This outing was a surprise even to me as I had just come back from a 7 day trip to Tempe, AZ where I visited some friends over Christmas. But as I told a friend of mine, I just didn’t feel traveled out enough. I thumbed through my list of B & Bs and found The Victoria and it had one room left for New Year’s. I booked it and headed south.
Relatively speaking the drive was a picnic as it was the shortest I’ve had in many a moon (less than 6 hours). So it was that I found myself in Bentonville on the afternoon of New Year’s Eve and at The Victoria, owned and operated by Michael and Joana Garrison.
The Victoria has a self check-in procedure. I was given a door code to let myself in and found a letter with my name on it welcoming me to the inn and guiding me to my room on the second floor. After picking my breakfast time, I headed up to my room: The Emperor.
This was a very elegant room with large paintings gracing the walls, a writing desk, an old-fashioned gas stove, a leather easy chair, and a large king bed. After settling in, I made a quick exploration of the property.
The Victoria has six rooms, each with a royal theme. There is also a seasonal swimming pool and a hot tub on the property. The mansion is surprisingly snug with the communal dining room serving as the commons area and the bedrooms being very close together.
After settling in, I headed off to worship at St Stephen. I have a feeling this is a very new building as it had a modern feel to it and was the second largest chapel in which I’ve attended a service.
I felt a real sense of serenity as I worshipped. There was no real “a-ha” moment to the service to cause this feeling. I just felt His presence and just rested in it for the service. Afterwards, I took a few snaps of the Christmas decorations around the chapel and then searched up a place to have dinner.
I had dinner at Table Restaurant on 6th. The restaurant looks like it was once a house and has upgraded café food to a fine dining experience. I had a hankering for some Mediterranean food so I gave the Lamb Burger a taste and it really hit the spot. After satisfying my hunger, I returned to the Victorian and then walked the few blocks to the downtown area.
Downtown Bentonville has a wide variety of shops and restaurants, but it also has some great Christmas lights. I first went to the outdoor ice rink and took in their magic for a spell before heading to the town square to take in their holiday cheer. Then I took advantage of the nice night and wandered about the neighborhood for some exercise and to find more Christmas lights.
One thing I noticed was that many homes seemed quite well to do and I would later learn that Bentonville is one of the wealthiest cities in Arkansas and either does, or did, have two billionaires living in the city. After a good long walk, I returned to the inn where I watched a little TV before going to bed.
I had an early breakfast the next morning and headed down at 8:15am. I formally met Michael and took a seat at by the window. Michael gave me a mason jar full of water before taking my egg order. I opted for a vegetable omelet with a side of turkey bacon. Before sinking my teeth into that, I had a fresh from the oven cinnamon roll and some fruit from the buffet.
Breakfast was exquisite and I returned to room to relax for a bit before heading to nearby Fayetteville to once again enjoy Arkadia Retrocade.
I had visited this arcade back in March on my way home from Hot Springs, but didn’t get to fully enjoy it as I was on a tight schedule. This time I was able to indulge my video game loving heart to the fullest.
I said it in March and I’ll say it again. This is one of the two best retro arcades I’ve visited and is #1 in terms of pure value. For $5, you can game all day. I was so lost in the treasure trove of games that nearly five hours passed before I knew it. I had a fantastic day of gaming as I set personal bests on Crystal Castles, Burgertime, Fix it Felix, Jr., Dragon’s Lair (haven’t quite mastered the timing of the arcade version), Donkey Kong 3, and Kangaroo. I also conquered Sunsetriders, Spider-Man, Captain America and The Avengers, and, for the first time, Double Dragon II: The Revenge.
Then I drove back to The Victoria and made the short jaunt to Flying Fish. This is a casual seafood restaurant which also serves some Cajun fare. I ordered a cup of seafood gumbo along with shrimp jambalaya and bread.
This is how gumbo is supposed to be. A good gumbo is more like stew than soup and this one was right on the money with a thick, brown broth. The jambalaya was spot on and I used the seasoned bread to mop up the remains of my gumbo and jambalaya sauce. Then I walked for a few miles around town to get some more Christmas shots before retiring to the inn for the night.
Breakfast this morning was a repeat of yesterday’s though I had an orange roll instead of a cinnamon roll and nibbled on a cranberry (I think?) scone instead of having fruit.
And that brings this adventure to an end. It serves as a nice bookend as I’m starting the year in Arkansas and will also close it there when I visit Arsenic and Old Lace of Eureka Springs for my annual Christmas review. As to what happens in between. . .well, we’ll just see where the road takes me.
But if you find yourself in Bentonville, spend a night in regal elegance at The Victoria. You’ll find royal comfort, delicious food, and gracious hosts.
I had some time to burn, so I decided to go on an outing, but wanted to go in a new direction and, preferably, someplace warm. A little look through my spreadsheet and I settled on Hot Springs, AR where I would stay at Gables Inn, owned and operated by Dave and Judy.
It was a beautiful day for travel and I enjoyed the weather and my tunes as I made my way to my stopping point of Miami for the night. Miami, OK that is.
Miami is a small town nicknamed “The Gate” due to its being about 30 minutes from the Kansas border and about 20 minutes from the Missouri border. The legendary Route 66 also runs through the town.
