Located at 1110 Douglas Street in Omaha, Nebraska is the world famous Museum of Shadows. This building is home to over 3000 haunted artifacts that they claim have all been verified to have paranormal activity. This museum was curated by Nate and Kaleigh Raterman who are professional paranormal investigators, specialist’s in demonology, and have been investigating for 12+ years now. The Museum of Shadows has even been featured on the Travel Channel and have other copyrights and upcoming deals with TV networks. Zak Bagans, the star of Ghost Adventures, has been here, as well as the cast of the show Fright Club.
They accept haunted items from anyone and everyone, and have a set schedule for how they deal with them: isolating them first, then they might be investigated and end up on display in the museum for others to see.
Visitors at the museum have reported being physically touched, seeing apparitions, hearing disembodied voices (including children laughing) and hearing phantom footsteps, and poltergeist-like activity has been reported and caught on camera as well.
One of the museums main attractions is their famous haunted doll Ayda, who recently was polled as being more haunted than the doll Annabelle. (Google Annabelle to learn about her story; she is arguably the most famous haunted doll to date.) There are many claims about this doll, including disembodied voices, and that she moves on her own.
This museum also features a “Sit Challenge” where they will film you live on camera while you attempt to sit alone in complete darkness for ten minutes in one of the museums rooms, surrounded by notoriously haunted items with nothing but a walkie talkie (to tap out) and a flashlight if needed.
My Findings and Final Thoughts
I am going to give a disclaimer before I get into my experience visiting the Museum of Shadows:
What I am about to say is based on my personal experience alone. I have since talked to people who have visited in the past and at their old location before they moved, who had a very different experience than I did. The quality (and honesty) of visiting this museum might be based on whoever is working there at the time.
I also had to sign a waiver before entering that stated that no up-close photography or video is allowed on any items in the museum, except for their doll Ayda who has already been photographed and written about before. This means that you will just have to trust me with some of the claims that I am about to make because I have no photo or video evidence to support most of it. Also keep in mind that I was very excited to go here, and had high hopes for having a great time at such a neat and unique sounding location.
Now onto my very blunt and honest experience…
My husband and I went during the day to experience the museum itself first and tour it at our own pace before a ghost hunt that we payed to attend later. During that first visit, I was instantly not impressed; the rooms are very dark, with nothing but deep purple/blue lights illuminating some of the items. This type of lighting gave me a headache, and was almost disorientating.
Many of the items claim to be haunted because they were owned by someone who died, or the object was present during a tragic event that resulted in death, and they claim that the victims are now attached to the items. This seems insensitive, and I personally feel that if you truly believe that the victims of a terrible event are somehow stuck or attached to an item, why not try and help them in some way; not exploit them and put the object on display.
Another issue with the items themselves is that their haunting backstories are very vague and also cannot be proven; for example, they will claim that an item was used as a murder weapon when a man killed his wife in a particular US city or state, but they do not name the murderer, victim, or give any details to back it up. (It also isn’t often that the police allow people to keep murder weapons.) This was also odd to me becasue the museum claims to confirm that these item are haunted, but they won’t confirm whether the stories being told about the object are true or not. The possible falseness behind these stories is almost proven by the haunting backstories that tend to be obvious lies. A good example was an old wooden object (I won’t give too many details, because I am un-sure of the copyright laws) and the backstory was that this object was found in the dirt along a river or creek where it had been buried for some time. The wooden item, and the white cloth inside, looked to be in almost pristine condition, with no wood rot, dirt or water stains, and the nails and metal detailing were not rusted like you would expect with a decades-old buried wood, metal, and cloth item, especially if it was buried along a water source. This could be said for many items in the museum, who’s stories just didn’t make sense.
A lot of the items also help to perpetuate old stereotypes; for example, they will claim that an item has spirit attachments because it belonged to a witch, or because the owner was a Satanist.
