Bethany couple parlay gold mine venture into reality show, charity awareness

by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Larry and Stacie Overman are having fun while drawing attention to their passion for charitable work through 'Ghost Mine,' a Syfy channel program focused on allegedly paranormal activity at the gold mine the couple owns in Sumpter in Eastern Oregon.When it comes to the disembodied voices Stacie Overman hears in the gold mine she and her husband, Larry, own in Eastern Oregon, the Bethany resident is pretty matter of fact.

“There was a conversation going on. It was two men talking,” she says of her first brush with mysterious sounds emitting from deep inside the mine. “You can hear two distinct voices, but not what they’re saying. I’ve heard that three times. Now it’s kind of like, ‘Oh, there’s someone having a conversation.’

“There’s something in there.”

Many fans of “Ghost Mine” would heartily agree. Now in its second season on the Syfy channel, the reality show that’s broadcast on Wednesday evenings highlights allegedly paranormal activity in what’s known as the Crescent Mine near Sumpter. The show juxtaposes the intrepid explorations of paranormal investigators Kristen Luman and Patrick Doyle with the day-to-day efforts of the Overmans’ mining crew to extract gold from the voluminous layers of rocks, minerals and compacted soil beneath the Buckhorn Mountains.

The Overmans share their haunted treasure with the reality TV audience primarily to fuel their mutual interest in children’s- and medically related charities. The couple got together after Larry, a former asset manager for an oil field service company, sought out Stacie, a breast cancer survivor who runs a talent agency, to see how he might capitalize on the mine’s spookiness to support his charitable work. by: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - The base of operations at the Crescent Gold Mine in Sumpter figures prominently in 'Ghost Mine,' the Syfy channel relaity program focused on the gold mine owned and run by Bethany residents Stacie and Larry Overman.

After months of dating, the couple got married last fall on the 70 acres of gold mine property Larry first purchased in 2011. While they have yet to strike it rich in the classic, if highly rare, gold-mining manner, proceeds from the mine operation, the “Ghost Mine” show and Stacie’s Take 2 talent agency allow them to devote time and energy to causes such as American Cancer Society’s annual HOPE ball, St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., and other charities to benefit ailing children and cancer victims.

“We do well enough to where I can spend eight months of the year supporting children’s charities,” Larry says. “It gives me a new perspective on TV. I realized that by having the social capital (of the show) involved, I would be able to leverage that aspect of things to be able to raise money for charities.”

The Overmans will appear at 7 o’clock tonight at 13th Door Haunted House, 3855 S.W. Murray Blvd., to sign autographs while promoting “Ghost Mine” and their charity missions.

Golden moment

Larry, who worked in the oil business for 18 years in Houston and Wyoming before relocating to Oregon, says he stumbled into gold mining in a rather unassuming manner: as a single dad on summer vacation with Alexys, his then-12-year-old daughter, taking a shortcut to their Eugene home via Baker City. That the outpost of Sumpter would go on to define his life was the furthest thing from Larry’s mind.

“Alexys said, ‘Dad, I’m hungry,’ so we stopped at the Elkhorn Saloon,” he recalls.

Noticing a sign out front of a real estate office that read “Mine for sale,” Larry’s mental entrepreneurial wheels started turning. He sought out historical information on the Internet about the abandoned 80-year-old mine and started making business-related calls.

The random pit stop turned into a four-day tour of the desolate, if breathtakingly scenic, area.

Securing a solid financial partner/investor, Larry decided then and there to become a gold miner.

“This all happened in a matter of minutes,” he says, noting the sudden career move wasn’t all that outlandish in his world. “My life had been such a crazy roller coaster anyway.

“I’d never even thought of owning a gold mine in my life,” he adds. “I thought, ‘That would be interesting.’ I could make an honest living bringing minerals out of the ground. That’s what I had been doing anyway.”

Hiring a friend from Houston to help get the operation off the ground, Larry worked to earn his miner’s training certificate, including a provision permitting him to teach. He purchased equipment and hired a crew. By the fall of 2011, the 7-foot-high by 7-foot-wide main shaft of the Crescent, or Buckeye Mine — haunted or not — was up and running.

Voices calling

Explanations for the mine’s strange phenomena range from the possibility that the mine’s abundance of quartz rock, a component in older radios, can retain previous sounds it absorbed to a theory that spirits of Chinese migrant workers who worked and died on the job haunt the mine.

Larry, a natural skeptic, admits his interest in supernatural phenomena has grown since his involvement with “Ghost Mine.” He recalls how the mine’s subterranean voices, sounds and inexplicable shadows cost him his original crew.

“I’d always heard voices in there. I chalked it up to echoes and footsteps,” he says. “This one got scared and said to the others, ‘We’ve got to get out of here!’ I said, ‘Stop being wusses!’ My crew quit.”

Now with a less skittish crew on board, Larry does his best to be a sport with his “Ghost Mine” role while dealing with the more substantial work of actually running the operation. In other words, haunting voices are not his biggest problem.

“We’ve got things we need to get done,” he says. “We can’t let the camera slow us down.”

While the haunting voices and odd occurrences come and go, it tickles Larry to see how the show’s clever editing and dramatizations make it seem as if there’s more there than meets the eyes and ears.

“The show portrays something happening all the time,” he says. “They shoot hundreds of hours of footage. What you’re left with are the highlights.”

Success ... or bust

For her part, Stacie, beyond her talent agency career and charity work, does her best to play a solid backing role, both on-camera and concerning the family business.

“I’m the mine owner’s wife,” she says with a smile. “I’m there for support.”

As long as she and Larry can leverage the show and its loyal fan base to draw attention to the couple’s children’s and cancer-related charity concerns, she’s happy to remain in their unique reality TV/haunted goldmine vortex.

“It provides a new bridge for us to take (cancer awareness) to a new level worldwide,” she says. “We’re being able to touch more people’s lives as a role model. Being able to give more hope to people on a larger scale, that’s what the show has given us.”

That doesn’t mean the couple wouldn’t like to hit paydirt, even if it’s long after the “Ghost Mine” crew ultimately packs up its gear and moves out of Sumpter.

“It takes a lot of money to run a gold mine,” Larry admits. “We’re just like anyone else trying to make a living.”

Does he still dream of striking the mother lode?

Looking up and flashing a conspiratorial grin, he replies in the affirmative.

“But more gold miners have gone broke than made it rich.”

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