Last week, I took a quick trip down to the quirky town of Eureka Springs in Northwest Arkansas. While I was there, I got to check out one of the most popular attractions, the Crescent Hotel. Known as “America’s Most Haunted Hotel”, there are a LOT of stories surrounding this place, and one of the best ways to hear them is to take the Crescent Hotel Ghost Tour, which I got to experience thanks to the local visitor’s bureau, who set me up with a ticket. (Thanks!)
The Crescent Hotel in 1886, via Wikipedia. I need to go back and get a similar shot so you can compare the current appearance. It’s basically identical!
My only other visit to the Crescent Hotel was back around 2000 when I was freshly out of high school. We met my sister and her family there for breakfast, and then wandered the hotel a bit to explore. My nieces were around 3 and 6 at the time, so I’m not sure how much they understood about the whole “haunted hotel” concept. What I do know is that after we walked around on one of the upper floors, the younger one started throwing a fit, wanting to go back up there. It’s literally just a hotel hallway, so we couldn’t figure out why, and she finally said that she liked all of the people up there.
We had been the only ones up there. 😮
Helllooo? Anyone there?
When we were almost back to our cars, I turned around to snap a photo of the hotel exterior, and my camera shut off. Nope, it wasn’t the battery or anything normal – it just completely died, never worked again.
So, that was my history with the hotel before now. Paranormal or just weird happenings? Who knows.
For a little extra background before we dive into the tour, there are different types of “hauntings” – one that I totally believe in and others that I’m not super sure about. The one I completely believe is known as a residual haunting. Think of a cassette tape (if you’re old enough to remember those. If not, get off my lawn, you crazy kids!). While I don’t totally understand the science behind them, I think we all get the basic idea – you make some kind of sound, and whatever weird material the tape is made of happens to be able to capture it and play it back when it is triggered to (aka when you press “play”). Residual hauntings work the same way. Something about the building or the atmosphere or maybe a whole combination of things is able to “record” sounds or images, just like the tape does. Then, those sounds or images are played back, sometimes decades or centuries later, causing people to hear footsteps in an empty hallway, children’s voices in an old school, or see a figure running down a staircase. The sound or image always plays out in the same way, often at the same time of day.
This one totally makes sense to me, because it seems scientifically explicable. Just like when you play back a tape, what you’re seeing or hearing doesn’t interact with you, it’s just repeating back. Although I have no idea how it works, some kind of natural, unintended recording happening seems possible.
The other kinds, involving spirits who move things and can be felt touching you and all that? Jury is still out. But I think the most fun way to approach this kind of tour is with an open mind! The guests on the Crescent Hotel Ghost Tour range from complete skeptics to people who come equipped with ghost hunting equipment, and everything in between those two extremes. And even if you’re not so sure about the ghost part, learning about the history of the hotel is fascinating, too. It’s had quite a past!
Maybe the stone used to construct old buildings like the Crescent contains some of the same properties that let cassette and video tapes record things? Who knows!
There are multiple tours per night, and the earliest tour of the evening is generally the most kid-friendly. That’s the time slot that I toured in, but I only know of one difference going by reviews I’ve read. (We’ll get to that towards the end!) They recommend ages 8 and up for the tour, but there was a little girl on mine who was 6 who was super curious about everything. I think the best rule of thumb here is that you know your kids best. If the Haunted Mansion is their favorite Disney attraction, you’re probably fine. If they’re going to want to run around the hallways all willy-nilly while the tour guide is telling stories, it’s probably not for them.
The tour meets up on the fourth floor and works its way down the building, stopping along the way for stories about the hotel’s ghosts and history. One nice part about starting at the top is that you’re always walking *down* staircases, not up! (Although the hotel is old, it does have an elevator – it was the first building in Arkansas with an elevator! – so the tour is accessible for those in wheelchairs or with other mobility disabilities, but they do ask that you let them know when reserving your tickets so they can prepare accordingly.)
The heart of the Crescent Ghost Tour is its stories. The hotel dates back to 1886, and over the years it has been the site of quite a few deaths. Each ghost’s story is told in the location where it happened, from the balcony a young woman jumped off of after learning she was pregnant back when the hotel doubled as a girls’ school, to the room now located where a 17 year old Irish boy working construction suffered a fatal fall when the hotel was being built. (Apparently he’s still very much a 17 year old boy, so to speak, and enjoys moving the blankets and shower curtains of female guests.)
Room 218 is known as Michael’s Room
Due to this being a working hotel, the stories are often told outside the door of hotel rooms because they can’t just barge in on the guests staying in them. If a room happens to be vacant that night, though, you may get the chance to go inside. I wouldn’t plan on this, since the hotel stays pretty busy (The room of Michael, the boy mentioned above, reportedly sometimes has a 2 year wait for reservations!), but consider it an awesome perk if it happens!
There’s one ghost who likes to tidy people’s rooms up, but if she decides she doesn’t like them, they’ll return to the room and find their suitcases packed and waiting by the door!
