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Ghost Story

An early Nebraska ghost story was related in 1934 by Oscar Samson, a pioneer settler of Burt and Cuming counties, in an address before the Cuming County Historical Society. It was later reprinted in the April-June 1934 issue of Nebraska History magazine. Samson's tale concerned "the night he was returning home from West Point with the first coffin ever purchased there to lay out a man by the name of Nelson, who had died from the effects of a horse kick. The man had died at the Samson home and had expressed a wish to be buried back in Illinois. Early day stories gave credence to ghosts and coming home with the coffin jolting in the wagon, Samson's mules came to a dead standstill."

Samson related: "Being young and foolish I thought Nelson's ghost wanted to tell me something and I said, 'What's on your mind, Nelson? Did you want to tell me something?' No answer. I urged the mules on, but they wouldn't budge.

"And then in the trail before me I saw something that made my hair stand on end. Two eyes were staring at me through the night as big as saucers. 'Who are you?' I asked, 'Be you man or the devil? Speak up or I'll shoot.' No answer. Then I took steady aim between those two balls of fire, took tight rein on my mules and fired.

"It was only three miles home, but those mules ran all the way, with the coffin jolting in the back. I put the mules in the barn at home without even unharnessing them I was so nervous.

"Next morning my brother knew something was wrong and wanted to know what had happened the night before. I told him to get on one of the mules and I got on the other and we rode back over the prairie together and there by the side of the trail where I had passed the night before we found a full grown mountain lion that had been crouching there ready to spring upon my mules.

"'And do you know,' concluded Samson, 'if I hadn't gone back over that trail and found that dead lion, I would always have believed I had seen a ghost.'"

(October 2005)



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