A History of North Omaha’s Hummel Park

The east entrance to Hummel Park in 1944.

There is a lot of misunderstanding about what happens at Hummel Park. A lot of it comes from racism, a lot from ignorance, and the rest of it from active imaginations. Before we start examining the allegations about the park, let’s look at the actual, factual history of Hummel Park.

 

The Real History of Hummel Park

More than 200 years ago, a Spanish trader named Manuel Lisa had a fort located near the park. Another trader name Jean Pierre Cabànne opened a post along the Missouri River near the park in the 1820s.

In 1930, 200 acres of land on the southwest corner of River Drive and Ponca Road were donated to the City of Omaha to become a park. It was named after Joseph B. Hummel, the long-time superintendent of Omaha’s Parks and Recreation Department, and one of the most influential parks advocates ever in Omaha.

A mature riparian woodlands covers almost the whole park. There are playgrounds, horseshoe pits, a Missouri River overlook, picnic shelters and a disc golf course at the park, along with the popular “Devil’s Slide,” a natural cliff on the east side of the park.

The Hummel Park Nature Center, operated by the Omaha Parks and Recreation Department, offers environmental education programs and special nature events. For more than 60 years, the park has been home to a summer camp for thousands of learners.

Today, Hummel Park is a beloved area used by thousands of people every year who enjoy it, enjoy the view, and treasure the park. There are a lot of salacious and un-useful rumors about the park though, and following are actual facts that address these rumors.

 

What Is Fake

 

The Hummel Park Nature Center, recently opened by the City of Omaha.

Before I explain what is at Hummel Park, let’s talk about what it is not.

  • The history of the park is not macabre.
  • There is no evidence of lynchings ever happening at Hummel Park.
  • There is not a secret lodge anywhere in the park.
  • There has never been an albino farm at Hummel Park, colonies of albinos there, or homeless albino people roaming the woods. There is an urban legend about this though, and it is not true.
  • The picnic shelter and picnic areas at the park were built by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, and are not satanic worshipping altars.
  • There are no credible reports of animals being sacrificed in the park.
  • No archeologist has ever found an ancient Native American burial ground in the park.

 

What Might Be True

A car driving up Hummel Park Road in the late 1930s.

It may be true that one of the first settlers in the area was a German named Jacob Clatanoff. Apparently, he and his wife Laurinda had a cabin in the hills before a park was located there.

It may be true that one day, Laurinda decided to kill her husband and flee with a lover. and buried him there. People who have seen the ghost claim that Jacob always wails and cries, “Where is Laurinda?” and “Don’t leave me!” This may be true.

However, I cannot find any record in historical papers, and the story is only mentioned in books about the paranormal. None of them cite any sources.

 

 

The stairs to Hell at Hummel Park never have the same number of steps!
Unless you count 188, then you’re right.

 

What Is True

  • Hummel Park was created from land donated to the City of Omaha in 1930.
  • When I was growing up in the 1980s and 1990s, my family and friends messed around on Devil’s Slide.
  • The stairs at the park did always count up to a different number – but that was because they are falling apart, not because they lead to Hell.
  • Its also true that there are two historical markers at Hummel Park, one for Fort Lisa and one for Cabanne’s Trading Post. Both of them existed between 1804 and 1828, and were important places for fur trading in the Indian Territory, as the area was called after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.
  • Groups of young people have been traveling from Omaha and other towns in the area to use the park since it was opened. In 1933, the Daily Nebraskan reported a picnic day with a few dozen youth there.
  • In the 1940s and 50s, there was a ski slope at Hummel Park, and from the 1940s through today the City of Omaha hosts a summer day camp at the park.
  • It is true that there have been several deaths associated with Hummel Park.
  • In 1936, a soldier was found buried in Hummel Park by a WPA crew working there. An archeologist in Omaha determined the body belonged to a war veteran. Local Boy Scouts decided to rebury the skeleton in a casket at the park, in a gravesite at the top of the cliffs overlooking the Missouri River Valley.
A car driving up the road at Hummel Park in 1931.

Crime at Hummel Park

As a remote, secluded place, there has been crime at Hummel Park. Bodies have been buried there. The following are crimes where I could find evidence.

 

A picnic pavilion or devil worshipping altar?!?

Related Articles

 

Elsewhere Online

6 thoughts on “A History of North Omaha’s Hummel Park

Add yours

  1. This is a great article, but I have to say that I am glad I didn't read it before I wrote my short story collection “The Legend of Hummel Park and Other Stories” that featured a few stories set in Hummel Park. http://www.amazon.com/Legend-Hummel-Park-Other-Stories/dp/0692518312/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

    I think they would have been a bad influence on my writing, as I tried to deliberately avoid using real tragedies in the stories and only played around with the more outlandish rumors. But some of these are so macabre that I may have been tempted.

    I did do a fair amount of research on the park before I started writing, and I have to say there is nothing even close to this out there. Great work!

    -Jeremy Morong

    Like

  2. Hey Jeremy, thanks for your comment! Did you see that I linked to your book before you commented? It looks good! I'm glad you didn't see this article either, if only because there needs to be someone pushing out the spooky stories and not the macabre ones… That said, maybe you need to write a sequel! Base it on what I've found and shared here – lots of my links go to the actual court cases. I found a grip of articles about almost every circumstance I mentioned too, annnnnd I actually left out a half-dozen stories I couldn't find citations for.

    There's a lot of real and bombastic horror in the world, and plenty of room for all the stories to be told! Thanks again for commenting.

    Like

  3. Hi Adam, no, I didn't notice the link before I posted. Matter of fact, I still don't see it, I must be losing it! But I found the site through a search of Hummel Park on Facebook to see if anyone was talking about my book. Vain, yes, but I was curious. But it was a lucky break. I had already scoured google and so forth before I wrote the book, so I probably wouldn't have found this site without searching Facebook, as someone on an Old Omaha site posted links to your stories.

    Someone on Amazon left me a terrible review, saying they thought my book was non-fiction and they found “just” short stories. Too bad they didn't know about this post, as it would give them all they wanted.

    This is a great blog and very interesting, I'm having fun digging through it. For example, I had no idea there was once an amusement park on the shores of Carter Lake. Amazing.

    Like

  4. Hey Jeremy, thanks for your note back. If you look at the bottom of the article under “Elsewhere Online” you'll see your book name and your name, and they're both linked to the book. Sucks about that review – I have gotten those myself for some books I've written, and they suck. We'll see what we can do about that.

    In the meantime, I've also put the book in my bookstore at http://northomaha.blogspot.com/p/bookstore.html and I'll promo it on the facebook page. Hope that's helpful!

    Good luck man.

    Like

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