Sunday, March 25, 2018

Road Trip to Arkansas: Tesla Coil, The Crescent Hotel and A Trip through the Ozarks

A few months ago when I wrote about our first trip to Florida I mentioned that we couldn't stay longer because we both needed to get home for interviews. Well we both also got the jobs so naturally we decided to plan a celebratory road trip. First we picked a possible trip to Iowa. We have a friend there and Iowa has lots of interesting things to see. However as planning progressed and we researched more I began to fear that the weather would not cooperate. First it would be too cold to spend a night in the car, which would add expense to the trip, and then the bad weather would make driving conditions possibly hazardous. So I pulled up a map of the US and began circling my finger around TN trying to aim south and west where I thought weather would be more favorable. As I circled my finger around I waited for Meg to tell me to stop. When she did my finger sat firmly on Arkansas. So I saved my Iowa research for better weather and switched to looking up Arkansas.

I have to say, well done Arkansas! There was more there than I thought I was going to find and we are going to have to go back because we didn't actually get to see to many of the sights. I learned that one of the most haunted hotels in America was located in Arkansas and the trip began to take a whole different focus. Instead of stacking up interesting road side attractions I picked one that I couldn't pass up and then focused on going to the hotel for a night of ghost hunting.

We left Friday as soon as work was over and began driving west to our first destination. Our path into Arkansas took us into Mississippi for a quick moment before we crossed over the Mississippi river into Arkansas.  This now means I have driven over the Mississippi river in four states: Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi, and Arkansas. Just over the border of Arkansas we reached Sulphur Spring Rd. in Helena, Arkansas. There we found my first ever experience of a Gravity Hill. A Gravity Hill is an optical illusion where a ball (or in our instance car) can appear to be rolling up hill, against gravity.

Why does this happen? Well one thing the hills have in common is that the horizon is usually mostly blocked. Our hill was a very narrow road surrounded by homes, trees and other hills. Without a good horizon to judge their accurate plane the things around us, like trees, could be tilted and we wouldn't notice. Now to me it looked like any regular hill. But that is the nature of the illusion; it looks like it is uphill but is not. I had brought a level with me but didn't count on a few things: 1 how narrow the road would be and 2 how dark the road was. I thought there would be a shoulder I could pull onto maybe to play around with the phenomenon but there was not. So we drove on it a couple of times and took two videos of us rolling 'uphill'.

This first video we are rolling forward slowly "up" the hill.

This video we are slowly rolling backwards.

Now we had a choice. We could either drive one hour out of our way to a spot I had found that would be an amazing dark sky location and do some star gazing as we fell asleep or we could drive to Hot Springs, Arkansas and park for the night at a Walmart to sleep before starting Saturday. The weather radar and app I was following showed clouds moving in but the sky where we were was totally clear. It was tempting to try for the dark sky but we decided to go straight to Hot Springs and end the night to get a little longer rest.

While driving on highways you see a lot of animals crossing roads or at the side of the road. Well I saw something ahead of me and hit the brake to not hit it. It was not a raccoon and it was not an opossum which began a discussion on what it could have been. My guess was a mink. Meghan's hope was for nutria. I argued that I thought nutria were only in Louisiana and the swamp areas but Meg googled it and found that they do in fact live in Arkansas. Which leads us to a discussion of Schrondinger and his cat. And that this was now Schrondinger's Nutria since it both was and was not a nutria until it otherwise could be proven.



If you read the title of the blog you can guess what the attraction was that I couldn't pass up. Apparently in Hot Springs, Arkansas is a science museum, the Mid-America Science museum to be exact. And apparently in that museum is the official (according to Guinness Book of Records) most powerful Conical Tesla Coil.

We woke up around 7am and searched for some breakfast. We settled on I-HOP because pancakes are amazing. While we were there a little boy was having breakfast with his Grandfather and as his Grandfather began stirring coffee the little boy exclaimed, "Grandpa you're making a vortex." Then the little boy moved on to a bout 50 different topics until his Grandfather finally said "I want to know where you learned vortex because it wasn't in school." I'm going to go out on a limb and guess he perhaps had visited the museum.

