In the midst of the Ozark mountains and high on a hill, America’s Most Haunted Hotel, peers over Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Its grandeur hovers like its eight ghosts onsite, including that of a cat named Morris. Tourists don college-branded outerwear over breakfast lit by 129-year-old crystal chandeliers.
The Crescent Hotel was built as a resort for America’s elite but the cost of upkeep and service grew unmanageable and unsustainable. The hotel took on a new life as the Crescent College and Conservatory for Young Women. Its life as a college only lasted some twenty years, not including some bouts of time where it was an empty building. In 1937, a millionaire inventor and terrible quack, Norman Baker, took over the Crescent promising a cure for cancer through combined drinking of the area’s natural spring water and focused thinking. Unfortunately, many people suffered and died at the hands of Baker until he was ultimately arrested on charges of mail fraud in 1940. Baker left behind a morgue beneath the hotel.
Finally, after a few more years being empty and new hoteliers trying their hand at the hotel, it became what it is today in 1997 after Marty and Elise Roenigk oversaw a six-year restoration and implored visitors interested in the long and tumultuous history of this mountaintop hotel.
We arrived early after ditching our campsite in eastern Arkansas, which might have been spookier than this hotel. Somewhere in the flatlands on the other side of the state, we were greeted with that Southern/Midwestern hospitality that is a little more akin to nosiness than a welcome. “What brings y’all here?” “Are you on vacation?” “I noticed your license plate.” “New York?!”
Our neighbors at Davidsonville Historic State Park included a steamy romance novelist with a pen name in an RV across the way and a fleet of children in a parked pontoon next door with hair in shades of cobalt and lime and a patriarch who spoke as though his mouth may be filled with marbles. Needless to say, after a mosquito attack to Andrew’s left shoulder, our tent turned sweat lodge in the summer’s high temperature and humidity in sub-tropic eastern Arkansas, we woke at dawn and hightailed it across the Natural State – and thus missing the historic site of the original city of Davidsonville which had been abandoned in the 1800s and then uncovered and turned into a park.
We hurriedly and excitedly made our way to the Crescent Hotel and to discover Eureka Springs. At 8:30 p.m. on our first evening we were scheduled for the ghost tour. I made it about two stories in when I suddenly felt ill and ran to the hallway bathroom to vomit. I excused myself for a night in. I was frightened enough by the 10 minutes I had heard of the two-hour tour, but I do recommend it for those who are more courageous than I.
Boasting a flat iron building of its own, the frontier village of Eureka Springs looks like a Disney World’s old west, with narrow streets full of art galleries and sweet shops that run up and down the hillside.
When our visit to town was rained out, we sat on rocking chairs on the back deck of the hotel watching the storm roll in and out whilst sipping wine and other libations.