When most people hear the words “family business,” a crazed killer-clown, a woman with bloody bandages over her face or the terrifying guttural rumble of a chainsaw are probably the last things to come to mind. Unless you’re one Omaha family.
Scary Acres celebrates its 20th year as a family-owned business, with a history beginning in an old Omaha amusement park and eventually moving to its current location off Giles Road in western Sarpy County.
“We’re proud of the fact we’ve been around so long,” Angela Cherek said.
Cherek, along with her mother Diane Losole and brother Tony Losole, owns and runs the haunt, which boasts two indoor attractions and one outdoor. Cherek said the idea began when her mother and father, Don Losole III, were commissioned to run the Train of Terror in Omaha’s Peony Park in 1993, the park’s final year of operation.
“So, basically, they got the idea,” Cherek said.
In 1994, the Losole family created and developed the Fright Zone in Millard Plaza, converting a former health club into a terrifying adventure through a live snake tunnel crawl, a graveyard and a killer clown hallway.
Cherek said the attraction was such a hit, the family needed to expand again.
“We kind of ran out space,” she said.
So, she said, the family moved the Fright Zone in 1996 to an abandoned, nine-unit apartment complex near the intersection of 17th and California streets in Omaha. Some workers claimed the apartment itself was already haunted, which only increased its entertainment value.
But after a few Halloween seasons, Cherek said the family needed to expand again.
“We just kept running out of space!” she said.
So the family looked to western Sarpy County, where they found 20 acres of available land. Cherek said the park’s current location is ideal as it is easy to locate and provides plenty of space.
“Things are moving this way, and we have a lot of room to expand,” she said.
Cherek said throughout the park’s history, the Losole family has never franchised and has no plans to ever do so.
However, they have traveled across the country to both research and construct haunted attractions.
The family even created a side business, Design FX, to build animatronic props used throughout Scary Acres and other parks. Diane Losole said working as a family has been a benefit to the park.
“We all have our own strengths,” Losole said.
The family dynamic has helped in keeping the business family-owned as it eliminates the need to bring others in and creates a sense of pride, wanting to create the ultimate haunted attraction each year.
“We didn’t want to put together something small,” Cherek said.
The park includes three haunted attractions: The House on the Hill, the Haunted Woods and the Master’s Castle, which are changed and updated every year so no two trips are the same, Cherek said.
However, the scares don’t wait until guests are inside. Monsters prowl the grounds outside the attractions.
“We like to entertain people even in the lines,” Cherek said.
Cherek said the actors and the family form a tight-knit group, which only enhances the production.
“We’ve got a loyal group of people who take great pride in what they do out here,” she said.
Neither Losole nor Cherek could give an exact age range for guests, but warned parents the content is scary.
“We’re not a kiddie park,” Losole said.
“We are here to scare you,” Cherek added.
But, Losole said, the park offers accommodations outside of the attractions for families and other groups to enjoy, such as eight bonfire spots, a full food concession stand and a T-shirt stand. She said the park is also highly secure.
“It’s just a good, safe place to be,” she said.
The family-owned business also makes a point to donate regularly to the Omaha Food Bank, even offering up to a $3 discount for canned food donations.
“There’s not much we say no to when people call for donations,” Losole said.
Price of entry differs based upon attractions, though the park sells a combo pack for $25 to all three haunts.
“When you come out here, it’s a full night event,” Cherek said.
For more information on the park, Cherek said to visit the website or find Scary Acres on Facebook.
She and her mother both said the last two decades have been rewarding for the family, as it has provided the people of the Omaha metropolitan area a place to create memories they will never forget.
As for the next 20 years, Cherek said the family has plans for expansion within the next year.
“Things are in the works that Omaha has not seen before,” she said.
“We’ve got the space to do it, and that’s been our intention all along.”