The following is a guest blog from Wil Elrick about our 2020 trip to Eureka Springs, Ark.
By Wil Elrick
I often wonder if I am the only person that can be having an ordinary everyday conversation and have it routinely delve into talk of the paranormal, cryptozoology or some other cosmic weirdness. It happens in the most unexpected places too. Yesterday during a business meeting for my day job, the conversation somehow turned into a conversation of ghosts and, more particularly, haunted hotels. Just a random conversation and then – BAM! – ghost talk. The opinions different people had of the same hotel was quite interesting. Yesterday’s meeting reminded me of a story I wanted to share with you in readerland about the visit Kelly and I made to “America’s most haunted hotel”, the Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
You know a hotel has a unique history when the hotel’s own website raves on and on about its ghosts (notice I used ghost in the plural.) It isn’t just the website that promotes the ghostly goings on at this hotel. The hotel can be found on basically every list of most haunted places or “paranormal hunting” show. Needless to say, this reputation played a very big part in our decision to visit this establishment, and it did not disappoint.
I absolutely loved the town of Eureka Springs, but I have to say it is a little creepy. The atmosphere, the history, the mountains and the general cramped feeling that I get in mountain towns all come together to give the town a tinge of creepiness. Then there is the drive up the twisting road to the get to the hotel which overlooks the town. We happened to arrive near dusk and the narrow road winding through the reaching trees does its own part to unsettle you before you reach your destination and then, the gray stone structure looming over you, judging your worthiness to enter. You may take that as poetic prose, but I assure you that as much as were looking and deciding about the hotel, it was looking and deciding about us. If a hotel ever looked haunted, this one looks haunted.
Checking in was wonderful with a super friendly staff (even in the time of Covid) with no mention of ghosts… until they tell you about the on-site ghost tour. Taking the ghost walk is an integral part of visiting this supernatural icon. Traversing to our room and exploring the wonderful historical pieces the hotel is itself a little unsettling, which I am sure is somewhat by design.
The building is old, dating back more than 130 years and made from rough-cut square stone and very old wood in a French Renaissance and Richardsonian Romanesque style. The creeks are plentiful, the give and bounce in the floor makes one feel like walking in ancient territory, the structure and its components make weird noises, it does all the things that one imagines a spooky haunted castle does. It has atmosphere and, after all, that’s why we’re here visiting. Being the “most haunted hotel in America,” it needs to live up to its reputation.
Having a ghost walk on your hotel grounds in one thing, and they have some great tales to tell. It is an entirely other feeling when every time you leave your room to explore the grounds the getting something from the car and upon your return you encounter one of the ghost walk groups stopped at your room. I would stand back and let them finish their story and move on before entering and when the ghost tourists would see me enter, they would look as if I had just signed my own death warrant, or a look of whimsy, mentally wishing they were staying in that room. For those that are visiting for the paranormal experience, this hotel is everything you could want it to be and more.
On the other hand. No matter how spooky something is, spookiness alone won’t attract the business needed for an operation as large as The Crescent, which means the stately resort has a second persona than the one mentioned above. It’s an upscale resort featuring world-class restaurants and a spa that is to die for. There is a sporting club on the grounds and a luxurious warm pool, not to mention all the family friendly activities. Each year, tons of people get married on the famed acreage of what was once the “finest hotel west of the Mississippi” with no paranormal problems.
People who aren’t interested in the weird, unusual or paranormal, may not even know that the hotel they are staying at has any type of spookiness. Most soon-to-be-brides probably do not look around the grounds inquiring the sales staff about ghosts and curses (I said “most” because I know there are some that do). During my visit I talked with another guest who truly had no idea that the hotel was supposed to be haunted and actually said to me “that’s why they have the ghost walk I suppose.” So remember, the difference between weird and normal can simply be a blink of the eye.