Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Ghost experiences revealed by 1886 Crescent Hotel tour guides

The following is a collection of paranormal accounts from the tour guides of the 1886 Crescent Hotel of Eureka Springs, Arkansas, known as the most haunted hotel in America. Printed by permission.

            Every night of the year, dozens of different people wind their way down the hallways and open, serpentine staircases of the five-story 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa, “America’s Most Haunted Hotel.” Final destination: the hotel’s “morgue.” They just know they are strolling amidst what some would say are hundreds of spirits who still frequent this Historic Hotel of America located here atop Crescent Mountain. Each tour patron is eager to see something, feel something, smell something that they would categorize as a ghostlike experience enabling them to share that close encounter with their world. However, several of those strolling along those same paranormal pathways have been there before, every night of the year. These are the stalwart souls known as the Crescent Hotel Ghost Tour guides.
            “From smelling mysterious pipe tobacco to seeing an orb entering a boy’s skull, our (ghost tour) guides are exposed nightly to the hotel’s ‘guests who check out but never leave’,” said Keith Scales, director of the hotel’s ghost tour department. “With that said, each has not only a unique ‘nom de guide’ but a special supernatural experience of their own to tell. It is their raison d’être for being a tour guide in this world-famous haunted hotel.”
            Aunt Reba had always admired the Crescent since moving to Eureka Springs and had her first unexplainable happening while exploring the hotel as a tourist. The smell of cherry pipe tobacco got her attention when she reached the second floor. She did not find out until two years later during her training to be a guide that her earlier encounter with that tobacco essence had probably emanated from one of the Crescent’s more illustrious spirits, the hotel’s in-house doctor circa late nineteenth century. Dr. John Freemont Ellis, whose office was in what is now Room 212, was known for being a heavy pipe smoker of cherry tobacco.
            Since then she says that she has detected “that charming aroma” occasionally, both while alone and while leading a ghost tour. The most bizarre sensing, she explained, came during a recent tour of 24 people, “We all simultaneously experienced that olfactory sensation for well over a minute. And let it be understood that our entire hotel is a ‘no smoking’ property and has been for years.”
            Duchess Debra, who gives tours and performs in a two-person paranormal play, Not Really A Door, at the hotel on Friday and Saturday nights, was on stage with her co-star during a recent performance. One scene in the play has the two actors delivering the line “Ghost!” simultaneously. At that exact point in time, four books used as props on a shelf went flying out toward the audience “as if someone -or something- had tossed them like a Frisbee”. The books hit no one; however, the unpredictable, unexplainable occurrence got everyone’s attention.
            Sweet Lady Sandra had one woman excitedly announce during a tour that she “clearly saw” and “emphatically heard” a man with a buzz-cut hairstyle say the words, “What about my treatment?” Two others on that same tour said they saw in their peripheral vision a blurred figure of a man go by in that same vicinity at that same moment.
            Miss Katherine was standing at the very bottom of the hotel’s open staircase with her tour group pausing before they entered the zigzagging trail to the morgue. While all were standing still, Katherine experienced a chill causing her to “grow goose bumps” and then momentarily she found it hard to breathe. The two ladies standing next to her turned pale and quickly asked, “Did anyone feel that? It’s the little girl. She is here. I can feel her!” They were referring to the story of the little girl that reportedly fell to her death from the fourth floor railing sometime during the early years of hotel operations. Where she supposedly landed was the exact spot where the tour group was standing during the literal chilling experience.
            To add to this story, one man said, “Oh, my. Look at this photo!”, a photo he had just taken prior to the ladies’ verbal declaration. He passed his camera around and clearly everyone could see a foggy mist in the shape of a little girl standing right next to the three women. Unfortunately he did not submit the image to the hotel’s paranormal website AmericasMostHauntedHotel.com as he said he would and as many do when they capture an apparition on a digital device.
            Major Tom had a man and wife on a recent tour that had differing attitudes about the plausibility of the paranormal. She believed in the phenomena; he did not. The husband said nothing during the entire tour, giving off negative body language throughout. This was about to change.
