In 2019, Michael Torson and I decided to make a documentary on Omaha’s longest-running haunted house, Mystery Manor. We knew we had a great story, and within minutes of meeting its owner, Wayne Sealy, we knew we had a great storyteller to recount it.
Sealy loved putting on a show for all ages. We would regularly run into people whose first haunted house was the Manor and were now taking their kids there for their first time.
When Mystery Manor opened in 1984, north downtown (about 18th and Burt) looked very different than it does today. It was very old and run down, and home to more than a few haunted houses.
Slowly, progress caught up with that section of downtown. The other haunted houses closed or relocated, and the old was torn down for the new. But the Manor has defiantly remained. It stayed because Sealy cared more about entertaining people than for how much money he could get for the land.
For nearly 40 years, once you entered the Manor you were greeted by Sealy and his hatchet. He would regale you with the history of the Manor. You see, he thought of Mystery Manor as more than just a haunted house. To him, this was a Haunted Theatre, and you were going to get a show.
One of his favorite stories was convincing people that snakes had gotten loose in the Manor. He would have people petrified with nothing but a story and an empty aquarium.
We didn’t know at the time we were documenting one of Sealy’s last seasons working at the Manor. He died Nov. 7, at the age of 74. Several generations were scared and enthralled by Sealy and his Haunted Theatre. Omaha has lost a great storyteller, but his stories will live on.
—Mike Machian is a photographer and executive producer of the short documentary “Great Monsters Walk These Halls.”