By Caleb Talley and Tyler Hale
Whether you consider yourself a skeptic or a believer, there are many places across our great state that have gained a bit of infamy for what goes bump in the night, thanks to stories that have been passed down through time.
And with the crisp fall air of October comes the perfect opportunity to visit some of Arkansas’ spookiest, most haunted places. No matter what corner of the state you call home, there’s a good chance you’re not far from a place that’s daring you to enter.
Here are just a few of the scariest places in Arkansas. Pay them a visit some cool, dark October night… if you dare.
1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa
Atop the crest of West Mountain above the Victorian town of Eureka Springs sits the historic 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa.
This elegant, palatial landmark is consistently recognized as the Ozarks’ “symbol of hospitality,” having been recognized by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as one of America’s Dozen Distinctive Destinations. The hotel features 72 rooms, with lavish suites and luxury cottages, spas, sky bars, manicured gardens and so much more.
But with all its beauty and grandeur, the iconic structure has the potential to strike fear in the hearts of guests. That’s because the 1886 Crescent Hotel & Spa might very well be the most haunted hotel in America.
Built at the request of the Eureka Springs Improvement Company and the Frisco Railroad, the Crescent Hotel sought to capitalize off the influx of visitors from across the country seeking the healing Ozark spring waters.
The prosperity didn’t last. People stopped coming to the resort, and the hotel was soon converted into the Crescent College and Conservatory for Young Women. It also served for a time as a junior college. But the Depression shuttered the building until 1937, when it was purchased by Norman Baker, a con man who had been run out of Iowa for practicing medicine without a license.
Under its new owner, the Crescent became the Baker Cancer Curing Hospital. Baker advertised miracle cures and promised that patients would leave the resort cancer-free.
It was all a lie, of course. While “treating” patients at the Crescent, Norman was being investigated by federal authorities. In 1939, he was arrested and sentenced to time at Leavenworth. But before his arrest, Baker managed to leave a lasting mark on the grand limestone palace.
He created a morgue. And it was in his morgue that Baker stored the cadavers and body parts of deceased cancer patients, his autopsy table where he would carve of patients in hopes of stumbling upon a cure. Countless bodies entered Baker’s morgue. And some say their spirits linger.
Today, the Crescent Hotel is one of the most visited hotels in the South. And many of those guests have reported all sorts of paranormal occurrences. Spirits of stonemasons, maids, waitresses and nurses have been seen coming to and from hallways and rooms. Chairs are moved. Lights flicker. Guests have heard footsteps and voices coming from vacant rooms.
The Crescent Hotel is indeed one of the finest hotels in America. It’s fully restored and provides all the amenities any traveler could ever hope for. But it’s also full of guests who checked in but never left.
Just off the town square in Monticello, down North Main Street, sits a stately white mansion with red turrets. If you look up at one of the turret’s windows, you might just see an elegant lady sitting in the window, gazing out.
That lady might be a ghost.
Built in 1906-7, the Allen House was designed to be the grandest home in Monticello. Joe Lee Allen, a wealthy businessman, built the house for him and his family. According to the stories, some of them may still be living there.
While beautiful, the house has been the site of numerous tragedies, which add to its eerie aura. The most notorious incident was the suicide of Joe Lee Allen’s middle daughter, Ladell Allen Bonner.
On Christmas Day 1948, Ladell took mercury cyanide, dying days later. Afterwards, her mother sealed off the master suite, the room where Ladell died.
No one entered the room for the four decades that followed.
The remaining members of the Allen family died one-by-one over the next decade, and the house was divided up into apartments in the mid-1950s. Tenants began reporting strange occurrences, such as seeing reflections of a women in the mirror when no one else was there. Residents and visitors to the house have also reported hearing footsteps and strange noises – moaning and crying – around the house, which has been attributed to Ladell and other ghosts.
Not content to have just one ghost, the Allen House is allegedly haunted by multiple spirits. These include Ladell’s son Allen Bonner, her father, her mother and other unidentified phantoms.
