Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Haunted Hotel

About 50 miles to the northeast of where I live is situated a very unique community. Eureka Springs, often referred to as the "Little Switzerland of the Ozarks," is a somewhat secluded municipality whose streets are lined with various types of boutiques, art galleries, museums, spas, restaurants and a diversity of interesting shops. The city's entire downtown area has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places and Eureka, as we locals often call it, clearly emanates the feel of a Victorian village due to the abundance of period homes dug into and otherwise lining the local mountainsides. As if standing watch for the rest of the community from its high vantage point on Prospect Avenue stands the 1886 Crescent Hotel and Spa, a venue that has over time, gained the reputation of being"America's Most Haunted Hotel." 

As the beginning of its name implies, the newly constructed hotel opened with a huge gala event, which took place in its Grand Ballroom, on May 20 of that year. For the first 15 years of its existence, the Crescent served as a high-end, year-round resort for the so-called "carriage set." During those first years the venue maintained a stable of about one hundred "sleek-coated horses" for the riding pleasure of its guests, according to information provided on its website.

In spite of its grandiose beginning, the establishment fell into financial difficulties and by 1908 had reopened as the Crescent College and Conservatory for Young Women. The school didn't fare any better financially than had the original hotel and by 1924, it too had been forced to shut its doors. After that the Crescent went through a number of incarnations, which included serving as a junior college and later, as a summer hotel. 

In 1937 the property was bought by a wealthy man named Norman Baker. Although known as an inventor, Baker fancied himself a doctor; this, in spite of his lack of any medical training and his having been run out of the state of Iowa for practicing medicine without a license. The Crescent's new owner, who claimed to have discovered cures for various diseases including cancer, opened the establishment as a hospital and health resort; this, primarily to heal his cancer patients and others with the promise of miraculously curing their afflictions with spring water. Eventually, federal charges were filed against him and Norman Baker spent four years in prison, leaving the Crescent closed and without an owner until new investors obtained the premises in 1946. The new ownership then set upon the task of restoring the old hotel to its original purpose and former glory. The 1886 Crescent Hotel and Spa  has remained a top-notch establishment ever since--a venue however, that is well known for sightings of ghosts and apparitions as well as strange sounds that can be heard both day and night. 

With its rich history I don't find it at all surprising that the Crescent Hotel of today is believed rife with paranormal activity. According to the website entitled America's Most Haunted Hotel,
ghost sightings include that of the Irish stonemason Michael, who fell to his death during the building's construction, Theodora, one of Norman Baker's cancer patients, a mysterious patient clothed in a white nightgown who sometimes appears in the luxury suites, and Norman Baker himself, clothed in a white suit and lavender shirt.
Of course, there are skeptics and I know lots of people who would scoff at any notion of there being ghosts, life after death or of human beings even having a spirit. Yet, the stories of paranormal activity at the Crescent Hotel persist. 

In an attempt to resolve this issue in my own mind and to give my readers something to consider, I turned to a young lady named Jordan. She is a friend and neighbor as well as a  practicing witch, who not only grew up in Eureka Springs, but has been inside the Crescent Hotel on multiple occasions. In preparation for this article, I asked her opinion about the hotel being haunted and asked if anything out of the ordinary has ever captured her attention while there. This is how she responded: 

"I'll start off by saying that whole area is buzzing with activity from the houses and land surrounding it to the Hotel itself. They are most active at night for whatever reason, but some will interact any time day or night.

"Now about the Hotel: The Grand Old Lady of the Ozarks has always been like a second home to me.
Since I first set foot in there as a little girl I have made friends with many entities. A young Irish man, an old woman, a young lady in a Victorian dress follows me around the hotel, a cat walks across my bed and a few other unidentified entities will pick on me or follow me as I walk the halls. I hear voices sometimes and the usual bumps and creeks in response to things I say. Some follow me around outside or greet me as I get out of the car.

"They are all reasonably friendly except one who keeps kicking me, pushing me and/or tripping me. That one is a man; not the Irish boy, but he's older and he doesn't like me for whatever reason."

I also asked Jordan is she would describe one of the most memorable experiences she's had at the Crescent:

"Well, there are two very memorable moments--well, three. My brother and I were quite young at this time. We were sleeping and my brother woke me up saying something was on the bed. I waited a moment and felt what seemed to be a cat walking over me. We looked and there was nothing but four indentations the size of cat feet at the foot of the bed. We also heard meowing and purring.

"Another was when I tripped down the stairs and something caught me! A strong but gentle hand grabbed my arm and pulled me back to the landing I could see the indentation where they gripped my arm and I felt a gentle tug on my jacket as they pulled me back from the edge. I said thank you and felt a pat on the shoulder. I wish I knew if anyone else witnessed this!"

The only thing I can add to Jordan's experiences at the hotel are that I trust and respect her abilities and therefore, her opinions. I have long considered her an exceptional human being. Beyond that, you the reader will have to make your own mind up as to whether you believe that the 1886 Crescent Hotel and Spa is haunted or not.

By the way, if you're ever in Northwest Arkansas you might just want to experience the Crescent Hotel yourself--and they offer nightly ghost tours!

Interesting links:

Eureka Springs, Arkansas

America's Most Haunted Hotel

The 1886 Crescent Hotel and Spa

Photo's author unknown. 


Monday, November 12, 2012

A Reminder of Our Vulnerable State

For most of yesterday, I found myself in one of the strangest but most intense head spaces I've experienced for quite awhile. The day was dark and cloudy with a rain that quickly washed away any memories of the delightfully warm weather that had existed only hours before. I was alone, but there's nothing unusual about that as most of my time is spent alone; and truth be told,, I enjoy the dark and dreary days of November. I spend a good part of the year looking forward to them and the melancholy feeling they bring to me. Yesterday was different however, and the unusual mental state that served so well to unnerve me came, not as a result of the day's bleakness, but rather, from an occurrence that took place the day before. 

