A History of North Omaha’s Hummel Park

Hummel Park, J. J. Pershing Drive, North Omaha, Nebraska

The Ponca Hills are packed with real history and some mysteries. Unfortunately, one of the most enigmatic stories in the history of the entire city of Omaha is there, too. This is a history of Hummel Park.

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

Hummel Park, North Omaha, Nebraska
This is a 1918 pic of the road through 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.

For almost 70 years starting in the 1860s, the family of a farmer named Joshua Brown owned the parkland as part of their Ponca Hills homestead. Brown’s son Roy owned it for years and his grandson Charles took care of it afterwards. This multi-generational commitment led to the City of Omaha buying it to make the park. Apparently there were early talks about renaming it for the farmer, but they fell through because another park in Omaha already had that name.

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. Instead of Brown, 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

Hummel Park Nature Center, North Omaha, Nebraska
This is the recently-built nature center at Hummel Park in North 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.

What Is True

Hummel Park Staircase, North Omaha, Nebraska
These stairs at Hummel Park were installed by CCC workers, as well as picnic pavilions, retaining walls and more. There are 188 stairs here.
  • Hummel Park was created from land sold 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.

Crime at Hummel Park

Hummel Park Road, North Omaha, Nebraska
A car drives up Hummel Park Road in North Omaha in the 1920s.

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.

Works Progress Administration Picnic Shelter, Hummel Park, North Omaha, Nebraska
This is the Works Progress Administration Picnic Shelter at Hummel Park in North Omaha, built in the 1930s.

You Might Like

Elsewhere Online

Bonus Content!

History of Hummel Park, Omaha, Nebraska
This is a podcast show called “A History of Hummel Park” by Adam Fletcher Sasse for NorthOmahaHistory.com.


  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


  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.


  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.


  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.


  5. Uhmm. Albinos did in fact live inside the park. Back in the 80s there wS several that liveed in a cave that has since collapsed. Also i have personaly witnesses satanic rituals being done at the park and yes animals were sacrificed. The highschool student from omaha north high who is still missed to this day was not killed inside the park. That is where her body was dumped native american remains have also been found in the park


  6. I guess I am a few years late to post on here, but I wanted to let you know that my sister & I both attended day camp at Hummel Park back in the mid-to late 1960s. We’d catch a school bus at our local grade school, Benson West, and ride out to the park. We learned all kinds of songs on that bus over the years of trips back & forth. We learned a LOT about nature at the park as well. We loved going down all the dirt slides, except NEVER Devil’s Slide. The day camp kids were divided up into “tribes” and each had a Native American name from a local area tribe. We’d hike & play and then come back to cook our own lunches, which were delicious. That is where I first tried a smore, and learned to make a cookstove out of an old coffee can. I still know a lot about all animals, even snakes. I have such wonderful memories of those summers.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. On the way to dodge park just before entrance to right to park ball fields boat docks, there is aroad splits off to left winds slightly up hill some homes on left side, this little road, But to the right park lot there was some kind buiding had pool, and there used to be beauitiful statues on sight, what was this place, What happened to it !


  8. So in the 1980s i attended day camp at Hummel many times one of those years a counselor led us to a point in the forest where there was what appeared to be an abandoned swimming pool very old he said it was used training troops for World War I found that very odd and I have never been able to find this spot since does anybody have any recollection or history of this I definitely saw the cement structure with my own eyes


    1. There is no history of a swimming pool at Hummel Park, and no indication that US Army troops from Fort Omaha ever trained there. That area didn’t become a city park until the 1930s. You might have been deceived by your counselor…


  9. Yeah that’s entirely possible but I know I did see a cement structure that looked very much like a very long abandoned cement pool. Now it could have been just some random abandoned building Foundation not above a counselor to spend a yarn


  10. Do you have any information on Joshua Brown and the park? I thought I had heard it was going to be named Brown Park but there was already one in South Omaha. Not sure if he owned part of the land or not.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for this Tiffany, I appreciate you pointing me to Joshua Brown. I found one mention of him after researching for a few days, and I’ve added him to the article. Thanks again for the lead.


      1. Thank you for taking a look and including J. Brown in your story. I didn’t mention it before but Joshua was my great great grandfather and I appreciate my family being included in the history.

        Liked by 1 person

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