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Arriving at the 1886 Crescent Hotel Eureka Springs 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 palatial structure 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 landmark hotel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.

Getting to the Crescent Hotel Ghost Tour

The main thing to remember driving there is that GPS is less helpful when you’re driving in the 3rd dimension. In other words, many travelers’ GPS can’t tell if it’s on a road at the top of the mountain, or a parallel road at the bottom. Because of that, you’ll want to look carefully for street signs guiding you to America’s most haunted hotel.

The main touristy area of Eureka Springs 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 1886 Crescent hotel parking lot. Free parking is almost always pretty easy, except during major festivals.

Ample parking lot with several motorcycle parking spots at the Crescent Hotel Eureka Springs
Ample parking lot with several motorcycle parking spots at the Crescent Hotel Eureka Springs

There is also public transit available if your car isn’t brave enough to drive up the side of the mountain. For visitors staying the night at one of the Basin Park Hotel‘s guest rooms, there’s an on-demand free shuttle to the Crescent Hotel.

Welcome to the Eureka Springs Crescent Hotel

A crescent moon welcomes us

The hotel front desk where guests checked in was just to the left of the entrance, as was the crystal dining room. But you’ll actually turn right when you enter to get on the hotel elevator to the 4th floor.

Sometimes, I feel like the elevator is the first spooky attraction at the haunted hotel. It has definitely been there much longer than one lifespan. The dim light within after the dark lacquered doors close is reminiscent of The Shining. Perhaps enough to make you wish you’d hiked the many creaking stairs instead. 

Crescent Hotel Ghost Tour Review
Elevator inside the luxurious lobby, just above the 1886 Crescent Hotel Spa, New Moon Spa

Entering the Crescent is a special experience for me personally, since I used to visit so often making lifetime memories 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 Hotel at an antique road show many years ago. But most importantly, I always look for Morris’ special exit. 

An adorable mascot for a Haunted Hotel

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 hotel staff gave him a job so that he could stay. I’ve been a hard-core cat lady since birth. Many days in my childhood, I’d follow that fluffy orange tail around the hotel’s crystal dining room and lobby, until he slipped out his personal tiny exit door.

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

Nowadays, there’s a plaque in the lobby of the Crescent hotel dedicated to Morris’ lifetime memories. There’s also a sweet grave located between the back door and the swimming pool. You can read about the famous kitty while you wait to tour one of America’s most haunted hotels. Delightfully, I spotted a new fluffy black and white feline manager snoozing under a table in front of the fireplace. 

The Crescent Hotel Ghost Tour Review

Finding the ghost tour within the Crescent Hotel

Upon entering the fourth 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 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 people’s true ghost stories, yet placid and patient with questions from 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 Crescent hotel. We didn’t run into many hotel guests, but it was a Thursday evening.

Accessibility on the ghost tour of the 1886 Crescent Hotel

Before the pilgrimage started, we gathered in the sitting room to hear the history of the 1886 Crescent Hotel. 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 think most tourists would disagree. When I’m in tourist mode, I’ve been pounding the pavement constantly for multiple days. I’d like to have a seat as often as possible during the storytelling parts. That being said, the the hotel lobby carpets are padded and pretty comfortable to stand on. The elevator is very close to the stairs, so those who choose to take it won’t miss the ghost stories.

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 may be accessible bathrooms downstairs in the New Moon Spa. 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 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

Crescent Hotel History: MILD SPOILERS, but you’ll want to take the ghost tour to get the full stories

Aside from just ghost stories, we heard the whole history of this Eureka Springs lodging. We learned that the 1886 Crescent hotel was several times grander than just about every other luxury hotel in America at the time. It was built for the many guests who crowded the Victorian village in its heyday for the local spring water with mystical healing properties. But despite recently becoming a stop on the Frisco Railroad, the mountain passes entering Eureka Springs, Arkansas, were still difficult for travelers to access in the winter. Thus, the Crescent hotel had many vacancies for half of each year.

The perfect solution was to make the Crescent hotel a college during the colder months. From 1908 to 1924, it was rebranded as the Crescent College and Conservatory for Young Women (and later a junior college until 1934). And this is where we get our first ghostly tales. According to our guide, recent guests have seen the apparition of a beautiful woman whom some suspect was a scandalously pregnant student from the conservatory.

