The 1886 Crescent Hotel and Spa – Eureka Springs, Arkansas - Atlas Obscura
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Eureka Springs, Arkansas

The 1886 Crescent Hotel and Spa

Haunted hotel, built on natural springs, once served as a hospital for a quack doctor promising cancer cures. 

Perched high above the village of Eureka Springs, Arkansas, the 78-room Crescent Hotel and Spa was built in 1886 as a luxury retreat for those wishing to bathe in the healing springs of the area. Right from the start, however, tragedy seemed built into the  foundation. While under construction, an Irish stonemason identified only as “Michael” fell to his death inside the grand building.

Not long after its debut, it became financially unsustainable, and was abandoned and fell into disrepair. In 1908, it was reopened as the Crescent College and Conservatory for Young Women. It was during this time that another tragic death occurred - a young woman fell (or was pushed) to her death from one of the top-story windows. The Conservatory closed in 1924, and again, the Crescent sat abandoned.

Over the years, the Crescent was repurposed as a junior college, then a summer hotel once again. Never could any owner make a success of it.

Then, in 1937, the Crescent was purchased by Norman Baker, who turned it into a hospital and health resort and painted everything lavender and purple. There Baker, who had no medical training and had been run out of his home state of Iowa, sold cures for cancer and other ailments.

Baker, however, was much more than a harmless quack. He would only accept patients with no close family, and upon their acceptance to his sanitarium, would have them sign undated letters declaring themselves much improved and well.

Baker’s “cures” ran the spectrum from untested to downright cruel. One “treatment” consisted of drilling holes in patients’ skulls and injecting a cocktail of spring water, cornsilk, carbolic acid and ground-up watermelon seeds. He frequently practiced surgery in the basement.

One wing of the building was sealed off and named the “psychiatric ward.” There, patients who were crying out in pain would be sequestered away from prying eyes. Once the poor patients finally succumbed to either their illnesses or Baker’s treatments, he had them spirited away under cover of night (rumor has it he would take the bodies away through a secret tunnel to a local crematorium, but no such tunnel has been found).

Meanwhile, he would send the previously signed letters to whatever family the patient had. After a while, he would then send the family a sadly worded notice that their relative had passed away, and requesting a sum of money to take care of the arrangements. Baker pocketed the money, of course.

Once word began to trickle out about what was going on inside the Baker Hospital, the townsfolk reported him. After a multi-day standoff with local police and the FBI, he was finally imprisoned for fraud. Eurekans were so incensed by what had happened they broke down the doors and trashed the place, destroying records and even attempting to burn the building down.

After the Baker incident, the Crescent sat ownerless and abandoned until 1946. Ten years later, the building nearly burned to the ground. In 1997, the building was purchased by Marty and Elise Roenigk, who oversaw an expensive six-year restoration and renovation of the hotel. In 2009, Marty Roenigk died in a car accident.

Visitors over the years have reported witnessing strange goings-on in the halls and rooms of the Crescent. Room 218, where Michael fell to his death, is said to be the most haunted. Today, the hotel gives daily ghost tours. On the tours, guests visit the hotel’s basement, which was once used as the hospital’s morgue and still contains an old autopsy table.

Frequent reports of paranormal sightings—most often involving doctors, nurses, and patients of the former hospital—make this one of the most haunted hotels in the United States. Recognized by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as one of America’s Dozen Distinctive Destinations, the Crescent features 15 on-site acres of gardens and nature trails. Visitors can also enjoy the more than 100 restored Victorian restaurants, shops, and galleries in the nearby town.

Know Before You Go

The hotel is located approximately 55 miles from the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport. Leaving the airport, drive south on Airport Blvd., turn left at AR-264/Healing Springs Road, turn left at AR-112, turn right at AR-12, turn left on Highway 23N, turn left on 62 W as you enter Eureka Springs, take the first right past the high school on the historic Loop 62B and follow the look until you reach the hotel.