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Haunted History at the 1886 Crescent Hotel

It is said that Eureka Springs, Arkansas is one of the most haunted cities in America. If that is true, then the 1886 Crescent Hotel &  Spa must be Ghost Central. We surveyed our readers, while making our itinerary, and the Crescent Ghost Tour ranked high with many of you. This certainly wasn’t a normal attraction for us, but we were more than willing to check it out. It would give me some more practice with my low light photography, and there was always a chance we would see something unexpected.The Crescent Hotel and Spa is a beautiful historic building in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

1886 Crescent Hotel

Construction of the hotel began in 1884, and by it’s grand opening in 1886, there was already one accidental death on the grounds. Within a couple of years, trainloads of visitors descended upon the site for the “healing waters” of the area’s natural springs. For its first fifteen years, the resort offered refined luxury accommodations, and services to it’s clients. During the day, guests would take trail rides on horses from the stables. In the afternoon, tea was served, and quite often there would be dance parties scheduled in the evenings. The name of the Crescent Hotel was known from coast to coast. While the hotel enjoyed great success, this only occurred during select months of the year. In the colder “off season” months, the crowds left the grounds empty.

Signs identify the location of the ghost tour.

Education in the Off Season

In 1908, the Crescent College and Conservatory for Young Women opened for Fall, Winter, and Spring classes. The college gained great success, especially with affluent families. Tuition was moderate to high for the times, but it didn’t slow the flow of students, until the Great Depression. In 1934, the college shut down, but the hotel continued it’s Summer season. This too would end, as the economics of such a short operating season prohibited it’s long term success. In 1937, a dubious character named Norman Baker purchased the hotel, and created the Baker Cancer Hospital. Claiming a 100% success rate, cancer victims from all over descended upon the hospital seeking a cure. This ominous period in the history of the Crescent Hotel is when many of the spirits are presumed to have originated.Aunt Reba explains to the tour group, a little of the hotel's history.

Crescent Ghost Tour

Our evening entertainment began not long after dinner. A fun drive through the winding hills led us to the Crescent Hotel. This magnificent structure sits grandly above the city of Eureka Springs, and can be seen from all around. After a short look around the grounds, we made our way in, and up to the fourth floor. Here is where the Crescent Ghost Tour begins. Our group was ushered into a parlor type room filled with chairs in front of a small pedestal area. Here we were introduced to Aunt Reba, our guide for the evening. She was quite inviting, and we took turns introducing ourselves to the group. With introductions completed, it was time for the history lesson to begin.

A staircase in the 1889 Crescent Hotel and Spa.

Historic Learnings

Once the basic overview of the tour was completed, we made our way out into the 4th floor hallway. The Crescent Ghost Tour is designed to begin at the top, and work down to the ground floor. One of the first areas we stopped at was the staircase that led down to the lobby. The handrails on the staircases in the Crescent Hotel and Spa are lower than what we are used to finding. Aunt Reba credited that to people being shorter in the late 1800’s. Whether this is the reason or not, it was clear that they are set at a point lower than today’s standards.

One of the hallways that staff used to transport the bodies of the people who succumbed to cancer at the Baker Cancer Hospital.

Strange Occurances

It is believed that many of the spirits that haunt the Crescent Hotel are from the period when the building served as a hospital. While Norman Baker claimed to have discovered the cure for cancer, many of his patients expired from the treatments they were given. To keep these failures from public eyes, the bodies of the deceased were often whisked away under the cover of darkness. Many of the stories from hotel guests revolve around sights and sounds associated with these heinous activities. The squeaky wheels of gurneys moving down hallways late at night are still heard. Some of the spirits are well known, and even sought out by visitors. Their stories are entertaining, and enlightening.

The entrance to the makeshift morgue that was setup in the lower section of the Crescent.

Out and Down

We explored the various floors, and ended up in the main lobby of he hotel. Here we had a  chance to see the previously six-sided desk used by Norman Baker to run his six businesses. It was becoming apparent that this man was more than unique. After a short break, we made our way outside to skirt the building. A short walk, on a beautiful night, and we found ourselves being shepherded into the area that once served as a morgue. The ominous sign on the entrance signaled more stories to come.

A fading signn from the Baker Cancer Hospital that once occupied the 1889 Crescent Hotel and Spa building.

“Doctor” Baker

Aunt Reba began relating more of the story of Norman Baker, as she had promised earlier in the evening. Apparently, this charlatan claimed to have discovered a magic elixir that reversed, and eliminated cancer in patients. Obviously, a claim like this will certainly attract a large number of believers, as well as those with no other hope for recovery. The real mixture that he supplied his patients was a blend of ineffective ingredients, that often created extremely painful reactions. This lack of success did not slow down Baker’s greed, and numerous steps were taken to keep up the false front. As time passed, the morgue became an integral part of hiding the truth from the public.

The room in the morgue that was used to hold bodies until they could be transported to the undertakers.

Heading Into The Abyss

At the end of the tour, Aunt Reba asked if anyone would like to enter the room used to hold the bodies. Many of us checked it out, and even stayed in while the door was closed, and the light shut off. During our visit, no one had a paranormal experience, but we all still heard some great stories. We also learned a lot of history about the Crescent Hotel, Eureka Springs, and some of the people who have visited or stayed in the area. Evidently, some have decided to remain, but were feeling a little shy during our time. Perhaps you will make plans to visit the hotel, and have different results. If you catch a picture of a ghost they will be happy to share it with others. Happy haunting.

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We want to thank the 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa for hosting our visit. Rest assured that the opinions are all our own.

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