Centennial Hall Museum Tour
Updated: Jul 28, 2018
"Just a bunch of hooey"
On Saturday June 23, 2018, we visited Centennial Hall Museum in Valentine, Nebraska. The school has a haunted history that has been passed down for generations. For a $3.00 fee, we were allowed to roam around the building to view 12 different rooms with exhibits. When we first walked in, the woman at the main desk asked another volunteer if she would take us on a guided tour, but she seemed busy and we ended up walking around on our own. I was disappointed because I would have preferred having a guide to share the history of the school.
As we made our way through the building, the rooms were individually themed with a focus on the history of the area in and around Valentine. My favorite room was the trophy room upstairs, which had a large display of trophies, awards, jerseys, class photos, and displays showing the different extracurricular activities provided by Valentine High School over the years. The oldest photo we found was of the Sparks Drill Team from 1911. I also really enjoyed the first room near the main entrance that had an outline of the history of the school, several old newspapers on display of major events throughout history, photographs of the history of the town of Valentine, and a set of large bound newspaper volumes. The amazing woodwork throughout the building, especially on the staircase bannisters was beautiful. I felt as if I were a student walking to class on the second floor when I walked into the one-room schoolhouse exhibit.
Centennial Hall Museum was erected in 1897, the building was formerly Valentine High School and is currently the oldest standing high school in Nebraska. The building has remained relatively unchanged since 1908, after an addition was added to the north side. The building was used for primary and secondary students separated into various classrooms. Valentine High School remained in operation until 1980 when it was left vacant and scheduled to be demolished. However, in 1982, former students created a non-profit organization called the Centennial Hall Corporation and they managed to obtain the funds needed to purchase the building destined for destruction. Today the building has been converted into a museum with exhibits focused on the history of Nebraska, the school, pioneers, and Valentine.
Visitors to Nebraska’s oldest standing school building may discover more than what is on display. According to local legend, a female student was poisoned in 1944 and died. The poison was later found on the girl’s clarinet reed that she had been playing in class. Her apparition has been seen throughout the building. A teacher who visited the building started getting a bad feeling before she caught a glimpse of an apparition of a young girl. Music is frequently heard coming from the old music room, which no longer has any instruments. People have also reported hearing strange noises, smelling odd odors, feeling cold drafts in rooms with the windows closed, and feelings of uneasiness, especially on the lower levels.
Before leaving I asked two of the volunteers if they had heard the ghost stories associated with the building or if they had ever experienced anything themselves. One of the women said, “That’s just a bunch of hooey.” The comment gave me a laugh, but she went on to say that other people have asked about the ghost of the little girl and that one visitor wouldn’t go into the basement because she felt uneasy and as if a presence was down there. I asked them if they have ever felt, seen, or heard anything out of the ordinary and they both said no, but perhaps they simply chalk up odd activity to being nothing more than the sounds of an old building or they didn’t feel comfortable sharing. Or, just maybe, the building isn’t as haunted as the stories seem to suggest. Either way, Centennial Hall is a historic landmark worth visiting and hopefully you can get a better story about the ghosts who are said to haunt the building or at least a guided tour. Let me know if you do.
Centennial Hall Museum is open from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend.
Hours of Operation:
Thu-Fri, 1pm-5 pm
Sat, 10 am-5 pm
Or by appointment by calling (402) 376-2418
Tours cost $3.00 for adults
Kids kindergarten through 8th grade are free
The building is not handicap-accessible
Located at E. 3rd St. & Macomb St.
Parking available on N. Macomb Street