As many of you know, I’m spending this week in lovely Branson, Missouri with my entire family at a family reunion. We had 34 people at the Fall Village Resort, and the adults were outnumbered by the children by four. (I won’t make you do a math word problem – we had 15 adults and 19 grandchildren.) I LOVE traveling with grandchildren because there is this wonderful event called naptime! I even participated myself!
I wonder, sometimes, if my family has just totally accepted my odd ways at this point. How many other moms or grandmas politely ask strangers questions about ghosts? Well, this one does.
I was in the front lobby of the Falls Resort and I asked the concierge if there are any local ghost stories. He was extremely friendly, but didn’t know of any stories. However, he called over to the desk across the room where two lovely ladies sat. They had all the information about special events and tickets. They mentioned a ghost tour, which, really, wasn’t what I wanted. I explained about Freaky Friday and then one of the women motioned me over. She opened her phone and accessed a photo.
“My daughter took this last week,” she explained.
The photo showed a purplish haze in the shape of a person floating in front of the Palace Bath House and Hotel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. “It used to be a Cat House,” she added. (For those of you unaware of this phrasing, this was not a humane society shelter, it was a House of Ill Repute or a brothel.) And, it is said to be haunted by the Madame who used to run the house.
Eureka Springs is in Arkansas and is about 50 miles southwest of Branson. It’s nestled in the Ozark mountains and, since the times when Native Americans were its main residents, it was known for the healing properties of the waters from the natural springs in the area.
The Osage people traveled for great distances to immerse in the “Great Healing Spring,” later known as Basin Spring. In 1856, Dr. Alvah Jackson opened Dr. Jackson’s Cave Hospital to treat wounded soldiers during the Civil War, believing that the waters cured his son’s eye troubles.
We’ve talked a little bit before about water and the paranormal. How waterways, for some reason, increase paranormal activity. Well, with sixty-three springs bubbling up from below ground, you can just imagine the amount of paranormal activity that permeates this small town.
Although the Palace Bath House and Hotel is known for its former resident’s appearances, the main ghostly attraction in Eureka is the Crescent Hotel. The hotel is known as “one of the most haunted hotel in America,” which is quite a claim. But the history behind it can justify the claim.
While the Crescent Hotel did start out as a hotel, it was purchased by Norman Baker in 1938. Mr. Baker had been arrested in Iowa previously for practicing medicine without a license. He was a snake-oil salesman, it seems, and he looked for people who were desperate for hope, and were willing to pay for it.
The hotel became a sanitarium. And “Doctor” Baker claimed that the springs and his secret therapies would cure cancer. Cancer patients came for his magical cures which were homemade elixirs that he would inject into their bodies. There are also rumors that he performed unspeakable surgeries on his patients for experimental purposes and often hid the bodies of dead patients in various parts of the hotel so his ruse would not be discovered.
It took over a year, but Baker was finally brought to justice. Although the only thing the authorities could charge him with was mail fraud. He was sentenced to Leavenworth Prison for four years and the hotel was shut down, but, according to the Crescent Hotel & Spa Blog,a number of the “guests” never checked out. Here are some stories from their ghost tours:
Aunt Reba had always admired the Crescent since moving to Eureka Springs and had her first unexplainable happening while exploring the hotel as a tourist. The smell of cherry pipe tobacco got her attention when she reached the second floor. She did not find out until two years later during her training to be a guide that her earlier encounter with that tobacco essence had probably emanated from one of the Crescent’s more illustrious spirits, the hotel’s in-house doctor circa late nineteenth century. Dr. John Freemont Ellis, whose office was in what is now Room 212, was known for being a heavy pipe smoker of cherry tobacco.
Since then she says that she has detected “that charming aroma” occasionally, both while alone and while leading a ghost tour. The most bizarre sensing, she explained, came during a recent tour of 24 people, “We all simultaneously experienced that olfactory sensation for well over a minute. And let it be understood that our entire hotel is a ‘no smoking’ property and has been for years.”
Duchess Debra, who gives tours and performs in a two-person paranormal play, Not Really A Door, at the hotel on Friday and Saturday nights, was on stage with her co-star during a recent performance. One scene in the play has the two actors delivering the line “Ghost!” simultaneously. At that exact point in time, four books used as props on a shelf went flying out toward the audience “as if someone -or something- had tossed them like a Frisbee”. The books hit no one; however, the unpredictable, unexplainable occurrence got everyone’s attention.
