Every night of the year, dozens of different people wind their way down the hallways and open, serpentine staircases of the five-story 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa, “America’s Most Haunted Hotel”. Final destination: the hotel’s “morgue”. They just know they are strolling amidst what some would say are hundreds of spirits who still frequent this Historic Hotel of America located here atop Crescent Mountain. Each tour patron is eager to see something, feel something, smell something that they would categorize as a ghostlike experience enabling them to share that close encounter with their world. However, several of those strolling along those same paranormal pathways have been there before, every night of the year. These are the stalwart souls known as the Crescent Hotel Ghost Tour Guides.
“From smelling mysterious pipe tobacco to seeing an orb entering a boy’s skull, our (ghost tour) guides are exposed nightly to the hotel’s ‘guests who check out but never leave’,” said Keith Scales, director of the hotel’s ghost tour department. “With that said, each has not only a unique ‘nom de guide’ but a special supernatural experience of their own to tell. It is their raison d’être for being a tour guide in this world-famous haunted hotel.”
Aunt Reba had always admired the Crescent since moving to Eureka Springs and had her first unexplainable happening while exploring the hotel as a tourist. The smell of cherry pipe tobacco got her attention when she reached the second floor. She did not find out until two years later during her training to be a guide that her earlier encounter with that tobacco essence had probably emanated from one of the Crescent’s more illustrious spirits, the hotel’s in-house doctor circa late nineteenth century. Dr. John Freemont Ellis, whose office was in what is now Room 212, was known for being a heavy pipe smoker of cherry tobacco.
Since then she says that she has detected “that charming aroma” occasionally, both while alone and while leading a ghost tour. The most bizarre sensing, she explained, came during a recent tour of 24 people, “We all simultaneously experienced that olfactory sensation for well over a minute. And let it be understood that our entire hotel is a ‘no smoking’ property and has been for years.”
Duchess Debra, who gives tours and performs in a two-person paranormal play, Not Really A Door, at the hotel on Friday and Saturday nights, was on stage with her co-star during a recent performance. One scene in the play has the two actors delivering the line “Ghost!” simultaneously. At that exact point in time, four books used as props on a shelf went flying out toward the audience “as if someone -or something- had tossed them like a Frisbee”. The books hit no one; however, the unpredictable, unexplainable occurrence got everyone’s attention.
Sweet Lady Sandra had one woman excitedly announce during a tour that she “clearly saw” and “emphatically heard” a man with a buzz-cut hairstyle say the words, “What about my treatment?” Two others on that same tour said they saw in their peripheral vision a blurred figure of a man go by in that same vicinity at that same moment.
Miss Katherine was standing at the very bottom of the hotel’s open staircase with her tour group pausing before they entered the zigzagging trail to the morgue. While all were standing still, Katherine experienced a chill causing her to “grow goose bumps” and then momentarily she found it hard to breathe. The two ladies standing next to her turned pale and quickly asked, “Did anyone feel that? It’s the little girl. She is here. I can feel her!” They were referring to the story of the little girl that reportedly fell to her death from the fourth floor railing sometime during the early years of hotel operations. Where she supposedly landed was the exact spot where the tour group was standing during the literal chilling experience.
To add to this story, one man said, “Oh, my. Look at this photo!”, a photo he had just taken prior to the ladies’ verbal declaration. He passed his camera around and clearly everyone could see a foggy mist in the shape of a little girl standing right next to the three women. Unfortunately he did not submit the image to the hotel’s paranormal website AmericasMostHauntedHotel.com as he said he would and as many do when they capture an apparition on a digital device.
Major Tom had a man and wife on a recent tour that had differing attitudes about the plausibility of the paranormal. She believed in the phenomena; he did not. The husband said nothing during the entire tour, giving off negative body language throughout. This was about to change.
As part of the tours’ conclusion in the morgue the lights are turned off. Guests, standing next to the autopsy table and the walk-in cooler that once stored cadavers and body parts during the cancer “curing” hospital days of the building, are encouraged to take digital photos to see if they could catch the image of an orb, the “energy essence of a ghost”. While Major Tom’s back was turned, a frightful scream was heard and all witnessed the skeptic running out of the morgue. The lights were quickly turned back on and the ashen gentleman was invited back into the room whereupon he meekly confessed he had seen an orb with his naked eye as it flew between his face and his camera. Result: the non-believer had become a believer and his wife had a great story to tell friends and family once they got back home.
Willow also had a strange morgue experience. Each guide carries an EMF (electromagnetic field) meter during the tour to detect any electrical emissions that might be given out by a nearby spirit. Reacting to one lady saying she sensed that this one certain spot on the morgue’s floor was energy filled, Willow laid her meter down on that spot. As the entire tour witnessed, the meter went crazy beeping and flashing. To follow up, Willow asked, “If there is indeed a spirit in this room, please make the meter slow down.” It slowed down immediately. After moments of heartbeat-like pulses, the spirit was asked to speed the meter back up; it did for a few more moments then went dormant.
But perhaps the most macabre-lite morgue story happened during one of Marshal John Law’s spooky sojourns through the hotel. At the very end of the tour, after the lights come up in the morgue, the guide usually asks if anyone would like to enter the morgue’s infamous walk-in cooler and have the door shut behind them leaving them in total darkness. Only two brave souls stepped up, a mother with a video camera and her 12-year-old son with a look of cautious zeal on his face. They stepped into the space that had housed hundreds of dead bodies and innumerable severed body parts during the hotel’s hospital days and the door was closed behind them. After about thirty seconds the door was opened and the boy, looking ill, staggered out from the cooler with his mother saying, “Please, move. My son is getting sick.”
The lad plopped into one of the two chairs always kept near the entrance of the morgue for just such occurrences since ever so often someone will feel faint or ill from their time spent in a room where time had ended for so many during the three years a charlatan killed rather than cured unsuspecting cancer patients. Once the mother was assured her son was okay and with the whole tour group watching, she announced, “You have to see this!” At which time she played the video she had captured in the closed, darkened cooler.
The video showed an occasional glint of colored light coming from a dot high over her son’s head illuminating his face just enough for brief recognition. One such dot did not fade like the others but began swinging back and forth. As this light did begin to fade, a larger, brighter, white light, “as bright as a camera flash”, appeared and continued to glow just above her son’s head. It slowly descended and disappeared as if it were entering his head only to suddenly reappear seemingly escaping from the boy’s skull just a nanosecond before the door opened allowing the boy to make his quick and queasy exit.
“Something as bizarre as these stories does not happen every night on every tour,” Scales concluded, “but sometimes they do happen. It is this unknown factor and these documented accounts that have made the ghost tours here in our mountaintop spa resort so popular. That is why believers and non-believers alike can enjoy and co-exist on our tours. Some come to find proof, some come to debunk, but all come to have fun. And that’s what the Crescent Hotel ghost tours are all about.”