The Alma Nightwalker
Updated: Dec 30, 2021
During the spring of 1902, the apparition of a woman shrouded in black clothing tormented several men in the small town of Alma, Nebraska. Unlike common tales involving a woman in white, this spirit appeared veiled in darkness. During a three-week period in March, several town residents witnessed the ghost roaming the streets at night. She moved through the community with swiftness.
The first person to see the ghost was a Harlan County publisher named H. S. Wetherell who shared his own personal encounter in the Harlan County Journal. While working in his office late into the night, he saw her pass by his window slowly and then vanish. He stated that she was dressed from head to foot in black. Eventually, almost everyone in town claimed to have seen the woman.
Some residents attempted to catch the ghost, but while in pursuit would lose sight of her. After turning around to leave they would eventually realize they were being followed by the ghostly figure. The local mayor said, “The favorite drink down here is Dewitt’s bitters and anyone drinking them is liable to see anything.” At first, many townspeople assumed the stories were superstitious tales, but as the days passed more and more men came forward to share their own experiences.
U.S. Congressman Ashton C. Shallenberger, who was on leave from Congress to tend to local matters, was on his way home from the bank after working late. While walking past an alleyway, the ghost emerged and rushed by him. She continued to run for 10 yards before disappearing.
A carriage dealer named Frank Grigsby recounted his story by stating that he was walking home from work when he saw the ghostly figure and attempted to follow her until she vanished. As he was heading back to the area where he first saw her, Grigsby realized that the ghost was following him.
Methodist Church Deacon Wiley Schwartz was skeptical about the stories being told around town until he was chased home from a prayer service by what he described as a veiled and vague-faced figure.
As the weeks passed, several members of the community continued seeing the woman in black. Naturally, explanations as to the identity of the woman began to surface. The most popular version was that the ghost was that of a woman who had died several years before. While on her deathbed, she had vowed to haunt her husband forever if he were to ever remarry. The man had in fact recently remarried and the woman was supposed to have returned to exact her curse.
Others believed the apparition was that of a woman who had recently passed away after suffering from a long and painful illness that resulted in an agonizing death. According to stories, after her death, she continued to roam the town in an attempt to find peace. The story was quickly debunked, however, when residents made assumptions based on interactions with the spirit. The ghost did not make any unusual sounds, moans or cries that would be associated with the woman’s final days. The ghost was also always described as being incredibly swift along with being oddly silent.
The specter was considered harmless throughout the community. Although she appeared to be determined to be seen, especially by darting from alleyways and dark corners, she was also quick to flee before vanishing in the wind. As time passed, locals accepted the woman as a disembodied spirit.