Monday, November 8, 2010

Eureka Springs, Arkansas: November 5, 2010, Girls Weekend 13

Today was our first full day of Girls Weekend and after arising a little later than normal and just hanging out for a while in our cute little room this morning, drinking coffee, checking e-mails, and journaling, we headed into historic downtown Eureka Springs.  What a captivating place.  Built on hills with winding streets (there are NO perpendicular streets in downtown Eureka Springs), we parked the car in a pay parking lot ($5 for three hours) and started off on foot.  We decided that we were kinda hungry, so we went in search of a cup of coffee and something to eat.  No Starbuck's here so we found a cute little coffee shop close to a scrapbooking store.  Wellllll, there was no indoor seating at this particular coffee shop and, though the sun was shining brightly, we decided it was just too darn cold to sit outside and have a cup of coffee, plus we were in search of some kind of food.  The kind lady at the coffee store made us wonderful drinks and gave us a coupon in hopes that we would return sometime later during our stay.  We wandered into the "scrapbooking" store, which is really more of a specialty paper/art store kind of place,  found nothing we couldn't live without there, then went in search of food.  We ended up in a restaurant named the New Delhi Cafe and Restaurant where Kathi had a hamburger and I had tomato soup.  (Uhhhh, what happened to the Indian food we thought we were going to get???)  The food was OK, not great, but served its purpose.  There was a live band playing in the outdoor area of the restaurant, so we did get to enjoy a bit of that.  We are fortunate enough to be here on the weekend of Eureka Spring's "63rd Ozark Folk Festival", which involves lots of folk music being played around town in different venues all weekend long.  Once done with lunch, we ascended a set of steep stairs that took us up to the street above the one we had parked on and started browsing the shops.  One of the shops whose window we had peeked into the night before was a leather store that had some awesome shoes displayed in the window, so it became our first stop.  While the only purchase that we made in there was a pair of sunglasses for me (I left mine in my van back in Portland), we so enjoyed the ladies working in there that we just HAD to take have our picture taken with them.  They were also kind enough to give each of us a $5 Starbucks gift card with the purchase of my sunglasses.  Now we just have to find a Starbuck's!!  The shops here are fun to browse because most have unique and unusual things and most are NOT selling the trashy, touristy type items that one so often finds in these types of destinations.   Kathi was longing for a massage and pedicure while here, so during our lunch at the "Indian" restaurant, she called the spa at the Crescent Hotel and set up appointments for massages for us both and a pedicure for her.  We had talked about doing a ghost tour of the haunted Crescent Hotel, too, so decided that we would walk to it while we were walking about town so that we would have some idea about where we would be going.  We stopped in at a bookstore and got directions and a warning that a walk to the Crescent was not for the faint of heart or out-of-shape 50 year old women, since the Crescent sits at one of the highest points in town.  We, of course, did not heed this warning and made the trek anyway, at Kathi's insistence, I might add.  I am still recovering from this uphill hike as I write this and hope that I can find it in my heart sometime soon to forgive Kathi for forcing this torture upon me.

The Crescent Hotel was built in 1886 as a hotel, but has served various functions during its years.  One of these is as a Women's College, another is as a cancer hospital under the direction and leadership of a man who claimed, falsely, to be a Dr. with a "cure" for cancer.  Instead "Dr." Norman Baker was a vaudeville man who made millions of dollars off of unsuspecting, vulnerable people who were seeking health for loved ones whom the medical community of the time could not help.  Once "Dr." Baker was exposed he was run out of town and the Crescent was, once again, operated as a hotel.  Kathi and I decided that while the building is an impressive one, it isn't really what we would consider a beautiful one.  In fact, it is kind of a creepy looking place.  It LOOKS like a hospital where the world wants to hide away sick people that it does not want to look at nor think about.  However, present day, it is a very busy place where many locals choose to have weddings (it does sport beautiful lawns and scenery), as well as a place that capitalizes on the many stories about ghostly apparitions and paranormal activity.  During our ghost tour, we learned that the TAPS ghost hunting team came here a few years ago to do an investigation into the paranormal activity here and they had some positive and impressive findings.  In particular, they caught on video a shadowy figure of a man down on the lowest floor of the hotel in the room that "Dr." Baker used as a morgue.  They showed us a video clip of this at the beginning of our ghost tour.  I have to say, it did give rise to goose bumps!!  But, I get ahead of myself.  After checking the place out a bit, we made the trek back downhill (MUCH easier), via the scenic route.  We saw many charming homes, bed and breakfasts and beautiful garden areas on the walk downhill.

After the walk downhill, we were both aching and exhausted (Kathi, I TOLD you we should have driven up to the hotel!!  :-)) and decided to go back to the room and rest up a bit before our ghost tour at the Crescent that evening.  We gobbled up our leftovers from De Vito's, checked up on our e-mails and stuff then made our way back to the Crescent Hotel.

I already shared a lot of what we learned about the Crescent Hotel on the ghost tour.  Our guide was dressed in period costume and, as Kathi so aptly described him, he looked rather cadavorous.  Neither one of us can remember his name (shame on us), but we agree that he looks like one of the thieving characters in the Disney movie 101 Dalmations.
While the tour was very informative regarding the history of the Crescent Hotel and our guide shared many stories with us about guests experiences with paranormal activity and where most of it seems to take place, we didn't actually get to go INTO many of the rooms where activity is reported to be greatest, because, of course, this is still a functional hotel.  Again, in Kathi's words, we saw more inebriated wedding guests than we did spirits.  I guess one could say we saw many people that were inhabited by "spirits" just not the sort we were seeking on the ghost tour. :-)   Eureka Springs is the site of 6000-7000 weddings a year (second only to Las Vegas) and many of them take place at the Crescent Hotel.  We have seen 3 brides in our short stay here, one carrying her baby and feeding him a bottle while dressed in her virginal white, strapless wedding gown.

If you look closely at the picture of the staircase included in the collage above, you will see a white "orb" in the left-hand side of the photo at the top of the stairs in the portion of the photo.  The story that we were told regarding this staircase is that sometime back in the 30's a little girl leaned over the stair railing in answer to her mother's call from a floor or two below and fell to her death below on the tile floor you can see in the center of the photo.  Ghost hunters would tell you that the "orb" you can see in the photo is the spirit of the child who fell.  After going through the MANY photos that we took during the ghost tour, this is the only one in which we captured a "spirit".  What do YOU think??????.....

Our original plan was to go out and listen to music once we were done with the ghost tour, but we both decided we would be sure and catch some music on Saturday night and called it a night.

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