The Crescent Hotel is a historic hotel located in Eureka Springs, Arkansas with a reputation as one of America’s most haunted buildings.
Sitting high above Eureka Springs, Arkansas, the Crescent Hotel & Spa is a palatial structure located on 15 acres of manicured gardens and nature trails.
The hotel has retained its 19th century character without sacrificing modern, full-service amenities that include the New Moon Spa and Salon, luxury suites and cottages and great dining.
The hotel has a long and troubled history to say the least. Built in 1886 as a luxury resort for the rich and famous who came to Eureka Springs for its healing waters, the hotel has a turbulent history and changed owners and its purpose many times.
The most famous (and creepiest) use of the property didn’t happen until the 1930’s and remnants of the use still linger today!
Built in 1886 as a resort for the rich and famous, the hotel quickly became unmanageable and fell into disrepair. In 1908, it was reopened as the Crescent College and Conservatory for Young Women. The school closed in 1924, and then opened again in 1930 as a junior college. After the college closed in 1934, the Crescent was leased as a summer hotel.
The Baker Hospital
In 1937 Norman Baker purchased the hotel and turned the property into a hospital and health resort. Baker, a millionaire inventor and radio personality, called himself a doctor, despite having had no medical training. He claimed to have discovered a number of “cures” for various ailments, including cancer, and launched frequent attacks on organized medicine, which he accused of being corrupt and profit-driven.
Norman Baker was a former vaudeville magician, turned inventor, turned millionaire business man, turned populist radio host, turned cancer doctor without a day of medical training in his life.
Baker had been run out of Iowa for practicing medicine without a license so he moved his cancer patients to Arkansas and advertised his new health resort at the Crescent. His “cure” consisted primarily of drinking the area’s natural spring water.
In 1940, federal charges were filed against Baker for mail fraud and he spent four years in prison. He ran his “resort hospital” allowing people to believe he could cure their illness while taking all their money. He would hire healthy people to walk the halls when new visitors would come.
Baker and his associates defrauded cancer sufferers out of approximately $4,000,000.
What made Norman Baker’s cancer cure charade so despicable is the human cost of his fraud. Hundreds of people who might have lived if they received legitimate medical care died because they put their trust in his cure.
The common grifter swindles people out of their money. But only a monster would do so at the cost of their last chance at survival.
After Baker was arrested and sent to prison, the Crescent Hotel was left ownerless until 1946. In the spring of 1946, the Crescent Hotel was purchased by John R. Constantine, Herbert E. Shutter, Herbert Byfield, and Dwight Nichols.
On March 15, 1967, the hotel was nearly burned to the ground. The only living owner at that time was Dwight Nichols. In the 1970’s the hotel changed hands several times with each new set of owners performing renovations and modernizations. It was during this time that supernatural occurrences were first reported.
In early 2019 while working to extend a parking lot, the landscape gardener uncovered a dump of sorts where Baker had his staff bury evidence of his “miracle cure” as well as body parts preserved in jars. Hundreds upon hundreds of glass bottles have been found buried on the property.
Archaeologists who were subsequently called to the site found that some bottles contain what appears to be tumor and tissue samples preserved in alcohol. Others hold a mixture once marketed as a cancer cure. Archaeologists also found an old bone saw they believe Baker may have used to work on patients. The vessels tell the story of a dubious chapter in the hotel’s history.
Over 400 bottles were found.
The Hotel Today
We checked in mid-day with the sun shining and the beautiful grounds all around us.
We ate dinner in the hotel’s restaurant, the Crystal Dining Room. Outstanding food, well prepared, not overly pricey. Bright and well laid out and did I say – outstanding food!
Crab Lorenzo is a signature dish that has been served at the hotel since it’s opening in 1886!
I can’t say I went into my overnight stay believing in ghosts. I left the next morning – well, believing in something – but not quite sure what it is.
Guests can enjoy an organized Ghost Tour or they can just wait for a ghost to appear in their rooms. The hotel is said to be haunted by at least eight ghosts.
Among them, you might find a young woman who is said to have jumped from the roof, a nurse who worked in the hotel while it was a hospital, the ghost of Dr. John Freemont Ellis, Theadora (a cancer victim), and others.
One of the most famous and most active “visitors” is a young Irish stone worker named Michael who fell to his death during building the hotel. He regularly visits female guests who stay in room 218.
The morgue is another spot in the basement of the hotel that is often visited by guests. When a hotel has a long history that included being used as a hospital – of course it has a morgue!
The hotel was part of the TV show Ghost Hunters, presenting the ghost of a man wearing a hat and nodding his head. The guests of the hotel are known to roam the corridors, which is nice to know if you’re trying to capture an image of ghosts with your camera.
Just before bed we took the ghost tour. To say it was just a little creepy is an understatement. As we walked the halls we listened to stories of many of the visitors that have checked in but never left over the years.
I took pictures during the tour and saw nothing out of the ordinary – but – the next morning when looking through my photos this is what I found!
I’m not overly superstitious but I will say after taking the ghost tour I was slightly uncomfortable. I retired to my room shortly after the tour ended and found myself feeling just a little bit unsettled.
As someone who travels alone all the time, I surprised myself by suddenly feeling like I needed to sleep with the lights on!
You should definitely pay a visit to the Crescent Hotel. You just might come across a friendly old-timer that checked in but never checked out!