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Historical Society of Pottawattamie County
Top 10 Accidentally Historic Episodes
Best episodes ranked by Goodpods Users most listened
Seasonal haunted houses appeared on the local scene about fifty years ago, initially fund raisers for a variety of groups and causes. Youth For Christ, Campus Life, March of Dimes, the Jaycees, and the Historical Society were early participants. From church basements and abandoned buildings to semi truck trailers in parking lots, haunted houses proliferated by the 1980s. Generally staffed by youthful volunteers intent on making their particular character and their venue as scary as possible, the endeavor brought together imagination, creativity and theatrics to become something of an art form in its own right.
Safety standards imposed following a 1980s tragedy in New Jersey escalated costs, forcing some small players out of the business, to be replaced by commercial operators. The better financial position of the latter allowed for investment in more elaborate displays and equipment. This, coupled with technology developments of the past decade, have made the modern haunted houses in many ways quite different from their predecessors, but some tried-and-true techniques can always be counted on for a scare.
Haunted House historians Doug Kabourek and Brian Corey reminisce about Council Bluffs and Omaha’s early haunted houses, describe what makes a haunted house work, and discuss the allure they have had for young people and why that age demographic is expanding. Doug has used what he has learned over the years to create a haunted house in his basement. Designed to simulate the experience of the houses of the 1980s, it is called “Sunday Bloody Sunday.” Find more information at https://www.facebook.com/sundaybloodysunday.
Doug Kabourek also maintains a website the chronicles the haunted houses of Council Bluffs and Omaha at www.WickedPlaza.com
Brian Corey hosts a horror movie, paranormal, and spooky podcast call Necronomicast at www.necronomicast.com
PLEASE NOTE: DUE TO COVID MANY HAUNTED HOUSE ATTRACTIONS DID NOT OPEN FOR THE 2020 SEASON.
150 Years of CB High: Guns, Tunnels, and Triva
05/31/20 • 29 min
Perched atop one of the highest hills, Council Bluffs' first high school building in 1870 reflected the city’s optimism as much as it did society’s expectations of education. The towering building had a chapel, but no facilities for practical training; there was no sports equipment, yet ample rifles and live ammunition to arm all students. In this episode Historical Society member Michael Winchester explores the city's first high school building and why it quickly fell out of use, the struggle over where to rebuild, how Abraham Lincoln High School’s first principal, Gerald W. Kirn, came to define the school he ruled for over a quarter century plus how changing societal expectations influenced design and remodeling of the new building while along the way creating a new stage in life called adolescence. Intriguing bits of trivia pop up along the way, including a football field that wasn’t quite long or wide enough, why the ROTC drill room was left with a dirt floor, the district's lack of concerned over a fifty percent dropout rate, and a system of secret tunnels discovered by students but unknown to the administration.
Michael Winchester has served as vice-president of the Council Bluffs school board. He and fellow school board member Michael O'Bradovich were subjects of a story on the television program “60 Minutes” in 1976 when host Mike Wallace interviewed them about their status as the youngest elected public officials in the United States and their interest in preserving the city’s old school buildings. A graduate of Creighton University’s law school, Mr. Winchester served nearly thirty years as an Omaha city prosecutor and is now semi-retired. He has been inducted into Abraham Lincoln High School’s Hall of Fame.
A short video except of this podcast can be found on the Historical Society's YouTube Channel at
Comments, questions and suggestions are welcome at information@TheHistoricalSociety.org.
Council Bluffs Squirrel Cage Ghosts
03/24/20 • 22 min
The “squirrel cage” jail in Council Bluffs, Iowa is unique in many ways. The largest of a rare 19th century design that featured a cell block that rotated, the 1885 former Pottawattamie County jail has increasingly come under scrutiny as a site of robust paranormal activity. Occurrences that were difficult to explain date to its early days as a jail. In modern times, teams of paranormal investigators have conducted tests with positive results. The building was featured on Travel Channel's Ghost Adventures, Serial Killer Spiritsmini series in 2019.
In this episode, host Richard Warner talks with Historical Society vice-president J.W. LeMaster, Society Museums Director Kat Slaughter, and Sarah Stream, member of the Paranormal Research Institute and investigative team Paranormania. The trio discuss why the history of this building makes it particularly likely as site of activity, what types of evidence are being found, how investigations are undertaken, equipment needed, and tips for those new to the field that might want to participate in a paranormal event or investigation. For more information or to contact the Historical Society go to the website www.TheHistoricalSociety.org.
