haunted buildings, and Omaha is no different. Because I’m no ghost hunter — I’m actually a big baby — I went during the day to investigate some of the most-haunted places in the metro area.
Haunted places & urban legends near Omaha
Below you’ll find a few of the places that are home to many of the metro area’s urban legends. From secluded parks and cemeteries to haunted buildings in the middle of the city, here are a few of Omaha’s supposedly haunted places and the legends behind them.
The Monster Club
Where: 1217 Howard St., Omaha
OK, what better place to have a haunted backstory than a restaurant called The Monster Club, complete with horror-themed decorations?
My first introduction to this building was in the early 2010s, back when it was O’Connor’s Irish Pub & Grille. I was there for a Halloween party one year, but alas, I have no ghost stories. It was an haunt-free night.
What’s the legend: Rumors of lights turning on and off and shadowy figures have been shared over the years. PRISM visited the bar in 2015 (on a nice, full moon kind of night) and documented quite a bit of unusual activity.
Forest Lawn Cemetery
Where: 7909 Mormon Bridge Road, Omaha
Forest Lawn Memorial Park (AKA Forest Lawn Cemetery) is an expansive cemetery in north Omaha, with a reportedly haunted chapel.
What’s the legend: Reports from a paranormal investigation group have noted that a “large, black mass” has been seen in the chapel and it has lunged at the group. Other pretty creepy incidents have occurred.
The chapel wasn’t open when I visited the cemetery. I did not get any creepy vibes.
Where: 3033 Hummel Road, Omaha
Let me put this out there: I love Hummel Park and I don’t really buy into the ghost stories there. My kids have gone to summer camp there. We’ve had a birthday party there. It’s a beautiful place in the daytime.
I’m sure it’s creepy as all get out at night, though.
What’s the legend: This park has been connected to numerous crimes throughout the years, so the typical ghost story revolves around either someone who had been murdered there or someone’s body had been left there.
And it doesn’t help that there are landmarks like “Devil’s Slide” there. And those odd stone stairs that never seem to add up to the same amount when you walk on them (they’re falling apart, so no one will ever agree on that number of steps).
Adam Fletcher does a great job debunking some of the more macabre stories of Hummel… like no, there were no satanic, albino cannibals roaming there.
All in all, I have never felt like Hummel was haunted. But I would also never go there at night.
The Hatchet House
Where: Third and North Jefferson streets in Papillion, Neb.
The Hatchet House, or more accurately the Portal School, was a one-room schoolhouse for years in Portal, Neb (or maybe it’s Millard, or more specifically, 120th and Giles road by “Heartbeat Bridge”). I recall as a child, my older brother and his friends going there and to this, he swears some scary stuff went down there.
The building was relocated to downtown Papillion in 1995 due to frequent flooding of the area. The Heartbeat Bridge has been relocated, too.
What’s the legend: The story goes that in the early 1900s, a teacher killed all of her students. Most say she beheaded them in a fit of anger, and then some of the stories add that she took out their hearts and dumped them in a nearby creek.
The story continued on that if you found the Heartbeat Bridge near the school, you could hear hearts beating as you walk across it at night. All sorts of creepy things were said to occur once you made it to the school.
Where: 716 N. 18th St., Omaha
Mystery Manor was a legend when I was a kid and I never went to that haunted house until I was in my late teens because it was rumored to be ridiculously scary. And for real haunted.
What’s the legend: What’s better than a haunted house? A haunted house that’s really haunted.
The story goes that in the late 1920s, the home was a site of a brutal murder – a man killed his wife (with a hatched, no less).
Omaha Magazine did some investigating and debunked the story. Turns out, a single lady who bred terriers lived in the house at that time.
Still, it’s a satisfyingly scary haunted house to visit in the fall. Update: Unfortunately, Mystery Manor will not open in 2020 due to COVID-19.
Haunted Hollow Scream Park
Where: 12501 Old Giles Road, La Vista, Neb.
Well, with a name like Haunted Hollow, it has to be haunted right? Well, let’s see if it’s a clever marketing ploy, like Mystery Manor, or is it a truly haunted place.
What’s the legend: A teenage girl had died in a farmhouse, and over many years, owners of the property reported strange sounds and objects being moved. A psychic and PRISM confirmed paranormal activity.
