In a recent episode of his show Backstory on WGN, Larry Potash delved into the fascinating and haunting story of the Crescent Hotel and Norman Baker. The hotel has a dark past, having once been operated as a cancer hospital by the notorious charlatan Norman Baker. Baker’s fraudulent medical treatments claimed the lives of many innocent people, and their spirits are said to still haunt the hotel to this day. Through his expert storytelling, Potash shed light on the disturbing history of the Crescent Hotel and the man who caused so much harm there.
What really happened from 1937 to 1939 at the Baker Hospital in Eureka Springs, Arkansas? It’s a mystery that sparked the paranormal and has been the subject of numerous books and thousands of reports.
The Discovery Re-Sparks Interest in Baker
In February 2019, a landscaper at the 1886 Crescent Hotel made an amazing discovery when she unearthed a dump site filled with hundreds of bottles. A new clue to a long mystery had been discovered.
What followed was a formal archeological dig with archeologists that discovered bottles containing mysterious chemical concoctions and “medical specimens” believed to be a product of the years when the hotel was transformed into a “cancer curable” hospital by charlatan Norman Baker.
When the unearthing was first released to the press, there was international news coverage. For years, there had been rumors of unfathomable bottles once being displayed in the hotel in an area that Baker used as a morgue, but never any proof, short of a poster that Baker used to promote his hospital’s alleged amazing cures.
Those grisly bottles were moved to be included as part of the nightly ghost tours when you visit the morgue, but their contents remained unanswered….until now.
Larry Flaxman, best-selling author, speaker, and paranormal researcher, has been involved with the Crescent Hotel’s paranormal conferences since 2012. When the bottles were discovered, Flaxman was called and immediately drove to the hotel. Numerous samples were handed over to the Arkansas Archeological Survey at the University of Arkansas to be recorded, but after 3 years, no progress had been made in identifying their contents. Growing frustrated with no answers, Flaxman gained permission to take several bottles in early 2022 with the hope of finding someone to medically identify what was actually in the bottles. After dozens of attempts and rejections, Flaxman had all but given up when he was contacted by Dr. Matt Quick, a surgical pathologist at the University of Arkansas Medical Center who specializes in tissue analysis.
Dr. Quick volunteered his assistance, fueled by his own curiosity. Dr. Quick had previously had an encounter with the paranormal at the same Crescent Hotel years before.
Built in 1886, there have been hundreds of tales of paranormal experiences at the Crescent Hotel & Spa. Given its history, it’s not surprising. Besides being a popular mountaintop resort, the hotel has served as both a girls’ college and a cancer hospital–where “Doctor” Norman Baker claimed to have the cure for cancer. Announced as America’s Most Haunted Hotel by the likes of Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures, an abundance of extraordinary experiences have always attracted the attention of paranormal investigators who have traveled to the property to study and research the hotel’s supernatural activity.
Famed tales include:
• Room 218, where Michael, an Irish stonemason who fell to his death when building the hotel is known to hang out.
• Theodora, a cancer patient is known to be seen fumbling for her keys outside Room 419 as well as tidying up for guests when they leave the room.
• Breckie, a 4-year-old child of Richard & Mary Breckenridge Thompson who died in the hotel due to complications from appendicitis. He has been seen throughout the hotel often bouncing a ball.
• Dr. John Freemont Ellis, the hotel’s in-house doctor circa the late nineteenth century is most often seen–or his cherry pipe tobacco is smelled–near his office which is now room 212.
• Morris, the famed hotel cat, was known as the Hotel General Manager for 21 years, and later buried on the hotel property is regularly seen and heard.
While the Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs has many ghost stories of the past, what makes it America’s Most Haunted Hotel is the activity of today and the throngs of paranormal investigators who study throughout the year and who travel to the property each year in January to share findings.
Many paranormal investigators have come to believe that limestone has a special ability to absorb and release electromagnetic and psychic energies. Crescent Mountain, the hilltop the hotel sits on, is predominantly limestone. The massive eighteen-inch-thick stones used for the body of the hotel were made of limestone as well. These factors may very well contribute to the abundant paranormal activity the hotel guests’ experience.