Now onto the “Ghost Hunt”:
Later in the night, my husband and I went back for the “ghost hunt”. I am using quotations, because there was little-to-no actual ghost hunting involved.
The first item they talked to us about that evening was Ayda, and they went on to explain how even though she had no eyes, eyes would somehow appear in most of the photographs visitors take of her. They even encouraged us to photograph her for ourselves to see.
However, it took two seconds of me inspecting up close with my flashlight to see that in the back of her head, there are two shiny, rounded white items. I like to think that these are just part of the head, or maybe her old eyes pushed in, but it is also possible that this was intentionally done for the spooky eye effect.
Not once did the staff disclose that these spheres in the back of her head are what reflect on the flash of a camera to makes it look like she has eyes; they instead presented it as if it had paranormal origins. I even took a video to better show this:
Something else they showed us with Ayda was that she supposedly gives off almost constant high EMF. One of the staff members approached Ayda with an EMF meter, and you could see that as she got close, it would spike, and as she backed away, it would stop. I pulled out my own K2 EMF meter and recreated this on the other side of the display case, and got the exact same result. What I did that the staff member didn’t do was that I began to wave my EMF meter around Ayda’s case to look for a natural EMF source causing it. Of course as I did this, one of the staff members continued telling me how Ayda always did this, but I very quickly found the source of the high EMF: a plasma ball that they leave running on top of Ayda’s case because “she likes it”. In this video, you can see how strong it is all around her case:
Plasma balls are a literal ball of energy, and the radius of high EMF that they give off is fairly large. (At least two feet.) To help prove this, my husband very quickly and discretely unplugged the plasma ball as I filmed my EMF meter to show that it is obviously the source, not Ayda:
At this point, I decided to keep my mouth shut and remain as sneaky with my debunking as I could, as to not cause a scene, back talk, or maybe get kicked out. They were intentionally trying to mislead myself the guests, and I wanted to see what else they would say…
The staff mentioned how Ayda will interact with any devices you put on or around her case, so I help up my REM pod and they invited me to set it directly on her case. It immediately lit up to the green light and would not stop; I suspected that it was the very high EMF that the plasma ball was emitting that was setting my REM pod off, but I continued to not say anything and went along with it. I proceeded to set my REM pod on the floor by the case where it gave the same reaction from the high EMF disrupting the REM pods field, and this is when I decided to try and discretely film it. In this video, you can hear me say how I have had this REM pod for years and had never seen it do this before, and the staff member responds with “Insane, right?”. My “I have never seen it do this before” statements came more from a place of skepticism, but at that point I was almost performing my own secret little test, because I find it hard to believe that the staff guiding ghost hunts wouldn’t know that it is the EMF from the plasma ball that is setting off ghost hunting devices.
I also found a discretion on their Ouija board wall. (A wall that is covered in spirit boards with supposed attachments or portals.) On this wall, they had a printed out piece of paper where they (likely intentionally) misquoted a Smithsonian article to make it sound legit by using the Smithsonian as their source, when the reality was that the paragraphs they cherry picked were chosen to work in their favor. Because photo’s cannot be taken up close of any other items, I opted to type out the first paragraph from the sheet of paper in my phone:
At the bottom of the paper, they had the url for the Smithsonian article they were quoting, which you can check out for yourself here: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-strange-and-mysterious-history-of-the-ouija-board-5860627/
I refer to this as a misquote because some statements and words were in quotation marks for a reason, like the word “proven”; because the article goes on to explain how it was not actually proven. The Museum of Shadows, of course, left those parts out…
Another big issue that I had was that as guests on the “ghost hunt” took photos in the basement area of the building, they would freak out looking at the fuzzy transparent specs of dust showing up in their photos. The staff chose to not explain how it is simply dust, and instead were telling people that they were capturing actual orbs in their photos. I even took a video of the dust being illuminated by my flashlight to show how much was in the basement air:
Another guest even captured a possible shadow in one of their photos, and instead of asking them what angle they took the photo, or offering the guest debunking advice (such as it being the shadow of a fellow guest, seeing as there was a lot of people taking flash photographs) the staff member took one look and told them that they caught a shadow man in the photo.
