Throughout the decades, members of Historic Hotels of America have celebrated re-openings of such hotel facilities as their restaurant, lounge, spa, etc., but only one HHA member has ever made plans to re-open their “morgue”. Now, just in time for Halloween, the 1886 Crescent Hotel and Spa, located in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, will celebrate the re-opening of its “morgue” throughout the month of October.
“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 history of the Crescent includes years when it was something other than a hotel. For example, from 1908 to 1934 the hotel -in the non-summer months- was used as The Crescent College & Conservatory for Young Women. The depression caused the college and the hotel to close its doors but in 1934. However, thanks to “the man from Muscatine”, the Crescent re-swung her doors open to much fanfare in 1937.
In July of 1937, an established nemesis of the American Medical Association, Norman Baker of Muscatine Iowa, began his boldest undertaking of his greedy, imaginative career: The Baker Cancer Curing Hospital, “Where Sick Folks Get Well”, located in a familiar five-story limestone structure that sat high in The Ozark Mountains above a community known the world over for its miraculous stories of healing. No longer did guests come to this building for vacation lodging. Instead, for the next three years, it would be patients who would come to this one-time resort for a “promised” cure from their debilitating cancer only to find pain, suffering, loss of life savings, and often loss of life. These were the unkept promises of a charlatan in saint’s clothing.
“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.”
From the time of Baker’s arrest in late 1939 on charges of mail fraud followed by his conviction in January 1940, the Crescent’s morgue would sit dormant being used only for some storage by the parade of hotel owners and operators from 1946 to 1997. A Crescent Hotel renaissance began 1997 when Marty and Elise Roenigk purchased the property. They invested the time, love and dollars to return “The Grand Ol’ Lady of The Ozarks” to her nineteenth century grandeur.
“Prior to the Roenigks’ purchase, hotel owners would often hear reports of paranormal activity but put the kibosh on the public repeating of these stories thinking it would hurt occupancy. The Roenigks took the attitude that if ghosts were a part of the history of this historic hotel, why shouldn’t those stories be told,” Ott noted, “and the Crescent Hotel Ghost Tours were born.”
“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,” continued 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.”
The enhancement of the focal point of “America’s most haunted hotel” includes placards and photos -dramatically illuminated- telling the Baker story; inclusion of a wheelchair from the Baker Hospital as well as other 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 The Atlantic Paranormal Society (TAPS) in a Syfy Network “Ghost Hunters” feature episode. For it was in front of the “2” emblazoned locker that TAPS captured a full-bodied apparition on their thermal imaging camera, something they called “the holy grail of ghost hunting”.
“With the grand re-opening of our ‘morgue’,” Moyer concluded, “our guests and ghost tour patrons will have a brand-new experience in a grand ol’ Historic Hotel of America.”
For more information regarding the morgue and other paranormal facts surrounding the 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa, one should go to americasmosthauntedhotel.com.