Fire Code Violations Close Central Nebraska Halloween Attractions

By: Morgan Demmel Email
By: Morgan Demmel Email

It's the final week to partake in Halloween festivities across central Nebraska, but some of the area's most popular haunted destinations aren't open this year because of fire code violations.

Haunted Hallow at the Happy Jack Chalk Mine has provided lots of shrieks over the past 12 years.

Co-manager Betty Carlson says over the two to three weekends its open, Haunted Hallow has consistently brought about 2,500-3,000 visitors-- many traveling more than 50 miles to get to the attraction.

But this year, the mine is empty.

"There was a big rash of a lot of haunted houses that got inspected last year, and closed, and we were one of the victims, or one of the casualties," Carlson says.

Fire code violations closed the attraction, and other area haunted houses, after the 2010 Halloween season.

Grand Island Fire Captain John Mayer says haunted houses provide a number of potential dangers.

"They're dark, the people that are entering them are generally not familiar with the building or the layout and that can create a huge problem," Mayer says.

And the size of the space and number of people moving in and out can require even stricter regulations, like fire sprinklers.

"I just think it's very safe without that," Carlson says. "This is a historic, underground mine, you can feel the dampness, see the humidity. It isn't going to burn."

The barn at Helgoth's Pumpkin Patch isn't open this year either and the barn at the Scarecrow Patch near St. Libory won't be open next year without installing thousands of dollars worth of sprinklers.

Scarecrow Patch owner Sheila Horak says their patch is only open about six weeks out of the year.

"For that amount of time, it's not worth the amount of money to put into that," Horak says.

The Chalk Mine Association is still working with the fire marshal's office on possible alternatives.

"We're not a house and that is kind of our discussion point, we're not a house, we're underground," Carlson says.

And the groups are hopeful they'll find a resolution.

"The goal is to be back open next year, bigger and better and scarier than ever," Carlson says.

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