History seekers hear from another realm
AKRON: During the Christmas season, even an infrequent guest will notice a striking difference in the atmosphere at the Perkins Stone Mansion, home to the Summit County Historical Society.
In October, visitors flock to the mansion with the hopes of catching a glimpse of the spirits of three generations of Perkins family members who lived there. The mansion rarely disappoints guests who attend ghost tours and paranormal pizza parties as the three-story home embraces its eerie reputation, exuding an unsettled feeling of forboding. Photos taken by guests make claims of the presence of otherworldly spirits difficult to dismiss.
“Clearly, these stories of oral history and folklore have been passed down through generations. They are now being accepted in society. It’s a good way to explain the history and we invite people to experience the house for themselves,” said historical society Director Leianne Neff Heppner.
By mid-November, after volunteers have dressed the house in its Christmas finery, those same visitors experience a warmth in the mansion, as if being folded in a loving embrace.
It could be the subdued lights shining from the Christmas tree in the parlor, or it could just be the early darkness that seems to make the mansion feel cozier. People take home from their visits what they will, said Heppner, who tries to share the home’s history in different ways. “I want to share the stories of the house and I want to tell the stories of the home,” she said. I believe there are a lot of things in that house, but it is the first one I’ve worked in that I haven’t been scared.”
The mansion, completed in 1837, was built by Col. Simon Perkins, son of Akron founder Gen. Simon Perkins, for his wife, Grace Tod Perkins and their 11 children. The home is one of the finest examples of Greek Revival architecture in Ohio, Heppner said.
In the past three years, the historical society has tried some innovative ways to interest people in learning about the area’s history and the contributions made by the family. Fewer than 2 percent of the society’s membership of 400-500 people attend its programs, she said.
“History is not really popular with the general public. We need to find other ways to interest them,” she said.
The paranormal activities in October and outreach programs for children and adults bring people to the mansion who have never before visited. Plans for a murder mystery, being written by interns and graduate students Rebecca Kirschbaum of Cleveland State University and Stephanie Bingham of Kent State, are under way.
With different types of programming, the society is reaching a new group of people.
“We are attracting a different population that traditionally wouldn’t come, and we have found those people keep coming back,” Heppner said.
Until 2008, the mansion was shown only as a museum, but hints of paranormal activity led the historical society to open its doors for special events related to Halloween. During a 2006 fundraiser for the Junior League of Akron, several room designers saw and heard things that could not be easily explained.
Eventually, the home’s reputation as a source of spiritual energy found its way to Laura Lyn of Cuyahoga Falls, who describes herself as a trance channeler and psychic medium.
When Heppner and Lyn connected a few years ago, ideas for using the home in different ways flowed like the energy that fills the mansion. They embarked on a partnership of sorts to foster events for people in search of answers and guidance from a different realm.
Lyn, who owns the Angel Rays Enrichment Center in Cuyahoga Falls, conducts programs at the mansion called Realm to Realm that are more than just fundraisers for the society, Heppner said.
“Sincere is the best word to describe her,” Heppner said of Lyn. “She is a normal person who has an ability that I don’t have.”
During a recent Realm to Realm session, Lyn tried to explain why the house projected a different kind of energy in October than it did in November.
“Around Thanksgiving and Christmas, the house is very welcoming because even though there was so much turmoil here in the past … there was great love here,” Lyn explained to 11 people who sat around the mansion’s dining room table.
Lyn, who offers psychic development and spiritual classes and angel readings, feels and sees the energy each guest projects, called an aura, and explains how that energy affects him or her. She searches for spirit guides and loved ones who have passed and relays their messages.
“I feel as if I have a foot in each realm,” she said during a recent interview.
Lyn explains to participants that each person has personal guides and angels as she reads and relays their suggestions on the best paths to follow in life.
“It’s going to come through as puzzle pieces,” Lyn told the group, which included police officers Tom Robson and Michelle Duke, paranormal investigators from Zanesville.
Jill Earvin, Jane Uber and Judith Abood, sisters from Cuyahoga Falls, didn’t seem surprised when Lyn told them their mother was in the room and very skeptical of the proceedings.
“She’s not disapproving. She’s curious and wants to know what’s going on,” Lyn said. The women, who grew up on Akron’s North Hill, got their spiritual side from their grandmother, they said.
“I smell cigarette smoke,” Duke interrupted just before Uber started coughing and had to leave the table.
“Mom was a smoker,” Abood explained.
Jill Urbank, also of Cuyahoga Falls, said she was looking for a connection with her late husband on the first anniversary of his death. Lyn told her that although her husband wasn’t there, a spirit guide was standing near her.
“He’s an unconditional friend who is always going to be with you all of your life. He won’t let anything happen to you,” she said.
As Lyn proceeded from one person to the next, she said she was reluctant to tell Steve Morgan, 27, of Akron, that he had a hitchhiking spirit connected to him who had died when he was 25 years old.
“You aren’t going to believe this,” she told Morgan. “The spirit connected with you at a sports arena. He is staying with you because he enjoys the ride.”
She said the man, who she named as Todd Saxton, died in a traffic accident.
“Never drink and drive,” Lyn warned Morgan as the lights in the chandelier dimmed and flickered.
After the event, Morgan admitted he had some experience with drinking and driving and was taking Lyn’s warning seriously. Would he drink and drive again?
“Hell, no,” Morgan said.
By Kathy Antoniotti
Beacon Journal staff writer
November 27, 2011