George Davis dressed as the undertaker next to Ollie the Trolley with a sign that reads
George Davis, a tour guide who portrays the role of a late-1800s, early-1900s undertaker, takes ghost enthusiasts around in Ollie the Trolley for Haunted Cemetery Tours. The tours visit historical places in Omaha like the Cornerstone Mansion. Photo courtesy of Deb Skinner, director of marketing for Ollie the Trolley.

Three businesses in Omaha and Lincoln are celebrating the Halloween season with a look into the haunted and paranormal. 

Ollie the Trolly, the Museum of Shadows and James Arthur Vineyards with Lincoln Historical Ghost Quest spookify the season in their own ways.

Here’s a run-down of what people can expect at each of these attractions: 

Ollie the Trolley, Omaha

When guests step onto Ollie the Trolley for a haunted cemetery tour, they are transported to the late-1800s and early-1900s. George Davis, a tour guide who takes on the role of an undertaker, tells of the murders and violence that haunt Omaha.

“I’m back after 150 years,” Davis said. “I’ve been around a while, buried a many a person in several different cemeteries.”

Davis said he enjoys taking on the role during Halloween. 

“I always inject my undertaking things that I’ve done and people that I’ve buried and things that I’ve witnessed,” he said. “I go into the character pretty significant.”

Davis and his team of “undertaker assistants” — drivers and tour guides — take the haunted cemetery tour guests through Omaha to different historic locations, some of which are rumored to be haunted. These locations include Conagra Brands near 10th and Harney streets, the cemetery where brothel madam Anna Wilson was buried and the Cornerstone mansion. 

The cemetery tours are on Sundays throughout October until Nov. 6 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Participants can expect to get on and off the trolley throughout the experience.

“That makes it more engaging and involved,” Davis said. “People do come back to hear it the second time or either to go to the cemeteries that we’ve told them about different people.”

Davis said Ollie the Trolley has hosted the tours for about four years. The stories Davis tells during the tour are real and researched from sources like the Omaha Bee. One of the stories Davis tells is about Leslie Arnold, who murdered his parents in the 1950s and buried them in the backyard of their house. 

Overall, Davis said he wants the people who come on the tours to learn about the people who lived and died in Omaha. 

“They all have a history,” he said. “We all have a contribution in history that has evolved from this. We just wanted to bring to life that era and that time of what was happening in the evolution of the city.”  

Tickets are $35. More information on the tours can be found on Ollie the Trolley’s website

James Arthur Vineyards with Lincoln Historical Ghost Quest, Lincoln

In recent years, Jim Ballard, owner of James Arthur Vineyards, said that he and his staff started noticing some strange events occurring around the winery. The winery has been open since 1997.

“We think we have our own ghost out there,” he said. 

The ghost, which the staff have named Charlie, knocks off items on shelves, shuts lights on and off and turns on radios that weren’t plugged in. Ballard said Charlie isn’t a mean ghost and usually plays tricks on the ladies of the vineyard like his wife and daughter.

“When it happens now, our staff is kind of used to it,” he said. “We just say ‘Hey Charlie, knock it off,’ and things go back to normal.”

IMG 8169 300x225 - Omaha, Lincoln ghost tours offer visitors with paranormal histories and spooky happenings
James Arthur Vineyards has been open since 1997. Owner James Ballard said he and his staff have experienced strange occurrences, like unplugged radios turning on, in recent years. Photo by Jolie Peal/NNS.

Although the vineyard has hosted its own haunted hike event for about 18 years, Ballard wanted to go further into ghost-hunting because of these strange happenings. This led him to partner with Lincoln Historical Ghost Quest to create JAV Ghost Tours.

Tour-goers can expect a night that starts with wine tasting and snacking on cheese, crackers and fruit. When the sun goes down, the Lincoln Historical Ghost Quest team talks about what they do and the equipment they use. Then, the ghost hunting begins throughout the vineyard.

Ballard said there were two stories from the ghost tours that specifically stuck with him. The first involved a woman and her service dog out in the back area of the winery. The woman felt the temperature drastically go cold, the dog started cowering in fear and Ballard said the equipment the Lincoln Historical Ghost Quest team used started to light up. 

The second story involved connecting with the potential spirit from a plane crash that occurred near the vineyard in the 1990s. Ballard said the ghost team was using an app where words popped up on the screen as they were asking questions. Some of the words that popped up were “plane” and “crash.”

“That one kinda made the hair rise on the back of my neck,” Ballard said.

Regardless of what people discover, Ballard said everyone comes back together at the end of the night to share their stories.

“A lot of times people love to tell their experiences that they’ve had over the years,” he said. “It’s just a fun evening and relaxing.”

Tickets are $45 and dates for the tours can be found on the James Arthur Vineyards website.

Museum of Shadows, Omaha

The Museum of Shadows is home to about 4,000 verified haunted artifacts for visitors to learn the history behind and potentially interact with the other side. 

Nate Raterman, an owner of the museum, said people come from all over the world to visit the museum at 1120 Douglas St. Visitors have various paranormal experiences, including having their clothes being tugged on ad seeing full-figure apparitions and items being thrown from shelves. 

Raterman and his wife, Kaleigh Raterman, also star in a streaming series called “Museum of Shadows” available on Amazon Prime in which they explore the museum for paranormal happenings. 

Raterman said the musuem offers ghost hunts that are inspired by the investigations done on the show. Anyone who participates gets to use the same equipment used in the show, including a camera that detects humanoid bodies and ghost meters.

The ghost hunts are two hours long with the first hour being a group investigation and the second hour being an individual one. 

“We actually investigate inside the museum, so everybody that comes to the event, they get to experience paranormal activity and what it’s like to be a paranormal investigator firsthand,” Raterman said.

The museum is open year-round, and Raterman said most of the artifacts are donated. Once donated, Raterman and his team isolate the objects at the museum’s quarantine warehouse for observation and forensic testing if necessary. They also research the history of the object and ensure it has a spiritual attachment. 

One of the newest items to the about 4,000 housed in the museum is a full skeleton named Chester that dates back to the 1800s. According to Raterman, the museum also has artifacts tied to serial killers and occult activities. 

Raterman said he wants visitors to learn about the artifacts in the museum and the history behind them, whether or not they believe in the paranormal.

“If they’re skeptic, hopefully it opens them up a little bit more,” he said. “That’s kind of the main thing too. I want everybody to come in; I want them to have a good time. A majority of the visitors are already into the paranormal or somewhat believe so when they come in they’re excited.” 

The Museum of Shadows has been open since 2016, but Raterman said he was interested in the paranormal a decade before he and his wife opened the museum due to paranormal experiences he had in a previous home. 

Around that same time he obtained some of the first objects that inspired him to open the museum, including a cross and Bible used in occult activity from Salem, Massachusetts, and a doll named Ayda. 

“There’s so much out there that we don’t know, it’s almost like another dimension,” Raterman said. “There’s so much more out there and I just want to keep capturing evidence and putting it out there. Just like everybody else that’s into the paranormal, everybody just wants to capture and provide proof that it does exist and that it is there.”

Tickets for ghost hunts are $40, and regular museum admission is $20. Ghost hunt tickets can be purchased on the Museum of Shadows website.

Jolie Peal is a senior journalism and broadcasting double major at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She currently works for Hail Varsity as the content and video production intern. Jolie has also worked for The Daily Nebraskan as senior culture editor, an assistant news editor and a news reporter.