Old creepy hotels are well … old. That was my first brilliant observation as my brother and I lugged our stuff from the parking lot up the front steps into the Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. The entrance doorknob was about six inches lower than a normal doorknob. At 5 foot 7 inches, I had to stoop to open the door. With my hands filled with two bags, my oversized purse, and my laptop, the maneuver was awkward and uncomfortable. Much like the rest of my stay in the Victorian hotel.
Old creepy hotels in the South in July are well … hot. Swelteringly hot. The Crescent Hotel has window air conditioning units in the guest rooms but the rest of the hotel is dependent on ceiling fans and cold spots created by ghosts.
First let me report that I didn't see any ghosts. I don't think I heard any ghosts. And I probably didn't sense any ghosts. You'll note that I'm a lot more definite about not seeing any manifestations, orbs, or unusual shadows.
We went on the Ghost Tour on Tuesday night, our second night, at the hotel. Starting at 8:00 P.M. a psychic with an intricate knowledge of the hotel's history led a group of twenty or more through the hallways and basement of the 1886 Victorian hotel.
Originally a resort hotel, it later became a women's college and dormitory, then a cancer clinic run by a charlatan, and again a hotel. Aside from a stone mason killed in an accident during construction and a young student who went off a balcony to her death, most of the reported ghost sightings involve patients from the hotel's infamous cancer hospital days. Dr. Baker, a self proclaimed physician despite no medical training, cruelly butchered, through experimental surgeries and treatments, and generally swindled thousands of cancer victims. Many are buried or cremated on site. Check here for more details about the hotel's history and ghost sightings.
The tour lasted more than two hours. I had plenty of time to watch for ghosts and to watch the people in the group watching for ghosts. By far the people watching was the most interesting. The demographics of the tour group ranged from 2 to 70-plus years in age, from male to female to uncommitted. All were busy with digital cameras trying to catch a spirit appearance. The two-year-old did a lot of running and screaming down the hallways. I had a feeling that if a ghost had shown up, the toddler would have had company.
My brother took over a hundred photos, one that showed a possible orb (a spirit with only enough energy to appear as a ball of light in photos). Or it might just have been the sun through the skylight.
And one that showed something we couldn't identify. He took several photos of empty chairs in spots where ghosts were reported to hang out. In the photos as in real life, the chairs appeared empty.
Personally I think the ghosts were absent because of the heat. It felt like a 110 F in the non-air conditioned lobby and hallways. What self-respecting ghost would choose to suffer those temps when they could be out in the gardens or the pool scaring humans?
Okay – so I didn't see any ghosts on this trip. And I mentioned above that I don't think I heard any ghosts. The reason I'm not as sure about the audio encounters is that between the organic noises of the old building (banging elevator, creaking floors, unbalanced ceiling fans, sounds from substandard plumbing, noisy window air conditioner units turned to the "freeze please" setting, etc.) and the loud voices of flesh and blood guests who'd spent too much time in the bar, I wouldn't have been able to hear a ghostly whisper, moan, or groan if my life depended on it.
Okay – the first night I might have heard metal gurneys from the 1930s being pushed back and forth in the hallways. Or more likely, I heard the sounds of living guests pulling their wheeled suitcases over the wooden floors. I had a digital audio recorder with me. And like the investigators on Ghost Hunters, I had planned to sit in my empty room, turn the recorder on, and then ask if any ghosts wanted to talk to me. But … I kept thinking, what if they did? What would I do if I asked a question and got an answer? How would I react? My world view would be changed. My religious beliefs would be challenged. And most importantly, I would have had to pack up and find a Holiday Inn in the middle of the night. I decided it was better to leave the recorder in my purse.
So no visuals. No sounds. What about sensing ghosts?
When I was in the basement (the location of the old operating and autopsy rooms) with the tour group, the keys I had in the pocket of my slacks, moved.
It felt like someone had passed a magnet by my hip and the metal hotel key and metal fob clanked together and moved away from my body. It was a strong enough sensation that I asked the tour guide if there were magnets in the area. He said, "No. Ghosts like to play tricks with keys." He told me that I'd been "touched."
I'm not so sure. I'm a born skeptic. But I admit the possibility forced me to sleep with a light on my last night at the hotel.
Will I go back? Probably not. At least not in the summertime. Maybe Halloween?
Even though I didn't leave with concrete proof of ghosts, I did leave with a good story. For a writer, that's all that matters.