By Jayson Jacoby
Baker County's alleged ghosts have earned their keep, at least in the cable TV realm.
"Ghost Mine," the paranormal series that debuted this January on the Syfy channel, will return to the network in September for a run of 12 new one-hour weekly episodes.
The first season, which started Jan. 16, consisted of six hour-long shows.
"Ghost Mine" averaged 1.25 million viewers during its initial season, according to a press release from Syfy.
The program finished in the top 10 in its Wednesday evening time slot in the age 18-49 viewer demographic, the cohort advertisers covet most, Syfy said.
The setting for "Ghost Mine," which was filmed during the summer and fall of 2012, is the Crescent mine, part of the Buckeye group near the headwaters of Little Cracker Creek.
The mine is at an elevation of about 7,500 feet, near the Elkhorn Crest Trail about eight miles north of Sumpter and a couple miles northwest of Bourne.
The series' basic premise is that the miners, after re-opening the Crescent mine decades after it was last plumbed for its gold, encountered phenomena they couldn't explain.
The mine's owner, Larry Overman, says his first crew walked off the job because they were frightened.
To prevent a repeat, he hires a pair of paranormal investigators - Patrick Doyle and Kristen Luman - to investigate while the new cast of miners is working the Crescent.
Overman, who lives in Portland, said in a telephone interview Thursday afternoon that he doesn't expect any changes in the "Ghost Mine" cast for season two.
"We have a solid crew (of miners), and Patrick and Kristen did an awesome job," Overman said.
Overman, who bought the 69-acre property that includes the Crescent in 2009, said he plans to travel to Baker County in about three weeks to start opening the snowbound road leading to his property.
He expects production for season two episodes will continue through August. Last year, with half as many episodes to make, work ended in early August, he said.
(Some scenic footage included with the first season was taken in the fall, the timing being unmistakable because the tamaracks' needles had turned the yellowish-orange of October.)
During the first season most of the action took place in two gold-bearing tunnels.
Overman said he intends to open more old tunnels this summer, regardless of whether the work is included in "Ghost Mine."
He said he bought the property "sight unseen" when he was living in Houston because he was optimistic that gold prices would continue to increase, which they did.
(The average price rose from $972 per ounce in 2009 to $1,571 in 2011.)
And although Overman wouldn't discuss specifics about how much gold was removed from the Crescent last summer, he said "we had a good season."
"I think it's a really good industry to be in right now," Overman said.
He said his ultimate goals, though, are to invigorate the tourism economy in Baker County, and to raise money for charities.
On the first point, Overman expects "an influx of tourists this year."
"We've had a lot of fans say they're coming out this summer," he said.
As for charity, Overman said he and his wife, Stacie Overman - they were married last summer at the Sumpter Valley Railroad Depot in Sumpter - are planning a "Haunted Mine Experience" fundraiser on each of the four weekends in October.
The events will take place at the Crescent mine, and will include live music.
Overman said proceeds will go to St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital and to Camp Ukandu, a week-long camp for children ages 8 to 17 who are undergoing treatment for cancer or who have had treatment within the past two years.
About 120 kids from Oregon and Southwestern Washington attend the camp each summer. It's sponsored by the American Cancer Society.
Overman said details about the Haunted Mine Experience will be released June 1 on his Facebook page: www.facebook.com/OfficialGhostMineowners.
"Ghost Mine" was a major topic of conversation this winter in Sumpter, population about 200, where snowmobiling typically is the biggest seasonal attraction.
Sumpter residents have wondered whether the show's popularity will bring hordes of ghost-seeking tourists to the area this summer.
It's too early yet to gauge the power of "Ghost Mine's" lure - snow still lies deep in the mountains, and the Sumpter Valley Dredge State Park, a favorite among visitors, doesn't open until May 1.
But the program already has brought Sumpter newfound prominence.
Sandra Chase, the principal broker at Rustic Realty in Sumpter, said she's had several calls from people interested in looking at property in the area who told her, without any prompting, that they had watched "Ghost Mine."
The Elkhorn Saloon hosted a watch party for the series' debut, and about 40 people showed up for the event that included live music and "Ghost Mine" T-shirts for sale.
Watch parties for subsequent episodes also attracted large groups, including the season finale, which Larry Overman attended, said Sharyn Epler, who owns the Elkhorn Saloon.
Epler said she's planning to order more supplies than usual this summer to accommodate a larger clientele.
Or more accurately, she plans to continue placing larger orders.
"We had that all winter long," Epler said. "People right out of the blue would show up and start talking about the show. We'll get a lot more this summer I'm sure."