Accidentally Historic

Fright for a Fee- Fifty Years of Omaha Council Bluffs Haunted Houses

Episode Summary

A pair of Omaha/Council Bluffs Haunted House historians reminisce about the local haunts of the 70s and 80s and talk about their evolution into the high tech fright factories of today.

Episode Notes

Seasonal haunted houses appeared on the local scene about fifty years ago, initially fund raisers for a variety of groups and causes.  Youth For Christ, Campus Life, March of Dimes, the Jaycees, and the Historical Society were early participants.  From church basements and abandoned buildings to semi truck trailers in parking lots, haunted houses proliferated by the 1980s.  Generally staffed by youthful volunteers intent on making their particular character and their venue as scary as possible, the endeavor brought together imagination, creativity and theatrics to become something of an art form in its own right.

Safety standards imposed following a 1980s tragedy in New Jersey escalated costs, forcing some small players out of the business, to be replaced by commercial operators.  The better financial position of the latter allowed for investment in more elaborate displays and equipment.  This, coupled with technology developments of the past decade, have made the modern haunted houses in many ways quite different from their predecessors, but some tried-and-true techniques can always be counted on for a scare.

Haunted House historians Doug Kabourek and Brian Corey reminisce about Council Bluffs and Omaha’s early haunted houses, describe what makes a haunted house work, and discuss the allure they have had for young people and why that age demographic is expanding.  Doug has used what he has learned over the years to create a haunted house in his basement.  Designed to simulate the experience of the houses of the 1980s, it is called “Sunday Bloody Sunday.”  Find more information at

Doug Kabourek also maintains a website the chronicles the haunted houses of Council Bluffs and Omaha at

Brian Corey hosts a horror movie, paranormal, and spooky podcast call Necronomicast at