On Saturday I was at my son's house playing with my granddaughter. She had just ridden her toy scooter down the street's mild slope for the length of a few houses and then turned, bringing her scooter to a stop. "Mind if I have a turn?" I asked when she returned. After she agreed, I carried the scooter a couple of houses up the incline, jumped on and let her rip. 

In what seemed like no time at all my tiny vehicle had accelerated to a fairly rapid pace and I found myself moving rapidly moving away from my starting point. To avert any further movement away from the house, I attempted to make a wide turn. The next thing I remember was sitting on my son's porch; people were gathered around me and my daughter in law was applying an ice pack just above my right eye, where I had a very deep gash. "You need to go to the hospital," she told me. At first I objected, but was quickly convinced that I had to have stitches. All in all, I suffered a concussion, got several stitches near my eye, pulled the muscles in my right arm and chipped a tooth. To say that I got a black eye would be an understatement, and today, I'm slowly working my right arm back to usefulness. Oh, and did I say that I'm sore? 

Just a night or two before my avoidable accident, I had watched a film entitled Hereafter. Produced by Clint Eastwood, the movie explored a French TV anchorwoman's near-death experience and her boyfriend's refusal to give her experience any credence. "I just think that when we die the lights go out," he told her, "it's into the void of nothingness." Of course, I didn't die before being resuscitated as had the lady in the film but. still, I had never been knocked unconscious before, and the stories of neighbors coming out of their houses to check on me as well as my walk back to the porch draws a blank. As I attempt to put it all into perspective, I'm reminded of the boyfriend's contention in the film. For a few moments on Saturday I had truly entered a void of nothingness. 

As I sat in the quiet of my cottage yesterday, I contemplated these questions about life and death. As a magical person, I've had other experiences that have led me to believe that there is much more going on than what we ordinarily meets the eye. So, why was I doubting everything yesterday? Additionally, I thought about my country's refusal to implement a sensible universal healthcare program, which as in other nations, would spare people like me from crippling medical expenses should an accident or sickness occur. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I pondered both human and my own vulnerability--how fragile our bodies, minds and spirits really are. In spite of my best efforts to get back into a more normal state of mind yesterday, which included watching the first episode of The Walking Dead, I simply couldn't escape the dark cloud that had overtaken me.. 

We all like to think about ourselves as strong people who create our own realities and are able to overcome any adversity. We like to wear our uniforms proclaiming to the world that we are Goth, members of some other elite group or otherwise, super cool in some way. Still, when the chips are down, we are all fragile, vulnerable human beings living in a world that is as as turbulent as the sea in a North Alantic storm. And when reality occasionally slaps us on the head, we react like all other human beings--with fear and uncertainty. 

Of course, my experience could have been much worse, and many people have gone through far worse than I ever have. Still, Saturday's experience gave me a moment of pause. We are all fragile and vulnerable beings, whose lives, hopes and dreams can be changed significantly within a matter of seconds--and Saturday served as a potent reminder to me.  

Photo source: Gothic Pictures Gallery
Author unknown. .      

Friday, November 9, 2012

Saga of the Combat Boots: The Finale

Right about now I can imagine the reader's reaction to seeing another post here about my combat boots. "Oh no," he or she is probably saying, "not more about those danged boots!" 

Well here's the thing folks, this entry is not about those boots; you know, the ones that I purchased several weeks ago and which were about three sizes too big. You're viewing a different pair. Here's what happened. 

Just before Halloween I walked into my favorite resale shop as a part of my perpetual search for appropriate clothing and I saw this pair occupying the same space where I had found the other ones. Looking them over, I quickly ascertained that they were a size ten and one half--an exact fit. I quickly tried them on and was delighted to find that they had a zipper on the side, which made putting them on and taking them off a true delight compared to the others. There was plenty of room for my feet without any need for concern about slippage.   

While checking them out the same store clerk who left open the possibility of a swap was passing by. I mentioned my new find to him and remembering his kind offer from a few weeks previously, he suggested that I bring in the old pair and we would just trade out. First thing the next morning, I was there to claim my comfortable new combat boots. I need not worry about friction burns or wearing three pair of socks with them--and I got them for the low price of $15.00 What a deal! And on this note, I'm very happy to report that this blog's Saga of the Combat Boots has come to an end.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Post Halloween Blues

Well, another Halloween has come and gone and I find myself going through the motions during the short limbo that is situated between All Hallows Eve and the beginning of the holiday season. It's a time during which October's bright autumn colors, although not completely faded, begin to take on more of a brownish hue--their November look, as I like to call it.

Once Halloween passes, I attempt to hold on to it a bit longer by embracing the Mexican Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead, which actually includes both November 1 and 2. Still, these two days and nights pass by quickly as well, and I am soon faced with a dreadful but inevitable truth: The autumnal celebrations of the macabre have truly passed for another year. Still, the vampire Lestat, whom I rescued from the local Halloween Express recently, has now come inside to join forces with some of my other spooky acquaintances in an ever-growing group effort to give my humble abode the feel of Halloween all year round; so all is not lost.

Due perhaps, to both the passing of another Halloween and some personal issues, I'm in a bit of a creative lull right now and am coming up with a blank in terms of what to cover in future blog posts. Still, when I get it all figured out you'll all be the first to know. 

Photo Source: Gothic Pictures Gallery.
Artist unknown