I checked into my suite at the town’s Holiday Inn Express and rested for a few hours before heading off to worship at Sacred Heart Catholic Church.
It was a mighty good service as Father warmed up to his sermon which centered on the parable of The Prodigal Son where he talked about the role of forgiveness in Lent. Father said nothing thrilled him more than when people came to Confession and told him that they hadn’t come in years. He saw it as a time for celebration as they recognized their need for forgiveness.
I also ended up providing a little entertainment for the congregation as I was seated near the front and didn’t know what to do for Eucharist as nobody appeared at the front to distribute it. One of the parishioners eventually pointed out that they were really old school and actually knelt at the Communion rail in order to receive it.
After church, I began looking for something to eat, but found myself thwarted a bit. My first choice was closed for the day and the town is also suffering from the short staffedness caused by the pandemic so I ended up skipping my second choice as the wait would have been too long. Eventually, I hit pay dirt with my third choice of Montana Mike’s Steakhouse.
I enjoyed a surprisingly tender sirloin with a topper of Creamy Cajun shrimp. The cream was nice and sharp and really enhanced the flavor of the beef. After the meal, I returned to the hotel where I enjoyed a quiet night capped off with a relaxing jacuzzi bath before going to bed.
The next day I was back on the road and soon found myself in the Natural State enjoying the views of forests and mountains as I made my way to Hot Springs.
Hot Springs is a village nestled within the Ouachita Mountains and the last 70 miles found me navigating twisty roads and hills as I admired some of God’s scenery. Around 4pm I found myself at Gables Inn.
Gables Inn is a Victorian house which had been built as the dream home of Fred and Myrtle Sammons. The home was gutted by the infamous Hot Springs fire of 1904, but the Sammons rebuilt the entire thing from top to bottom and returned to their home in 1905. The house became an inn in 1993 and was taken over by Dave and Judy in 1996 which makes it the longest continuing B & B in Hot Springs.
Judy met me at the door and led me to the Governor’s Room which would serve as command center for the next few days. The room has the feel of a classic Victorian inn with its fireplace and Victorian lamps. For more modern comforts, the room contains a king-sized bed with memory foam pillows and a two person jacuzzi bath.
On the desk was a bottle of the town’s namesake water which is reported to have high healing properties and I can certainly testify that it healed my thirst.
I didn’t plan too much for my first night. I just went to Red Pier for dinner as I was in the mood for Cajun food. It’s a chain restaurant very similar to the Angry Crab Shack of Phoenix, AZ. The meal balanced out to OK. I had a small bowl of gumbo which had a decent taste, but was more like soup instead of stew. The chicken strips I had were incredibly juicy with flavorful meat, but had bland breading.
After dinner, I just returned to the inn where I puttered around before going to bed to energize myself for the next day.
In the morning I went down to the dining room for breakfast and heard the other guests excitedly planning their days while we dined on a delicious 4 cheese quiche with cherry tomatoes and sausage. With the other guests plotting their own adventures, there wasn’t much conversation so I finished eating fairly quickly before heading out the door.
Hot Springs is interesting as it is not only a tourist town with a lot of activities, but it’s also built around a national park so there’s something for everybody. Is shopping your bag? Lots of interesting stores to visit. Enjoy nature? Plenty of hiking and scenery. Perhaps you like shows? The #1 magic show in all of Arkansas holds court in Hot Springs. Maybe you just want to relax? There’s a series of bathhouses and spas along Bathhouse Row.
For myself, I went to the national park and went to the top of the Mountain Tower. This 216-foot structure provides a panoramic view of Hot Springs and in the distance you can see the West and Sugarloaf Mountains.
After enjoying nature, I went back to the main drag and bought tickets to take a duck boat tour as well as visit Josephine Tussaud’s Wax Museum.
A duck boat is a truck that can transform into a boat. So our captain took us on a tour of Hot Springs on the streets before taking us onto the lake in boat mode and show us some of the luxury homes. A lot of wealthy people like to use Hot Springs as a vacation home. The owners of one of the houses only visits 3 days out of the year and, the rest of the time, the house is occupied by a housekeeper and her daughter who keep the place tidy.
Speaking of “vacation homes”, a lot of notorious gangsters liked to spend time in Hot Springs. Lucky Luciano and Al Capone were frequent visitors who often plied their trade while relaxing.
When the tour was done, I went to Josephine Tussaud’s Wax Museum. If you’re wondering, she is the great-great granddaughter of Madame Tussaud, but this museum is not connected to that famous chain. It’s been the same exhibit since 1971, but is still in pretty good condition. I enjoyed replicas of The Last Supper, wandered through a Chamber of Horrors, experienced historical moments like Lincoln’s assassination, and ambled through a land of fantasy where characters from fairy tales and Mark Twain stories greeted me.
From the museum, I wandered up and down the drag, stopping in at an old-fashioned candy store where I picked up some cinnamon bears and at a beef jerky outlet when I picked up a snack pack of cracked pepper jerky. Heads up, the jerky isn’t cheap. My snack pack cost nearly $12.
I also took a brief stop at Arlington Lawn to see the hot springs and briefly touch the 143 degree water.
