I’m a fear junkie. I like a good rush and I don’t shy away from outlandish challenges. Growing up in Nebraska was painfully boring for me. As a teen I was often depressed and I couldn’t figure out why. In my junior year, I went with some friends to the haunted house in Julesburg, Colorado. This haunt is no longer there, but back then, it was the only haunted attraction for miles. When I walked in, I was depressed. Inside I screamed and I screamed and I screamed. I came out on the other side exhilarated and revived.
Because I needed more stimulation than I was getting in the day-to-day of life in public schools. I was literally bored to death and on the brink of suicide. But the haunted house brought me out of my funk, at least for a few days. Anyone who’s ever been depressed knows that a few days of reprieve can be enough of an escape to make some important changes, to get a breath of air from the heaviness of feeling blue all the time. When I started our first haunt, I wanted to entertain people, yes. But I also wanted to give the people here in this area of the world the opportunity to feel something and wake up if they were sleeping or calm down if they were anxious. A haunted attraction may seem like a strange venue for something like this, but it’s not. School District 13 isn’t just another haunted attraction in Nebraska. It’s a theatrical production and an experiment in how special effects, visuals, sound, and an immersive environment can change the way people feel.
My family and I have traveled to over 30 countries where I’ve spent time studying shamanic healing, spirituality in different cultures, and altered states of consciousness. I did a pre-med curriculum at the University of Nebraska in my college days, but med school just wasn’t for me. I majored in psychology and over time, I’ve slowly melded my medical/psychology interests together into a general interest in healing. And I’ve found that healing and spirituality are intimately related.
Young volunteers who work for us at School District 13 have the opportunity to find just a little piece of themselves through their involvement at our Halloween festival. We spend a lot of time thinking about each and every one of them from the moment we meet them at the Pre-Scare until their final night with us at the end of the event. Our goal is to push each teen to find their place in the group and to see themselves, perhaps for the first time, as a person with agency in the world. We want our teens to realize who they really are and how they affect the other people around them through small gestures, decisions, facial expressions, and communication. For every kid, School District 13 is a different experience.
We always hope that our patrons have fun at our festival, but we also recognize that having fun is a choice. For some people, it’s fun to not have fun. And that’s okay. This is a haunted attraction that’s meant to be more than just a haunted attraction, but only for patrons who’re looking for more. Patrons who believe there’s more, will see it. For those who’re looking, we hope that School District 13 will be an elevating experience; ideally a healing experience. If nothing else, everyone can benefit from a good dose of primal screaming once a year.