Getting to the ghost tour

Arriving at the Crescent always has a delightfully spooky feeling to it. It is reminiscent of the haunted house movies from my childhood. You’re driving through a quiet wooded neighborhood of quaint victorian cottages; gingerbread details lovingly restored and painted in bright Victorian colors. Through the trees, the Crescent reveals itself floor-by-floor from the ground up. This is a review of the ghost tour which takes place entirely within the grounds of the historic Crescent Hotel.

The main thing to remember driving there is that GPS is less helpful when you’re driving in the 3rd dimension. Because of that, you’ll want to look carefully for street signs. The main touristy area of town is along Spring street, which you’ll take out of town to the northeast. Make a right at the post office to stay on Spring. Turn left on steep Howell at the bottom of the hill, then keep heading uphill. Turn right at the stop sign on Prospect, which you’ll stay on until you arrive at the hotel parking lot. Parking is almost always pretty easy. There is also public transit available if your car isn’t brave enough to drive up the side of the mountain. 

A crescent moon welcomes us

Welcome to the Crescent Hotel

The front desk is just to the left of the entrance. But you’ll actually turn right when you enter to get on the elevator to the 4th floor for the tour. Sometimes I think the elevator is the first part of the spooky attraction. It has definitely been there much longer than one lifespan. The dim light after the dark lacquered doors close is reminiscent of The Shining. Perhaps enough to make you wish you’d hiked the stairs instead. 

Entering the Crescent is a special experience for me personally, since I visited so many times in my childhood. I still see each detail with a glint of the fantasy it imbued to my younger self. In front of the enormous fireplace sits the EXACT antique brass fireplace screen I grew up with in my home. Seriously. My mom sold it to the Crescent at an antique road show many years ago. But most importantly, I always look for Morris’ exit. 

An adorable mascot

Morris was an assistant manager that worked at the hotel during the 1990’s. He wasn’t supposed to be there, given that he was a cat, but the staff gave him a job so that he could stay. I’ve been a cat lady since birth. Many days in my childhood I’d follow that fluffy orange tail around until he slipped out his tiny exit door. Nowadays, there’s a plaque in the lobby dedicated to Morris’ memory. You can read it while you wait for your tour to begin. Delightfully, I spotted a new feline manager snoozing under a table in front of the fireplace. 

Diana, age 6, with Morris the manager
Diana, age 6, with Morris the manager

The Crescent Hotel Ghost Tour Review

Finding the ghost tour

Upon entering the 4th floor corridor, turn left and head past the bar. You’re going to a little sitting room on your left, where they’ll take your tickets. In that room, you’ll meet your tour guide. Our guide was a serene, slight young woman with a wide-brimmed hat, reminiscent of a cheerier Lydia Deetz in technicolor. She was the perfect combination of animated and excited telling stories, yet placid and patient with questions from tour participants. She spoke loud enough to hear perfectly. Plus, she waited until everyone could see her before starting each new story as we made our way through the hotel. We didn’t run into many hotel guests, but it was a Thursday evening.

Accessibility on this ghost tour

Before the tour started, we gathered in the sitting room to hear the history of the building. Maybe I’m getting old, but I love sitting comfortably for the backstory. Some tours seem to think it’s a great idea to stand for 2 hours straight. I’m a tourist—I’ve been pounding the pavement constantly for multiple days. The hotel carpets are pretty comfortable to stand on, and the elevator is very close to the stairs.

The main bathroom is around the corner from the staircase, but it’s a tight squeeze. You may want to ask ahead about other options if you have a chair. There is also a ramp up to the front door which isn’t too steep. The place was built a century ago, so you can expect some narrow hallways. The tour group doesn’t really go through any narrow doorways. Watch your head in the morgue, where the ceilings are low and the lighting is dim. 

Diana in the morgue
Body cooler in the morgue

Site History: MILD SPOILERS, but you’ll want to take the haunted tour to get the full stories

We learned that The Crescent hotel was several times grander than most luxury hotels of its time. It was built for the many visitors who crowded the town in its heyday for the local spring water with mystical healing properties. But because the mountain passes were difficult to access in the winter, the hotel had vacancies for half of each year. The perfect solution was to make the hotel a conservatory for young ladies during the colder months. And this is where we get our first ghost…or two? 

Crescent Hotel Ghost Tour Review
Inside the Crescent Hotel’s luxurious lobby

Let the true horrors begin

For a couple years in the late 1930’s, Norman Baker turned the hotel into the Baker Cancer Curable Hospital. Given the reputation of the local healing spring water, and the limitations of the medical field at the time, this might seem like a reasonable place for people who had no hope of recovery in a standard hospital to make their last stand. The new owner boasted a 100% cure rate for all cancers, but he was a charlatan. He gave the “patients” nothing useful, not even for pain relief. Instead, he locked those nearing death away in a separate wing to suffer into madness. 

A mysterious photograph

The entrance to this death wing is also where we snapped this picture of something that we didn’t see until examining the photographs later. I snapped photos every time the tour guide pointed out another location where previous guests had spotted a spirit. I was beyond excited when I saw this bizarre blur on my camera roll late that night! I’ve been on dozens of ghost tours (and yes, more ghost tour reviews are coming!), and I’ve NEVER caught anything remotely paranormal on camera before. What do you think that is? Does that look like Morris to you?

Ghost Tours in Arkansas
These photos were taken only a moment apart.
Ghost Tours in Arkansas
Do you see what I see in the enhanced version?

After these poor swindled people died, a nurse would wheel them right past the new guests, down to the morgue. There, their tumors would be removed, preserved in alcohol, and displayed in the lobby. Unfortunately, the general public knew so little about medicine and anatomy at the time, that the excised tumors were used as proof that cancer was being cured without surgery.

Justice served…or was it?

Fortunately, Baker was eventually shut down and convicted. But not for his fraudulent medical practices, only for mail fraud, so the sentence was a pittance. Apparently, the same charlatan committed the same atrocities in other towns as well. Nobody was able to make the connections until it was far too late. Man, sometimes I’m really glad I live in the age of the internet and facial recognition software. 

A gory discovery

Now, one exciting new development has occurred since my last time taking this tour. In 2019, a gardener discovered a large cache of these preserved tumors. The ghost tour guide speculated that the hotel’s subsequent owners, rumored to be mafiosos, carelessly buried the tumors without reviewing the contents. Because of the alcohol preservation techniques and the haphazard disposal, some of the specimens were pretty useless by their unearthing, seventy years later. A local university took the well-preserved samples for study and analysis. But the hotel still owns hundreds of bottles of shriveled human tissue, etc. These are displayed in the morgue for your morbid inspection. Because yes, the hotel does indeed still have a morgue below the kitchens and honeymoon suites, which you’ll likely only see on this official tour. 

Ghost Tours in Arkansas
How DID they get those tumors out without surgery?

…sweet dreams!

Want to see more ghost tour reviews?

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