Then I got in my car and headed off to Anthony Chapel. This wood and glass structure looks like the twin of Thorncrown Chapel in Eureka Springs. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see the inside of it as a wedding was being held.
I was ready for a little break and returned to the inn to rest up a bit before walking downtown for an early dinner at Brick House Grill.
This is one of the favorite restaurants of Dave and Judy and after experiencing it, I can see why. Brick House Grill has a bistro feel and even includes outdoor seating. I had the Brick House Burger and it was one of the tastiest burgers I’ve ever eaten. I could smell the chargrill as it was placed in front of me. It was so juicy and the grilled onions and crispy bacon really hit the spot.
Maxwell Blade’s magic show has been the top rated show in Arkansas for the better part of three decades and I highly recommend a visit to the theatre to experience both the Close Up show and the full theatre show.
The Close Up show takes place at 6pm in a tiny theatre just behind the bar. And I do mean tiny. The theatre only holds about 24 people so I can assure you the tricks are done right in front of your face.
The Close Up show is performed by Jonathan Erlandson, a very talented magician. He did things 3 feet from my face that just didn’t seem possible such as making a table float and dance. He even did variations of classic tricks with bold twists.
At one point, Erlandson brought up an audience member and had her shuffle a deck of cards and give him half. Then he offered to switch decks or even have her take cards from his pile or add cards to his pile from hers. She added to his pile. Then she picked a card and he picked a card. Then they switched decks and he correctly picked her card. But the real trick was that she was going to pull his card. Erlandson told her to fan the cards and pick any card she wanted from his deck. Then he calmly stated what his card was and the eyes of the audience member bugged out as she turned the card around and it was right!!
I thought his most impressive illusion was when he asked for a bill. I offered up a $20 and Erlandson had me write my name on it. He then folded it up, tossed it into a bowl of lighter fluid, and lit it on fire as a stopwatch while he sped solved a Rubik’s Cube.
Then he asked us if we had noticed the point he walked over to the sealed jar on the opposite side of the stage. He went to the jar, removed the lid, and took something off of the clip hanging to it. He handed it to me and had me unfold it. It was my $20. And, no, he never walked near the jar.
You must see this show and enjoy some truly in your face magic.
The main show, performed by Maxwell Blade, is also a treat. Blade’s show is full of comedy, music, and magic. His sleight of hand is so quick and sure. He’s an accomplished piano player and he and his girlfriend belted out a pretty fair rendition of “Rocketman”. Blade’s tricks and illusions are performed at a blitzkrieg pace, but my two favorites were his new take on Houdini’s famed Metamorphosis trick. Though, in this one, his assistant was chained up in an iron maiden shaped cage in full view of the audience before they swapped places with a close of the curtain. With another sweep of the curtain, Blade had escaped and the stagehand was now shackled.
His final illusion was incredible as he poured various colored powders into a fish bowl and swirled them into liquid. After showing us his clean hands, he swirled again and broke them back up into solid powders.
If you’re a fan of magic and fun, buy a ticket for this show and find out why it’s the best in the state.
Then I walked back to Gables Inn, drew a jacuzzi bath, and just relaxed while sipping a cream soda before going to sleep.
The next morning found me back in the dining room where I had some conversation with a couple from Texas and a couple from Germany while enjoying blueberry cream cheese stuffed French Toast and sausage.
This was a great trip and I’m a little blue to see it come to an end. But take some time in Hot Springs where you can enjoy almost any sort of activity you can imagine. And be sure to take a room in Gables Inn where you can enjoy some classic Southern hospitality in a comfortable Victorian inn.
Until the next time. . .oops, wait a sec.
It’s bonus time.
On my way home, I took an extended break in Fayetteville, AR so I could experience Arkadia Retrocade.
Hands down, this is the best vintage arcade I have ever seen and it wasn’t operating at full strength. The arcade has only recently reopened so some of the games are being worked on, but even at partial strength, this place is amazing.
For $5 (yes, you read that right) you can play all you want for the day. This place not only has classics, but has some next door to impossible games to find as well. Some rare gems I found at this arcade were Thayer’s Quest, a Dragon’s Lair type game that was never fully finished; Hologram Time Traveler, another Dragon’s Lair type game which simulates the look of a hologram; Gold Medalist which was made for the Seoul Summer Olympics; 720, Krull; and many more. There are even sections set up where you can play classic systems like Coleco Vision and Atari 2600. If I’m ever through this way again, I’m going to arrange for a full day of gaming as two hours was simply not enough time.
How good it feels to say those words again. I was badly in need of some downtime and a little research found me the relatively unaffected by COVID county of Allamakee in which lies the town of Lansing which is home to Thornton House Bed & Breakfast owned and operated by Frank Ebersold.
I enjoyed the scenic drive to Lansing, eschewing the interstate as much as I could and making a brief stop in my hometown of Fort Dodge to grab a quick bite to eat at Taco Tico before continuing to my stopping point of Mason City where I had a suite reserved at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites.
For my regular readers, you might remember that when I traveled to Scotland last year, I joined the Hilton Honors program in order to check into my first hotel sooner. Shortly after returning home, I also joined the IHG loyalty program. IHG owns a number of hotels, most prominently Holiday Inn, and that loyalty program has already paid dividends.