Meg and I were at the museum at nine am when it opened. The first Tesla show was at 11am and I figured two hours would be enough time to explore so that right after the show we could begin making our way to Eureka Springs and the Crescent Hotel. The museum was a very pleasant surprise. There were lots of hands on displays and plenty to keep us busy. It was certainly worth the $10 entrance fee with another $3 to see the Tesla show.  We took the whole two hours and honestly could have spent more time. This was an early exhibit and one of my favorites.

And then it was time for the Tesla Show. I took a video of the coil in action but let me stress this: YOU DO NOT GET THE FULL EXPERIENCE WATCHING THIS VIDEO. There is more than just the sight and sound of the coil. Also they had a very informative and entertaining presentation about the coil and the powers of electricity.  Anyone near Hot Springs I seriously recommend you check this museum out. And anyone just looking for a good trip. Go. You won't be sorry.

So now it was roughly noon and we were about to start winding our way north and west to Eureka Springs, Arkansas. I had a couple of small stops along the way to break up the drive.

The first was in Alma, Arkansas where we saw a monument to the town Marshall Henry D. Humphrey. He was killed in the line of duty by two members of the Bonnie and Clyde gang. The day before he was killed he had been ambushed, tied up, and had his gun stolen. The next day while responding to a separate call he and another Marshall saw the stolen vehicle and there was a fire fight. During the fight Henry D. Humphrey was shot and killed.

In Lincoln, Arkansas is a poultry supply distributer, not open to the public. There we found two large statues: one was a rooster and the second a turkey. Again a quick stop and stretch of the legs before resuming the drive.

Now if you have only opened this post because you are looking for the Crescent Hotel info I applaud you for reading this far. We had one more stop before the haunted hotel. Well not really a stop. Up in the Ozarks over the White River is a one lane wooden suspension bridge called Beaver Bridge. It is not a very old bridge as the current one was built in 1949, I believe there may have been a bridge before that one. The length of the bridge is 554 feet and it is 11 feet wide, so yeah, definitely one lane. As we drove over it we could hear the wood reacting to the weight of the car.

And then a few minutes later we were driving through the cute town of Eureka Springs, Arkansas. We checked into the hotel and received room 325.

Now part of my road trip planning involved looking up the history of the hotel so I came pretty well versed in the history and I will give a brief version real quick. The hotel was built in the late 1800s as a spa and retreat for the 'carriage class.' However, the winters in the Ozarks proved hard for the hotel and so it began to serve as a college for girl's in the winter and a retreat in the summer. After a few years the hotel was purchased by a charlatan, crook, and psychopath named Norman Baker. Baker opened up a 'cancer hospital.' According to him he had found a cure for cancer that did not involve surgery. It was a mixture that was primarily healing waters from the local springs and a few odds and ends like boiled seeds. He claimed injecting that into the tumors would cure the cancer and that, further more, the medical profession knew about this cure but in the interest of job preservation they were keeping the cure a secret. Needless to say he didn't cure anyone and the exact number of people who passed away are unknown. Eventually Norman Baker was arrested for mail fraud. He later died of cancer, which seemed pretty fitting. Anyway the hotel was purchased by new owners in the 1990s and they have revitalized it as a Spa and ghost attraction.

Basic history out of the way let me introduce you to some of the most famous ghosts: First is Michael, a young Irish stonemason, who fell from the roof when the hotel was being built. The story goes he saw a pretty girl and was trying to get her attention. He landed on a beam that is now part of the floor of room 218. That room is the most requested room and has a lot of reported activity.

Second is Cliff Breckenridge, a four year old boy, whose mother, Mary, was a nurse at the school. Cliff died of Appendicitis shortly after his fourth birthday. His mother was heartbroken especially because she had an infant daughter who died shortly before Cliff. She eventually left and travelled to England to study midwifery. She returned to theUnited States and started a group in the Appalachian area that would travel and help the poor population, inspired, in no small way, by her own suffering.

There is also a ghost of a small girl, name unknown, who was the daughter of the cleaning staff when it was operating as a retreat. The child fell through the bannister of the fourth floor stairwell all the way to the lobby below. Along the stairwell visitors report seeing orbs in picture and video. Also devices which detect electro-magnetic energy often light up or sound at that time.

When it was a girls' school one of the young women was pushed or jumped from a third floor balcony and her ghost has reportedly been seen at the balcony around 10-11pm.

And then there are the ghosts of the cancer patients. One hall is known as the pain ward where the patients near death were moved so that other patients and any visitors wouldn't hear or see them.