In recent years, the newest owners discovered letters hidden under a floorboard in the house’s vast attic detailing a love affair between Ladell and a married man. One of the owners, Mark Spencer, felt compelled to check underneath one of the floorboards, and he unearthed a cache of 90 love letters.
This discovery made one of the most notorious and terrifying houses in Arkansas even more tragic. Ladell’s ghost continues to glide about the house to this day, according to those who have visited.
The tale of the vanishing hitchhiker is a piece of American folklore that has been passed down through generations, having taken root in nearly every corner of the country. Arkansas is no different.
The home of Arkansas’ infamous spectral passenger is Highway 365.
There’s nothing especially offbeat about Highway 365. The roadway, formerly a U.S. highway, runs through much of Central Arkansas, from Conway to Pine Bluff. The highway stretches just over 69 miles.
But it’s on the 6.5 mile stretch between Woodson and Redfield in south Pulaski County that has given some travelers pause. According to local lore, that’s where an unlucky few have encountered the vanishing hitchhiker.
As the story is most often told, a young man was driving down Arkansas 365 one rainy night when he came upon a young girl walking along the highway. She was cold and wet, so the driver gave her his coat, offering to drive her to her home, which she told him was in Redfield.
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When they arrived at the house, the driver got out to help the girl out of the car. But when he approached the passenger door, he froze. His car was empty. The girl was gone.
Confused and concerned, the man went up to the home and knocked on the door. When a woman answered, he explained to her what had happened. The woman listened as he described the young girl and where he had found her. She nodded.
“That young girl is my daughter,” the woman said. “And she was killed several years ago. She finds her way back home every year.”
Skeptical but shaken, the man drove to the local cemetery. He had to see the girl’s grave for himself.
He found it. And draped over her tombstone was his coat.
Several versions of the vanishing Arkansas hitchhiker tale have been told over the years, and they have something in common: A lone girl wandering along Highway 365 near Woodson, lost and cold, waiting for someone to take her home.
Is it just another piece of Arkansas lore? Or could there be a bit of truth to this tale? There’s one way to find out. On the next dark, stormy night, drive down Highway 365 and see for yourself.
If you find yourself near Fouke, make sure to stop by Boggy Creek. You might get the chance to say hello to Arkansas’ most renown monster – the Fouke Monster.
Usually described as a tall, two-legged creature with dark hair or fur, the Fouke Monster has allegedly stalked the creeks and backwoods of southwestern Arkansas for decades. The creature is named after the small town of Fouke, 20 miles south of Texarkana, close to where it has been sighted.
Although alleged sightings extend back to the early 20th century, the Fouke Monster made headlines in the 1970s when a biped creature was sighted multiple times, including an incident where it allegedly prowled around a rent home and left scratches on the building. In addition to the scratch marks, sheriff deputies reported finding strange tracks around the house.
A series of articles from the Texarkana Gazette and the Texarkana Daily News popularized the legend, and wire services and newspapers across the nation picked up the fantastic stories. The media attention even led to the making of a film about the Fouke Monster, The Legend of Boggy Creek, directed by Charles B. Pierce.
The Boggy Creek Monster’s legend is still going strong with a franchise of movies being made about him (or her), along with a dedicated website.
The Empress of Little Rock
On a corner lot at the intersection of Louisiana and 22nd in Little Rock stands the regal Empress of Little Rock, a storied bed and breakfast constructed in the late 1800s as a private residence.
The Empress, also known as the Hornibrook Mansion, was completed in 1888 in what the National Register of Historic Places would later describe as the “best example of ornate Victorian architecture in Arkansas.” It was originally the home of Toronto native James H. Hornibrook, who moved to Little Rock to establish a saloon.
Hornibrook died of an apoplectic stroke at the gates of his home soon after the extravagant structure was completed. His wife died two years later.
Following the deaths of Mr. and Mrs. Hornibrook, the mansion became the home of the Arkansas Women’s College – the first of its kind in the state. The Great Depression would shutter the grand home, though, and it would sit vacant until it became a nursing home in 1948.