With my travel bug neutralized for most of the past 6 months, I have been taking an occasional night to myself at a Holiday Inn. Thanks to various promotions which have boosted my points and tier score, I have earned enough points for a couple of free nights, achieved Gold Elite status, and am 2 stays away from reaching Platinum status (a status that normally requires 40 nights to earn, but a special promotion is letting me do it in 5). My stay in Mason City was my first night as a Gold Elite member. As such I automatically earned 300 points as a gift just for staying and I was warmly welcomed to the hotel with a sign in the lobby.
My room was quite comfortable and spacious, but seems to be following the trend of suites being really big rooms instead of multiple rooms. A nice soft king sized bed was the centerpiece of the room and led to a full night’s sleep for the first time in a while.
The hotel did offer a breakfast consisting of cereal, pastries, and breakfast sandwiches served cafeteria style. I had a “bowl” of Apple Jacks and a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich along with some OJ while I watched the news. I also invoked one of my benefits as a Gold Elite member and took a late checkout of 12:30pm so I could just check right into Thornton House when I arrived in Lansing.
It was a beautiful day for a drive and it seemed to go rather quickly due to the increased concentration needed to get to Lansing as one must navigate a series of back roads to reach the town. As I came closer to Lansing, I was stunned by the sudden transformation of the landscape into a valley as the hills grew in size and were covered by a lush forest.
I arrived in Lansing, a port town on the Mississippi River and also at the base of Mt Hosmer. The town reminded me of a much smaller version of Eureka Springs, AR due to its incredibly hilly nature.
I found the inn, parked my car, and rang the bell and was greeted by Frank who gave me a socially distant welcome and gave me a little history of the house.
Thornton House is an Italianate Victorian mansion built by Alexander McMichael, a grain shipping magnate, in 1873 during a boom period in the local lumber industry. Eventually the house passed into the hands of Dr. John H Thornton who, with his son, John W, became known as “the best medical team this side of the Mayo Clinic” and practiced out of the mansion. For the next 120 years, the house was owned by a Thornton before passing into the hands of Frank.
Frank led me to the Grand Room which would be my headquarters for the next few nights. The room consists of a bedroom and bathroom separated by a small foyer. The bathroom contains a jetted tub while the bedroom has a full sized canopy bed with original or period correct furniture and overlooked by portraits of Presidents Pierce and Lincoln.
I made a quick exploration of the house before taking a walk down Main Street where everything and I mean, EVERYTHING, is located. Gas, groceries, shops, restaurants, medical care, city hall, it’s all located there.
From there I returned to Thornton House where I puttered around for a while before heading back to Main Street and dinner at Milty’s.
I had been in the mood for a steak, but Milty’s seemed to be operating on a limited menu. Instead I enjoyed a rather ripping chicken, bacon, and ranch wrap with a side of fries. With the inner man satisfied, I went back to the inn where I spent a relaxing evening reading, organizing photos, and watching some classic game shows on BUZZR before enjoying a restful night’s sleep.
The next morning, I met Judith and Eric, who were also staying at the inn. Positioning ourselves on opposite ends of the table and we took turns serving ourselves from dishes Frank had set up in the kitchen. For myself, I enjoyed a delicious glass of triple berry juice and put together a plate consisting of a croissant, cheesy eggs (seasoned to perfection), sausage patties, and a homemade waffle which was quite light and fluffy.
Frank positioned himself on a nearby couch so we could share in some socially distant conversation which worked out surprisingly well. With a satisfying breakfast tucked in, I took a drive up Mt Hosmer to the local park where I spent a half hour walking the trails and getting a couple of good shots of the Mississippi River and town.
From there I went back to the inn for a bit before visiting the nearby town of Harper’s Ferry at Frank’s suggestion. Harper’s Ferry contains a Catholic church called Immaculate Conception which had been founded in 1848 by some Irish priests. The land is known as Wexford, named after the village where the priests had lived in Ireland and the church, itself, is reportedly a duplicate of the church in Ireland. A cemetery is also on the land and contains graves dating back to the same date as the founding of the church. A very interesting visit for lovers of history.
After that I returned to the inn to write and rest for the remainder of the afternoon.
About 5:30pm, I walked down to the Main Channel for my dinner. This is a local bar/restaurant and it would satisfy my craving for a steak as the Saturday night special happened to be a 10 oz sirloin with 3 grilled shrimp along with 2 sides. As you may have guessed, I did select that.
I had asked for a house salad which proved to be surprisingly simple as it just consisted of lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and croutons with a bit of ranch dressing. The fresh vegetables were a welcome treat and I crunched away while reading a new volume of Sherlock Holmes pastiches.
The main entrée of steak and shrimp was quite delicious and it must have been my lucky night as the chef slipped me an extra shrimp. The steak was prepared just right and a little melted butter and au jus helped to bring out its flavor. The service wasn’t the best as I was only checked on once at the end of my meal, but as I didn’t need a refill, it came out in the wash.
A little jaunt back to the hotel found me writing a bit more, selecting photos for the article, and enjoying a relaxing bath in my jetted tub. And from there I read myself to sleep.
