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

A ghost story from the history of North Omaha that happened at present-day Carter Lake Park.

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.

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.

This was a typical Sunday in the summer at the Rod and Gun Club in the 1890s.


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 appeared at the Rod and Gun Club in the 1910s.


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.

Is that Mabel Oakley paddling at the Rod and Gun Club in this 1900s postcard?

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