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
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
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 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.
Crime at Hummel Park
- 1933: A radio repairman was murdered in the park.
- 1950: A drunk driver left Hummel Park and ran into a University of Omaha hayrack ride and killed one person.
- 1956: An adult male was tried for raping a woman at the park.
- 1983: A group of prostitutes from Omaha killed another prostitute and dumped her body outside Hummel Park.
- 1988: A recently released convict was convicted of raping a woman at the park.
- 1992: A high school student was kidnapped and murdered in the park.
- 2006: A missing child’s body was found in Hummel Park.
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