MASTERSON ONLINE: Historic Arkansas hotel to be featured on documentary as 'most haunted'

FILE — The Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs.
FILE — The Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs.

It’s the month when green forests slowly turn orange, yellow and red, culminating with ghosts, ghouls and all things scary.

So it’s only right that the historic 1886 Crescent Hotel and Spa in Eureka Springs is being featured in October on another TV documentary as America’s most haunted hotel.

This time, a Japanese program on Fuji Television appears poised to perhaps make the Crescent “the world’s most haunted hotel.”

My friend from college, Bill Ott, said as much in an email the other day. He and I shared a geology class at the University of Central Arkansas in 1979. Our problem was we seemed to get so tickled we couldn’t stop laughing, usually at the quirky professor.

But today, as the person who for years has been caretaker (I rather like the more appropriate sound of undertaker) of community affairs for the haunted hotel, Bill’s not joking when he talks about strange and mysterious happenings in this grand stone lady with carpeted stairs that creak and a former morgue in the basement.

He said the soon-to-air program What Is This Mystery was shot on location at the hotel during May where the crew captured “some unexplainable moments.”

Rich Newman of Memphis, who has investigated paranormal phenomenon for over a decade, is featured on the program. “I don’t know if the television crew spoke to you after our night monitoring Theodora’s room (Room 419),” he told Ott and hotel manager Jack Moyer, “but we had quite an exciting night.”

“While monitoring our subject sleeping in that room, several lamps turned themselves on and off,” Newman said. First came the floor lamp in the couch area. Then the nightstand lamp beside the bed. “While we were marveling over the bedside lamp switching on and off, the closet door in the room opened all by itself. What’s better, this all happened on camera!”

The Japanese production will be the 16th paranormal program featuring the Crescent in a dozen years, Ott said. “Those include a recent episode of the Travel Channel’s Most Terrifying Places in America.

When Jeanetta and I spent a night there last year, she felt something jolt the bed hard enough to awaken her about 3 a.m. Then she had a remarkably vivid dream in which a hand was holding a beautiful colored glass ball directly in front of her face. When she suddenly awoke and opened her eyes, she watched the ball shatter into tiny brilliant pieces. “There was definitely something going on in this room last night,” she said.

Then there was the harrowing account of Ann Moles and adult daughters Laurie and Beth who spent the night in what had been the offices of the late quack “doctor” Norman Baker who made a disease-curing sanitarium of the building. Many died there from illnesses, their bodies moved downstairs to the morgue.

Moles recounted that Beth was sleeping with her when Beth awoke to being pulled beneath the covers to the end of the bed by an unseen force. She couldn’t move or speak. When it happened again, she had her camera lying on her chest and photographed tri-colored beams of energy shooting downward from the ceiling.

Ott related other accounts from guests and employees from 2018.

For example, at the conclusion of one of the hotel’s nightly ghost tours, two sisters stopped the guide, and one asked why she hadn’t introduced to the gentleman sitting in the rocking chair during opening remarks in the hotel’s history room where each tour begins. The guide told her there was no one sitting in the chair. “Her sister laughed and said, ‘That’s what I told her’.” The convinced sister said he’d been wearing a three-piece brown suit and rounded hat, and that he’d smiled, laughed and rocked during the opening comments.

On another evening in the morgue located deep in the hotel’s basement and used by Baker during the time he operated his “cancer-curing” hospital in the late 1930s, the guide had just brought a tour into the creepy, darkly lit room. As they began taking seats in the front area, she saw from the corner of her eye a man clad in a dark suit and top hat high-stepping into the autopsy room. The guide excused herself and entered the room, looked, and opened the meat locker where Baker regularly stored cadavers and body parts. But there was no one to be seen. “However, I saw him as plain as day. The hair on the back of my neck stood up and I had goose bumps.”

The Crescent’s guides share many such accounts, but hotel guests are also encouraged to submit stories and photos on the “America’s Most Haunted Hotel” Facebook page.

One guest captured many different lighted orbs on a cell phone and even had one round orb, seen by the naked eye, come from across the room in the morgue, zig-zag, then fly behind as the air grew very cold. A few seconds later, it appeared again, emerging from behind. This time it stopped short and hovered in front of the guest. Then it vanished. “What they say about the morgue being (paranormally) active is true indeed.”

Other than the spooky events and guests who apparently check out but never leave, I’ve always enjoyed the ambience of this romantic grand dame of hotels and its cuisine. I’ve observed a lot of weddings unfolding on the manicured lawn and under the spacious gazebo. After all, there’s more to enjoying life than seeking spooky specters.

Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist. Email him at mmasterson@arkansasonline.com.