Also said to haunt the hotel are Dr. Ellis, Baker's house doctor, Theodora,  a staff member when it was a hospital, other nurses and orderlies, and Morris the cat.

So we checked in and our room was one of the rooms located on the pain ward.

First thing we did was take showers because they had these really nice smelling soaps and shampoos from their spa. Meg went first and when she was done she looked at the mirror and saw a hand print as well as several other drawings on the mirror.

hand print and assorted figures 

hand print
We cleaned off the mirror and then I showered. The hand print showed back up again when I was out but not the other drawings. Weird and odd but there could be some kind of residue on the mirror causing it so I can't be sure about this.

Next was setting up some props in our room before taking part in the ghost tour. So obviously we did research into the hotel and the ghosts. We brought some objects with us to aid our investigation. First we went to a Nashville Good Will and got some toys since there are several stories of children. I also found a commemorative stamp that was released in the early 1990's in honor of Mary Breckenridge. And finally we brought some Jack Daniels whiskey for Michael. Mainly because I had seen other people put videos on youtube of them doing that so I figured why not.

Now for each of our little set ups we recorded a sound clip explaining what we were doing and why. The level with the toys was to be sure that the ground was level. No good having a ball and having it roll on an uneven floor. For the stamp I explained who it was and invited the ghost of Cliff Breckinridge to come take a look at it. We also invited Cliff, the little girl, or any children ghosts to play with the toys. For the whiskey we spoke to the ghost of Michael and invited him to come for a drink. Now part of that video included me telling Michael that while I poured a drink for him I left some in the flask because Meg and I are Catholic and for Lent we had given up alcohol and beer. However, now-a-days people are allowed to cheat on Sundays. So we explained to the ghost that if it were after midnight, so Sunday, we might join him for a drink. 

Then Meghan took some random shots of the room. Just to get a few different angles. One picture had an orb in the upper left of the picture. 

Once that was set up we went outside to take some outside shots of the hotel. Full disclosure while we have always believed in ghosts and have had some very strange experiences and stories we have never gone looking for it before. And we were hoping to get something amazing. That being said we wanted it to be good. So one thing a lot of people caught in pictures are little balls of light. Well while taking the outside shots we realized small green balls of light kept appearing in the pictures. However it didn't take Meg long to realize they were reflections from the exterior lights. The same thing happened inside I think because of the ultra glossy paint on the ceiling fan blades that reflected light back at the camera lens. Also the combo of the curved balcony roof and the light fixtures caused a bunch of false positives of figures in windows. 

While outside I took some pictures of the front of the hotel and one immediately caught my interest because of the lightning strike above it, there was a small storm cell that never amounted to much.

As I was looking at the picture I noticed a figure in the front of the hotel and closed in on it. It appears to be a headless body standing on the exterior front steps of the hotel. 

When we came inside we went to the fourth floor for the ghost tour. The tour was good. My earlier research made a lot of the information redundant to me but it also assured me I knew all the stories.

After the tour we went outside to see if we could catch a glimpse of the girl who jumped or was pushed. Meg took pictures of the front of the hotel while I scanned my video camera around and took some photos with my I-phone.

I took several videos of the hotel while I was watching one playback I saw a shadowed blur move inside past one of the windows. Once home I slowed it down twice. I have no editing software so could not remove the sound. You may want to mute it since it will be horrible sounding slowed down.

This was the best I could do to freeze on the figure in the lobby. He is centered in the window. Is it a ghost child or an actual child who just ran through at the right time? I don't know. But  I am leaving it here as something odd. 

I mentioned earlier  that we figured out the green lights were from reflections of the lights. Well as we were looking for the ghost of the girl who jumped/was pushed from the upstairs balcony there were several times when I thought I saw the figure of a woman in white. However it was the slant of the stairway and the different colors of the wall. 

As we were outside a boy had come over to Meg to show her some pictures he had taken. Meg explained to him that what he thought were reflections were actually him. She pointed to the faint outline of his arm and elbow as he held the phone up to take a picture. She also told him to stay to the side of the halls rather than in the center so he would have as much of an open space without being in the way. And she told him about the reflected lights of the ceiling fans and suggested how he can avoid that. Basically every photo or video I post here can be explained away as nothing. What we wanted to do and what Meg was trying to explain was to give as little obstruction as possible.  