            As part of the tours’ conclusion in the morgue the lights are turned off. Guests, standing next to the autopsy table and the walk-in cooler that once stored cadavers and body parts during the cancer “curing” hospital days of the building, are encouraged to take digital photos to see if they could catch the image of an orb, the “energy essence of a ghost”. While Major Tom’s back was turned, a frightful scream was heard and all witnessed the skeptic running out of the morgue. The lights were quickly turned back on and the ashen gentleman was invited back into the room whereupon he meekly confessed he had seen an orb with his naked eye as it flew between his face and his camera. Result: the non-believer had become a believer and his wife had a great story to tell friends and family once they got back home.
            Willow also had a strange morgue experience. Each guide carries an EMF (electromagnetic field) meter during the tour to detect any electrical emissions that might be given out by a nearby spirit. Reacting to one lady saying she sensed that this one certain spot on the morgue’s floor was energy filled, Willow laid her meter down on that spot. As the entire tour witnessed, the meter went crazy beeping and flashing. To follow up, Willow asked, “If there is indeed a spirit in this room, please make the meter slow down.” It slowed down immediately. After moments of heartbeat-like pulses, the spirit was asked to speed the meter back up; it did for a few more moments then went dormant.
            But perhaps the most macabre morgue story happened during one of Marshal John Law’s spooky sojourns through the hotel. At the very end of the tour, after the lights come up in the morgue, the guide usually asks if anyone would like to enter the morgue’s infamous walk-in cooler and have the door shut behind them leaving them in total darkness. Only two brave souls stepped up, a mother with a video camera and her 12-year-old son with a look of cautious zeal on his face. They stepped into the space that had housed hundreds of dead bodies and innumerable severed body parts during the hotel’s hospital days and the door was closed behind them. After about thirty seconds the door was opened and the boy, looking ill, staggered out from the cooler with his mother saying, “Please, move. My son is getting sick.”
       The lad plopped into one of the two chairs always kept near the entrance of the morgue for just such occurrences since ever so often someone will feel faint or ill from their time spent in a room where time had ended for so many during the three years a charlatan killed rather than cured unsuspecting cancer patients. Once the mother was assured her son was okay and with the whole tour group watching, she announced, “You have to see this!” At which time she played the video she had captured in the closed, darkened cooler.
            The video showed an occasional glint of colored light coming from a dot high over her son’s head illuminating his face just enough for brief recognition. One such dot did not fade like the others but began swinging back and forth. As this light did begin to fade, a larger, brighter, white light, “as bright as a camera flash”, appeared and continued to glow just above her son’s head. It slowly descended and disappeared as if it were entering his head only to suddenly reappear seemingly escaping from the boy’s skull just a nanosecond before the door opened allowing the boy to make his quick and queasy exit.
            “Something as bizarre as these stories does not happen every night on every tour,” Scales concluded, “but sometimes they do happen. It is this unknown factor and these documented accounts that have made the ghost tours here in our mountaintop spa resort so popular. That is why believers and non-believers alike can enjoy and co-exist on our tours. Some come to find proof, some come to debunk, but all come to have fun. And that’s what the Crescent Hotel ghost tours are all about.”
             Want more stories? Click here. For ghost tours of the 1886 Crescent Hotel, click here.
Crescent Hotel Morgue
1886 Crescent Hotel Becomes More “Intriguing” On Halloween Night
            Sean-Paul and Juliane Fay, the headliners of Intrigue Theater, will return for the third consecutive year to this 1886 Crescent Hotel’s Crystal Ballroom on Friday, Oct. 31. The two-hour performance begins at 10 p.m. with seating at 9:30 p.m.
      The performance opens with illusionist Sean-Paul opening his antiquarian doctor’s bag and sharing some of the newest mysteries from Intrigue Theater, followed by medium Juliane Fay, who will call upon the energies of the spirits said to be residing in the hotel during a séance. Randomly selected members of the audience will be invited to the stage and a seat at the séance table to assist in reaching back to and communicating with “those who have crossed over.”
            Past performances have been sold out so those interested in attending should reserve tickets early. It is an adjunct to the numerous Crescent Hotel ghost tours that will be conducted day and night on Halloween. Tickets for both the ghost tours and the Halloween Intrigue performance may be purchased online at ReserveEureka.com and IntrigueTheater.com, respectively.
            The 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa, at 75 Prospect Avenue on Eureka Springs’ Historic Loop, is a proud member of Historic Hotels of America.

