By: Lisa Wright …..
Hotels often have the reputation for being some of the most haunted buildings around—especially the historical ones, that have a tendency to create a mythology and mystique all their own. Many of these hotels also embrace their notorious pasts; adapting eerie and often unexplainable events into the lore of the property itself—and sometimes even making it a selling point to attract visitors.
One such hotel is the 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa; often referred to as ‘America’s Most Haunted Hotel,’ this lovely property in the scenic Victorian Village of Eureka Springs, Arkansas is famous not only for its luxe accommodations and world-class hospitality but as the site of numerous paranormal events, including a plethora of testimonies from people that have been mentally (and even physically), effected by The Crescent’s spiritual auras and spooky psychic phenomena.
The History Of The Crescent Hotel
Built in 1886, The Crescent Hotel has a long and storied history. Completed in 1886 by the Eureka Springs Improvement Company and The Frisco Railroad and designed to be the country’s most luxurious resort hotel, The Crescent was built high above Eureka Springs—imposing, grandiose, and a playground for the creme de la creme of vacationers and VIPs. From its opening night, which was celebrated with a gala ball filled with a who’s who of local society and business leaders, it was marked as a distinctive architectural marvel, and decorated in the most modern and luxurious of conveniences as recalled by an 1886 article from the Eureka Springs Times Echo available on the hotel’s website: “[The Crescent] is lighted with Edison lamps, furnished with electric bells, heated with steam and open grates, has a hydraulic elevator, and is truly a showcase of today’s conveniences.” So how did such a ‘showplace’ garner the reputation of being one of the country’s most haunted hotels?
To answer this question, one must plumb a little more deeply into the hotel’s origin story. One of the main reasons for the construction of The Crescent was the town of Eureka Springs itself. During the mid-1850s, stories circulated about the supposed healing waters of the Ozarks—making the area famous throughout the country; and a destination for those who thought the health benefits of the waters may help to cure their various ills. Because of this, The Crescent’s developers saw an opportunity: build a resort and spa to accommodate those flocking to the area—thus creating the original mythology of the ‘Grand Ol’ Lady of the Ozarks’—a place of healing luxuriously ensconced in one of the most extravagant resort hotels in the nation.
But it wasn’t to last. By the turn of the century, people eventually came to realize that the healing waters didn’t necessarily work as advertised—and the resort soon fell out of fashion. The subsequent years saw The Crescent undertake a number of incarnations, including a Women’s College. But it wasn’t until the late ‘30s that the hotel’s history becomes once again relevant to its current-day haunted reputation.
In 1937, a man named Norman Baker bought the property and renamed it the ‘Baker Hospital’: a place where cancer patients could come, convalesce, and supposedly leave cancer-free. However, it wasn’t discovered until later that Baker was a charlatan who had no medical training whatsoever—he was simply running a scam to make money from unsuspecting patients desperate for a cure—and was eventually imprisoned for fraud.
The intervening decades were a time of ups and downs for the formerly glorious Crescent; it often sat empty and was subjected to a devastating fire in 1967. It wasn’t until 30 years later when the property was bought, renovated, and reopened by the new owners the Roenigk’s, that the history of this majestic hotel came back to haunt it.
Haunted And Harrowing Tales
It’s hard to say when the mythos of The Crescent and its haunted reputation began to grow again. After its reopening in 2002, thereafter dubbed the ‘Dawning of the Second Golden Age,’ the new and improved Crescent was a welcome addition to the Eureka Springs community. Various renovations and improvements to the historic structure soon returned its to its former glory and restored its reputation as a luxurious destination in the Ozarks. However, stories soon began to circulate about hauntings and various instances of paranormal phenomena—both from visitors and from staff members. Several rooms are reportedly haunted, including room 218; supposedly the most haunted guest room.
Here, throughout the years, a number of people have reported seeing the apparition now dubbed as ‘Michael,’ the ghost of an Irish stonemason thought to have worked on the original construction site—who also died there when he fell off the roof into the then-open second floor. Ever since, numerous guests have reported various types of phenomena after staying in the room, including flickering lights; eerie and mysterious sounds—some have even reported being shaken during the night and seeing blood come out of the walls.
Other apparitions are callbacks to the hotel’s history—notably when it was Baker’s Cancer Hospital. Even in those days, people reported seeing the spirit of the nurse wandering the halls; and to this day, guests and employees alike report witnessing odd events in this area of the hotel—once used as the morgue that housed the charlatan Baker’s autopsy table and walk-in freezer. Some have even reported seeing Baker himself in various other areas throughout the hotel.
The former site of The Crescent’s Crystal Ballroom—now the hotel’s Crystal Dining Restaurant—is also a site of numerous and recurring paranormal events. Apparitions dressed in Victorian garb have been seen dancing, and even sitting at tables and the bar; including one romantic gentleman ghost reportedly waiting for ‘a beautiful woman he saw there to return.’ However, most people say that these apparitions—unlike Michael in room 218—are usually mischievous and friendly, playing jokes on the staff by moving tables; and, during one Christmas season, even moving the tree and nearby gifts.
There are several other stories of frequent ghostly visitors to The Crescent; and due to the overwhelmingly consistent tales told by both guests and staff, the hotel has garnered its reputation as a historic haunted hotel. Recurring events also lend many of the hotel’s paranormal events validity; a fact pointed out by those who have both witnessed and studied these occurrences of unexplainable phenomena—including the instances of people fainting during the hotel’s ghost tour—but only in a specific spot: the area directly above Norman Baker’s former morgue.
Mysterious and scary these unexplained happenings at The Crescent might be, but there is no way of proving the hotel’s status as a truly haunted building—as with all paranormal activity, these events often grow in significance as more and more people experience them; or perhaps people tend to experience them because of the legends swirling about like so many apparitions themselves. Either way, The Crescent remains to this day ‘America’s Most Haunted Hotel’; filled with the unexplainable, this lush, historic Ozarks resort will no doubt continue to captivate (and haunt) guests for years to come.