Readers, please enjoy this guest blog post by Jamie Davis, co-author of Haunted Asylums, Prisons, and Sanatoriums.
A clear front-runner for the title of “America’s Most Haunted Hotel,” The Crescent had been on my list of places to visit for a good five years before I finally made it out there in June 2013.
The intrigue of the place lies in all of the mysterious tales told about the days when, in 1937, Dr. Norman Baker turned the old 1908 Crescent College and Conservatory for Young Women into a cancer hospital. He is made out to be a quack who made about $4 million doing things such as injecting carbolic acid right into tumors and giving his patients spring water to drink. There are tales told of him having secret passages going under the hotel into town, burning bodies in the incinerator, and sending pre-written patient letters out to family members after a patient died (so as to continue receiving money for the deceased patient’s treatment).
Today, Dr. Baker’s former Cancer Hospital is a proud member of the Historic Hotels of America, and is a fully-renovated destination hotel on top of a hill in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. The hotel interior is red and black, and while it seems very macabre, I did not feel that effect at all. I found the place to be very peaceful and welcoming. Despite all of the tragic tales from the hospital days, I did not feel any sadness here. There is even a chimney outside the Sky Bar that is still painted purple from the former time of the eccentric Dr. Baker.
I have never had a place, not to mention a whole town, resonate with me like the Crescent Hotel and Eureka Springs did. While swimming in the pool, I looked up and knew that the building I was looking at used to house the servants (a fact that was confirmed on the ghost tour later that evening). While resting before dinner, I looked at the seafoam-colored walls and blurted out, “This is when I die.” Later, while wandering around the west wing of the hotel, I was drawn to walk down a staircase and was overcome by a smell that can only be described as strange and old. I inhaled as deeply as I could, but could not place the smell. When I returned after the ghost tour, the smell was gone. The ghost tour will tell you all the popular legends and stories, and will even lead you through the current day spa, past the laundry room, and straight into the former morgue.
After dinner, I set off walking the grounds of Crescent Park. I wound up on a heavily wooded and shaded trail into town. The whole entire town is a nationally protected historic district; as I kept walking, the town itself even had an effect on me. I was convinced that I had walked these paths before. Maybe it was all the hidden, swirling, underground healing waters (there are sixty-two within the city district, all formerly considered to have medicinal properties) creating some type of energy vortex.
As I wound my way back up the hill to the hotel, I heard a haunting melody being played by someone. There was a strange little boy sitting out on the front porch of a cottage playing a xylophone; he was all by himself, and not another soul was in sight. As I passed his line of vision, he looked at me with unblinking eyes, like those of an old, world-weary woman. While staring at me, he didn’t miss a beat on the xylophone.
I kept walking, covered in goosebumps despite the 90-degree heat.
Our thanks to Jamie for her guest post! For more from Jamie Davis, read her article “Discovering Medfield Insane Asylum.”