We spent some time exploring the building during the ghost tour and on our own. One thing I had noticed was how it seemed like every time someone put an EMF detector near the bannister it would go off. I mean without fail. I had a magnet with me that I held to the post to see if maybe there was some kind of magnet or magnetic residue on the post. There was nothing there to explain why the meters kept going off.  

Meg took tons of photos to try and see if we could see anything. And she did catch some strange shots. 

I'm going to start with one of her shots that got us super excited when we first saw it. What we initially saw was an outlined figure in the doorway on my right. Standing in a hall between two door ways. Unfortunately while we can't see anything other than the reflections of people in the room that was a glass door to a display case, not a hall. And the reflection of the man was another member of the tour who we have found in other photographs. There is also a very tall shadow figure in the back whose head is actually to the ceiling and behind the exit sign. However by looking at other pictures of the group and that area we confirmed it was just forced prospective. 

Forced perspective of tall figure and reflection of man
Meghan also got what looks like an image of a face in a window pane of the window in our hall. She had other pictures of this window at the time and it had the face. At later or earlier times it did not.

The face is in the third pane. We know it isn't Meghan because she was at the side of the hall to stay out of the reflection. 

The picture on the left is the original picture and then on the right Meg closed in on the dark figure reflected from down the hall. As we were looking at it we also saw the image of a girl just to the right of the hall. To us it looks like she has her hair in braids. Only Meg and I were there and it isn't either of us.

I also got some photos on my I-phone that I think are worth sharing. In the first photo you see me on the left reflected in the mirror. To the right it looks like a strange figure peering around the corner. 

I closed in and to me it looks like someone in a white shirt with black pants on.

We couldn't explore all night because we needed to drive 10 hours home the next day so while we slept we left a night vision camera on the toys to see if any moved. Over the course of the night the video captured a little over two hours. Now I have watched and listened to it several times and let me tell you the majority of those two hours are really boring. The toys never move; I was very disappointed with that. At points it looks like my camera moves but I think that is more because the video is a little jumpy being only a $50 hunting camera. It is meant to be screwed to a tree to watch for wildlife. Once it senses motion it turns on and records for 30 minutes or so before stopping until it senses motion again. So it recorded a little over 30 minutes when I first turned it on. And then on three separate occasions something I can't see triggered it to turn back on. Pretty neat, huh? At one point I saw some small orbs floating around the toys. It could be dust but there wasn't anything moving to kick dust up and it wasn't constant it just came happened for about a minute and then stopped. There was thudding throughout the night as well. 

In the second video though I hear something very strange. I clipped the video down to a little over 8 minutes. It has the time on the bottom (but it is off by an hour so while it says 1:30am it is really 3:30am. Anyway at around 1:32 you hear a thud which is pretty much what I was hearing all night on the camera. I slept through all this. Over the next 4 minutes from 1:32-1:36 I hear a breath and murmur. Starting around 1:35 there is more murmuring and it builds and builds. There is also more thudding. Towards the end of minute 36 and all of minute 37 it builds and I think I hear someone saying "Help Me".

We did have some strange experiences during the night and we have it recorded on the night vision camera. First I hear a loud thud that wakes me up. I say "Yo, did you hear that?" but Meg did not hear it. About ten minutes later Meg felt something touch her neck as if taking her pulse. She immediately began snapping pictures but we didn't see anything on them. And whatever made the noise is not on camera. Also on this video we try and ask questions if anything is there and what is keeping them back.


At one point we both woke up to the sound of metal rattling. There was a pipe in the room and a radiator in the hall outside our room. So we thought it was just the pipes rattling and went back to sleep. Well in the morning when we got up and were packing the room up I picked up the flask and moved the little ring at the top of it and we both paused. That was the noise we had heard during the night. Maybe a ghost was trying to wake us up to have a drink on Sunday?

Also at various points I tried to record EVP, electronic voice phenomenon, I did catch one strange sound while we were sleeping. You can hear snoring in the back ground and then there is a quick sound. In order to upload the audio only file to youtube I needed to add video. I added a random part of the toys video because they never moved so I might as well make use of them. Also the time doesn't correspond to anything but does allow me to tell you the noise is when it reads 1:15 53-55 seconds.

