The Stone Lion — What will they do with it in 2021?

The Stone Lion B&B tub artwork
Author: Eric Neher
Category: Murder | B & B | Mystery | Stories
Date Published: September 18, 2021

The Stone Lion. We are all famil­iar with Roswell and the pur­port­ed aliens that dwell with­in secret bunkers, as well as the witch­es that can some­times still be seen walk­ing the moon­lit streets of Salem. Indeed, these attrac­tions are just that; attrac­tions; com­mer­cial­ized relics that have found their way into our main­stream cul­ture. They are mag­nets for the slight­ly twist­ed entre­pre­neur who dares to dream. This was not the case for Becky Luk­er, who stum­bled upon her haunt­ed for­tune by accident.

Some­times, it seems, fate’s cru­el­ty is noth­ing more than a test. A brief hur­dle that we must either choose to leap over or remain frozen. For Ms. Luk­er, that hur­dle came in the form of an unwant­ed sev­er­ing that left her sud­den­ly sin­gle with two boys. For­tu­nate­ly, she did har­bor a dream, and it was one that would soon have her rac­ing out of her New Mex­i­co home east­ward along the I‑40 interstate. 

Curi­ous­ly, Okla­homa was not her first des­ti­na­tion. There was a small town nes­tled with­in the plush shad­ows of the Ozarks in Arkansas. This com­mu­ni­ty had been rec­om­mend­ed to her by a friend who claimed that it would be the per­fect place for Becky Luk­er’s new life to begin.  Ms. Luk­er was deter­mined to open up her own Bed and Break­fast, and not just any B&B, but one that offered a sto­ry. This would­n’t be the type of tale pro­duced by Dis­ney, either. It would be a Mur­der-Mys­tery loose­ly based on facts—the best kind. 

Stone Lion

The town was a rus­tic throw­back, a pic­ture-per­fect com­mu­ni­ty, and yet there seemed to be some­thing miss­ing. This is some­thing that had been at Beck­y’s core for as long as she could remem­ber: Diver­si­ty. After talk­ing to the may­or, it became clear that this lack of mix was­n’t alto­geth­er an acci­dent, and that left her shak­en and unsure of what her next move should be. 

There was more at risk than just her dream, after all: Her two boys would be the silent recip­i­ents of what­ev­er Becky decid­ed. There was lit­tle else to do but return to New Mex­i­co. She had pushed her­self to get to Arkansas, only stop­ping for fuel and food, but she would take her time going back, for there was lit­tle to go back to. 

For some rea­son, and it’s still unclear to her, even now, she decid­ed to stay a night in Guthrie, Okla­homa, a town just north of the route she was on. She pulled in just as the sun was reach­ing the west­ern hori­zon and was imme­di­ate­ly entranced by what she found. It was as if she had dri­ven back in time; Vic­to­ri­an homes stood shoul­der to shoul­der with Edwar­dian houses. 

Titans from days gone by, wit­ness­es to the ear­ly days of state­hood. Becky con­tin­ued her jour­ney through the town as if in a dream, with each turn reveal­ing anoth­er page from the past. Final­ly, the com­plaints from the back­seat began to take prece­dent, and it was time to find a motel. She had reached the west­ern bor­der of the com­mu­ni­ty and was about to turn around, and that was when she saw it; a mas­sive struc­ture was stand­ing just beyond the tree­line on the next block. It only took the promise of pan­cakes and a toy to buy enough time to track the street down and find the mansion. 

It sat in the grow­ing dark­ness, vacant and utter­ly alone, seem­ing­ly for­got­ten. A gasp escaped her throat, caus­ing the boys to ask if she was alright. And she was. Bet­ter than alright because sit­ting next to one of the stone lion stat­ues that bor­dered the front porch steps was a For Sale sign. Becky Luk­er had found her home. This was in 1986. 

*****

Two Weeks Later at The Stone Lion

Two weeks lat­er, the pur­chase had been made. And it only took a few more months of hard work until the Stone Lion Inn was opened for busi­ness. But what of the place itself? What is it that makes this B&B one of the most sought-after haunt­ed places to stay in Oklahoma? 

Built-in 1907, the same year that Okla­homa became a state, the eight thou­sand square foot home was a prod­uct of neces­si­ty. Its rea­son for exist­ing was based on the fact that the orig­i­nal own­er F.C. Houghton need­ed a big­ger house for his grow­ing fam­i­ly (twelve chil­dren.) Yet, not all of them would reach adulthood. 