You can view the jail’s segment of the Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures, Serial Killer Spiritsmini series on the Travel Channel’s page https://www.travelchannel.com/shows/ghost-adventures/episodes/serial-killer-spirits-axe-killer-jail or on IMDb at https://www.imdb.com/title/tt10938858/?ref_=fn_al_tt_2
Council Bluffs and its Train Robbers
01/23/20 • 13 min
As one of the earliest and largest railroad centers of the Midwest, it’s not surprising Council Bluffs would right at at the forefront of train robberies as well. The first moving train to ever be robbed West of the Mississippi left from Council Bluffs. Another train robbery in a Bluffs rail yard netted over $3,500,000; a tidy sum in 1920, and triggered copycat deeds all across the country. Not all local robbers fared well; another’s bullet-ridden body was put on display, becoming quite a popular public curiosity. This episode, written by historian Ryan Roenfeld, tells the tales of these three robberies that had ties to Council Bluffs.
Omaha Council Bluffs' Sweet 98 Rocked the Metro
12/27/19 • 27 min
It has to be one of the Omaha area’s greatest “rags-to-riches” stories. Radio station Sweet 98 (KQKQ-FM) became hugely popular, for 25 years dominating the Omaha metro ratings as the area’s first personality-driven FM music station, kicking off with “Breakfast Flakes” Mark Evans and Dick Warner in the summer of 1980. Known for its nonstop promotions, high dollar giveaways, and colorful, opulent studio appearing somewhat like a spaceship, its origin was considerably more humble. The station was in poor economic shape when owner John Mitchell came up with a plan to completely reinvent it, switching the progressive, album-oriented format to popular Top 40 music. The transformation was extensive and involved an almost complete staff turnover. Just three people were retained from the old station to become part of the new Sweet 98, which started in a converted apartment building at 36th and West Broadway in Council Bluffs. This podcast brings those three together. Kevin Kassera (“Special K”), Dick Warner, and Bob Warner talk and reminisce about the conditions leading up to the format change and the beginning of Sweet 98.
Excerpts of the podcast can be found in a video on the Historical Society's YouTube channel at
FInd photos at: https://www.facebook.com/pg/Council-Bluffs-Revealed-281093015390863/photos/?tab=album&album_id=1429948487171971
Love at Lake Manawa
09/25/19 • 12 min
Young ladies find love at Lake Manawa— an upscale resort with dance pavilions, an amusement park, galas and entertainment. It's a romantic and beautiful place; but how much of that setting for the Lake Manawa series novels actually ever existed? Author Lorna Seilstad explains her characters and their adventures may be fiction, but the setting for the adventures is very much real. Making Waves, A Great Catch, and The Ride of Her Life take place in the "glory years" of Lake Manawa's days as a resort, the late 1800s and early 20th Century.
Learn more about the books and other works by Lorna Seilstad at her website, www.lornaseilstad.com. If you want to explore Lake Manawa yourself you can download a brochure that uses GPS coordinates to take you where the various attractions of the past were located at http://www.thehistoricalsociety.org/history-online/lake-manawa.html
A short video about Lake Manawa history with Lorna Seilstad and historians Ryan Roenfeld and Troy Stolp can be found on the Historical Society's YouTube channel at
What is the "Squirrel Cage" jail?
09/25/19 • 17 min
Buildings that revolve or that have portions that do have been a dream for centuries, but generally never moved past the design stage. The rotary cell jail was very real. Touted as cost effective, modern, and escape-proof the concept spread quickly throughout the Midwest. Mechanization was coming of age; invention of the telephone and building of the transcontinental railroad fostered the notion man could solve any problem with his innovations.
Nationally the enthusiasm for the rotary jails waned almost as quickly as it had spread. Decried as inhumane and dangerous, most were rapidly dismantled or converted to more traditional cells. Perhaps the most unique thing about the rotary cell jail in Council Bluffs is how long is lasted. Despite repeated efforts to close it, the “Squirrel Cage” remained the Pottawattamie County jail for 84 years.
Learn more about Council Bluffs' unique jail at www.TheHistoricalSociety.org and join us on Facebook at Squirrel Cage Jail of Pottawattamie County, Iowa.
Find more information about Council Bluffs and Pottawattamie County history on our website at www.TheHistoricalSociety.org and on our Facebook page, Council Bluffs Revealed.
Questions, comments and suggestions for podcast guests or topics are always welcome! You can contact us at information@TheHistoricalSociety.org. The Society also has a YouTube channel you may enjoy: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC2BijwKxeirRtL7QLnyfMzg
Candy From Council Bluffs- Woodward's
02/03/21 • 16 min
Seeking a safer occupation following an rail yard accident that cost him the tip of a finger, John G. Woodward began work at a Council Bluffs candy store. He eventually bought it, and grew the company into the largest candy manufacturing operation in the West. In this podcast, Richard Warner of the Historical Society of Pottawattamie County, traces the history of the company, including the claim they were the inventors of the Butter Brickle flavor and that Omaha's Blackstone Hotel was the first to use this to make Butter Brickle ice cream. The podcast also explores possible reasons such a successful company would close so suddenly, what happened to their recipes, and their advertising icons, Jean and Inze Bregant, Council Bluffs "little people." Read more and see some photos with the Historical Society's History Online story: https://sites.google.com/thehistoricalsociety.org/woodward-candy/ufo