|LaMishia Allen Photography|
In a time when many were looking for fast and effective cures to their ailments, people flocked to Eureka Springs, famous for their “healing waters.” To handle the influx of visitors, the Eureka Springs Improvement Company began construction on the hotel in 1884. Designed for luxury, the hotel boasted a magnificent dining room that seated at one time over 500 people, numerous towers, and more importantly – indoor plumbing. The hotel opened two years later and quickly filled to cater to those with delicate health and large wallets. By the turn of the century, however, people realized the healing waters weren’t as effective as other treatments and the craze slowly died down and taking the Crescent with it.
After a brief period as the Crescent College and Conservatory for Young Women, the hotel was sold to a man of dubious character: Norman Baker. Reopening the hotel as a cancer center and health resort, Baker promised his guests that they would return from their treatments cancer-free. Unfortunately, his “cure” was a scam. Baker would later be convicted of fraud for selling his miracle elixirs to hopeful patients through the mail. Sent to Leavenworth Prison to serve a four-year sentence, the investigation showed he had bilked cancer sufferers out of nearly $4,000,000. While not directly contributing to the deaths of his guests with his version of the “healing waters,” he was found to have hastened their painful demise by delaying other treatments.
The Crescent Hotel changed hands multiple times throughout the rest of the 20th century, with each owner attempting to restore the building to its former glory. In 1997, Marty and Elise Roenigk purchased the property and set out to restore the “Grand Lady of the Ozarks.” Five years later, the hotel was thriving due in part to the care of its staff – and its ghosts.
Many of the stories told by visitors center around a spirit whom they believe was an Irish stonemason who had worked on the original building. While on the roof, he lost his footing and fell to his death where Room 218 now stands. Fond of the teasing the living, Michael is often blamed for playing tricks on visitors by flipping on and off the lights, slamming doors, and pounding on the walls.
Housekeeping supervisor, Nancy Reynolds, remembers her early days as a housekeeper. “I’d hear my name called all the time. It would be faint, like someone at the other end of the hall. Other housekeepers still have that happen, too. Also doors slamming, hearing stuff behind you, it’s weird.” When asked how many entities she thinks may be roaming the halls she replied, “More than anyone knows, I’m sure. The only time I’ve seen anything, I didn’t know who it was. It was solid enough that I thought one of my housekeepers behind me, but when I turned there was no one there, no one down the hall either. I don’t know who it was, though. What disturbed me more was that I was undisturbed by it.” Could she have seen one of the Crescent’s other famous residents, the former cancer patient, Theodora? Reputedly seen in Room 419 by the staff, she introduces herself then vanishes.
Are the ghosts keeping an eye on the Crystal Dining Room chandeliers? Reynolds has received notes containing prisms from the elegant fixtures from guests who believed they brought a ghost home along with their ill-gotten souvenir. The dining room also has reports of dancers dressed in their late 19th century finery whirling around the room when the rest of the world is asleep.
There are not only human ghosts walking the grounds, lead cook Sandi Rowe remembers meeting up with Rufus after his unfortunate tangle with an automobile. “We once had a hotel cat named Rufus. He always met me every morning just past the gift shop as I came in for work. He was hit by a car (and killed) on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend; I remember the time and date because it was so shocking. Five or six months later, I went into work and saw him coming to meet me past the gift shop. He was walking toward me and he lifted a paw and disappeared.”
Other apparitions in what is called “America’s Most Haunted Hotel” have been sighted. A young woman who had stayed at the Crescent during its time as a women’s college jumped from a balcony and guests at the hotel have reported hearing her screams mimicking her final descent. Baker has also been spotted in the old recreation room in the basement while wearing his signature lavender shirt and white linen suit.
The Crescent Hotel welcomes paranormal investigators and the curious to find out for themselves about the haunting of the grand hotel with nightly tours. If you do stay, please tell Theodora hello -- she’s dying to meet you.