EUREKA SPRINGS, Ark. — Perched on the crest of West Mountain above the town of Eureka Springs is the historic 1886 Crescent Hotel and Spa.
The hotel was built by the Eureka Springs Improvement Company and the Frisco Railroad and was designed by Isaac L. Taylor, a well-known Missouri architect. During the late 1880s, people from all over the world came to Eureka Springs for the “healing waters.” Many came in hopes of curing ailments and the developers of the Crescent Hotel took advantage of this tourist opportunity by building one of the most luxurious resorts in America.
Numerous stonemasons from Ireland traveled to Eureka Springs to begin the construction of the infamous hotel in 1884. The hotel was designed in an eclectic array of architectural styles, the masons built 18-inch walls, several towers, overhanging balconies, and a massive stone fireplace in the lobby.
On May 20, 1886, the Crescent hotel had its grand opening and the Eureka Springs Times Echo called it “America’s most luxurious resort hotel.” People from across the country attended its grand opening which included a gala ball with a full orchestra and banquet dinner.
However, after the turn of the century, people realized that the acclaimed “healing waters” didn’t have the curative powers that the hotel and the city were so known for.
From 1908 to 1924, the building was utilized as the Crescent College and Conservatory for Young Women but was still used as a resort during the summer months. After being in operation for 16 years the revenues from tuition and summer guests were not enough to maintain the costs of running the large building and the Women’s College closed.
This is where history takes a dark turn. In 1937, Norman Baker arrived and bought the hotel to open a cancer hospital. Baker is known for advertising miracle cures that didn’t require surgery or painful tests. Baker alleged that its patients would walk away from the hospital cancer-free. Unfortunately, the Baker Hospital would become for many their final resting place.
Unknown to many desperate patients, Baker’s “miracle” was nothing more than a scam. Baker had no medical training and had been convicted in Iowa for practicing medicine without a license. Baker would eventually be arrested in 1939 for mail fraud. Baker was convicted and sentenced to serve four years at Leavenworth.
The investigation into Baker revealed that he had defrauded patients of approximately $4,000,000. While no reports state anyone died from Baker’s “cure” the investigation revealed his treatments most likely quickened the death of those suffering from illness. In 1944 Baker was released back into society and moved to Florida where he lived until he died in 1958.
In 1946, the hotel was purchased by four Chicago businessmen who began to restore the old hotel to its former glory. However, it would be a couple who bought the hotel in 1997 that would fulfill this promise.
Marty and Elise Roenigk worked on renovating the historic hotel for five years and after $5 million in renovations, the Crescent hotel reopened to the public once again.
One of America’s most haunted hotels
The Crescent Hotel is one of the most visited hotels in the South and is known to be one of the most haunted places in the nation.
Staff and guests have told stories of paranormal activity and ghostly encounters at the resort. Many say the most sighted apparition is an Irish stonemason, who the staff has dubbed Michael. According to the staff, Michael was one of the original masons who helped build the hotel in 1885. While working on the roof, Michael lost his balance, fell to the second-floor area, and died. The area where he allegedly died is now Room 218. Room 218 is said to be the most haunted room in the hotel. The staff has said Michael likes to play tricks with the lights and doors and is often heard pounding on the walls.
According to staff, the second most haunted room is “Theodora’s Room” which is 419. Theodora was a nurse at the Crescent when it served as the Baker Cancer Hospital. Witnesses have stated Theodora is seen as an older woman fumbling for her keys outside room 419. She is also known for organizing things in a messy room and doesn’t like it when people argue.
There are many other stories about the many ghosts that still wander the halls of the Crescent Hotel and many paranormal investigators have come to see for themselves how haunted the hotel really is.