Breakfast the next morning was similar to the previous though we had sausage links, blueberry scones, and tomato and cheese omelets added to the menu. Another satisfying meal and a long round of conversation with Frank made for a fine morning.
So if you find yourself in Lansing when you travel again, you’ll find some nice outdoor activities, a little antiquing, some history spots, and a fine inn and host at Thornton House.
Normally this would be where I sign off, but this escapade isn’t over quite yet.
After another full night of sleep, I was ready to attack a new day. . .right after breakfast.
Oat walnut pancakes and turkey bacon
Orange butter sauce for the pancakes.
Today’s meal began with a delicious fruit smoothie followed by a main entrée of oat walnut pancakes with orange butter sauce and turkey bacon. I rank this meal as one of the three best that I’ve eaten since I began this project. There wasn’t much time to relax after breakfast because I had to get out to Beaver Lake so I could take a cruise on the Belle of the Ozarks.
Belle of the Ozarks
Beaver Lake is a 35,000 acre lake and popular for swimming, scuba diving, boating, and fishing. It also has a reputation as a world class striped bass fishing spot so I’ll be certain to alert my angler of an older brother as that would get him and his brood down here, lickety split.
It was a perfect day for a cruise, but I would recommend a microphone or bullhorn for the skipper because it was very difficult to hear him over the roar of the boat. He did have a couple of tales which made for interesting listening.
The first was when we passed a marker. Allegedly, it is a magical spot and if one plunks a penny by the marker, his or her wish will come true. I drilled the marker with my penny, so let’s see if my wish comes true. . .
25 feet below that marker is a submerged mountain. Allegedly this spot is magical and has the power to grant wishes.
Soooo, moving right along, the marker actually held a purpose. Twenty-five feet below the marker was a submerged mountain and on that submerged mountain was a submerged house. It was a pity that both were unable to be seen.
The other story was about the value of land around the lake. He pointed out an island that had some ritzy homes on it. He said the owner had bought two half-acres which cost $177,000 each. He said that news put a smile on his face because 25 years ago he had bought 70 acres of lakeside property for a song. I’ve crunched the numbers for you. The skipper’s property valuation is $24,780,000!!! That’s one heck of a nest egg. That’s right. Chris’ Corner is not only fun, but is educational, too.
Another interesting bit of fun is that the skipper dipped a glass into the water and pulled up a glassful of lake water. It was crystal clear. He explained that the first 25 feet or so of the lake (it’s 250 feet at its deepest) is exposed to so much ultraviolet radiation from the sun that it actually kills all pathogens and bakes, for lack of a better term, it clean. To prove his point, he said this water can actually be drunk and told us to take a sip if we wished. I did take a nip and it tasted just fine.
After 90 minutes, our boat docked and I decided to take a visit to the Blue Spring Heritage Center. The water is literally blue and is reported to have healing properties. Thirty-eight million gallons of water run through the spring each year. The site also has some historical significance as it is also part of the Trail of Tears. According to the informational film, the 9 day stopover at Blue Spring provided the lone beacon of hope to the Cherokee during their tragic journey. Aside from the spring, the area is also known for its wildflower and rock gardens.
The Blue Spring
This mound is where the Cherokee camped for 9 days as they walked the Trail of Tears.
It was the first truly hot day I had experienced in Eureka Springs so I decided to retreat to the comfort of the Inn at Rose Hall to organize my notes and relax until dinner.
FUN FACT: Despite the heat, you will not be plagued by mosquitoes in Eureka Springs. There is a massive bat population in the city and they keep the pesky bloodsuckers in check by feeding upon them at night.
For dinner, I decided to try a little fine dining and went to Gaskins Cabin Steakhouse just outside of Eureka Springs. It’s a tiny little establishment and you just might miss it as it actually looks like a tiny house. It was actually much smaller at one point as the restaurant built around the original log cabin (which is 150 years old).
I enjoyed a fresh dinner salad with homemade ranch dressing and a sirloin steak with a loaded baked potato. This was one of the best, if not the best, steak I have ever tasted. It was cooked just right and was seasoned to perfection. I savored every delicious bite and took over half of it with me to enjoy for my supper on my return home the next day.
After a few hours of puttering around, it was time for my final event of the trip. Incredibly, for the third straight time, I would be returning to my explorations of the supernatural as I would be taking the Ghost Tour at the Crescent Hotel and Spa.
The Crescent Hotel & Spa built in 1886.
The hotel was built in 1886 and has quite the interesting past. My tour was led by Marshall Jon Law who was a very animated, entertaining, and gregarious guide. He began by giving us an abbreviated history of the hotel and then went into how the hotel is considered the most haunted in America and one of the most haunted buildings in the country. So strong is the hotel’s haunted reputation that it has been featured on Ghost Hunters and an event called ESP Weekend is held every January in which the hotel contains nothing but paranormal investigators.
Each floor had unique stories behind them and there was even photographic evidence of strange goings-on that Marshall showed to the visitors. As Marshall told us, 95% of supernatural activity can be explained or debunked by science, leaving 5% that science cannot currently explain. These photos fell into the 5% category.