Being the #catlady that I am, my obvious question was if anyone ever sees the ghost of the hotel’s former resident cat, Morris. (He has a memorial photo in the lobby and a fancy grave out in the garden. And yes, I made sure to meet the current hotel cat while I was there! You can see him here!) Turns out that yup, kitty ghost sightings are a thing! Man, maybe I can talk some cable TV network into giving me a reality show where I travel around as a kitty ghost hunter?? That would be an amazing way to get to answer the “So, what do you do?” question. Actually, I might start answering “kitty ghost hunter” anyway. Explaining the whole blogging and social media thing gets old. (And LOL, you guys, I Googled Morris and found that he has a page on Find A Grave! I also found this page that lists most of the former Crescent cats.)
But uh, back to the tour before I give up travel blogging to start a ghost cat blog… (But seriously, call me, History Channel. Or TLC. Or whatevs.)
After stops on the “creepy” 3rd floor (back to that in a minute), outside several rooms, the staircase, and lobby, it’s time to head down to the morgue and autopsy room.
What, your favorite hotel doesn’t have a morgue? Lame.
The vast majority of the deaths that occurred at the Crescent were not accidents. Around 1937, the hotel became a “cancer hospital”. The quotation marks there are because the “doctor” running the hospital was a total fraud who never actually cured anyone. He was charismatic and famous, thanks to having his own radio station, and because of that he was able to convince tons of people who were running out of hope to spend all of the money they had to come receive his “cure”. (Than goodness we no longer live in a time where countless people will follow a horrible, unqualified person just because he’s famous and claims to have the answers they’re seeking! Oh, wait.)
You can read the full story of Dr. Baker in this great article on the Crescent’s website or hear about it on this episode of the “Stuff you Missed in History Class” podcast, but I’ll keep things short for the sake of this post. Everyone who came seeking treatment received horribly painful injections several times a day, suffered a lot, and died. Remember my earlier mention of the “creepy” third floor? There’s an area up there where quite a few guests have felt ill, and even fainted. That’s the area that was soundproofed as a place to stick patients who were moaning and crying in pain, so they wouldn’t be seen and heard by potential customers touring the hospital. (Um, it’s also now where the honeymoon suites are.)
It seems that the ol’ doc was getting pretty delusional by the time he was eventually arrested for fraud in 1940, and he was keeping organs of the deceased in jars so he could show people how totally cancer-free they were! (Because logic!) And so as the tour draws to a close, you get to visit the former morgue, autopsy room, and “body parts room” where the jars of pieces were kept. (Fun fact – apparently when Dr. Baker died, four whole people attended his funeral. In comparison, 50 people attended Morris the hotel cat’s funeral. Cats: They’re better than most people!)
As I mentioned earlier, this seems to be the main difference between the kid-friendly 7 pm tour and other reviews I’ve read. Other guests mention the lights being turned off to experience the room in darkness, and a rather long video of the hotel’s appearance on Ghost Hunters. On my tour, the guide asked if anyone wanted to go into the former cooler where bodies were kept with the lights off and door shut to try to capture ghost photos, but everyone else stayed out in the (dimly) lit autopsy room. We got a shortened version of the Ghost Hunters video, which I think was around a minute.
One moment that struck me as hilarious while we were down here – While the tour guide was telling the story of the morgue, a little boy around 2 started babbling to himself the way kids that age tend to do. Since it was pretty distracting, the guide suggested to his dad that he might want to step outside, but since it was kind of icky out there (There was a pretty strong grease smell coming from the kitchen at the time), they might be more comfortable in the autopsy room. Ahh, the Crescent, where the autopsy room is the LESS icky/uncomfortable option! 😂
I’m a total whimp when it comes to spooky stuff, but I didn’t find this portion of the tour bad at all. There’s quite a bit of freedom to explore after the video, so if you want to go in the dark body parts room on your own to try to have a spooky experience you can, or you can stick to areas where you feel more comfortable. (I did NOT hang out in the room from the above video very long! Although the creepy old wheelchair in there freaked me out more than the locker from the video.) If you’re really not feeling the vibe down there, I’m sure the guide wouldn’t be offended if you wanted to head out early, since it’s the last stop on the tour anyway. If it IS totally your scene, take note – the ghost tour is the ONLY way to get access to the morgue and autopsy areas. While you can wander around most of the hotel any time, these areas are off limits to the general public, so if you want to explore them, the Ghost Tour is the only way in.
One other funny note – I didn’t pay much attention to the hallway we exited the morgue through at the time, but then I found myself there the next morning when I returned to the Crescent for my massage at their New Moon Spa. Only in a town as quirky as Eureka Springs do you find a spa right next to the morgue! (The spa is amaaaaaazing, though, so don’t let the unusual location scare you away from it! You’ll find a link to my post about it in the previous sentence.)
I would definitely recommend the Crescent Hotel Ghost Tour to Eureka Springs visitors who want to learn more about the town’s history, especially those staying at the hotel! It’s also an obvious must-do if you’re into the paranormal or mysterious. I do think that the tour experience will vary a lot depending on which guide you get. Each tour guide puts their own spin on it, has their own experiences to share, and (obviously) their own personality. My guide, “Aunt Reba”, was a fantastic storyteller and never crossed over into being cheesy or trying to force a spooky feel.
You can learn more about the Crescent Hotel Ghost Tour on their website and Facebook page, where they share photos and videos sent in by people who have been on the tour. You can also find tons of reviews on TripAdvisor. The tour lasts around 75 minutes, and the current price is $22.50 for adults and $8 for kids.
Have you ever had a ghostly experience? 👻 Do you think the Crescent’s ghost stories are real? Share your stories and opinions the comments!