Imagine you’re driving the back roads of Nebraska. Flat lands, dirt roads, and fields of growing crops and livestock. When you turn a corner, you see the lone arching entrance to a cemetery. What would this be doing out here in the middle of nowhere? Nearby the Platte River, Ball Cemetery has stood steadfast and watched as Nebraska grew up around it. The second- oldest cemetery in the state, it’s an eerie place filled with history and echoes of the past. Are you brave enough to go past the gate into the historical Ball Family resting place?
The Ball cemetery began life and continues to this day to be the private cemetery for the Ball Family in the region. Many say the former generations of this prolific family are still walking the grounds, and you can catch a glimpse of them if you visit at the right time. Visit at the wrong time, however, and you might be met with a groundskeeper, carrying a 12 gauge shotgun to deter any trespassers.
For decades the reputation of this plot of land has grown and it’s now considered to be one of the most haunted places in Nebraska. Today, let’s explore the phantoms of the Ball Cemetery.
Beginning in the 1868s, this cemetery was only beaten out for the oldest cemetery by one established 13 years older. One of the most famous people buried there is a friend and associate of Buffalo Bill Cody, William Liddiard. Liddiard traveled with Cody for a good portion of his adult life, helping with the Wild West Show as it traversed the frontier land by train car.
Personally, I love old cemeteries for the history they can teach you, the headstones telling their own stories as you silently traverse the well-groomed grass and memorials. For Ball Cemetery, it’s no different. Many of the headstones tell the story of frontier era Nebraska in a way books cannot. There are gravestones made of stumps of trees, as was popular in the Victorian era. Other gravestones tell stories of illnesses wiping out entire families, with their death dates eerily close to one another. Other gravestones sit on their back, having been pushed over by some vandals.
The vandal, however, is said to be more than just an angry man– he’s reported to be from the afterlife. A tall, ghostly man has been seen by witnesses knocking over gravestones in a perpetual anger, then disappearing right after his desecration has finished. Photos from the cemetery will often show the famous orbs of light, or occasionally full-bodied figures standing behind smiling teens in the dark of the cemetery. Trespassing, remember, on this location of peace and rest. Keep in mind that Ball Cemetery is still a privately owned plot of land.
Other claims say that strange symbols have been left on vehicles that stop to explore the cemetery. Paranormal investigations have been conducted on the land and came back with intriguing evidence. Cries in the night, sometimes even screams or laughter, give the air around the cemetery a thick quality of those long passed.
If you decide to make the trip, I highly recommend getting in touch with the current owners, still the Ball family after over a century, and obtaining permission first. Many have illegally trespassed since the rumor of a haunting began circulating, and the damage and vandalism is apparent, cleaning beer bottles off the graves of loved ones and pulling the stones back to their vertical state. Remember to always be respectful when visiting the resting places of the long passed, and keep an eye open for a figure or an orb as you explore.
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Born in Death Valley and raised on the prairie, Deborah is a Wyoming-based paranormal researcher and a senior at the University of Wyoming, studying Communication. Her interests lie in folklore, history, rhetorical analysis and research. With an obvious love for ghost stories, frequently those interests combine with her work on Ghostlandia.