They’ve got spirits, yes they do

Bethany Jones

Paranormal enthusiasts hunt ghosts

Laura Karley, owner of Christopher Johns Hair Tech in Stow, measures magnetic fields using a Gaussmaster in the basement of the Harmon House in Aurora. The Aurora Community Education Center hosted Ghost Hunting 101. The Gaussmaster is used by many ghost h

Credit: Jason Hall

AURORA – The floorboards creaked as 33 people stepped cautiously around the 19th century white farm-style house. All of them were waiting for something to jump out at them.

The smell of mildew lingered. The house seemed like it was abandoned; dusty furniture was scattered through the nine rooms. One room was full of antique armchairs.

A woman gasped. Natalie Zepp, an 18-year-old justice studies major, had just snapped a picture with her digital camera – and an orb appeared in the background.

On Oct. 12, Sherri Brake-Recco took the group on an investigation at Harmon House in Aurora on a hunt for supernatural activity. The vacant house, which is located on Page Road, was built in the 1850s and is owned by the Parks and Recreation Department.

The tour was the second day of the Ghost Hunting 101 class taught by paranormal investigator Brake-Recco. One week before, she taught the group ghost-hunting techniques at the community center.

A few people on the hunt also experienced temporary camera difficulties. One man’s camera stopped working.

“If you’re in a truly haunted place, it will suck the life out of your (batteries),” Brake-Recco said.

Brake-Recco has studied the paranormal for nearly 20 years. In addition to teaching classes, she does haunted bus tours, walking tours and in-home investigations.

During the educational portion of the class, Brake-Recco taught the group about investigating equipment used to search for supernatural activity.

Brake-Recco said a lot of the men who work for the department have had eerie encounters at the house. Many will not go inside alone, she said.

“I really appreciate the fact that people in Aurora and the Kent area are open for classes like this,” she said. “You risk ridicule and the worry of people even signing up.”

Christine Twarek, community education coordinator for the city of Aurora, put the class together. She was nervous about what people would think.

“I still get ‘the look’ from my supervisor; she thinks that it’s just ridiculous,” Twarek said. “You either love it or hate it; there seems to be no gray (area).”

Twarek said Ghost Hunting 101 has sold out every time it has been offered. She said the popularity of the class is surprising and she will continue to arrange for more classes as long as there is a demand.

The class is educational but also entertaining, Brake-Recco said.

Brake-Recco said, within recent years, people have become more open to the supernatural. TV shows like “Medium,” “Ghost Whisperer,” “Most Haunted” and “Ghost Hunters” have helped increase public interest.

Laura Karley, owner of Christopher Johns Hair Tech in Stow, said Ghost Hunting 101 is the first paranormal class she has taken. She was interested in attending the class because, she said, her house, which overlooks the Kent State nature preserve, has supernatural activity.

“I think I have a mischievous ghost,” she said. “I don’t have too many people stay in my house.”

Shirlee Fowler, a neighbor of Karley, also attended the class. She has been in her home for 23 years and has heard voices and seen an apparition.

Both women said they loved Brake-Recco’s class.

“It wasn’t quite as spooky as I thought it was going to be,” Fowler said.

Zepp said her friends laughed at her when she told them about the class she was taking.

But maybe the pictures she had taken at the Harmon House gave her a reason to be curious about the paranormal. She captured several of these balls of light in photographs she took that day.

Brake-Recco described orbs as an energy or a spirit that show up in photos or video.

“When I saw the pictures of the orbs I kind of got a weird feeling,” Zepp said. “I don’t know how to explain, like something was going on.”

Brake-Recco said that people often have misconceptions about the supernatural.

“I’ve seen things move and have had no explanation for why they moved, she said. “Most people expect me to say that I’ve seen a full apparition.

I’ve had a lot of things happen but nothing tremendous. I keep waiting for that big scare. It’s much more sudden than people would think.”

Brake-Recco said studying the supernatural is a spiritual issue, but some people equate it to religion. They automatically assume it is devil worship, she said.

“People are usually surprised that I go to church,” she said.

Brake-Recco said people must be skeptical when it comes to the supernatural, but she advises everyone to keep an open mind.

“I always like to dwell in history,” she said. “In the old days they thought the world was flat.”


Classes are held at the Aurora Community Education Center, the Walker Building at 129 W. Pioneer Trail.

Offered Classes:

  • 6 to 8 p.m. Nov. 2 and Nov. 9
  • 7 to 9 p.m. Nov. 15 and 6 to 8 p.m. Nov. 16

Fee: $39 per person & Registration is required. Class workbook is provided along with a certificate of completion.

Call Aurora Parks and Recreation at (330) 562-4333 or register online at

Contact public affairs reporter Bethany Jones at [email protected].