Altus President Shares Story of Spooky Childhood Home
Fall is almost here and for those who live in the Omaha area, that often includes a trip to Vala’s Pumpkin Patch. The destination has become a family tradition for those seeking to enjoy the beauty of the fall season. Last year, the attraction welcomed more than 200,000 visitors, according to Tim Vala, who started the business with his wife Jan more than 30 years ago.
Vala’s provides guests with the opportunity to experience a working farm and enjoy the great outdoors. The attraction features more than 23 food venues with traditional fare such as caramel apples, pie and roasted turkey legs. It also offers retail shopping, numerous attractions, live entertainment, rental campfire sites, and hay rack rides deep into fields where guests can pick pumpkins off the vine. Since its humble beginnings, Vala’s family-owned venture has grown into a 400-acre operation that employs more than 1,000 employees.
The farm located just south of Highway 370 and 180th Street in Gretna, Neb. hasn’t always been a seasonal attraction. In fact, the 160 acres and a 2-bedroom farmhouse at the center of it all was once an actual, working farm and home to the John and Irma Lamprecht family.
The Lamprecht children included Judy, Jodeen, twin boys Lynn and Loren, and Janis, all of whom shared in the many chores required to keep the farm running smoothly. The Lamprechts planted corn and oats, put up hay, and later grew beans. Sun-up to sun-down work included milking dairy cattle, raising feeder cattle, gathering eggs, and caring for a variety of farm animals.
Loren Lamprecht, President of Altus Architectural Studios, has many fond memories of growing up on the farm. “We didn’t have much, but we didn’t know we didn’t have much!” he said. “I truly loved working on the farm and although life was simple, it was very good.”
He particularly enjoyed the hands-on, physical work it took to keep the family farm running and credits learning those skills as a primary reason he later pursued a degree in architecture. “There was always something to build at the farm,” he said. “I enjoyed building things, and once I took an Industrial Arts class, I knew this was the type of work I was suited for.” The Lamprecht children rode a yellow school bus from the family farm to Gretna Public Schools, returning to complete farm chores before homework, dinner or bedtime marked the end of each day.
Some of the structures original to the farm that Lamprecht had a hand in building or maintaining include the corn crib; the chicken house; the original barn; a tool shed; hay shed; cow shed; pump house; and a storage building. The Lamprechts sold their farmland and the structures on it to the Vala family more than 30 years ago, but the memories have lingered for the family members who grew up there. Each year, the family tries to return for a visit and remember how things used to be.
The farmhouse that was a hub of activity for the Lamprecht family is today one of the most popular, albeit spooky, attractions at Vala’s Pumpkin Patch: the haunted house.
Some small features of their childhood home are still recognizable when Lamprecht and his siblings, along with mother Irma, return to visit today. The house (now “haunted”) still provides a familiar glimpse into what was once the large, farmhouse kitchen. A wall remains where the children’s height was measured and marked in pencil. There is still the same set of stairs leading to the upstairs bedrooms where the Lamprecht children slept after a hard day’s work on the farm.
Not many can say they grew up in a haunted house, especially one so well-known and often visited as the farmhouse at Vala’s. For the Lamprechts, it was “just home.”