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What haunts Rob Portman

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Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) speaks at the 2012 Fiscal Summit in Washington, D.C.

LEBANON, OH -- There is something haunting a top contender for the Republican vice-presidential nomination.

Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, along with his brother and sister, own The Golden Lamb, a landmark hotel in the southwestern part of the Buckeye State, where scores of historical figures have spent the night.

It is the oldest continuously run business in the state and has housed the likes of Charles Dickens, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Ulysses S. Grant. Twelve presidents have visited, and it has served as the backdrop for multiple campaign events, including a McCain-Palin rally in 2008.

But it is in a small room on the hotel's fourth floor that houses its spookiest lodger.

Through a glass encasing in the room, there is a plastic doll lying on a child-size bed surrounded by toys from the late 19th Century. It is here, where, "The restless spirit of a young girl materializes in this small room," at least according to a letter posted outside the door.

Portman neither confirmed nor denied the existence of a haunting spirit in his hotel. But he did say in an email to First Read that his mother "had some stories" from her time living there as a child and then later operating the business for seven years.

"She used to say there were some 'interesting' sounds she heard at night, including what she said sounded like a chain dragging on the carpet," Portman wrote. "Now that was some years ago, but, just saying."

Owning a self-proclaimed haunted hotel can be added to the list of quirky facts that have trickled out about the Ohio senator since he became a key surrogate for the GOP nominee. A knock against him during this season of VP speculation has been that he is boring. But friends and close aides are quick to push back against that narrative. They cite his dry wit and his penchant for adventure -- like the time he smuggled a kayak into China to ride the Yangtze River. 

Not to mention the ghost.

The ghoulish girl, who some believe walks the halls of The Golden Lamb, is Sarah Stubbs, who, despite passing away in 1957, "cannot find peace in the world beyond," according the information outside the room. The story of Sarah's haunting is rather mundane compared to that of other ghost stories. She lived to be 79, and those familiar with the story acknowledge she lived a happy and stable life. However, her father passed away when she was a young girl and did not enjoy her time living at the hotel.

The Golden Lamb attempts to put to rest any confusion: "Investigators into the realm of the supernatural believe in the ‘Imprint Theory,’ which holds that traumatic experiences, such as the loss of her dear father and the move to new surroundings left an imprint on the youthful Sarah's spirit, so that she returns as a little girl, even though she died as an old woman many years later."

The hotel embraces the ghost story, but it is the history of famous guests that it most heavily promotes. Outside each room is the name of a person who either visited or stayed the night. You can make reservations for the "Martin Van Buren Room" or the "John Quincy Adams Room," though the staff is unsure if the famous guests actually overnighted in the exact room that bears their names. Along with the 18-room hotel, The Golden Lamb has multiple dining rooms, a tavern, and a gift shop.

Tim Price, assistant general manager at The Golden Lamb, said he has not had any paranormal experiences in the year and a half he's worked there, but he and other members can rattle off names of others who claim to have seen a ghost. 

"If you want to see something, you'll probably see something," he said.

Price said Portman remains very involved in the management of the property and frequently stops by when in town. Despite working for a politician, Price says he has not been paying much attention to the speculation that his boss could be tapped as Mitt Romney's running mate.

When Price is asked if he thinks Portman would make a good vice president, he quickly nodded and said, "Yup."

And maybe, just maybe, he can bring his experience dealing with the supernatural to the White House, a place some believe is among the most haunted places in America - something Michelle Obama alluded to in 2009.