3/20/11

ANATOMY OF AN URBAN LEGEND: The Tale of Augusta

In the landscape of Oklahoma legends and myths one tale continues to rise to the top and be repeated periodically.  A scanning of websites with the story produces at least a dozen sites repeating the tale of the ghost of the house which now holds the Stone Lion Inn.

Sans any stories of hauntings prior to the early 1980's, the house had been a home and once a funeral home.  The charming and heartbreaking tale of a little girl who stayed to play in the halls and stairs of the old house were shared with the sadness of life cut short at such a young age.

The childish ghost was said to be Augusta Houghton, the 8 yr old daughter of Fred and Bernice Houghton.  She had died from an accidental overdose of cough medicine given by a nurse or maid.  The story assumed a life of its own, repeated despite local researchers indicating they could not find a record of such a death.  

Independently researchers from OKPRI and Cullan Hudson, author of Strange State came to the conclusion the specter, if there, could not be Augusta.   Owner, Beth Luker, would later admit to making a mistake in naming Augusta, but by then the story had assumed a life of its own. Repeated by writers and paranormal researchers without fact checking, the story became enmeshed in the folkloric weave of the state.

What was the truth?

Searching US Federal Census records revealed in 1900 in Guthrie, Logan Co., OK a family living at 702 Noble Avenue.   Fred E. Houghton (1854-1943), his wife Bertha (1872-1958), his children Grace (1885), Gladys (1896), Alma (1899), Augusta (b.1892, Sept), and Frank E. (1900) were enumerated on the census.

In 1910, the family is living at 1016 W. Warner Street (the location of the present inn).  There is no Augusta listed on the 1910 census, although children Grace, Gladys, Alma, Frank E., Adolphe (1903), Dorthy (1907), Russell (1908), and Irene (1910) are listed.   

In 1910, Augusta was no doubt the young  18 yr old woman listed in the Wichita, Ks census of students attending Mt. Caramel Academy.  

The family is found again on the 1920 Census for Logan County and is enumerated in 1930 in Enid, OK, where daughter Alma had married into the Suddeth family and is listed with son David at the West Main address.

Rootsweb, a genealogy website, indicated a family history record for a Coralee Augusta, daughter of Fred and Bertha Houghton, born Sept. 17, 1892 and who married in 1913 a William Houser.

The only child NOT carried over through the ever expanding family listed on the US Federal Census was daughter Irene, listed as newborn in the 1910 census when the family lived at 1016 W. Warner, Guthrie.

A death record has not been located for the Irene Houghton listed on that 1910 census and so caution should be exercised.   One website assumed she died the same year as the census because of the -0- listed by her age but that was often used for children/infants under the 1 year mark.  There are questions to be answered because an infant could not be the 'child' presence noted by so many 'research teams.' She is not listed on several genealogical websites, although they site the census record where she is listed. And strangely, Coralee Augusta is not listed on several such websites despite citations referring back to the census of 1900.

If Irene was the 7-8 yr old who died, then a death record or grave should exist for her from the 1917-1918 time period.  Since the family is enumerated on the 1920 census in Guthrie, then the likely place of death could be there.  However, she had older sisters who were already married and could have been living elsewhere with them during the census.  Assumptions cannot be made until verified by documentation.

The urban legend of "Augusta" is a classic example of the need for real, in-depth historical research to ferret out the truth from the tall tales and guesswork.


1 comment:

Kay Davis said...

I have been looking for the truth about Augusta for a long time. I am co-founder of a paranormal group in Oklahoma, and every time I heard the very fake story it made me so mad. They drag Augusta and the Houghton family through the mud. I believe in ghosts, but I also believe the full truth needs to be known behind it. I stayed in the house in Guthrie and believe 100% that it is haunted, and experienced amazing activity. But I have always known it was not the spirit of Augusta. The feel of the old house make you feel as though you step back in time, and anything outside does not exist.