Group seeks to sway minds with science of paranormal investigation 

Nothing ruins the afterglow of home ownership more than an unexpected haunting.

Rebecca Luker moved from Santa Fe, N.M., to Guthrie in 1986 with the dream of converting a Land Run-era mansion into the state's first bed and breakfast, called the Stone Lion Inn. Six months after sinking her family's money into purchasing and renovating the house, Luker's son came to breakfast one morning, visibly annoyed.

NOTORIOUS HAUNT
TOOLS AND TECHNIQUES

"He said, 'Why don't you just make me some breakfast, and I'll go back to my room when she's finished,'" Luker said. "So I asked, 'She? You have a guest?' He just sighed and said, 'Mom, it's the ghost.'"

Before that morning, Luker had been explaining away creaks, mysterious footsteps and opening and shutting doors by saying the house was settling, that humidity was making the wood expand, and anything else she could do to avoid using the "G word." But there was no explaining away the little girl her son said was playing with his toys.

"I didn't know that the house was haunted," Luker said. "I didn't even think to ask. I certainly didn't know it had been a funeral home in the '20s."

NOTORIOUS HAUNT
Flash forward 23 years and dozens of paranormal experiences later, and the Stone Lion Inn has become one of the most notorious haunts in Oklahoma, even featured on an episode of SciFi's popular series "Ghost Hunters." The explorations of the site's paranormal activity will continue this weekend when metro-based Exploring Spirit Phenomenon will host a dinner and ghost hunt at the historic B&B.

Joe Hanson, founder of ESP, will head up the team and start the evening with a "Ghost Hunting 101" class to familiarize guests with the history of the house, as well as going over the equipment and techniques used to track down paranormal phenomena.

ESP is a professional paranormal research team available for hire to investigate weird sounds, sights and happenings at homes or businesses. The tools of trade are a bit more mundane than the proton packs and ghost traps used in "Ghostbusters." Hanson's team uses infrared laser thermometers, digital voice recorders, cameras and other sensors that can pick up and isolate changes in temperature and magnetic fields.

Since the chance of spotting a ghost is slim, measuring atmospheric changes in the room is thought to be the key in picking up the trail of an apparition.

"When something " a spirit, a ghost or whatever " is trying to manifest, it accesses the energy around it," Hanson said. "You could have battery drains and other things, and then there will be a cold spot. With that laser thermometer, you can actually isolate that cold spot, so the theory is the cold spot is a spirit trying to manifest itself."

TOOLS AND TECHNIQUES
The ghost hunt at the Stone Lion Inn will put these tools and techniques in the hands of novices trying to track down the little girl spirit, known as Augusta. The name references one of the daughters of the home's original owner, F.E. Houghton. Augusta was believed to have died of an accidental poisoning in the house, but a "Ghost Hunters" team member's research suggested that she may not have died in the house.

Hanson said that the spirit is still called Augusta out of tradition, although no one knows who the spirit might be. Luker's son only saw the girl one other time, but guests to the bed and breakfast report someone patting their faces when they sleep and playing with their hair, and the "Ghost Hunters" team allegedly captured a child's disembodied voice.

Hanson makes no promises of paranormal activity the night of the dinner. In fact, he warns against any group that boasts successful hunts every time out.

"The mind can play tricks on you, so when you go out looking for something, when you are really trying to see something, you are going to see something," he said. "We don't claim that everything is paranormal. I believe in eliminating all the possibilities of something being normal before we start claiming it is paranormal."

Hanson has had successful trips to the Stone Lion Inn in the past. For her part, Luker said that having a haunted bed and breakfast is "a mixed bag." She's had guests leave in the middle of the night and loses other business from those not interested in being harassed by a specter.

Augusta isn't the only game at the inn, either. Other past sightings have mentioned a man in Victorian clothes who managed to spook a skeptic with Hanson's group while they were exploring the house.

"She is a local attorney that was investigating with us and actually had an experience where she believed she saw a gentleman lean over into her face," Hanson said. "She did a double take, realized he wasn't there. It really got her attention and she said, 'I'm out of here!'"

Ghost Hunt Getaway takes place 6:15 p.m. Friday at the Stone Lion Inn, 1016 W. Warner in Guthrie. Tickets are $22. "Charles Martin

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Charles Martin

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