Truth in the Shadows: Museum of Shadows Celebrates the MacabreApr 29, 2021 03:43PM ● By Sean McCarthy
Photo by Bill Sitzmann
The gaping chasm that is now Gene Leahy Mall will, in a couple of years, be filled with glowing storefronts, lush green spaces, and brightly lit walkways. Now, after sunset, the area around 11th and Douglas streets is surrounded by darkness. It’s a perfect place for the home of one of the largest collections of haunted artifacts in the world.
The Museum of Shadows, located at 1110 Douglas St., is the product of Nate Raterman, a demonologist, and his wife, Kaleigh, a psychic medium. They moved into their latest location, the historic Christian Specht Building, in June 2020. The building itself is the only remaining building in Nebraska with a cast-iron façade.
Some 3,000 haunted artifacts are kept within the walls of the museum. Nate and Kaleigh have documented their paranormal adventures in an Amazon Prime series, also titled Museum of Shadows, that is in its second season. In addition, the museum has been featured on Travel Channel as well as the Discovery+ series Fright Club, hosted by Jack Osbourne (Ozzy’s son).
Kaleigh’s interest in the paranormal began at an early age. She said she oftentimes dreamt of events that later happened. The more she heard about the supernatural, the more it intrigued her.
“For me, it’s all I ever knew,” she said.
In the early 2000s, Nate considered himself a skeptic of the paranormal, but that changed after he moved into a house in Grand Island in 2006. There, he saw a full-figure aberration (the technical term for anomalies like ghosts). He also saw things like doors opening unexpectedly and chairs sliding on their own.
Nate began documenting his experiences on his website as well as in YouTube videos. His work eventually caught the attention of A&E and the Travel Channel. In the late 2000s and early 2010s, he began collecting haunted artifacts. While sitting on their deck, Kaleigh and Nate thought they had amassed a large enough collection to have a museum. In 2016, they opened the Museum of Shadows in Elmwood, Nebraska, moving to Plattsmouth nine months later.
The items on display run from the whimsical (lots of dolls), to the macabre (several Ouija boards) to the genuinely disturbing (animal carcasses used in rituals, the chest X-ray of a shooting victim). Kaleigh and Nate now receive donations daily from around the world.
In order for an item to be displayed in the Museum of Shadows, it must be haunted. To determine if an item is indeed haunted, Kaleigh and Nate investigate the artifact. The process includes general research, such as looking up crime records if the item was part of a murder. The two also use paranormal equipment that can detect electromagnetic disruptions (a few tools look like handheld radios of old, another looks like something used to find a stud in a wall). The two will also turn the cameras on the artifacts and determine if they moved on their own.
Some artifacts haven’t passed Kaleigh and Nate’s scrutiny and have been mailed back to the sender. One recent item they sent back was a coffee mug. The sender claimed to have seen it move on its own, and said it belonged to a deceased grandmother. Kaleigh and Nate weren’t able to verify the story behind the mug.
“This particular one…unfortunately, we hadn’t caught anything with it,” Nate said.
“Grandma’s not attached to the coffee cup.”
Most artifacts are mailed to the museum. Kaleigh and Nate, however, have traveled the country to pick up certain haunted relics. One memorable trip happened last year when they traveled to Jacksonville, Florida, to pick up a doll with human hair. When they arrived at the house, they saw a police cruiser. In an unrelated incident, a person had broken into the same house (containing the doll) and killed themselves.
“We were walking through blood,” Nate said. “It was basically a crime scene.”
Visitors can pay $15 to look through the two floors of items that Nate and Kaleigh have amassed. Brave souls can also pay an additional $10 to take the “sit challenge.” A person is brought into the basement, which is home to some of the more sinister relics. One of the staff members gives the person a light (in case they want to ‘tap out’) and they are given three different spots to sit. The lights are then cut, and for 10 minutes, they sit in darkness.
After 10 p.m. Nate and Kaleigh will take visitors on a two-hour ghost hunt (for a $40 fee). There, people can rent or bring their own paranormal equipment and investigate the artifacts as a group.
The owners have posted videos of the museum that have shown doors suddenly open as well as items that have moved off the shelves. Kaleigh said one person reported to have been scratched by an aberration during a visit. In one visit, a small group saw two full-figure aberrations.
“It freaked them out. Half the group left. The other half said ‘I need about 10 minutes to calm down,’ and then [they said] ‘I’m ready to continue,’” Nate said.
There have been weddings at the museum’s previous Plattsmouth location as well as the current downtown Omaha home. One cold Thursday evening in February, Grace Martis and a man who identified himself as Derek Schutt looked through the museum for the first time. Martis’ belief in spirits and psychic energies made her want to check the museum out.
“The energy here is unreal,” she said.
Visit museumofshadows.com for more information.
This article originally appeared in the May issue of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.