Dinner to Die For: Stone Lion Inn
The year is 1948. You are sitting down to dinner at an elegant inn. The food is superb. A sense of post-WWII euphoria fills the air. Then, without warning, a man drops dead and the game is on.
But it’s not 1948 and the man isn’t really dead. You’re actually amidst the acclaimed antics of the Stone Lion Inn.
Located in Guthrie, the inn provides a rather peculiar kind of escape for its guests by hosting murder mystery dinners and has been doing so for the past 24 years. Though the evenings begin with a death, the story of the Stone Lion really begins with life. More specifically, starting a new one, as the inn’s owner Becky Luker did when she moved from Santa Fe, New Mexico, to Guthrie to start a bed and breakfast in 1986.
“I was newly divorced and decided to start life over,” Luker says. Prior to the B&B business, she worked as a teacher, assistant principal and in real estate, but it was in this venture where Luker found her new life.
She says she ‘’happened into Guthrie one evening,’’ and was charmed with the town. She purchased the Stone Lion, a sprawling mansion built in 1907, intending to turn it solely into a bed and breakfast. “I wanted it to just be a bed and breakfast, that’s all I intended to do, but in 1986 nobody knew what a bed and breakfast was,” she laughs and explains that people would show up to stay there and leave when they realized they were staying in someone’s home.
During the first six months of ownership, Luker almost went broke and was contemplating selling the inn. “It was horrible. It was a disaster, so I had to have some way of getting people to stay,” she says.
Luker knew of the murder mystery dinner craze happening on the East Coast and was inspired to host one herself. She wrote a murder mystery and advertised it. The first day the ad appeared, Luker says she had more calls for reservations than she’d had in the previous three months.
“That just turned everything around,” she says.
The inn does murder mystery dinners every Friday and Saturday. The stories are intricate and are set in the past, usually from the 1920s to 1940s. Guests make reservations and are sent details of the setup for the mystery. They are each assigned a character that is usually someone with an ulterior motive or secretive past.
Luker says she used to write mysteries with half of the guests as good people and half bad, but found that to be less ideal for the players. “That didn’t work,” she says. “A guy will come up and say ‘I had to play a nice guy, do you know what it’s like to be a nice guy? I’m a nice guy every day.’ ”
It is this idea of participatory theater that Luker says is so rewarding about dinner at the inn. “People love it. It’s their opportunity to play. As a grown up, we don’t have a lot of opportunities to play. We get to go and watch. We watch the movies, go to football games, but we’re watchers. This is not a watching deal. Everybody is assigned a character. They all have to stand up and say something and maybe act in a certain way.”
And act they do. The evening begins with cocktails and getting acquainted. You may meet a suave womanizer and a tantalizing temptress or you may be one yourself. Then you sit down to a full course meal. All the while, a feeling of doom lingers because someone is going to die.
“It’s amazing how into it some people get and they fall down and die. It’s hysterical,” Luker says.
Robin Wheeler, who hosts the murder dinners, agrees. She says she loves seeing the costumes and hearing the attempts at accents guests come up with. “It’s really neat because you get different people in every weekend so it’s never like the same job twice,” Wheeler says and likens it to an interactive version of the board game Clue.
There may be more to the ambiance of the evening than simply pretend playtime. Wheeler says that guests do hear strange noises at night and admits she wouldn’t stay at the Stone Lion alone. But one Edmond resident that’s about to participate in the evening is not scared. Susie Williamson is excited. “It’s something different that we don’t normally do. It’s something special,” Williamson says.
Over dessert and coffee, guests piece together clues and decide who the killer was. Guests can
stay the night, if they dare, or just come for dinner. Many guests return and can expect new mysteries written by Luker. What they never expect is how their friends and family will behave in the guise of their characters.
“One of the most common things that’s told to us in the morning is they’ll say, ‘I can’t believe my husband acted that way. I never expected him to do that. It was terrific.’ ” Yes, there is something funny going on
at the Stone Lion Inn. For more information visit www.stonelioninn.com or call 405-282-0012.