publications

Black Ghost

Ghosts are popularly imagined to favor the color white when materializing for public view. However, a ghost clothed in black was said to haunt the streets of Alma in early 1902. The Harlan County Journal of Alma on March 28, 1902, reprinted a recent Lincoln Evening News report of the dark specter’s activities: “The peace of mind of the people of this city has been rudely disturbed during the past three weeks or more and all because of a ghost. Not the customary white appareled specter of fiction and precedent, but a black garbed apparition. The story is vouched for by half a dozen of the best men of the place, men whose standing and supposed freedom from superstition would naturally class them among the doubters. But they doubt no more.



“The heroine of the tale is a woman, a ghost, who chooses to violate all supernatural precedents by appareling herself in black from head to foot. This may sound like a piece of fiction, but it isn’t safe to take this attitude when talking with an Alma man. Here almost everybody believes firmly in the apparition because most everybody has seen it. Some have sought to capture it, but have failed dismally. When it is pursued the ghost runs. When its pursuer turns tail, he becomes in turn the pursued. Several have played in both roles, and just at present the ghost is permitted to roam unmolested. It has sought to harm no one or annoy any especial person. Its favorite pastime seems to be to dart from some dark alley or shadowy corner and rush like the wind past some lone, belated pedestrian. At ten paces or so beyond him, the specter vanishes into thin air. That is the psychological moment for the hair to rise. It hasn’t failed yet.



“Several well known citizens vouch for the truth of these tales. One of these is Congressman [Ashton C.] Shallenberger, who represents the Fifth Nebraska district at Washington. . . . Shallenberger came home recently on a flying business trip. He was detained at his bank late at night. On his way past a dismally dark alley the figure is said to have darted out and rushed past him like the wind. It disappeared thirty feet beyond. . . . Similar stories are told by other well-known citizens, and it has come to be generally accepted as being really a disembodied spirit. No explanation is offered, and while too many testify by their own experience to possibly make it a concerted hoax, there are many who assert that when the mystery is finally unraveled there will be found nothing supernatural about it.



“The figure is unmistakably that of a woman. Her face is veiled from view and all guesses at her identity are vague. Several years ago the wife of an Alma man died. On her death bed she extracted a promise from her husband that he would not marry again. She told him she would haunt him if he did. He married again in less than two years, but his second venture is said to have been an unhappy one. Some think it is the first wife making good her threat. For a time the scoffers suspected it was the second wife seeking to revenge herself upon her husband, but circumstances quickly disposed of her possible playing at ghost-walking, an alibi being established for her without her knowledge of it. Another explanation is that it is the unquiet spirit of an Alma woman, recently deceased. She suffered long from a very painful illness and the supposition is that she is still in the grip of suffering.



“The figure, however, makes no uncanny sounds, no moans or cries, but moves silently, with incredible swiftness, and then-evaporates. It may seem odd to find any considerable number of believers in ghosts walking the earth in this age, but the incident, together with the many tales told and retold have so worked upon the superstitious fears of the townspeople that they appear to have quietly accepted it without further inward travail. One man has claimed to have seen the specter attired in white but he is frowned down upon as one who seeks to embellish truth with art.”



(October 2008)



 

Become a Member!

Our members make history happen.

Join Now

Other Publications

The Bachelors’ Protective Union of Kearney

When the Bachelors' Protective Union gave a gala reception for two of its newly married, former members and their brides in March of 1890, the social club for young, ...

U.S. Weather Bureau in 1890s Nebraska

The U.S. Weather Bureau was established by an act of Congress on October 1, 1890. It took over the weather service that had been established in the office of the Chief ...

Canning the Way to Victory

During American participation in World War I the U.S. Food Administration, under the direction of Herbert Hoover, launched a massive campaign to persuade Americans to ...

The Shoemaker’s Ashes

"Edward Kuehl, one of the most peculiar characters that ever lived in Omaha, or anywhere else, was found dead in his bed last night in the back room of his place of ...

Crazy Horse Surrender Ledger Foreward

Red Dog, an Oglala Lakota who lived at the Red Cloud Agency, Nebraska, 1876-77 (Nebraska State Historical Society RG2955.ph).   In the summer of 1876, following the ...

Darryl F. Zanuck

Darryl F. Zanuck Darryl F. Zanuck (1902-1979), a native Nebraskan, produced some of Hollywood's most important and controversial films. He helped found 20th Century Fox ...

The Burlington’s Profitable Pork Special

Nebraska railroads were much concerned with developing an adequate economy in the areas they served. The Burlington, for example, had a long history of caring for the ...

Bungalow Filling Stations

After the giant Standard Oil Company was broken into thirty-four separate companies in 1911, the newly independent Standard Oil of Nebraska dominated the state's market ...

The Bull Fight

This is the perfect time of year for a visit to the old fishin' hole. But a group of fisherfolk from Plainview discovered that this bucolic pastime sometimes has ...

Buffalo Soldiers West

African-American soldiers on the western frontier are the focus of an exhibit at the Nebraska History Museum in Lincoln. Buffalo Soldiers West, on loan from the Colorado ...

Protection for Buffalo

The extermination of the buffalo on the Plains occurred largely between 1870 and 1885. The Nebraska State Journal of Lincoln on February 1, 1874, editorialized in vain ...

Buffalo Hunting

In late October 1877 young Rolf Johnson and three friends left their homes in Phelps County, Nebraska, for a buffalo hunt in northeastern Colorado. The hunt was not very ...
About History Nebraska
History Nebraska was founded in 1878 as the Nebraska State Historical Society by citizens who recognized Nebraska was going through great changes and they sought to record the stories of both indigenous and immigrant peoples. It was designated a state institution and began receiving funds from the legislature in 1883. Legislation in 1994 changed History Nebraska from a state institution to a state agency. The division is headed by Interim Director and CEO Jill Dolberg. They are assisted by an administrative staff responsible for financial and personnel functions, museum store services, security, and facilities maintenance for History Nebraska.
Explore Nebraska
Discover the real places and people of our past at these History Nebraska sites.

Upcoming Events

View our new and upcoming events to see how you can get involved.

Become a Member

The work we do to discover, preserve, and share Nebraska's history wouldn't be possible without the support of History Nebraska members.

History Nebraska Education

Learn more about the educational programs provided at our museums, sites, and online.

Education Digital Learning Resources

Find games, lists, and more to enhance your history education curriculum.

History Nebraska Programs

Learn more about the programs associated with History Nebraska.

Latest Hall of Fame Inductee

The Nebraska Hall of Fame was established in 1961 to officially recognize prominent Nebraskans.

Listen to our Podcast

Listen to the articles and authors published in the Nebraska History Magazine with our new Nebraska History Podcast!

Nebraska Collections

History Nebraska's mission is to collect, preserve, and open our shared history to all Nebraskans.

Our YouTube Video Collection

Get a closer look at Nebraska's history through your own eyes, with our extensive video collections.

Additional Research Resources

History Nebraska Research and Reference Services help connect you to the material we collect and preserve.

History Nebraska Services

Digital Resources

Find all of our digital resources, files, videos, and more, all in one easy-to-search page!

Support History Nebraska
Make a cash donation to help us acquire, preserve, and interpret Nebraska’s history. Gifts to History Nebraska help leave a legacy and may help your taxes, too! Support the work of History Nebraska by donating to the History Nebraska Foundation today.

Volunteers are the heroes of History Nebraska. So much history, so little time! Your work helps us share access to Nebraska’s stories at our museums and sites, the reference room, and online.