Everyone loves a good story and with Nebraska’s historical past, there are plenty of peculiar legends that have formed over the years. For a look into the strange, scary, and just plain weird side of the state, we’ve compiled 10 of the most popular myths and urban legends in Nebraska.
According to a legend, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln theater building is haunted by two ghosts. The first, a student who passed away in the 1940s during a production of Macbeth. The second, a former theater department chairman. UNL students often report seeing the ghosts during late night rehearsals!
There is a Native American tale that says a war broke out between two tribes in the small town of Weeping Water in Nebraska and that one tribe stole the daughter from the other. This resulted in a three-day ordeal and afterward everyone from both tribes was killed. All the tribes’ women wept so many tears that the river is claimed to be the tears or the “weeping water.”
In the town of Portal, a small schoolhouse is the home to a particularly strange legend. The story goes that one day the schoolteacher lost her mind and decapitated all the students, placing their heads on the desks. Those who believe the legend still visit the schoolhouse to see if they can sense her presence or that of the poor students!
There is a legend that if a woman leaves the University of Nebraska-Lincoln without ever being kissed than the columns will fall. The columns are considered a romantic spot to stroll and share a kiss with someone special.
According to the legend, two very bored, older farmers drove to Missouri to purchase fireworks. When they came back to their rabbit-infested fields, they decided to trap a few and have some fun by taping firecrackers to the animals and letting them run until they exploded. They had many laughs until one rabbit decided to take revenge and ran straight for one of the farmer’s trucks—blowing it up!
Another legend that involves dangerous animals in Nebraska is the story of the radioactive hornets. After the nuclear disasters in the 1940s, there were many concerns about radiation-related horrors reaching the United States. One rumor emerged that the extremely aggressive hornets exposed to radiation had actually made their way to central Nebraska and could grow up to four times their normal size. Though this one is highly unlikely, it still has many locals keeping the fly swatters close by!
The Blackbird Hill legend tells the story of a young couple who were deeply in love until the man was sent overseas. After almost five years, his lady had given him up for dead and married a Nebraska pioneer. The new couple lived on Blackbird Hill, the burial place of an Omaha chief, until one day the young man returned and they both confessed they still wanted to be together. The woman tried to explain the situation to her new husband however he went into a jealous rage and attacked her. He then picked her up and plunged both of their bodies together off the Blackbird Hill cliff and into the river below. The legend is that on every October 17, the day of the murder, the woman’s screams can be heard in the area.
After losing his wife, a powerful Native American chief in southeast Nebraska went out and came back with a bundle of fresh scallops and a large piece of salt. He proceeded to tell the story of how he heard a terrible scream one night and when he rose, he saw an old crone holding a tomahawk over the head of a woman. As the woman cried, he realized it was his late wife. As he ran towards them, his own weapon was instead buried inside the woman. The ground beneath her opened up and swallowed them whole. Afterward, a pillar of salt was all that was left.
There is a particular Swedish immigrant, Febold Feboldson, who is featured in many of the myths and legends among Nebraska’s frontier. In one story, the man is said to have cured one of the state’s worst droughts ever. It was so hot and dry that he came up with a crazy idea to build an enormous bonfire in hopes that it would bring rain. He created several fires and they became so hot that they evaporated all the water in the lake, sending it into the clouds and turning it into rain.
This gruesome tale involves a Native American tribe who discovered one of their girls had been abused by a frontier man who had vowed to kill as many Native Americans as possible. When they tracked him down for what he did, they returned the torture and left him for dead on the banks of the creek. Today, many still believe that the creek received its name from this horrid event.
Of course, there are countless versions of these stories, and many of them are just myths that have been debunked, but they are still very popular to this day. How many of these stories have you heard? Do you know any other Nebraska myths? Share them with us in the comments!