The farmhouse was saved from destruction and converted into a Halloween attraction.
Visit it, if you dare.
Where: 623 N. Second St., Council Bluffs, Iowa on the edge of Fairview Cemetery
Poor Ruth Anne Dodge. Her family had Daniel Chester French build a lovely memorial for her after her death in 1916. It’s a lovely fountain. By a cemetery.
No one calls it the Ruth Anne Dodge Memorial these days. It’s now The Black Angel, and it has inspired hundreds of ghost tales.
What’s the legend: The story I’m most familiar with is that if the Black Angel visits you in your dreams, you’re going to die soon. Of course, this may be more inspired by the story of Ruth Anne having a series of dreams about an angel before her death.
Anyway, ghost stories that are mostly shared these days include that if you look in her eyes at night (or in some instances, exactly at midnight), you’ll meet an untimely death.
Other fun ones include coming to life at night, fire shooting from her eyes at midnight, and beware, kids going missing if they run behind the base of the statue.
Squirrel Cage Jail
Where: 226 Pearl St., Council Bluffs, Iowa
This architectural wonder is a former rotary jail-turned museum. Its significance is that it’s one of only three rotary jails still in existence in the U.S., and the largest one (it’s three stories tall).
What’s the legend: This is the one place where a historical society seems to not discourage the stories. There has been reports of cabinet doors opening, strange sounds, a little girl’s voice and, my favorite, ghost cats. Word is, the fourth floor seems to have the most occurrences.
All in all, the ghosts of the jail are said to be non-threatening.
The stories the Historical Society of Pottawattamie County share are merely speculation, though they did have a paranormal team visit and find some interesting evidence.
Tip: The daytime tours are pretty inexpensive and suitable for children. There was no mention of ghosts on the tour. The historical society offers evening tours, ranging from 4 hours to overnight!
Villisca Ax Murder House
Where: 508 E. Second St., Villisca, Iowa
This is a long drive from Omaha, but if you want a landmark with a legit crime occurring in it, head to Villisca, Iowa.
In 1912, two adults and six kids were brutally murdered on Second Street and it remains an unsolved murder case. The house is now a National Historic Landmark, where visitors can take daytime tours six days a week or book overnight stays.
What’s the legend: Ever since the Moore family and two friends of a daughter were brutally murdered, tales have been spun about hauntings in the house. Visitors and paranormal specialists have shared tales of creepy occurrences, many claiming the spirits of the eight victims still reside in the house.
Some of the stories include hearing children’s voices, feeling cold spots, and being able to communicate with the dead while there. When you visit, you can see pictures that past guests have taken there and read some of their stories of haunting experiences.
We took a daytime tour and felt underwhelmed by it all. Perhaps it was all the modern-day toys people have left there for the rumored ghost children? Perhaps it was the bored guide?
I’ve had a friend stay overnight there, though, and she told me “all sorts of creepy things happened.” So, there’s that.
Omaha ghost tours & more tours nearby
Midwest Paranormal Tours
Their Omaha offerings include cemetery tours that regularly sell out, as well as haunted hikes of Hummel. Reasonably priced private tours are available for four or more people. website
Nebraska Tour Co.
This company offers an Old Market Ghost Story Tours for groups. It’s a walking tour that takes about an hour. There’s another Haunted History Tour for groups that includes transportation. website
Ollie the Trolley Haunted Cemetery Tours
These individual group tours are narrated by historians and also happens to be a BYOB type of experience. Tours run from 2 to 5 p.m., so not a late-night experience. website
Ghost Hunts USA
This company offers haunted tours of places like Squirrel Cage Jail in Council Bluffs and Malvern Manor (also in Iowa) at a premium price, but at least it includes use of their equipment. website
More odd and creepy Omaha stuff
Can’t get enough of the supernatural things, or places inspired by supernatural things? Check, out these places in Omaha:
Museum of Shadows
Where: 110 Douglas St., Omaha
What: Find a large collection of cursed items in a self-tour through the spooky place.
Haunted House Chinese Restaurant
Where: 7639 Cass St., Omaha
What: It’s a seafood restaurant that challenges you to “Enter if you dare.” I honestly can’t tell you if it’s anything more than a regular restaurant with an eye-catching name.