Located 8 miles north of Decatur, just west of Highway 75, on the Omaha Indian Reservation on a hill overlooking the Missouri River. At the summit of this hill is a mound of dirt, nearly 45 feet high that marks the burial place of the great Omaha Indian Chief Blackbird. This hill is not open to the public because it is located inside the Omaha reservation, however, there is a scenic overlook nearby that one can climb to view the river below.
Chief Blackbird was buried at this location, sitting upright on his favorite horse. Lewis and Clark are said to have visited his gravesite, leaving decorations to memorialize him.
A young woman was murdered on the hill over a century and a half ago. The story of leading up to this murder is as follows:
A young man and young woman back east had fallen in love in the 1840’s. The young man had finished his schooling and planned to travel abroad for a period of time and then return to marry the young woman.
After waiting several years, the young woman was devastated when her lover did not return. She gave him up for dead and married a different man. The newlyweds headed west, eventually settling in Northeast Nebraska, atop Blackbird Hill.
On October 17, 1849 the young woman was astounded when she saw her old fiancé walking up the winding path from the Missouri River to her small cabin. He too was surprised, having no idea that she lived there.
Overjoyed to see him, she confessed that she had never stopped loving him and only married the ther man because she thought he was dead. He then began to convey the tale of his previous years:
While traveling abroad, he had been shipwrecked, but managed to survive. However it took him almost five years to make it back to the United States. When he arrived home, he was saddened to find that his mother had died and his fiancé had married another man and moved west. Setting out to find his true love, he joined a wagon train and headed for California, searching everywhere for her.
By the time he had reached the west coast, he had failed to find her and was heartbroken. He began the long journey home, traveling along the Missouri River. Landing one day at the foot of Blackbird Hill, he saw the winding path up the slope and decided to follow it. That’s when the pair finally laid eyes on each other again.
The girl told him that when her husband returned home, she would tell him that she wished to be released from her marriage vows so that she and her long lost love could leave together the next morning. Giving the couple time to discuss the situation, the young man his in he nearby woods. When the woman’s husband returned home, she explained the situation but he did not want her to leave. At first, begged her to stay. When she refused, he began to get angry and soon ended up attacking her with his hunting knife. Screaming, she fell to the floor. The husband then dropped the knife and gathered up his bleeding wife. With her in his arms, he ran o the cliff at the top of the hill and jumped with her into the river, far below.
Giving chase, the young man, arrived at the hill just in time to see his bleeding lover and her jealous husband leap from the summit. He listened to her final scream of agony. Collapsing with grief, the young man began to wander the hills aimlessly until he was finally found ragged and half starved by a group of Omaha Indians. Delirious and unable to speak, the Indians carried the man back to their village, where he stayed until he could recover enough to travel.
Apparently, people gather annually on October 17th in the hopes that they will be able to experience the haunting of a ghost that lingers here. It is believed that the ghost that haunts Blackbird Hill is not that of the Indian Chief, but rather that of the young woman who was murdered. According to the legend, each year, on October 17th, the woman’s chilling screams can be heard at the top of the hill.
Today, the path from the cabin to the cliff edge is barren.
The Legend of Blackbird Hill combines specific reports of paranormal activity with a legend of Love Gone Awry and the perils of inciting a man’s jealous rage by loving another. It is Romeo-and-Juliet-esque except that the young man awaiting his lover did not kill himself in the end. It is hard to tease apart the legend/lore from what may be an actual account of paranormal activity. Because the hill is not accessible to the general public, it is hard to say whether the sensationalization of this story has produced mass delirium or hallucinations or whether paranormal activity actually does occur somewhat reliably on the anniversary of these deaths.