Sweet Lady Sandra had one woman excitedly announce during a tour that she “clearly saw” and “emphatically heard” a man with a buzz-cut hairstyle say the words, “What about my treatment?” Two others on that same tour said they saw in their peripheral vision a blurred figure of a man go by in that same vicinity at that same moment.
Miss Katherine was standing at the very bottom of the hotel’s open staircase with her tour group pausing before they entered the zigzagging trail to the morgue. While all were standing still, Katherine experienced a chill causing her to “grow goose bumps” and then momentarily she found it hard to breathe. The two ladies standing next to her turned pale and quickly asked, “Did anyone feel that? It’s the little girl. She is here. I can feel her!” They were referring to the story of the little girl that reportedly fell to her death from the fourth-floor railing sometime during the early years of hotel operations. Where she supposedly landed was the exact spot where the tour group was standing during the literal chilling experience.
To add to this story, one man said, “Oh, my. Look at this photo!”, a photo he had just taken prior to the ladies’ verbal declaration. He passed his camera around and clearly everyone could see a foggy mist in the shape of a little girl standing right next to the three women. Unfortunately, he did not submit the image to the hotel’s paranormal website AmericasMostHauntedHotel.com as he said he would and as many do when they capture an apparition on a digital device.
Major Tom had a man and wife on a recent tour that had differing attitudes about the plausibility of the paranormal. She believed in the phenomena; he did not. The husband said nothing during the entire tour, giving off negative body language throughout. This was about to change.
As part of the tours’ conclusion in the morgue the lights are turned off. Guests, standing next to the autopsy table and the walk-in cooler that once stored cadavers and body parts during the cancer “curing” hospital days of the building, are encouraged to take digital photos to see if they could catch the image of an orb, the “energy essence of a ghost”. While Major Tom’s back was turned, a frightful scream was heard and all witnessed the skeptic running out of the morgue. The lights were quickly turned back on and the ashen gentleman was invited back into the room whereupon he meekly confessed he had seen an orb with his naked eye as it flew between his face and his camera. Result: the non-believer had become a believer and his wife had a great story to tell friends and family once they got back home.
Willow also had a strange morgue experience. Each guide carries an EMF (electromagnetic field) meter during the tour to detect any electrical emissions that might be given out by a nearby spirit. Reacting to one lady saying she sensed that this one certain spot on the morgue’s floor was energy filled, Willow laid her meter down on that spot. As the entire tour witnessed, the meter went crazy beeping and flashing. To follow up, Willow asked, “If there is indeed a spirit in this room, please make the meter slow down.” It slowed down immediately. After moments of heartbeat-like pulses, the spirit was asked to speed the meter back up; it did for a few more moments then went dormant.
But perhaps the most macabre-lite morgue story happened during one of Marshal John Law’s spooky sojourns through the hotel. At the very end of the tour, after the lights come up in the morgue, the guide usually asks if anyone would like to enter the morgue’s infamous walk-in cooler and have the door shut behind them leaving them in total darkness. Only two brave souls stepped up, a mother with a video camera and her 12-year-old son with a look of cautious zeal on his face. They stepped into the space that had housed hundreds of dead bodies and innumerable severed body parts during the hotel’s hospital days and the door was closed behind them. After about thirty seconds the door was opened and the boy, looking ill, staggered out from the cooler with his mother saying, “Please, move. My son is getting sick.”
The lad plopped into one of the two chairs always kept near the entrance of the morgue for just such occurrences since ever so often someone will feel faint or ill from their time spent in a room where time had ended for so many during the three years a charlatan killed rather than cured unsuspecting cancer patients. Once the mother was assured her son was okay and with the whole tour group watching, she announced, “You have to see this!” At which time she played the video she had captured in the closed, darkened cooler.
The video showed an occasional glint of colored light coming from a dot high over her son’s head illuminating his face just enough for brief recognition. One such dot did not fade like the others but began swinging back and forth. As this light did begin to fade, a larger, brighter, white light, “as bright as a camera flash”, appeared and continued to glow just above her son’s head. It slowly descended and disappeared as if it were entering his head only to suddenly reappear seemingly escaping from the boy’s skull just a nanosecond before the door opened allowing the boy to make his quick and queasy exit.