The Canton Repository – 10/22/2006

Lost in the Shadows of Haunted Places

Sunday, October 22, 2006
Special to The Repository

We wait for the ghosts of Dalton’s town founder and his wife to walk through the village cemetery.

Right now, all is quiet – except those clinking chains in the distance, which must be metal reinforcements on a flag hitting a flagpole – and except for the sound of feet scraping the pavement, which is really just leaves – and except for the shriek I let out as something rushes past my foot and out of the corner of my eye, I see spirits move about all the graves.

My companion assures me the “spirits” are just tiny, breeze-blown American flags.

After all, there are no such things as ghosts.

But some, including Sherri Brake-Recco, would disagree.

They call them “shadow people.” You see them from the corner of your eye, and when you turn your head they vanish, lost in the shadows.

No matter what they’re called – ghosts, spirits or shadow people – Stark, Tuscarawas and Wayne counties have their share.


Brake-Recco is the owner, researcher and tour guide for “Haunted Heartland Tours,” a company recently recognized by Haunted American Tours as one of the nation’s top 10 providers of spooky treks. Brake-Recco said she was interested in the paranormal long before it was normal. Now, people pay her to take them into her world of local legends.

Judy Gallion, officer manager for Massillon’s Erie Cemetery, admits that after talking to Brake-Recco, she gets strange feelings working at the cemetery. Gallion still remembers a tour with Brake-Recco during which someone took a photo showing a ghostly orb in the background.

Gallion, however, has never seen the ghost of Gen. Jacob Coxey marching out of his grave, a story Brake-Recco tells her chill-seeking customers. She also hasn’t noticed anything strange about the angel statue where people claim they’ve been tapped on the back.

Not all ghosts are visual or physical. Brake-Recco also takes tour groups to Rogues Hollow, in Alliance, where if you stand on Cry Baby Bridge and listen at night, you might hear the faint sound of a child wailing. And at the Zoar Hotel, where Cleveland industrialist Alexander Gunn has been living it up since his death in 1901; sounds of his music and high jinks reverberate.


From 1865 until 1981, the building now housing the upscale Olde Jaol Brewing Co. in Wooster served as the Wayne County Jail. One thing remains from the old days: The ghost of John Callahan, the last man hanged in Wayne County in 1880, now buried in St. Mary cemetery.

“I’ve had people say they’ve heard things, like tables moving in the banquet room when no one is around,” said John Odenkirk, the restaurant’s general manager.

After dinner, we sneak upstairs, hoping to catch a glimpse of John on the third floor. Instead, we find leftover Christmas wreaths, fake floral garlands and a light switch.

Next stop is the Black Plague Subdivision, a former Massillon grave site now sprouting houses. We walked the neighborhood where all that’s left are two signs saying, “Union Cemetery.” There are no grave stones. It looks like any other subdivision, except this site was discussed in Chris Woodyard’s “Haunted Ohio V,” and residents say they’ve seen lost spirits. Others have reported digging into coffins while planting gardens, though tonight we unearth no ghosts.

Our best luck on our ghost hunt was at Wooster’s Taco Bell. Shadowlands Ghosts and Hauntings, a group devoted to discussing supernatural encounters and occurrences, and the Wayne County Ohio Exploration Society believe this Taco Bell is haunted. Shadowland’s website describes the Taco Bell by saying: “You will hear loud music that only a few people can hear. It will either be a comical kind of music or sad music. It depends what mood the ghost is in…Sometimes she (the ghost) will come up and grab you because you look sad and she is lonely.”


Carol Matheny, a Taco Bell manager for more than 10 years, knows of no such occurrences and the only music she’s heard at the store is Muzak.

“Occasionally we hear pans fall in the back,” she laughs. “But we blame that on Roger, poor Roger.” She paused for a moment, “She’s gone now.”

“Is he dead,” my companion asks.

“No,” she replies. “He works at Walmart.”

If only we had gone to Walmart instead.

We never did find the grave stone of the founders of Dalton. Bill Markly of the Ohio Historical Society offered that Curt Freet may have suggested the town’s name, but no one is sure who the area’s original settlers were.

Ohio Historical Society, it turns out, does not recognize any location as being haunted, not Rouges Hollow, not the Erie Street Cemetery, or the Olde Jaol Restaurant, not even the Wooster Taco Bell.

But that isn’t stopping the Zoar Historical Society from raising money this Halloween by giving lantern tours through village houses and the legendary hotel.

Brake-Recco, also believes in spirits, whether the Ohio Historical Society does or not. She just waits patiently for her chance to finally catch one of the shadow people with more than just the corner of the eye.

“I’m still waiting to experience that full-fledged apparition. I think that’s what drives me,” she said. “I’m still waiting for that big scare.”

© 2006, The Repository

Thanks to Katy Ganz for including the Ohio Exploration Society in her story about hauntings in northeast Ohio.