Part of the Mystery Unsolved
A recurring phenomenon happens in a spot on the 3rd floor where the hotel connects to an “annex” built onto the hotel when it was a hospital. The area has been said to be a portal to the other side. Multiple guests have grown faint, with a few passing out briefly, at the same stop on the nightly ghost tour with no reasonable explanation. The occurrences go in spurts, many happening over several weeks or months, and then none for some time. Guests suddenly turn pale, falling against and then sliding down the wall in a faint. Although the loss of consciousness does not last very long and complete recovery is immediate, it tends to further substantiate the hotel’s legendary supernatural connection to the paranormal.
Reports Continue from the Days of Being a Hospital
“There has been quite an uptick in activity in the morgue. I think we have stirred things up a bit with the discovery of the remains” says Debra “The Duchess”, manager of the nightly ghost tours referring to the 2019 uncovering of a secret bottle grave of the Crescent’s most infamous resident owner, Norman Baker. A certified archeological dig found hundreds of bottles of Baker’s “secret formula” as well as jars containing “medical specimens” that had been surgically removed from patients.
A dark figure has been seen recently in the morgue and there has been an increase in cold spots and reports of people being touched.
Throngs of Amateur Investigators
Year-round, the hotel hosts paranormal thrill-seekers. Over 35,000 of these ghost hunters will take the tour annually. This interest has spurred an entire community of paranormal enthusiasts who participate in a Facebook group called The Crescent Hotel Ghost Tours. Over 5000 members from across the country have shared thousands of their photos and paranormal experiences while visiting the hotel.
Researchers Meet Every Year to Study Findings
Annually, the hotel hosts a conclave (Eureka Springs Paranormal Weekend), to bring together interested investigators of all experience levels with nationally known paranormal investigators for overnight ghost hunts and to seek answers. One weekend became two weekends as headliners for the weekends’ best-selling author Larry Flaxman and founder of the Ozarks Paranormal Society, Dave Harkins found both the evidence of the paranormal and the interest level of amateur investigators more than could be served in one weekend.
Flaxman noted what draws so many ghost hunters back to the hotel, “The rich history of the Crescent Hotel, including the unscrupulous acts of Norman Baker and the physical, emotional, and mental pain of his cancer patients who occupied the Crescent during its time as a hospital, has left an indelible mark. Hauntings are common in locations where there has been extreme trauma and tragedy and the long history of tragedies at this property has lent itself to producing an environment highly conducive for paranormal activity and making the Crescent Hotel America’s Most Haunted Hotel.”
Evidence of the haunting came to the forefront at the 2021 Paranormal Weekend, as a full-body apparition was captured on camera with the help of a ghost hunting tool called a laser grid that creates pinpoints of lights. If a light or group of lights are missing it’s because they are being blocked by something. The picture was taken during an investigation by an amateur investigator in the Crystal Dining Room. A figure had often been reported in this location sitting on the window sill waiting for someone and now that has been backed by evidence.
Is the hotel really haunted? Numerous people believe it is. According to many, it is considered the most haunted hotel in America. There’s only one way to find out for sure. Book a stay at the Crescent Hotel and join the community of paranormal investigators.
On February 5, 2019, while working to extend a parking pad at the north end of the 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa’s 15 acres of mountaintop property, a chance discovery was made by the hotel’s landscape gardener, Susan Benson. There in that first scoop of dirt were a couple strange, medical-looking bottles. Knowing part of the hotel’s history that it was once a “cancer curing hospital” in the late 1930s, Benson called the hotel’s ghost tour manager, Keith Scales. Upon his arrival, Scales realized the bottles he was looking at were identical to those that appeared on an advertising poster of the late Norman Baker, the charlatan who operated the hospital.
Careful hand-digging uncovered a few more -even more dynamic- bottles, one of which contained “something” floating in a nearly clear liquid. Again, from what was on the faux doctor’s poster, it was perceived to be what looked like a cancerous tumor that Baker used as a “look what I can do” advertisement for his magical, medicinal albeit false claim of curing cancer. The hotel’s general manager was called.
That call led to a “stop order” on any future digging until archeologists from the nearby University of Arkansas-Fayetteville could offer their advice. That advice included calling the local police (who called the state crime lab) and the local fire department (who called in a hazmat crew). Each gave their okay on moving forward on “the dig”. Fast forward two months…
On April 9, 2019, team members of the Arkansas Archeology Survey (AAS), part of the University of Arkansas system, arrived from the nearby Fayetteville campus, to begin their meticulous study. They began to carefully peel back layers of dirt and rock. Cutting root clusters as needed, the “find” was slowly uncovered.
