Day Trippin: A haunted time at Eureka Springs

If one is searching for a Steven King-like experience this Halloween season, a three hour jaunt down south on Highway 65 will provide just that.   CRESCENT HOTEL PHOTO

Regardless of the time of year, it is definitely worth the drive to Arkansas to visit Eureka Springs but especially during the haunted month of October, the town takes on a spooky appeal.

If one is searching for a Steven King-like experience this Halloween season, a three-hour jaunt down south on Highway 65 will provide just that.

Eureka Springs, normally a charming, quaint, turn of the century getaway for historical explorers and sweethearts alike, takes a sinister turn when searching for the supernatural. It is considered to be one of the most haunted towns in America.

With a Swiss Village feel nestled into the Ozark hills, the Victorian homes and buildings of the historic district are all built above natural springs. The springs trickle under the town, as one can hear the waters, and sometimes view them underneath grates in the sidewalks. Founded in 1879, Eureka Springs historical buildings hold some interesting stories, as well as many paranormal experiences for visitors.

The Crescent Hotel, looming high above the village is listed as one of America’s most famous haunted destinations. The Crescent is a true overnight spooktacular experience akin to the Overlook Hotel from Steven King’s book “The Shining.” Ghost tours abound in Eureka Springs for good reason, and The Crescent Hotel is one of the included stops on many tours.

The 1886 Crescent Hotel and Spa sits high above the town and features 72 rooms in a grand, sprawling complex of upscale rooms, suites, and guest cottages. It boasts the grand Crystal Dining Room and 15 acres of manicured gardens. Back in its heyday, it was the place to be with grand balls, luxurious dinners seating 400, 18-foot ceilings, and chandeliers. Tea parties and great feasts accompanied by live orchestras were the norms of the day, and outdoors opulently dressed guests played tennis and croquet. Old traditions continue with the hotel hosting the Mad Hatter’s Ball in October, Food and Wine Dinners, and the Silver Tea. Updates to The Crescent in modern-day have not chased away the spirit of the 1900s era, however, and at night, the hotel takes on a different persona.

With a haunting reported in almost every room of the lodging, it is known as one of the most haunted hotels in the US. The reason for the staggering amount of paranormal encounters was recently unearthed in the hotel site’s history, formerly housing the Baker Cancer Curable Hospital. The Baker Burial site on the grounds is one of the creepiest aspects of the beautiful hotel. Included in the Crescent’s own ghost tour, the Baker Burial Site, the remains of the hospital dump, was recently discovered in February 2019. The Baker Cancer Curable Hospital was found to have been located at the site, due to an archeological dig that followed. The original experimentation morgue is situated in the hotel’s basement and is complete with displays of hospital founder and notorious quack “Doctor” Norman Baker’s macabre collection of specimens and devices, original to the dig site. Tours regularly sell out, so get booking now!

You don’t have to take their tour, however, to experience spooky happenings at the Crescent Hotel, just book a room and stay the night, if you can. A four-year-old sickly boy photobombs visitors snapshots, an 80-year-old woman tries to find her key in front of Room 419, a wedding couple in the kitchen, and Room 218, the site of a hotel construction workers demise from an accident are the most active spirits at The Crescent. “Michael” the spectre that inhabits Room 218 is mostly a trickster, but sometimes his shenanigans turn scary, with guests fleeing the room.

If all of these activities are too scary for you, there is a child-friendly activity that is sure to be fun for the whole family. Flickering Tales at the Crescent Outdoor Theater gathers guests around the firepit behind the swimming pool. Scary tales of the Ozark hills are told by costumed tour guides with some humor included. The Flickering Tales are told every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night at 10 pm through November 14th. Tickets are sold in the hotel lobby, where guests meet up with a tour guide.

The Catacombs or underground tunnels of Eureka Springs gives visitors a creepy experience into the hidden springs running under the town. Entering at the courthouse, it's a ¼ mile stroll in the tunnels, ending at one of the most intriguing locations, nicknamed the Catacombs under the old Dr. Ellis building. On the Underground Eureka tour, guests meet at Basin Springs Park for a 75-minute tour. The eerie hike underground affords ghost hunters to experience the history of Eureka Springs from wild west days, where famous outlaws would hide out, brothels and still operated, and bank robbers would stash treasure, through the times of health seekers swarming to the town for the health benefits of the springs. Entry to the stone and stalactite lined walls of the catacombs is uniquely accessed through a hidden passage bookshelf door, where one begins the search for interactions with ghostly doctors and their patients, who were rumored to be stashed hereafter treatments went wrong. Speakeasies were located in the underground tunnels, and tour guides report frequent interactions with a ghostly man in a suit, and Osage Indian woman, doors opening and closing on their own, and detached voices from nowhere,

There are quite a few different tour companies offering to take guests into the catacombs for a fee.