Our guide, Marshall Jon Law.
Out of the numerous tales we heard, there were three that stood out. Two were rather lighthearted and the third was a dark chapter in the hotel’s history.
The first tale is that of the anti-poltergeist, Theodora. Theodora was a very neat, clean, and tidy person in life and that attribute has followed her into the afterlife because this ghost picks up after you. There were reports of make-up kits being put away, compacts closed, and lipsticks capped. Apparently if you’re sloppy enough, Theodora will actually pack your bags and leave them by the door for you in a not so subtle way of saying, “Get out!”
The second tale was that of the traditional poltergeist, Michael. Michael was a young Irishman who did construction work on the hotel. Michael also had a fondness for women which ultimately caused his death. While working up high an attractive woman passed by under Michael and, while attempting to get a better look at her, Michael fell, struck a beam over room 218, and perished.
Since then Room 218 has been Michael’s room and he still has a liking for the ladies. Reports have been made of the shower faucets being fiddled with while women are bathing, the curtains being tied in knots, and women being gently caressed by unseen hands. Michael does not believe in sharing women as it is reported that he, quite literally, kicks the men out of the bed.
Astoundingly, women seem to have an attraction to Michael! As Marshall told us, the ratio of women renting that room to men is 5 to 1. Some of these women even have “dates” with Michael such as pouring a drink for him or having an extra meal brought in.
The third tale was a black mark in the hotel’s history. At one point a man named Norman Baker bought the hotel and turned it into a cancer clinic. Baker was a highly intelligent liar and con artist who had never stepped foot into a medical school, yet called himself a doctor and claimed he could cure cancer. According to Marshall, Baker was a big believer in the power of the mind. Having been misdiagnosed with a terminal illness as a child, Baker was determined to overcome the illness with positive thinking. As years went by and he did not die, Baker convinced himself that he had thought the illness into oblivion and this was the core idea of his cancer cure.
The fourth floor was split into two sections: a convalescing area and an asylum. In the convalescing area, cancer patients were taught how to “hug out the cancer” as Marshall said. They would think good thoughts and share the stories of the good times they had before getting sick and the good times they would have after the cancer vanished. If patients did not get better, then they were obviously crazy and would get transferred to the asylum section where they were given shots of Baker’s Special Serum No. 5 8-10 times a day!
The needle used to deliver these shots was massive and the shots were extremely painful. The doors in the asylum were 3 inches thick to drown out the screams and groans of the patients. When the patients died, nurses would sneak into their rooms in the wee hours of the morning and cart the bodies down to the morgue, which still exists and we did visit it.
Adding insult to injury, Baker would continue to charge families for treatment after the patient’s death. Baker constantly feared for his life, with good reason as the Mafia made 3 attempts on it, and was protected by heavily armed bodyguards and kept a pair of Tommy guns in his bulletproof office for added precaution.
For all the misery this quack caused, he was finally nailed for mail fraud since he sent out flyers saying he could cure cancer. He was sentenced to 4 years in prison, bribed his way out, and died of cancer himself after moving to a houseboat where he promoted a cure for tuberculosis.
There have been reports of gurneys squeaking down the hall in the wee hours of the morning and some have reported seeing apparitions of nurses moving the ghostly bodies down the hall to the elevator. While we were in the morgue we watched a clip from the Ghost Hunters episode in which the hunters investigated the hotel and they had thermal footage of what appeared to be a man in a top hat staring at the investigators.
Inside the morgue. Where Marshall is standing is where thermal footage was caught of a ghost in Ghost Hunters.
Whether you believe in the supernatural or are a hardened skeptic, I do highly recommend the tour because you will get interesting tales and an intriguing look at history.
I was supposed to take part in the hotel’s Flickering Tales event which shares ghost stories about the Eureka Springs area, but the event got canceled due to low sales. It would have been nice if that had been posted someplace as the 3 of us who did buy tickets were not staying at the hotel. As it is, I’ll be contacting the hotel in the morning to get a refund for the event. But as my night had come to an early end, I decided to head back to Rose Hall for some shuteye.
For my final breakfast at the Inn at Rose Hall, I started with a carafe of orange juice and a dish of strawberries, cream, and granola. The main course was green eggs and ham (and I liked them, Sam I Am) with a side dish of fried potatoes.
Straweberries, cream, and granola.
Green eggs, ham, and fried potatoes.
My stay in Eureka Springs had all the hallmarks of a great adventure. I was ready to get home, but kind of reluctant to leave as I had such a great time. Zoie’s hospitality and entertaining (or cooking, if you will) were of the very best quality. But don’t take my word for it. Reserve a room at the Inn at Rose Hall and experience it for yourself. There’s a lot to do in this town and you will have an enjoyable stay.
After sipping my sherry, I made use of the Jacuzzi tub and enjoyed a long hot bath before turning in for the night. It was one of the most comfortable sleeps I have ever enjoyed. The mattress almost seemed to consist of memory foam and perhaps it did. All I know is that the combination of comfy mattress and lull of my trusty fan put my lights out good and proper.
When I awoke the next morning, I did a quick news check to find out who won at the Omaha Playhouse’s Awards Night and did a brief write-up for the theatre news part of my website. I had a shave and then went downstairs to breakfast.