Other than that we had a few things move around in the room. Of course nothing that was on video. Early in the day while we are on the ghost tour some things in the bathroom were moved around including Meghan's pony tail holders which were moved to the back of the sink and a towel was picked up and draped on the shower curtain holder. Now the ghost, Theodora, is rumored to clean up after people who leave a mess. But we weren't in the room and we didn't catch it on video. We just came back to find it moved. I had the camera on the toys and am certain they didn't move though I don't know what was triggering the camera. I wish I had a larger memory card because the battery lasted all night it just ran out of time on the card or else maybe it would have recorded more. I was happy with it and may get a second camera since it was only $50. Then I would have had a camera on more of the room including the whiskey and stamp. Especially since we think we heard the flask moving and the stamp did move. I had been careful to put the left corner even with the line in the table so I would see if it moved. 

It isn't moved much but the corner is no longer lined up. We had the air conditioning off so that there wouldn't be air moving through the room, mainly to avoid possibly kicking up dust. I don't know. Maybe it moved all over the table maybe if I had a camera on it I would have seen it picked up and put back down. Or maybe I would have seen it just slide a tiny quarter of an inch away from where I put it. Maybe all the pictures and sounds I have are just pareidolia and our minds are just making connections that aren't there. Or maybe there is something there. I think it is the latter but nothing here is going to convince a skeptic. it's ok.

Keeping in mind this was our first time doing anything like this I think we got some strange photos and sounds. I'm happy with it but I was definitely frustrated during the night. At one point I woke up and tried an EVP where I basically was saying that I had felt more uneasy in places that weren't famously haunted. I don't know what I expected. I think I thought I would get a bad feeling about things and freak myself out more. I remember several nights in NY where I would be outside simply taking out the trash and all of a sudden have a feeling of dread. That never happened. We did feel very drained during the night. My alarm at one point went off to wake us up to do more ghost hunting and we just could not get up. And I should have been able to. I had much longer days and nights with less sleep than that and functioned with no problem. 

There are a few things we will do differently in the future. With the first thing being just focus on the ghost hunting. I wanted to put too much into the trip. Check in time was 4pm and I should have just gone to the hotel se we could have napped before the ghost tour. But then we wouldn't have seen the Tesla Coil. Which brings me to another thing we learned. Remember the video above with the Tesla Coil? Well the neon sign next to it that was lit up was not plugged in. The free electricity from the coil is what caused it to light up. So while my test of magnets near the post and rail for the little girl didn't work if there actually was loss or free electricity maybe it would light a neon bulb. Another thing to keep in mind for next time is making sure the date and time stamps on all the cameras and video recorders match. I know times are accurate on my i-phone photos but Meg's camera and all the recording devices show different times.

Sunday morning when we got up we felt really refreshed despite being so tired the night before. Now I had added breakfast to the room for only $10. This proved to be a great move. It covered either the breakfast buffet or any $16 item on the menu. So we went with the buffet. 

There was a freshly made steak and egg bagel with hollandaise sauce, amazing parfait with fresh berries and granola, fresh salad, eggs with spinach and pepper, potatoes, sausage and biscuits with gravy.  Well there was more, that is just what I tried plus- and this is strange for breakfast- I had a piece of mango raspberry cheesecake. Which at first sounded like a lot going on but it was delicious. 

We had one last stop to make in Eureka Springs. Apparently after the Berlin Wall came down sections of it had been spread around the world. A few minutes away from the hotel was a small chapel with a 10x10 section of the wall next to it. 

"Ich habe kein angst" translates to "I am not afraid." a powerful message on a wall that has seen some terrible pain. 

Also right by the Berlin Wall was the giant Christ of the Ozarks statue which we could see from the Hotel. At 67 feet high is is the third largest Christ statue in the world. It sits on Magnetic Mountain, maybe named so because of magnetic spring which claimed to cause items dipped in its waters to become magnetized. 

And then we began driving home. We stopped in Ravenden, Arkanas to take a picture of their Raven statue; which apparently has had a tough time as people like to vandalize and break it. 

And then our route took us up through Paducah and onto highway 24 from Kentucky into TN where we ran into the very weather I had gone to Arkansas to avoid. Our drive home was slowed by a pretty good snow fall, at times causing us to slow down significantly but eventually we made it. Actually we drove through the storm and beat it home so when we went to bed there was no snow in TN and when we woke up we were a bit surprised. 

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