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.