A glass of water and a carafe of orange-cranberry juice waited on my table. Zoie placed a small dish of grapes and cream in front of me along with my massage certificate and tickets for a few events I had paid for online. After the fruit had been eaten, Zoie presented me with 3 sausage links nestled on a bed of Mexican eggs. A little dash of hot sauce made this meal a delicious and zesty affair.
A dish of grapes and cream to start the day.
Sausage links on a bed of Mexican eggs.
I went back to my room and finished my Cannon novel. Then I grabbed my keys and headed to Focus Massage for a one hour massage at the hands of Mimi Vail who bore a strong resemblance to the actress, Linda Hunt. Her ministrations brought full mobility to my shoulders and energized me for the rest of the day.
From there, I drove to Berryville, AR so I could experience the Cosmic Caverns. I was part of a small tour group led by Griffin (a surprisingly mature looking 17 year old) who spent the better part of an hour showing us the myriad rock formations, pure natural onyx (he flashed a light through it to show the translucence), and the two bottomless lakes (no, not literally, they’re just very deep).
The OMG room.
Would you believe this guy is only 17?
On the drive back to Eureka Springs, I made a quick pullover to enjoy the view of a scenic outlook. After snapping some quick photos I made my way to Thorncrown Chapel.
Called “one of the finest religious spaces of modern times” by critics and ranked fourth on the list of the top buildings of the twentieth century by the AIA, Thorncrown Chapel is a awe-inspiring structure of wood and glass. So skillfully designed, you may, like I did, make the mistake of assuming that the clear space is merely “open” space. In reality it is 6,000 feet of glass divided into 425 windows.
Thorncrown Chapel’s construction also had an interesting story behind it. In 1971, Jim Reed purchased the land where Thorncrown Chapel would eventually be built. People often stopped by to admire the property and the view of the Ozark hills, so Jim decided to build a glass chapel so visitors would have a place to relax in an inspiring way.
On March 23, 1979, work began on the chapel. But halfway through construction the money ran out and, despite his best efforts, Jim was unable to gain more funding. One night, Jim took what he thought would be his last walk to look at his half-finished chapel and then had an experience. As Jim said, “I am not proud of the fact, but the first time I ever got down on my knees was on the chapel floor. I prayed more seriously than ever before. All the trials and tribulations gave me the humility to get on my knees.” A few days later, a miracle occurred when a generous woman from Illinois loaned Jim the money to complete construction. On July 10, 1980, Thorncrown Chapel was open to the public.
Thorncrown Chapel is dedicated to Jesus’ words that all would be welcome at His Father’s table. The chapel actually does hold 2 worship services on Sunday and stresses that all are invited to attend. An attendant is present during visiting hours to pray with those who wish to accept Jesus’ gift of salvation.
Visiting this chapel had a profound effect on me. My faith has always been an important part of my life and I can honestly say I felt the presence of God clearly as I sat in that chapel. I just felt such a feeling of peace and warmth that tears began to fill my eyes. If you’re in Eureka Springs, you must visit this chapel. For those who believe, you’ll feel closer to the Lord. For those who don’t or simply aren’t sure, well, you just might before your visit is over.
I returned to the inn for a few hours of relaxation and compiling my notes. Then it was time for my big event of the evening: watching The Great Passion Play.
Originally, I had intended to actually review the show. However, I ended up deciding against it for two very important reasons:
There was no program, so writing a proper review would have been very difficult.
This wasn’t a typical play as its purpose was to tell the story of Jesus’ redeeming of humanity as opposed to being an ordinary play.
The play is held in an outdoor amphitheatre and the grounds also contain a Bible museum, a replica of the Holy Land, as well as the famous Christ of the Ozarks statue (the biggest in the United States). The play is world famous having been seen by 7.8 million people since it began in 1968.
Christ of the Ozarks
The set is the most impressive I have ever seen. It really gives one the feeling of being in Jerusalem back in the time of Christ. The costumes are also well suited to the show and there are some pretty nifty special and lighting effects to the production. It features a cast of over 140 actors and a menagerie of live animals.
Set of The Great Passion Play
The dialogue for the show is pre-recorded so the performers pantomime over the dialogue and the mimed performances were quite good. Putting on my critic’s hat for a moment, the interpretation of the dialogue was mediocre and sounded like the records I liked to listen to as a child. Then again, this play was meant to share a message as opposed to being a proper production.
All in all, it was a memorable and moving show and I would highly recommend watching it if you find yourself in Eureka Springs. As for myself, I was whipped after the day’s shenanigans and have returned wearily to the inn to climb into bed.
It had been several months, but my summer vacation had arrived and I was more than ready for the call of the road. Ultimately, I would be making my way to Eureka Springs, AR, but I was going to make a layover in Carthage, MO so I could experience the Grand Avenue Bed and Breakfast.
It was a picture perfect day for a road trip. I enjoyed the lush foliage of Missouri as I made my way down US-71. After being behind the wheel for nearly 5 ½ hours, I was grateful for the opportunity to stretch my legs a bit as I walked up the crumbled sidewalk which led to Grand Avenue’s front door.
