Built in 1886, the Crescent Hotel & Spa has reigned supreme nestled in the Ozark Mountain town of Eureka Springs. When the doors opened, the hotel catered to the “carriage set” of people living in and traveling through the town during the Victorian Era. Horses were made available for any equestrian minded guests to enjoy. Tea dances were held in the afternoon while dance parties were held at night, with music from the in-house orchestra. For many years, the hotel enjoyed prosperity as a year-round resort for those seeking the healing properties of the springs that seem to be abundant all over Arkansas.
By 1908, the hotel was in decline and was opened as the Crescent College and Conservatory for Young Women. It catered to wealthy young women while still catering to the tourist crowd, but neither this nor the astronomical tuition charged to the students was enough to keep up with the constant repairs needed. The school closed in 1924 only to reopen in 1930 it opened as a junior college for four years.
While many believe that the history of hauntings at the hotel begin when it was still being built, when one of the builders fell to his death near where Room 218 is situated today, others believe that the darkest period of its history began in 1937 when Norman Baker bought the property.
Iowa-born Baker bought the hotel with the idea of turning it into a hospital and “health resort” despite his distinct lack of medical training. He was a charlatan with a history of swindling millions from individuals who believed in his cures for cancer and subsequent run ins with the American Medical Association. Despite having all of his “cures” for cancer condemned by the AMA, Baker relocated his patients from Iowa to Arkansas with the story that no patient would be operated on to cure them, they would simply rely on the water from the local springs as well as other home remedies.
The legends say that when remodeling has been done at the hotel over the years, dozens of human skeletons have been discovered secreted within the walls. It has also been said that somewhere within the place are jars of preserved body parts that were hidden so as to not scare off prospective buyers. They still have not been found to this day.
These same stories also claim that Baker was no harmless quack, but a dangerous and terrible man who experimented on both the dead and the living. One of his “miracle cures” for brain tumors was to allegedly peel open the patient’s scalp and then pour a mixture of spring water and ground watermelon seeds directly onto the brain. Dozens of the patients died and Baker was said to have hidden the bodies for weeks until they could be burned in the incinerator in the middle of night. As his publicity claimed that he could cure cancer in a matter of weeks, he had to keep the press from finding out that many of his patients died every month. It has been said that he would put the extreme and advanced cases into an “asylum”, where they would die in extreme pain. That way, no one would know that they actually died of cancer.
In 1940 Norman Baker was convicted of using the US Postal Service to defraud the public with his false medical claims and the hotel was shut down. New investors reopened the hotel in 1946 and began it’s slow climb back to the prominence it once claimed as Queen of the Ozarks.
Today, the hotel has regained most of it’s Victorian grandeur and retains its hauntings as well. Guests and staff alike report strange goings on in various rooms and hallways, with Rooms 424 and 218 being the most active. There have also been reports of a gentleman who favours the lobby and bar of the hotel. Many people have seen the man – dressed in formal Victorian attire – but when they try to speak to him, he remains silent, then vanishes.
Spirits from the period of Baker’s ownership have also made appearances. In 1987, a female guest said she witness the apparition of a nurse pushing a gurney down the hallway in the middle of the night. Others reported seeing the same nurse. Even Norman Baker himself is believed to make appearances in the hotel’s recreation room.
If you decide to visit the Crescent Hotel & Spa and stay the night, do stop back here and let us know of your experiences.
Information about the hotel was taken from the hotel’s website as well as Prairie Ghosts. The ghost photo is from the hotel’s website.