The structure served as a private residence and apartments before being restored to its original grandeur in the mid-1990s.
The iconic bed and breakfast has seen many guests in the 130 years it has stood. But many have never left. According to tales, some of the men and woman who once called the Empress home still wander its hallways, including Mr. Hornibrook himself.
Owners Sharon and Robert Blair have reported a number of paranormal activities inside the old mansion, including seeing a period-dressed gentleman make his way down the staircase before disappearing. During the restoration of the home, a painter found himself locked in an upstairs poker room. But a handle and lock had not yet been added to the door.
Others have reported seeing a maid make her way through the mansion, as well as an old sea captain. Phantom footsteps and disembodied voices are commonplace, too.
Check in, if you dare.
Ghost lights are a fixture of supernatural tales across the country. These floating orbs of light capture the imagination – and instill fear – because of how vague they are and how the mind can attach almost any meaning to them. Arkansas just happens to have one of the most famous examples of a ghost light – the Gurdon Light.
Gurdon is a small town of around 2,000 residents that’s 75 miles south of Little Rock on Interstate 30. Out past the town, along a stretch of railroad tracks, you might witness the Gurdon Light drifting along.
Those who have seen it describe a swaying, well-defined light that appears to be moving down the railroad tracks. Sometimes, the light appears to be white, blue or even orange. The light appears in all types of weather and retains the same well-defined shape, which appears to be projected through a lens, as if through a lantern.
According to legend, a railroad worker who was working on the tracks outside of Gurdon fell into the path of an oncoming train and had his head severed. The light, it is said, is the worker’s lantern moving as he searches for his lost head along the tracks.
And there may be an historical basis for this legend. In 1931, a railroad worker murdered his foreman along the tracks. (The killer, Louie McBryde, was later executed by the state for the murder.) Instead of simply inspiring the legend, others say the Gurdon Light is caused by the deceased man, who swings his lantern back-and-forth.
Nay-sayers have attempted to dismiss any supernatural explanation for the light, claiming that the light reflected off of vehicles’ headlights would cause the phenomenon.
However, Interstate 30 is over two miles away from the light’s location, and it was first seen in the 1930s (not long after the railroad foreman’s murder) before the interstate was built.
One possible explanation for the light is a piezoelectric effect, which occurs when crystals and other materials, such as ceramics, are subjected to pressure and produce electricity or sparks. It has been suggested that underground quartz crystals produce the glow due to the pressure the crystals are under.
No matter the cause, the Gurdon Light has proved an irresistible attraction, drawing people like moths to a flame.
Formerly part of the Little Rock Arsenal, the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History has a long history as a military installation, dating back to the state’s founding in 1836.
Today, the MacArthur Museum is a family-friendly museum, that highlights Arkansas’ military contributions abroad and at home. When visiting the museum, you can find photographs, documents and artifacts that testify to the sacrifices of the Arkansas citizens who served in the military. But you might find something otherwordly while you’re there.
Visitors have reported hearing voices while in the museum, including the sounds of laughter and music. Of course, once the sounds are investigated, there is no one in the room where the sound was coming from.
In addition to voices, some have reported seeing full apparitions, dressed in uniform, around the museum. In one instance, a duel between two shadows has been seen, along with multiple transparent entities. One phantom reportedly enjoys tossing items at people while they are walking down the stairs.
This month, visitors can find out how haunted the museum is for themselves by attending the 8th Annual Arkansas Paranormal Expo. The expo will be held Saturday, Oct. 6, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Sunday, Oct. 7, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Whether you’re captivated by UFOS, psychics or Bigfoot, there is bound to be something at the Arkansas Paranormal Expo that will pique your interest. Multiple speakers will hold presentations throughout the event, and vendors will be on site to give demonstrations. There will be psychic readings and giveaways.
A $10 weekend pass will be available for the event. Tickets and passes will be sold at the door.
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