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The truly haunted history of the 1886 Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs

Located in the cozy town of Eureka Springs, the 1886 Crescent Hotel is known not only for its historic Victorian beauty but for its active array of spirits.

EUREKA SPRINGS, Ark. — For years, the 1886 Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs has been touted as the most haunted hotel in America—home to some of the most prominent ghostly activity.

After an exclusive haunted tour of the Crescent, we discovered the dead may be more alive than we thought.

The Crescent Hotel is known not only for its historic Victorian beauty, but for its active array of spirits who reportedly roam the halls and grounds of this hotel and spa built in 1886.

There’s a lot of history here... after operating as a luxury hotel for decades, in 1908 it became the Crescent College and Conservatory for Young Women – but the college closed 16 years later.

In 1937, a man named Norman Baker bought the Crescent and turned it into the Baker Cancer Hospital. The charlatan “doctor” claimed to have the cure for cancer, using various unorthodox methods of treatment. What was unknown to many of these patients was that Baker’s "miracle" was a scam, and he had no medical training.

An investigation later revealed that over the years, Baker had defrauded those cancer patients out of millions of dollars with his phony cures.

Sarah Echelle is a ghost tour guide at the hotel and is confident in the hotel’s spooky reputation. When asked if the hotel is still just as haunted today compared to decades before, Sarah says, "More so than ever. I think sometimes when we connect with spirits we encourage them to stay. Sometimes that means they can’t cross over maybe the way that they should, but I think that's because the guests really enjoy them and they seem to enjoy it a little bit too... some of them.” 

There are many ghost encounters reported at the hotel, and Michael is one of the well-known spirits. Michael was allegedly one of the original masons who worked on building the hotel in 1885. While working on the roof, it’s said he lost his balance, fell to the ground and was killed. Now he makes his presence known from time to time in Room 218.

From the days when the hotel served as Baker’s Cancer Hospital, a nurse can sometimes be spotted pushing a gurney on the third floor, while a spirit named Theodora can sometimes be spotted in Room 419; she has been reported to courteously introducing herself as a cancer patient before quickly vanishing.

"Most of them are mischievous at best, they just want to be noticed, I think," said Sarah of the ghosts. "So they make loud noises or they do things like shut doors, but they're only doing what their energy makes them capable of doing. They just have to use the resources that they have.”

And the spookiest part of the tour?

An easy answer: The morgue, which is not for the faint of heart.

Upon entry to the morgue’s "ice box," I was physically afflicted with lightheadedness, chills, and an uneasy stomach.

I captured a glowing white orb on video as Sarah talked about previous experiences. 

And of course, I had to ask Sarah about the craziest haunted experience she’s had at the hotel, and her answer sent shivers down my spine.

"The craziest thing that ever happened to me was the very first time I took a tour here. Immediately what I saw, was I blew up a picture of a mirror on the third floor, and it was of my youngest kid. In this picture— the reflection in the mirror— I can see my son standing there and there are three ladies standing beside him and my husband talking to him in his ear.. I showed it to my husband like, 'haha what was he doing in this one,' and my husband’s like, 'please don’t laugh, that's not me.'"

"At the end of the day, we did not have one photograph of that guy on the tour. What’s more interesting is the photograph I had taken directly after that one," Sarah explained, referencing the next photo she took, except the man was no longer there. "There’s my son, same expression on his face, the three ladies are standing in the exact same spot... the only person that’s not there is the man."

The ghosts of the hotel are sure to make themselves known, but what may be most disturbing is the secrets buried beneath the grounds of the hotel. In 2019 5NEWS reported on a shocking discovery. 

During the construction of a sporting club crews digging up dirt found glass bottles buried with mysterious concoctions and "medical specimens" believed to date back to the "Norman years" when the hotel was used as a cancer hospital.

"I mean we had known that the bottles had existed before that," Sarah said. "We had a flyer of them, we knew they had basically been in our basement for a long time."

There had been rumors of these bottles being used on display by Baker in the hospital to promote his alleged "cures."

"Some of the specimens are still in our morgue for people to see on tours and so it’s really exciting to kinda guess what’s in there as well," Sarah said.

A paranormal researcher named Larry Flaxman with the help of surgical pathologist Dr. Charles Matthew Quick with UAMS recently identified the samples found in the bottles unearthed in 2019… and have now revealed that they contained human tissue from some of Baker’s patients.

The mysteries trapped within this hotel remain a compelling part of the overall experience.

"This is just one of those places where the spirits walk free and everybody accepts them the way they are,” Sarah said.

After a long evening of touring the hotel, I am happy to report that Skybar Gourmet Pizza located on the fourth floor is a great place to relax and grab a bite after a long day of ghost hunting. There really is something for everyone to enjoy and see at this historic downtown Eureka Springs hotel.

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