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Haunted Halloween

at Fort Robinson State Park


The park’s Jeep pulls a load of park visitors across Soldier Creek.

Story and photos by Justin Haag

By Justin Haag, Nebraskaland Magazine

Some say ghosts haunt the historical grounds of Fort Robinson State Park. Whether it is true, on one night in late October, the spooky side of the park will take center stage — and, judging from the previous year’s success, visitors are anything but scared away.

The staff at Fort Robinson is gearing up for the park’s second “Haunted Halloween,” an event that features wagon rides, a chili feed and trick-or-treating, all accentuated by a cast of spooky characters and decor throughout the Soldier Creek Campground.

Though 2021 marked the first year for the “Haunted Halloween,” it was not the park’s first event for the fall holiday. Students of Chadron State College and nearby Crawford public schools used to create a haunted house at the Fort each Halloween. That event eventually moved into Crawford, but was discontinued after a short time.

Diane Humphries greets trick-or-treaters at her decked-out campsite. Photo by Justin Haag.

Deb Kennedy, a park superintendent, has wanted to bring a Halloween event back to the park ever since it left.

“I love, I mean love fall and Halloween, and I really wanted to bring it back to the Fort,” she said.

After the Fort’s annual historical Christmas dinner was canceled for two straight years for coronavirus precautions, Kennedy pitched the idea of a Halloween event in the safer outdoor environment. Despite short time to prepare, the park employees pulled it off.

“All of the permanent and temporary staff pitched in. They had great ideas and had a great time working on it,” she said. “We raided my pumpkin patch, dragged out my many, many Halloween decorations, a few of us pitched in some money, and I put some pressure on my family to participate and bring their campers, and we got it going.”

The event exceeded expectations as hundreds of visitors from northwestern Nebraska and neighboring states converged upon the campground.
Although somewhat surprised by the turnout, Kennedy said a Halloween event is a natural fit for Nebraska’s largest state park.

Although bodies were long ago moved from the Fort’s historical cemetery, the old stones that remain provide perfect habitat for skeletons. Photo by Justin Haag.

“What better place, with the vast history, old cemetery, large area, lots of parking, beautiful and scenic campgrounds and protection from the elements? We couldn’t ask for more,” she said.

This year’s event is set for Oct. 29, and, if Kennedy has her way, it will top last year’s.

“I have some big ideas and would like to change it up a bit.”

The public is encouraged to set up camp with candy, or just bring the family that evening for the chili, a festive atmosphere and natural autumn splendor. Find more information at Calendar.OutdoorNebraska.gov

About Justin Haag

Justin Haag has served the Commission as a public information officer in the Panhandle since 2013. His duties include serving as regional editor for NEBRASKAland Magazine. Haag was raised in southwestern Nebraska, where he developed a love for fishing, hunting and other outdoor pursuits. After earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Chadron State College in 1996, he worked four years as an editor and reporter at newspapers in Chadron and McCook. Prior to joining the Commission in 2013, he worked 12 years as a communicator at Chadron State, serving as the institution’s media and public relations coordinator the last five. He and his wife, Cricket, live in Chadron, and have two children.