Grand Avenue is a beautiful Queen Anne Victorian home and I soaked up the view before ringing the doorbell. The door was answered by Michael Goolsby, one of the owners of this establishment. He gave me the nickel tour and set a door code for me so I could come and go as I pleased before leaving me to my own devices.
Grand Avenue boasts 4 bedrooms and each is named after a famous author: E.B. White, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Mark Twain. I was staying in the Mark Twain Room. I luxuriated in the blast of cool air that met me after a hot day of driving. After getting my luggage and other sundry items set up, I stretched out on the comfortable king sized bed and relaxed for a couple of hours.
The Mark Twain Room
Then I decided to do a little exploration of the town. Carthage, MO is a classic example of small town Americana. It’s the type of town where everybody seems to know each other and everything is closed on Sunday. The town also has historical significance as a major Civil War battle was fought in its environs. There is a Civil War museum in the town square if you’re in the mood for a little education on the town’s war history.
Carthage is also the home of one the few remaining drive-in theaters in the country. If I’d been staying for more than one night, I might have tried to catch a flick. But after a day on the road, getting back behind the wheel was the last thing on my mind.
I was keen on getting a little dinner and had hoped to eat at a famous local drive-in called Whisler’s which was well-known for its hamburgers. Regrettably, the open light had been mistakenly left on as the eatery, like most of the town’s businesses, was closed on Sunday. Fortunately, I found the Carthage Family Restaurant open so I was able to experience the local cuisine.
The restaurant was fairly empty when I arrived so I took a booth in the back and enjoyed a club sandwich while I read a new novel featuring the detective, Frank Cannon. After dinner I returned to the inn where I posted some pictures and watched Jurassic Park III. I had never seen it before and it was an OK film. After the film ended I decided to call it a day as the long drive coupled with sketchy sleep the past few nights had worn me out.
The next morning, I took a long, hot shower and went downstairs to a breakfast prepared by Jeanne Goolsby, the other owner of Grand Avenue. Breakfast began with a dish of bananas, granola, and cream with a goblet of orange juice. The main entrée was an omelet stuffed with bell peppers, chives, bacon, cheese, and onion with grapes, orange slices, and a cherry scone on the side.
Bananas, granola, and cream
Breakfast at Grand Avenue
I enjoyed the leisurely meal while I read a mystery of Lord Darcy (having left my other novel in the car). After a splendid 30 minutes, I returned to my room to start writing up my escapades and preparing for the last leg of the journey.
Once I had settled my bill, I was back on the road heading to Eureka Springs. Now this was the way a road trip should be. The route took me through a number of small towns and had more twists and turns than an anaconda as I wound around the Ozark Mountains.
Ninety minutes later I found myself in Eureka Springs. I first thought to find the Inn at Rose Hall which would be my home away from home for the next few days. I ended up missing my turn, so I decided to follow the signs and made a visit to Onyx Cave on the outskirts of town.
Onyx Cave is a self-guided walking tour. I wore a pair of headphones for the duration and occasionally I would come upon these boxes with a green button. A push of the button and I would get a little information on the sections of the cave that I was looking at.
There were some truly fascinating sights in the cave such as natural onyx (I know, go figure). Natural onyx is nicknamed bacon strips due to its appearance to raw bacon. Pure onyx, my electronic guide said, is completely transparent. Other impressive rock formations were the Dragon, the Fireplace, and the Elephant. Interestingly, the Fireplace and the Elephant are actually the same formation seen from different angles.
Natural onyx AKA bacon strips
After the half hour tour, I decided it was time to find the Inn at Rose Hall, after I made a stop at a nearby visitor’s center where the friendly clerk gave me a map of Eureka Springs and walked me through the numerous interesting sights and things to do while I was visiting.
Inn at Rose Hall
Then I began the search for the Inn at Rose Hall. Even with a map, it was a tricky place to find. According to local legend, Eureka Springs was designed on a napkin in a bar in Chicago. It is a very steep city (think a much smaller San Francisco) with streets that suddenly end or transform into other streets. Eventually, I found the inn and was greeted at the door by its owner, Zoie Kaye.
Zoie checked me in and offered me a plate of delicious chocolate chip, peanut butter, and oatmeal cookies that had chips in every bite. I lingered over my cookie as Zoie brought me to the Treasures Room which would serve as my base of operations for this trip. I unpacked my clothes and things and laid out on my comfy bed while I made some reservations for some future adventures.
Sun Room (Breakfast Room)
After a few hours, I headed out to find some dinner and found myself at Bubba’s BBQ (It may not look famous, but it is!). I had a beef brisket sandwich along with some homemade French fries. This was the best BBQ I had ever enjoyed, especially with the hot & spicy BBQ that I sprinkled over my sandwich my fries.
After dinner, I saw a sign suggesting I visit the Pivot Rock and Natural Bridge. I followed the wise sign’s suggestion and had a pleasant half hour jaunt where I saw the famed rock formations and walked off my dinner.
I decided to go back to the inn to relax for the evening as I was going to need every bit of energy I could muster for the next day’s adventures. So as I sip a sherry, I bid you a fond good night and invite you back tomorrow for a new set of hijinks.