Ball Cemetery is an old family cemetery in Springfield, Nebraska that is isolated by large trees that cradle the dead within their branches. At night, the cemetery becomes extremely dark and mysterious. Aged trees hover over the dirt road leading to the cemetery gate. By day, the massive trees block the light from casting any hint of sunshine on the tombstones. It’s dark, gloomy, and there’s a steady breeze whispering through the tiny graveyard.
The Ball Cemetery began as a family cemetery with tombstones dating back to 1869. The Ball’s owned the surrounding farmland in the latter 1800’s. When a younger member of their family died, they requested to have the child buried on the homestead. The one acre cemetery was established and became the final resting place for several members of their family as well as nearby neighbors and settlers.
The most famous occupant of Ball Cemetery is said to be William “Rattlesnake Pete” Liddiard. Liddiard was a United States Marshal, who left his home in Springfield, Nebraska to join up with the William “Buffalo Bill” Cody Wild West shows. He sported a large handle bar mustache and became known as one of the fastest “on the draw” of all the U.S. Marshals. He died on the West coast and his body was returned to Ball Cemetery for burial.
Liddiard socialized in the company of several criminals of the Wild West. It’s believed that the spirit of Rattlesnake Pete still lingers in the cemetery, upholding the law in the afterlife. His energy is believed to exhibit a short temper, and visitors to Ball claim they have been physically touched by this presence in the cemetery. Some investigators call him the “Walker”—a lone sentry that walks the perimeter of the cemetery over and over, patrolling the sanctuary and protecting the graves from those who dare to enter the cemetery late at night.
Another spirit encountered in the cemetery is thought to be Mary M. Munford (1844-1885). Some visitors say they’ve heard the faint muffled voice of a woman echoing from the dark cemetery. They feel their clothing or hair tugged, followed by her soft laughter. She’s been heard singing in the distance. Mary likes to interact with visitors in a playful manner, therefore her presence has been rated an intelligent haunting.
This writers experiences with Ball Cemetery began in my high school years. My girlfriends and I would drive out to Springfield and stop at the home of my friend Debbie’s aunt. We’d talk Aunt Bea into donning her robe and driving down to the cemetery with us since she lived a mere half mile from the spooky spot. For some reason we felt safer with Aunt Bea in the car. I don’t know what the reason was. Safer in numbers? Safer with an adult in the car? Safer because she knew the owners of the farm house at the turnoff to the cemetery?
It’s been reported that Ball Cemetery is guarded by its next door neighbors at the farm house—who always had a porch light on, if I recall. They don’t think twice about firing a few shotgun blanks in the air if they catch someone sneaking into the cemetery in the middle of the night. Visitors should try and visit the cemetery during the day, and it’s not a bad idea to ask at the farm house for permission to enter the graveyard. Ball Cemetery is accessible, but there are many “No Trespassing” signs. The sheriff patrols the area frequently and has been known to fine intruders for trespassing.
Aunt Bea told us that even the grave digger didn’t like being alone in Ball Cemetery. He always felt like he was being watched, so he often brought a friend along to keep him company. I recall driving to the cemetery—less Aunt Bea—and parking near the front gate. We never had the nerve to get out of the car. Leaving the cemetery, low hanging branches from the aged trees brushed against the car. Imaginations running wild, it felt like phantoms were leaping on to the car top. You almost expected a phantom’s face to hang down over the windshield and peer in at you!
The night before first wedding my good friends, Butch and Sharon, had accompanied us to the Sarpy County Fair. On the way home we decided to pay a visit to Ball Cemetery. We parked at the gate and the guys hopped out of the car. There was no way on earth Sharon and I were leaving the vehicle. We locked the doors and watched in terror as Jim and Butch proceeded to glide around the cemetery searching for a phantom or two. I could hardly look, expecting them to be struck dead at any moment. Imagine my wedding being called off due to the groom being struck by lightning or some other graveyard curse.
Years later I discovered ghost hunter, Dave Christensen of Nebraska, visited Ball Cemetery frequently. He promised to take me inside the next time I was in town. I took my youngest sister Tammy and her friend, Laurie, along to the cemetery. With a few years of paranormal investigating behind me, I no longer feared the doom of Ball Cemetery. But, it did take a lot of coaxing to get my sister and her friend out of the car! I convinced the girls that Dave and his team had made friends with the spirits and we would be safe. Dave introduced us as his guests, and the girls—and the spirits—began to feel comfortable.
We did have a visit from the “walker” that night. We heard his firm footsteps stomping about the boundaries of the cemetery. I was finally able to step inside the gate and see the tombstone with the straw hat leaning on the stump that my ex had photographed so many years before. I was intrigued at the design of the cemetery. Mary L. Ball’s grave was in the center of the burial ground while trees stood in a circular pattern of rows around her. The cemetery, lit by a single lantern, suddenly took on a beautiful glow. I was no longer intimidated by this haunted site.
Ball Cemetery in Nebraska is rumored to be one of the most haunted areas in the city of Springfield. It’s believed that several spirits lurk in and around the grounds of the tombstones, deeming it the name of the “Haunted Ball Cemetery.” Many spirit pictures and videos have been recorded at the Ball Cemetery including willowy ecto mists and shadows.
20999 S 176th Street
Springfield, NE 68059
To find the cemetery, take I-80 west from Omaha until you reach exit 50 at 144th Street. Go south past Springfield. Cross Buffalo Creek and turn right on Corninsh Road. Travel up this dirt road to 176th Street. Turn left and follow the fork to the left. Please get permission to enter the cemetery grounds.