October 29, 2022 | Last updated Aug 17, 2023

The Headless Ghost of Redington, Nebraska

The month of October can sometimes inspire images specific to the Halloween season. In December we think about Christmas, with brightly decorated trees and wrapped gifts full of surprise. In July we think red, white and blue thoughts as we celebrate the birth of our nation. But in October our imaginings seem to turn in a darker direction. Images of ghouls, ghosts and dealings with the undead fill that space occupied by dark autumn nights.

Nebraska is no stranger to tales designed to frighten when told or re-told, typically around a campfire late at night when the moon is full. Or, perhaps when the moon is new, and darkness has completely engulfed all those souls brave enough to have gathered together by that fire.

#1 Bridgeport New-Blade 10/10/1913

 

Redington, Nebraska (RG2273.PH000004-000001) (above)

Redington, Nebraska, population of about 1,100, is nestled near the famous trail-mark called Chimney Rock in Morrill County in the western part of the state. According to a newspaper account, on the night of September 30, 1883, a man named Charles Adams was brutally murdered in a cabin a mile south of  the town. For reasons known only to the killer, his head was severed from the body. The suspected motive in the crime was the theft of a large sum of money said to be owned by the victim.

No murderer was ever found, and the cabin where the crime occurred quickly became a local “haunted house.” As with every haunted house come the stories surrounding it. For instance, it was said that on the anniversary of the murder, Adams would appear riding a white horse. Oh yes, and he would be headless, as well. Whether real or imagined, several local residents are said to have actually seen this event, keeping the tales alive and well.

 

Redington, Nebraska (personal collection)

Miss Maud deVault was a popular young schoolmistress living in Redington at about this time and was familiar with the stories. On the anniversary night of September 30, 1893 or thereabouts, and in a bold act of courage and curiosity, she and other members of the community walked to the cabin and awaited the darkness. At nine o’clock, Miss deVault and the others prepared to see the headless Charles Adams. The biggest surprise came when he actually appeared.

Or, at least something that looked like a headless horseman. As the horse and white-sheeted ghost rider galloped into a quickly panicking crowd, a very calm schoolmistress stepped forward, withdrew a concealed handgun from her coat and fired into the air twice. In the gathered darkness, and above the din of a spooked crowd, all that could be heard was the shriek of a frightened horse running away into the night. Then someone saw the flutter of a white sheet gently float to the earth.

As it turned out, one of the local young residents of the town had decided to play a practical joke on the unsuspecting ghost-hunters. He wrapped a bed sheet around himself and his horse and hid behind the house. He was to charge the horse past the crowd and away into the darkness. No one had anticipated the schoolmistress packing a weapon. No one was hurt in this incident, but it was surely talked about for many years afterward.

Dale Bacon
Assistant Curator

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