Let the true horrors begin

For a couple years in the late 1930’s, Norman Baker purchased and turned the Crescent Hotel into the Baker Cancer Curable Hospital. The new owner boasted a 100% cure rate for all cancers. The extraordinary reputation of Eureka Springs healing water helped buoy Baker’s reputation. Given the limitations of the medical field at the time, a late-stage cancer patient likely had little hope of recovery in a standard hospital. The Baker Hospital might seem like a reasonable last resort.

Unfortunately, Baker was a charlatan. He had no medical training, and purportedly gave the cancer “patients” nothing useful, not even for pain relief. Instead, he locked those nearing death away in a distant room in a separate wing to suffer into madness. 

After these poor swindled people died, a nurse would wheel them right past the new guests, down to the morgue. There on the autopsy table, their tumors would be removed, preserved in alcohol, and displayed in the lobby of the Baker Hospital as “proofs of success.” Unfortunately for many cancer patients, 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. Because Baker didn’t perform surgery…on the living.

Justice served…or was it?

Fortunately, Baker was eventually shut down and convicted. But not for fraudulently practicing medicine, 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. I’m really glad I live in the age of the internet and facial recognition software. 

After Baker went to prison in 1940, the Crescent Hotel actually stood empty for six years. But those tumors stayed on the property until at least the 1970’s. The ghost tour guide speculated that, some time after that, someone must have carelessly buried the tumors on the grounds of the hotel without reviewing the contents.

Rebuilding the 1886 Crescent Hotel

Marty and Elise Roenigk purchased the Crescent Hotel and the Basin Park Hotel in the late 1990’s. Philanthropists and preservationists, the Roenigks repaired significant damage from a 1967 fire, carefully restoring the Crescent Hotel and health resort.

Our guide told us that the previous owners weren’t too thrilled to be known as America’s most haunted hotel, and tried to downplay the spooky ghost stories. The new owner seems much more open, and now the Crescent Hotel hosts ghostly events nightly.

A gory discovery

Now, one exciting new development has occurred since my last time taking the 1886 Crescent Hotel ghost tour. In 2019, an excavation on the hotel grounds uncovered a large cache of preserved tumors.

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 Arkansas university took the well-preserved samples for study and analysis, but you’ll still see many specimens as part of the ghost tours at the Crescent hotel. 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, a macabre sight which you’ll likely only see on this official tour. 

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

Diana took 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 tried to take several burst shots in a row, a technique that allows for quick comparison and helps with noticing things that are there one moment and gone the next. You can see by comparing the photos below that nothing has significantly changed position between the two moments caught on camera. Well, nothing living, at least.

Ghost Tours in Arkansas
These photos were taken only a moment apart.

I was beyond thrilled when I saw this bizarre blur on my camera roll late that night! I’ve been on dozens of ghost tours in historic hotels in AR and around the world, and I’ve NEVER caught anything remotely paranormal on camera on a ghost hunt before. What do you think that is? Does that look like Morris the cat to you?

Ghost Tours in Arkansas
Do you see what I see in the enhanced version?

More Paranormal Things To Do at the 1886 Crescent Hotel

  • CRESCENT HOTEL Eureka Springs Paranormal Weekend: An annual 48 hour conference with a professionally-guided ghost hunt. Occurs both on January 26-28 2024 and February 2-4, 2024 this year. ESP Conference guests get discounts on guest rooms at the Crescent Hotel.
  • Overnight Paranormal Investigation Lockdown: 65 guests will be guided through a private paranormal investigation at the haunted Crescent Hotel on January 9, 2024. Over night room required.
  • Haunted Crescent Hotel Kids Ghost Tour: A mini, 45 minute, not-so-scary intro to ghost tours for children ages 5-12. Accompanying adult admission is free.

Want to see more ghost tour reviews?

Was this review of America’s most haunted hotel ghost tour helpful or interesting? Was there anything that left you wanting more? Have you taken any other good ghost tours around Eureka Springs? If you’ve been on the Crescent Hotel ghost hunt yourself (or stayed the night in a haunted room there), was this review accurate? Did you catch any ghosts (or ghost cats) on camera?

If you’re planning a haunted Ozarks road trip, there are hundreds of back episodes of our paranormal podcast to stream on your ride there. Perhaps you could start with this regional episode about Ozark folk magic. We’ve interviewed everyday people with true ghost stories about the paranormal from all over America and the world. Please drop us a comment on our Facebook page letting us know if there are other spirit tours you’d like us to review. We love an excuse for a road trip, and a spooky day!