Things That Go Bump In the Night…

Posted: August 25, 2011 in Art and Creativity
Tags: , , ,

In March, I took my daughter and my mom on an overnight trip to a really cool place right here in Arkansas. You might have heard of it: The Crescent Hotel. If you’ve watched Ghosthunters on Syfy, then you have definitely heard of the Crescent Hotel, often referred to as “America’s Most Haunted Hotel.” So, naturally, I was dying to stay there! (Ha ha, just noticed what I typed. Hopefully I wasn’t really dying…) The Crescent is located in an eclectic little town in Northwest Arkansas called Eureka Springs.

A Ghost Tour at America’s Most Haunted Hotel

If you like ghosts and grand historic buildings, you’ll love the Crescent Hotel, located 2000 feet above sea level in the eccentric, charming town of Eureka Springs, Arkansas. In fact, to actually locate the hotel traversing the winding labyrinth of streets through Eureka Springs will possibly require a navigator, a very compact car and a few wrong turns. However you arrive, you’ll be glad you did. Eureka Springs works its magic the moment you enter the downtown area, an outcropping of historical homes, quaint bed and breakfasts and oodles of shops stuck to the side of a very large hill.

On the outside, the Crescent Hotel, or “the 1886 Crescent Hotel,” as it prefers to be officially addressed, is as grand as you imagine it to be. Those of you that love charming historic properties may appreciate that the steps creak an old time welcome as you make your way to the large wooden doors that usually stand open at the entrance to the lobby. Stepping in to the Crescent is like stepping back into a forgotten time, when people took extended stays in “luxury” hotels for health, restoration and relaxation. There is an enormous fireplace to the right of the entrance that one could imagine in a large old gothic mansion. Old velvet covered chairs squat placidly around the lobby and the desk clerks stand behind what looks to be a counter stolen out of an old time bank/saloon.

And while the hotel did operate as a luxury resort when it first opened its doors, don’t let the charming façade fool you. This is, after all, America’s most haunted hotel. People didn’t come here to dress up in their finest and promenade with umbrellas for very long, although it is nice to think about. Instead, very sick–sometimes terminal–people came here to be tortured…er…treated by the villainous Dr. Norman Baker, who ran a cancer hospital in what he grandly dubbed his “Castle in the Air.” Torture chamber in Hell might more aptly describe what the guests endured during their stay at Baker’s hospital. Indeed, people with little hope left placed their trust in a self-absorbed madman with zero medical training and a dubious background that included stints as a vaudeville magician, an inventor, and a vitriol-spewing radio host.

It is said that the patients Dr. baker ultimately failed to treat, along with a cavalcade of other people who met an untimely fate within the walls of the Crescent have never checked out of the hotel. This is why people flock to the Crescent in droves hoping to have a ghostly encounter in their rooms or on the famed nightly “Ghost Tour.” I have to admit, this is why I wanted to stay at the Crescent. There are many charming lodging options in Eureka Springs, but c’mon! This one is haunted! TAPS said so. (TAPS is the Atlantic Paranormal Society, featured on the hit Syfy show “Ghosthunters.”) Hey, if it is haunted enough for Jason and Grant, it’s haunted enough for me.

Also accompanying me on my one night adventure were my mother, Linda, and my five-year-old daughter, Sophie. I had asked the friendly desk clerk when I called to book the room if children who were, say, 5, were able to go on the tour, and she assured me that children took the tour all the time. After checking in, the three of us opted for a ride in the elevator and easily found our room on the second floor just to the right of the staircase, and conveniently down the hall from where the Ghost Tour met up. Just like everything else about the Crescent, the room was completely unique. Red walls with stamped gold stars, two beds with white spreads and black headboards, a genuine claw foot tub and a lovely red velvet upholstered chaise longe. By the way, have you ever tried to actually bathe in a claw foot tub? With a five year old? I now see why they invented the modern tub. Charm does have its limits.

After taking the grand tour of our room, which rook three minutes, tops, we were now entering the dinner zone. One thing about the Crescent Hotel is that their dining options looked pretty welcoming when faced with the prospect of traveling all the way back down that hill to look for food in the town of Eureka Springs. It was much more attractive to us to walk ten feet down the hall to the dinner café. We figured we could eat and then be ready for the ghost tour. Which is what happened, except it took what seemed like a ghost’s lifetime to actually get our food. I couldn’t imagine that the two other families in the restaurant had ordered that much food, so I have no idea why it took so long. Maybe the chefs had to drive down into Eureka Springs to get our food and bring it back up the hill. On pack mules.

Eventually, we were seated in the lecture room, cameras at the ready, with a sizeable amount of other people, waiting for the tour to begin. Our tour guide was a charming and knowledgeable lady dressed in period costume who began by giving us the background on the hotel and showing us some evidence gathered by both hotel visitors and the segment on “Ghosthunters” where Grant revealed what their team had found.

I won’t spoil the tour for you by revealing here what it consists of, except to say that it was by turns fascinating and hokey (some of the evidence is, well, a little sketchy). However, one thing that did surprise us on the tour, non-ghost related, was how adept the guide was about handling a small child who wasn’t so sure about this whole ghost tour business. That small child was my daughter, Sophie. After noticing that Sophie was deciding whether to return to the room with my mother or continue with the tour, she asked if Sophie would like to be in charge of the EVP meter and help her with the next leg of the tour. Suddenly, Sophie was the most important person in the group, the assistant whose meter reading skills were vitally important! Sophie was thrilled. As we made our way from the upper floors to the “morgue” in the basement, Sophie was fully invested in the tour and soaking up the group’s adulation like a sponge. What is cuter than a five-year-old regaling a tour group with tales of her Scooby-Doo themed adventures and excitedly waving around a beeping EVP meter like a mad scientist? Apparently, not much. In fact, upon conclusion of the tour in the hotel’s spa, Sophie received a standing ovation from the tour group. I believe she threw down an impromptu curtsy. So, despite that fact that there was nary a ghost in sight, one five-year-old child and a group of charmed adults had a tour to remember.

You may be disappointed to learn that, once back in our room, the three of us had a peaceful night’s sleep. If any ghosts visited our room, they did it with a respectful silence for the sleeping guests. In the morning, Sophie and I happily headed off for the fancy dining room with our two complimentary free breakfast passes, while Mom went for a walk near the hotel. I sat with Sophie as we both devoured the buffet breakfast and I sipped coffee like an actual adult does. Sometimes, I forget that’s what I am. Before leaving the hotel, we walked a bit around the grounds, met a friendly gardener and her dog (my child will befriend anyone, I tell you) and walked across the street to the church situated below the Crescent Hotel. After that, our Crescent Hotel adventure was officially over, although we did take some time to explore downtown Eureka Springs before heading back home. Once I was home, I eagerly uploaded all my pictures onto my computer so I could look for the ghost I had surely captured. Alas, there were none. Oh, well, maybe next time. After all, the ghosts at America’s most haunted hotel can’t be expected to just appear whenever they’re asked to, right? That would be too easy.

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