A History of the Story of Carter Lake’s Burning Lady

A postcard from the Rod and Gun Club on Lake Nakoma from the early 20th century. Image courtesy of the Omaha Public Library.

The Rod and Gun Club used to have members’ bungalows clustered together on the shores of Carter Lake. Wealthy North Omahans, of which there were many in the 1880s when the trend started, built their summer homes there. This is the horrific story of Carter Lake’s Burning Lady, a ghost who may haunt the shoreline there today.

In 1893, H. C. Oakley’s wife Mabel was cooking at the family cabin located at the Rod and Gun Club. Using a gas stove, her sleeve accidentally caught on fire, and the cabin quickly went up in flames. A report from the June 12, 1912 Lincoln Daily News said, Mrs. Oakley fled from the blazing room literally enveloped in a mass of seething flames, to die in the arms of her husband shortly afterwards. The cabin burnt to the ground.

The Rod and Gun Club was located on Carter Lake for more than 50 years. This is how the scene looked in the 1890s, when this story occurred.

A decade after the tragedy, a restaurant was built on the site of the Oakley’s old cabin. Soon after it opened, the chef there started seeing a ghost in his sleeping quarters, which were located about the restaurant. The first time, he was woke up by the strike of  a match, only to see a “woman surrounded by fire and carrying a lighted match in her hand.”

The chef reported that this ghost “hovered about his room by night was that of a woman surrounded by such an unearthly blaze of light that he could not plainly distinguish her features.”

This is how the bungalows at Carter Lake’s Rod and Gun Club appeared when this incident happened.

When the ghost held out the lit match towards the chef, he instinctively pushed her arm away – but felt no pain from the sight of the fire that surrounded her. There was no burn on his hand from where he’d contacted the fire. When his dog ran into the room, it immediately stopped and started barking, then ran from the room.

Night after night the ghost came back, but only when there was no light in the chef’s room. He insisted having his sleeping quarters moved to another room. The Rod and Gun Club closed down in the 1940s.

"Canoeing at Rod and Gun Club, Omaha, Neb" Postcard, circa 1908
Is that Mabel Oakley paddling at the Rod and Gun Club in this 1900s postcard? “Canoeing at Rod and Gun Club, Omaha, Neb” Postcard, circa 1908

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