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Another ‘layer’ of the 1886 Crescent Hotel’s days as a hospital surfaces

April 17, 2019 Visit USA No Comments Email Email

The 1886 Crescent Hotel, well known today as being a mountaintop spa resort in the Arkansas Ozarks, was once used as a cancer curing hospital which was under the control of the hospital’s owner, charlatan Norman Baker from Muscatine, Iowa.  Baker operated his Eureka Springs’ facility from 1937 until December 1940.

Many of his “medical methods” were revealed in his brochure which was mailed out to thousands across the country boasting his miraculous cure.  Copies of that mailer are now in the hotel archives.  However, other, more hard artifacts left behind are in the part of the hotel’s basement called “the morgue” where patrons can see Baker’s autopsy table and the walk-in cooler where he kept body parts and cadavers.

Legend says that when new hotel owners, several owners removed from Baker’s days, purchased the hotel in the 1960s, numerous bottles of medical specimens and “cures” were found in the morgue area.  Supposedly, the ‘60s owners, “got rid of” all of those bottles, etc. that Baker left behind upon his arrest in December 1939.  No one ever quite knew as to where exactly those bottles had been “dumped.”

Flash ahead to February 5, 2019, when the hotel’s on-site landscape artist, Susan Benson, was instructed to expand a lower parking area near the northeast corner of the hotel’s 15 acres.  It was on that Tuesday morning at about 11:30 when a discovery was made.  There, uncovered by the first scrape of the backhoe, were, what looked like, medical style bottles. Benson immediately reached out to hotel’s manager of ghost tours, Keith Scales, that these bottles had been found.  Scales compared those few bottles so excavated with those displayed in a Baker promotional poster and they matched up perfectly.

Realizing this could be an important find, Benson and Scales contacted the hotel general manager, Jack Moyer.  Moyer went to the site to investigate and agreed that these bottles could represent a very important find for the hotel and the history of its time as a cancer hospital.  The site was secured and the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville’s Archeological Survey Team was called.

These archeologists suggested a list of critical steps of protocol before they could become involved in an archeological dig.  Those steps included calling local police who in turn were asked to inform the state crime lab and then contacting a HAZMAT team to come and investigate in order to give the “all clear,” allowing the safe extraction and handling of those historic medical bottles.

Over the next few days, the site was swarming with officials doing their investigation.  Upon artifact authenticity and safety confirmed, the Arkansas Archeological Survey Team (AAST) was so informed of those clearances and an initial visit to the site was made.  A plan for a formal archeological dig was then formulated and AAST arrived on the hotel property on April 9, 2019, to begin their investigation, extraction and examination of items so buried.

Moyer stated, “This story is fresh and ever evolving.  As more is discovered, more will be revealed.  We will keep the press and our interested patrons informed as to future elements and dynamics of this memorable discovery.”

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