We look forward to spending time in quirky Eureka Springs. Who doesn’t? It’s the getaway capital of northern Arkansas, a unique place that’s as much a funky arts and music community as it is a free-spirited state of mind.
That’s why we looked forward the other day to attending the wedding dinner and reception for our favorite dentist Derrick Johnson and his equally appealing bride, Monica, at the Grotto Wood-Fired Grill and Wine Cave. Those festivities were followed by an intriguing night’s stay at the historic 1886 Crescent Hotel and Spa.
Not only are Dr. Derrick and Monica, a registered nurse, each accomplished people in their own rights who sincerely care about others (as well as each other), but they are fun to spend time around outside the dental chair. Everyone who enjoys smiling should have such a dentist and skilled spouse/nurse assistant.
The reception at the romantic Eureka restaurant on Center Street (that we’d somehow overlooked for years) was not only filled with happy folks enjoying live music, refreshments and likely the most tender filet I’ve ever savored, but the evening itself brimmed with laughter and enjoyment worthy of any celebration.
We watched the new couple dance, sing a duet (John Prine’s “In Spite of Ourselves”), and lovingly shove white wedding cake in each other’s mouth. Then they took time to visit with each of the 50 or 60 family members and guests in the Grotto’s large upstairs events room.
It was obvious from the way they looked into each other’s eyes as they danced and throughout the evening that this clearly was a union they valued deeply, and for all the right reasons. If you could imagine a couple with All-American imprinted on their foreheads, it would be Dr. Derrick and Monica.
They’d returned from spending 10 days in Nepal a week before their wedding. There, they had joined a friend and fellow dentist in providing charity dental care for ailing Nepalese villagers and their children while taking personal time to hike together high into the Himalayan mountain range.
After the reception, we piled into the shuttle and wound up the steep hill to the hospitable historic lady widely accepted as America’s most haunted hotel. It’s a title the management today embraces as a major draw to the hotel that in the late 1930s was a sanitarium owned by the quack “doctor” Norman Baker. It even has its own basement morgue to accommodate the patients who died there.
I’ve often wondered how many of them never really left, in spirit, anyway.
Plentiful stories of hauntings and guests encountering the unexpected in these carpeted hallways are the stuff of several documentaries. I’ve written over the years of some guests’ frightening experiences, including that of lifelong friend, Lou Ann Moles of Harrison, and her two adult daughters.
Daughter Beth captured a remarkable photograph showing three colored lines of energy streaming from the ceiling of their room following a vivid dream where she was forcibly pulled beneath the bed covers in a paralyzed state until her mother awakened. She also had been dreaming of three women standing in the balcony above their room who were clad in the same colors.
For me, this night at the Crescent was one of many evenings over the years. But not for Jeanetta. And the thought of staying in any renowned haunted place was a new adventure for her.
And so we settled into Room 316, taped the curtains overlapping to shut out any outdoor lighting, and drifted off to dreamland. I always wear earplugs when sleeping away from home. This night was no different. I was in that place between consciousness and REM sleep when I heard a sudden bang that sounded almost like thunder, but not.
I looked around. Nothing. So I fell asleep again only to hear the sound later repeated.
After a couple of predawn jaunts to the bathroom then back to bed, I awoke for good about 7.
I realize this is some boring stuff thus far. But I promise it’s about to get much spookier.
Jeanetta was staring at the ceiling, not speaking, at 7 a.m. Her first words were: “We had something definitely real happening in this room last night. There’s no doubt.”
She explained that during one of my forays to the water closet, something unmistakably struck the bottom of the king-sized bed, as if kicking the wooden frame and mattress hard enough to shake her. “You were in the other room,” she said. “But it was definitely a hard jolt.”
She said she also had been startled awake twice by an odd loud noise inside the room that she couldn’t locate or really define (perhaps what I’d heard). “It was one of those feelings you get when you are suddenly shocked awake from a deep sleep but can’t understand exactly what caused it.”
After the final sound, she opened her eyes to see two hands cupping a colorful glass ball about a foot in front of her face. “The hands looked like they closed tightly on the ball, crushing it into beautifully colored shards that disappeared,” she said. “It happened very fast. What I saw wasn’t a nightmare. It was real and unfolding with my eyes wide open. It woke me up so I know I wasn’t dreaming.”
Topping off her adventure, she said her nose inexplicably and relentlessly itched for hours, something that’s also never happened to her before. “Say, you suppose ghosts carry feathers?” she asked with a smile.
We enjoyed an expansive buffet breakfast in the hotel’s Crystal Ballroom, loaded the car and headed for home. We were ready. After all, full-growed folks can only take so much shindiggin’, scarfin’, snoozin’ and spookin’ in one night.
Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist. Email him at email@example.com.