One daugh­ter named Irene fell ill and suc­cumbed at the ten­der age of sev­en, leav­ing the fam­i­ly dev­as­tat­ed. Was it because of this that the Houghton’s even­tu­al­ly left the house, leas­ing it out to the town’s mor­ti­cian? What an inter­est­ing turn for a struc­ture that was once looked upon as a grow­ing fam­i­ly home. This sanc­tu­ary for life became an in-between for the dead. Left­over tools from that time can still be found dec­o­rat­ing the halls and rooms in the house, includ­ing the actu­al embalm­ing table, which now dou­bles as a buf­fet stand, yummy! 

But, as stat­ed before, this brand­ing of hor­ror was nev­er the inten­tion of Becky Luk­er. In fact, she tried des­per­ate­ly to avoid the grow­ing rumors of slam­ming doors and mys­te­ri­ous voic­es. The last thing she want­ed was for her life project to be equat­ed to a car­ni­val sideshow, but much like a wild­fire, it was beyond her con­trol. It is said that the best form of adver­tis­ing is word of mouth and the ter­ri­fy­ing sto­ries began to spread, viral ver­biage that soon went beyond even the state’s bor­ders. These were not paid adver­tis­ers plant­i­ng seeds but actu­al patrons who had had encoun­ters while stay­ing at the fam­i­ly mortuary. 

One such account, ver­i­fied by TAPS Ghost Hunters, is the voice of a lit­tle girl who seems to be dar­ing the lis­ten­er to come and find her. A chill­ing game of hide-and-seek and one which I’m sure she nev­er los­es.  Anoth­er encounter is the sight­ing of a man dressed in a Vic­to­ri­an-era suit com­pli­ment­ed with a top hat. This shad­owy fig­ure can often be seen lin­ger­ing with­in a door­way or pac­ing the stair­well. Could this be F.C. Houghton? 

                          

                                                  

****

Upon my arrival to The Stone Lion, I was imme­di­ate­ly tak­en in by the his­to­ry of the house. Much like a clas­sic work of lit­er­a­ture, it held a sto­ry filled with both tragedy and joy.

 Becky Luk­er, I’m hap­py to report, has learned to embrace the haunt­ed inevitable, as the por­trait of Lizzy Bor­den hang­ing on the wall can attest to. The neigh­bor­ly vibe that assaults you once you walk through the front door comes with an almost humor­ous catch; the refresh­ments are avail­able for the tak­ing, and all you have to do is remove what you want from the embalm­ing table that sits in the main hall­way. But it was the sec­ond floor that piqued my inter­est. It is there that you will find the guest rooms, which is where most of the encoun­ters take place. I have to admit that a cer­tain eeri­ness seized me as I began my ascent. 

Mid­way up the stairs, I was sud­den­ly wrapped in a blan­ket of must and age: A trapped fra­grance rem­i­nis­cent of some­thing long gone but demand­ing to be remem­bered. It was as if the cracked plas­tered wall had been bro­ken from with­in, releas­ing an archa­ic truth fight­ing for sur­vival. Per­haps that was what had lured Becky to a vacant house once slat­ed for destruc­tion. These spir­its which wan­der the halls, shut­ting doors and invit­ing guests to play, are not nefar­i­ous in nature. Indeed, they seem quite con­tent with the knowl­edge that the home that they care for is now in good hands. And maybe they will do what­ev­er they can to make sure it stays that way.

So, if you hear the grind­ing of a rust­ed hinge, or hap­pen to open your eyes from a deep sleep only to find your­self face to face with some­one who’s not quite all there, just remem­ber to tell a friend or a fam­i­ly mem­ber. The res­i­dents of The Stone Lion Inn are count­ing on it. 

Unique­la­homa

Eric Neher

Eric Neher

Eric Neher is an award-winning author who lives in Newcastle, Oklahoma. He is a continuing contributor to Uniqelahoma Magazine and has numerous short and flash fiction stories published. Notable works include Permian Remorse, The Bane of Dave, Fractured Frame, The Cycle, A Haunted Cemetery, and Horrific Separation. His debut horror novel titled The Killing Pledge is now available. Follow him on Twitter: @ENeherfiction Email: [email protected]

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