With each descending layer of soil, the find became more and more miraculous. AAS team members and hotel management got very excited for the lost dump site for a notorious, infamous charlatan, Norman Baker, who turned the resort hotel into a cancer hospital in the late 1930s, had surprisingly been found.
Baker treated hundreds of people, patients who were grasping at straws trying to be cured of their deadly disease, but no cure ever occurred. He did however extract literally millions of dollars from his endeavor; money scammed from the families and trusting patients of the Cancer Curable Baker Hospital with many of the patients dying at hands of Baker.
All the folklore, all the hair-raising stories, all the rumors were now proving to be true with each and every bottle, medical specimen jar, gruesome surgical tool, etc. as they arose from their 80-year-old grave. Physical remnants of Baker’s Cancer Curable Hospital could now be seen, studied and displayed. The discovery echoed throughout the United States thanks to such news outlets as Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, CNN, and Newsweek, to name just a few.
“What surprised us the most,” said Jack V. Moyer, general manager and vice president of operations of the 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa, “were several calls from eyewitnesses who remember the ‘Baker years’ and some of whom actually saw these same bottles in the area of the building that Baker used as his morgue and autopsy room. Both of those rooms, which are now a key component of our nightly ghost tours, were stripped bare of artifacts before the current owners came on board in 1997.
“We had been told those artifacts had been taken to the dump. We thought that meant the county’s solid waste dump but low and behold they had been dumped on hotel property.”
Moyer explained that these bottles would become part of a special display in the morgue, adding to the macabre ambiance of the ghost tour and that the bottle burial site itself will be encased and available for viewing on special tours. The planned date for this shocking debut is set for June 1.
“What we wait for now is how this find and the resurrection of these bottles has spiked our paranormal activity,” Moyer concluded. “Already paranormal experts and ghost hunters are waiting to return to ‘America’s Most Haunted Hotel’ to see at what higher level there must be following this bizarre bottle exhumation.”
CHAPTER THREE awaits.
Read more on the 400 glass bottles that have been unearthed in the backyard of the Crescent Hotel.
On Halloween, the stars of Eureka Springs’ Intrigue Theater, Sean-Paul and Juliana Fay will be returning to the Crescent Hotel’s Crystal Ballroom for a seance show. This year they will astound their patrons as they witness a seance in an effort to reach some who have “crossed over.” Limited seating!
Eureka Springs Paranormal (ESP) weekend at the 1886 Crescent Hotel has evolved over seven years. What began as an opportunity for paranormal investigation groups to explore the active areas at night for one weekend in January, has grown to a two-weekend, two-hotel investigation – and not only of ghosts.
The phrase Extra Sensory Perception refers to the mysterious powers that some people (and maybe all people) possess, that seem to defy the laws of space, time and even logic.
You will have many opportunities to explore your own psychic abilities at ESP19, our interactive weekends – opportunities to share your experiences, feelings, questions, realizations with other companions on the quest. And at night we will be attempting to communicate with those who linger in this hotel long after their bodies are dead and buried.
“America’s Most Haunted Hotel”, the 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa, is suddenly moving to “world’s most haunted hotel” status thanks to the soon-to-air episode of the Global Photo Association Tokyo, Inc. (GPAUS) program for Fuji Television Network in Japan. The program, “What Is This Mystery” was shot on location at the hotel in May of this year and captured some unexplainable moments.
The founder of Paranormal Inc., Rich Newman of Memphis TN, who has been investigating the paranormal for more than ten years, appears on the program. He shared these experiences with hotel management, “I don’t know if the television crew spoke to you after our night monitoring Theodora’s room (Room 419), but we had quite an exciting night! While monitoring our subject sleeping in that room, several lamps turned themselves on and off. First it was a floor lamp in the couch/TV area. Then it was the nightstand lamp right 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 Fuji Tv show makes the sixteenth paranormal program produced featuring the Crescent Hotel in the last dozen years. The most recent is an episode of the Travel Channel’s “Most Terrifying Places in America” which recently debuted.
