Fort Omaha was opened in 1878. Home to thousands of US Army troops over a century of service, many people lived and died at the Fort. Today, some of the buildings that still survive on the campus include the General Crook House and the Commissary, both built in 1878; the Ordinance Magazine, built in 1883; the Guardhouse, built in 1884; and the Mule Stables, built in 1887. There have been stories of the dead told about the place since it opened. This is a history of ghosts at Fort Omaha.
Some of the Stories
In 1890, an 60-year-old inmate at the Douglas County Poor Farm named Peter Gronwold, was the servant of a Lieutenant Wilson who lived in officer’s quarters at the Fort. One day while he was doing his work, he had a psychotic episode and started throwing objects around. He flung plates into the wall and broke a glass window. When Lt. Wilson attempted to subdue him, Gronwold suddenly died. Gronwold’s ghost haunted the Fort for at least 20 years afterwards.
When the Fort had regular US Army troops stationed there in the 1880s, it was popular for Omaha’s elite to come out for a fancy day watching the troops do their exercises. More than once though, seances and psychics drew out specters and ghouls for the fancy people to see. According to a 1918 newspaper report, the troops thought one psychic was a charlatan when he conjured a ghost on command. However, they were shocked when the ghost kept returning night after night for a week.
On the south end of the parade grounds, where the World War I balloon school was located, in 1918 there was an explosion in some of the gas storage tanks that killed two soldiers and wounded several others. One of them ended up in the Fort’s hospital where he died during surgery. Apparently all three ghosts still haunt the campus today.
In 1945, a soldier at the Fort became violent towards a nurse in the Fort’s hospital and murdered her in the presence of doctors and other nurses. Stories say you can see her staring longingly out the windows of that building late some nights.
According to a former office staff from Metro Community College, in the 1970s one of the original officers’ houses was being renovated. While they were working, builders said they would hear knocking on the opposite side of a wall they were working on. At first they thought it was other workers, until they learned there were never other workers on the other side when they heard the knocking sounds. They also complained about tools mysteriously disappearing and showing up days later in entirely different rooms.
In other stories, a young girl, a Native American warrior, and a nicely dressed middle aged man are seen in different places around the campus. When the night is right and you’re feeling a fright, you might also find yourself in the presence of a young soldier.
Deaths at the Fort
Some of the people who have died at Fort Omaha include:
- Judge T. H. Duval, 1880
- Sergeant John Wright, 1882
- Reverend George Allen England, 1883
- Major Joseph Taylor, 1885
- Mrs. Brown, wife of Major Brown,1888
- Peter Gronwold, civilian, 1890
- Sarah Iowa, infant daughter of Lieutenant Abercrombie, 1890
- Little Bear, “an Indian soldier of Company I”, 1894
- Lieutenant Colonel Parke, 1894
- Lieutenant Otto Grimm, 1908
- Private William Sauers, 1918
- Sergeant Bob Weigel, 1918
- Private Roy Imboden, 1918
- Private Zell S. Killingsworth, 1918
- Private Walter P. Peterson, 1918
- Private Stuart Heintzelman, 1935
- Martha V. Thomas, 1945