Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Visiting the Morgue

            The ghost tours at the Crescent Hotel start off fun. After all, it’s a gorgeous Victorian hotel at the top of a mountain overlooking Eureka Springs and a member of the Historic Hotels of America so I’m imagining I will hear tales of ethereal men in top hats and ladies playing croquet.
            We began on the third floor and indeed heard tales of these Victorian visitors who have refused to check out. But as we slowly descended, the stories got creepier and creepier. Then we ended up in the morgue!
The Crescent Hotel "Morgue."
            Yeah, you heard right.
             “Our morgue is one of those historic infamies that has made us famous in the world of the paranormal and those interested in that world,” said Bill Ott, the hotel’s director of marketing and communications. “It wasn’t part of the original business plan of the Eureka Springs Improvement Company who built this mountaintop spa resort more than 125 years ago, it just turned out that way.”
            The hotel began in 1886 as a retreat for the upper class — but mostly for the summer months. The rest of the year, from 1908 to 1934, the building was as The Crescent College & Conservatory for Young Women. The depression caused the college and the hotel to close its doors but Norman Baker, “the man from Muscatine” reopened them in 1937, this time as a hospital to cure cancer.
            The Baker Cancer Curing Hospital promised a cure Baker couldn’t deliver — and he made a fortune in the process. The building’s basement housed a morgue for patients who perished onsite.
The 'Ghost Hunters' locker
            “It is the sad years and sad tales of the Baker Hospital that are the genesis of the Crescent Hotel’s morgue,” Ott explained. “It was in the morgue where Baker used his large walk-in cooler to store cadavers and body parts, and his autopsy table more for studying the cancers removed from patients in an effort to discover ‘what went wrong’ when a patient died hoping to stumble upon a cure. Both of these gruesome artifacts remain intact as do the stories — and some would say the patients — that surround them.”
            Baker was arrested for mail fraud in 1939 and convicted a year later. The building was resurrected as a hotel in 1997 and with it the tales of paranormal activity. Lots of them, from the Irish man who fell to his death while constructing the building to the college coed who jumped — or was pushed — from a balcony.             
            And then there are the ones in the morgue.
            Ghost tours began, concluding each night at the now famous morgue. It was in the morgue that TV’s “Ghost Hunters” saw a full-body apparition on their thermal imaging camera, something they called “the holy grail of ghost hunting.”
            “The ghost tours, which have grown exponentially over the past 16 years thanks to exposure on national television programs and in national publications, have always included the morgue,” said Jack Moyer, hotel’s general manager since 1997, “but until recently that space has had a dual purpose: maintenance area by day, eerie morgue by night. But now, maintenance has been removed and the morgue readied for thrilling new discoveries by curious ghost tour patrons.”
            Throughout October, the 1886 Crescent Hotel and Spa will reopen its morgue and allow visitors to view items such as a wheelchair from the Baker Hospital, medical artifacts from that era, the addition of a micro-theatre and easier access to the walk-in cooler, autopsy table and the locker made famous by “Ghost Hunters.”
            For more information regarding the morgue and other paranormal facts surrounding the 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa, visit


  1. Such a beautiful hotel that takes you back in time! My family have visited many times, justwish the price didnt increase. Eureka Springs has so many interesting things to do. Absolutely a great getaway if you can afford it. Love the Crescent Hotel!

  2. I couldn't agree more. I love the hotel and Eureka Springs, would love to spend a month there and write a novel.