Some of the most haunting Crescent stories to emerge in 2018 are those recounted the hotel’s ghost tour guides. Here are a few:
> At the conclusion of one of our nightly tours, two ladies -sisters- stopped me to ask a question. The blonde-haired lady asked me why I didn’t introduce the gentleman who was sitting in the rocking chair during my opening remarks in the hotel’s history room where we start each of our tours. I looked at her and told her there was no one sitting in the rocking chair. Her sister laughed and said, “That’s what I told her!” The blonde sister went on to say that he was wearing a three-piece brown suit and a rounded hat, and that he smiled, laughed and rocked all during my opening comments.
> One night in the morgue(which is located in the hotel’s basement, used as such by Norman Baker during the time he operated a ‘cancer curing’ hospital in the Crescent during the late 1930s), I had just brought my tour in and they were beginning to sit in the front area. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a man high-stepping into the autopsy room. He wore a dark suit and top hat. I excused myself and went into the room, looked around and even opened the meat locker (where Baker stored cadavers and body parts), but there was no one there. However, I saw him as plain as day. The hair on the back of my neck stood up and I had goose bumps.
> While supervising one of my tours, I was standing against the wall across from the SkyBar located on the hotel’s fourth floor when, to my left, I saw an orange-striped tabby cat at the end of the hall. I walked down to that area, looked left and right but there was no cat. I just knew it was Morris, the hotel’s orange-striped tabby cat for 21 years from 1973 to 1994 and is buried -complete with headstone- in the hotel’s East Lawn garden, was paying us another visit! (Note: a cat-like entity is often “felt” in the hotel’s lobby rubbing up against a guest’s leg or jumping into a guest’s lap right below the Morris’ memorial poem and photo.)
> One night this summer, I had a full ghost tour of 24 people seated in the entranceway of the morgue. As I stood up to make my presentation, I heard distinct footsteps in the autopsy room which was just down the short hallway from us. It sounded like someone was pacing back and forth. I had an eerie feeling that it might be a ghost and that I was the only one who was hearing the footsteps. A few seconds later as I was presenting the story of Norman Baker, I noticed that no one on the tour was listening to me; they seemed distracted. So, I paused and asked the group, “Do you hear footsteps?” They all nodded in unison.
While the Crescent’s ghost tour guides capture many stories, guests are also encouraged to submit experiential stories and photos on the “America’s Most Haunted Hotel” Facebook page. Many of these photos include orbs that paranormal theorists contend contain the energy of one or more ghosts or entities. Here is one such account:
>I captured a lot of different orbs on my phone’s camera but I had one orb, seen by my naked eye, basically like kind of attack me. It came from across the room down in the morgue and zig-zagged at me then flew behind me. It made me feel very uncomfortable, plus I got super cold. A few seconds later, it appeared again, coming from behind me, traveling back across the room straight at me. However, this second time, it stopped and was just like hovering in front of me as if it were checking me out, eventually disappearing. What they say about the morgue being (paranormally) active is true indeed.
“The best thing about our mountaintop spa resort is that it is a Historic Hotel of America best known for weddings, romance travel, and a family gathering place,” explained Bill Ott, the hotel’s director of communications. “And, oh by the way, the 1886 Crescent Hotel is also said to have ghosts or what we like to call, ‘guests who check out but never leave’. Our haunted persona is just another avenue for creating lifetime memories.”
The Crescent Hotel has made staying at the hotel just that much more THRILLING. Included in the Resort Pass and FOR GUESTS ONLY is a late-night program of Spine Chilling Tales around the fire and Late Night Horror Movies in the Crystal Dining Room.
Debbie Baxter was in Room 419 on a ghost tour in July. Her camera kept going off and taking pictures sporadically until the battery drained out. Here is one of the photos taken by her camera of interesting reflections or light anomalies on the face of the painting of Theodora.
My fiancée and I were there for the weekend and actually stayed in 419. We had no experiences in the room, however, on the 9:30pm ghost tour, it was a different story.
We were on the tour and had just made it down to the 2nd floor and were walking up to Michael’s room as the tour guide had just started telling his story. I was one of the last to meet to party so I leaned up against the wall close to the door and as soon as I leaned my shoulder into the wall, I heard “Mike” said out loud. It was said one time and in a male voice. I asked my fiancée if she had heard anything or said anything as she was close to me. She had neither heard or said anything. No one else in the group knew who I was or my name, so they would have no reason to call out to me. I got goose bumps and started sweating and just felt “weird” right after it happened. We were talking about it coming home and the same feelings hit all over again.