Overall, this was a very disappointing experience. To watch as the staff labeled non-paranormal happenings as being paranormal was very obnoxious to listen to and deal with. There was approximately 25 guests packed into one small room for most of it, making any real investigation attempts pointless. The staff did not ask people put their phones on airplane mode or turn them off to rule out cellphones causing EMF spikes, the staff used spirit boxes on slow sweep rates which creates more room for error and mistaking human voices for spirit ones, they did not explain that EMF from the plasma ball is what caused the spikes around Ayda and interfered with REM pods, and they did not ask people to remain quiet for possible EVPs. This was especially odd, because a lot of the items claim to produce EVPs around them. If it’s so common, why not attempt it with guests? They also did not disclose the objects in Ayda’s head that cause the eye effect, and offered no debunking tips for shadow figures, did not explain that it was just dust appearing in peoples photos, and they overall seemed to have no real investigative or paranormal knowledge. That being said, I think the business and owners themselves would be the ones to blame; the rest of the staff might simply be doing their job, and were just doing what they were told to do. It is also possible that the younger staff members were just inexperienced and were making honest mistakes, but if that is the case, they should not be leading ghost hunts at a location like this. We all start somewhere, and every investigator has made mistakes on their paranormal journey, but a supposed famous location like this should maybe try and train them a little bit better in ghost hunting etiquette.
The Museum of Shadows felt like a tourist trap, and not a place for serious paranormal happenings or investigations. This is disappointing, because I was told that they just signed even more TV deals, which also is not surprising because dishonesty is often what is needed to gain attention in this field. For some people, it’s all about thrills, money, and fame…
My Tips for Visiting
Can it be investigated? Yes, but I felt it was a waste of my money. The first half was spent as one large, loud group, and the second half was spent standing around the top floor while people took turns doing the Sit Challenge in the basement.
Paid investigations are conducted by the museum owners or staff, and tickets can be purchased online on their website. Our tickets cost $40 each (which is already steep for a public group ghost hunt) for 10 p.m. to midnight, but check online for current hours and prices.
With covid still there at the time that I went, masks were required.
Do not expect anything thorough if you do book a standard ghost hunt, and take all of the paranormal claims with a grain of salt. I was absolutely baffled at the dishonesty I witnessed, which is also discouraging to experience as a real ghost hunter or paranormal investigator. Instances and locations like this are why no one takes us, or this field, seriously anymore.
I want to stress again that this was my personal experience with the museum and the staff on hand that night. I hope that other visitors have a better experience, with more professional, honest, and knowledgable staff.
I also want to clarify that I am not implying that this place in not at all haunted – it very well could be, but the blatant lies and sloppiness of this ghost hunt left myself (and most guests) with no chance at having our own paranormal encounter. I even overheard other guests asking the staff when the actual ghost hunting would begin, to which they replied that it “wasn’t that type of ghost hunt” and told them to try and book a different type of ghost hunt. This upset me, because it is the only ghost hunt option with tickets on their website, and to quote their website word for word:
“Ghost Hunt Tickets – Join us on a ghost hunt at the Museum of Shadows. The Museum Founders Nate and Kaleigh are paranormal experts and use top of the line equipment as seen on TV. Join us as we investigate this haunted Museum.”
One last tip: They did ask me to leave my equipment case in the front of the store, which is understandable so no one tries to steal any supposedly haunted items. I wasn’t able to carry everything in my arms, so I did have to trust that no one would try and steal any gadgets and my case that I left up front. If you do visit and want to bring your own equipment, keep this in mind.
A museum like this is such a fun and spooky idea, with a lot of great paranormal potential. I just wish they were honest, and I am sad that this is the direction this blog post had to take.