Cheré Coen is an award-winning travel writer specializing in the Deep South. She is the author of "Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History," "Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana" and "Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana" and co-author of "Magic's in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets." She also writes Louisiana romances under Cherie Claire, including "A Cajun Dream" and "The Letter." Write her at cherecoen@gmail.com.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Gold and ghosts to be found in Dahlonega, Georgia

            I love a good ghost story so imagine my joy upon learning that Dahlonega, Georgia, has more than it’s fair share.
            We’re talking way more.           
            The town dates back to the Cherokees, who settled in northern Georgia’s rolling hills, mountains and peaceful streams and lakes. When gold was discovered in 1828, however, the area exploded with early American settlers who pushed the Native Americans west. With its newfound prosperity to early European-American settlers, Dahlonega became the site of a courthouse and some rip-roaring saloons and hotels.
            Even though 80 percent of the Georgia gold remains inside those mountains, the gold Dahlonega residents now find is tourism. The town is only one and a half hours from Atlanta and boasts numerous bed and breakfasts, mountain cabins and upscale hotels. It’s one of Georgia’s hot spots to get married, the area’s wineries are taking off and it’s an outdoors paradise, with great hiking and biking through the mountains and tubing and canoeing on the Chestatee and Etowah rivers.
            It’s also very haunted.
            Some say it’s because there’s gold still in those hills, some of the purest in the world, along with quartz, stones that attract paranormal activity.
            When I visited I picked up “Dahlonega Haunts: Ghostly Adventures in a GeorgiaMountain Town” by Amy Blackmarr, a collection of more than two dozen haunted sites. The book’s required reading for those ghost haunting in Dahlonega. Blackmarr discusses spirits lingering in places such as the Lumpkin County Courthouse in the center of town, the Crisson Gold Mine, the Holly Theater, several restaurants and stores (like the Picnic Cafe, shown) and the historic Mount Hope Cemetery.
            There are tours to show you the paranormal hotspots, such as Dahlonega Ghost Walk - Historic Hauntings Tour and Haunted Dahlonega: Spirits, Legends & Lore, the latter conducted by the Friends of the Dahlonega Gold Museum Historic Site (which is located within the haunted courthouse).
Lumpkin County Courthouse
            Some of the stories you’ll hear are the Civil War soldiers playing cards in Mount Hope Cemetery, a ghostly little girl in a long white dress who plays in rooms in the Historic District and ghosts who rattle dishes and pans in restaurants on the Public Square.  
             Here’s a story the tourism folks gave me: “A visitor to The Crimson Moon Café once left their young daughter in an upstairs room for a few minutes, only to come back and find her playing hide and seek. ‘With whom?’ asked the parent. ‘Don’t you see that little girl in the white dress over there?’ answered the daughter.”
             The Dahlonega Ghost Walk - Historic Hauntings Tour visits 14 locations by tour guide and founder Jeremy Sharp, weaving through streets, back alleys, historic buildings and the historically significant cemetery. Sharp has studied Dahlonega’s history and has also worked with paranormal researchers to document sightings.
             The Friends of the Dahlonega Gold Museum Historic Site, a not-for-profit organization, is also conducting fun, interactive tours with a new narrative being written by local author Trisha Slay, who is working on a paranormal mystery novel. “Haunted Dahlonega: Spirits, Legends & Lore” explains why Dahlonega is such a hotbed of activity, includes Cherokee folktales and explores local mysteries and benevolent hauntings. 
             Both tours are suitable for adults and children.
             Need more ghost fodder? How about in your accommodations? Try the elegant Park Place Hotel or the Hall House Hotel that dates back to 1881 and is the second oldest building on Dahlonega's historic square.
Dahlonega Ghost Walk - Historic Hauntings Tour
8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, August through November
Tickets are adults $10, children $5, available at The Attic Upstairs, 19 East Main St. Call 706-482-8795 or email dahlonegawalkingtours@gmail.com.
Tour is approximately 1.3 miles long on paved, designated walkways, with the exception of Mount Hope Cemetery, and ends in front of the Visitors Center, 13 South Park St.

Haunted Dahlonega: Spirits, Legends & Lore, conducted by the Friends of the Dahlonega Gold Museum Historic Site
7 p.m. Saturdays on Sept. 6, 13 and 20; Oct. 4, 11 and 25; Nov. 1
Tickets $10, benefit the Dahlonega Gold Museum Historic Site and are available at the Dahlonega Gold Museum. Visit www.facebook.com/FODGM or call 706-864-2257. 

For a self-guided tour, visit http://dahlonega.org/tours-a-scenic-drives-2/ghost-tours. For tourism information on Dahlonega, visit www.dahlonega.org.

Cheré Coen is an award-winning travel writer specializing in the Deep South. She is the author of "Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History," "Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana" and "Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana" and co-author of "Magic's in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets." She also writes Louisiana romances under Cherie Claire, including "A Cajun Dream" and "The Letter." Write her at cherecoen@gmail.com.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Can you see the face in the Pickens County Courthouse window?

     "The face in the courthouse window in Carrollton, Alabama, the finest or one of the finest ghost stories in the state."
      —Kathryn Tucker Windham

     Genealogist Donna R. Causey discusses the ghost story of Henry Wells, an African American suspected of burning down the Pickens County Courthouse in Carrollton in 1876. It's one of the most unusual ghost stories you will ever hear, involving a lynch mob, a garett window and a bizarre strike of lightning.
      Click here for Causey's story, "The Face in the Window in Pickens County, Alabama — Can You See It?" which also includes a video by storyteller and author Kathryn Tucker Windham.

Cheré Coen is an award-winning travel writer specializing in the Deep South. She is the author of "Forest Hill, Louisiana: A Bloom Town History," "Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana" and "Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana" and co-author of "Magic's in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets." She also writes Louisiana romances under Cherie Claire, including "A Cajun Dream" and "The Letter." Write her at cherecoen@gmail.com.