Eureka, Ho!!!, Days 4 & 5: Sailing, Solitude, and the Supernatural

After another full night of sleep, I was ready to attack a new day. . .right after breakfast.

Fruit Smoothie

Fruit Smoothie

Oat walnut pancakes and turkey bacon

Oat walnut pancakes and turkey bacon

Orange butter sauce for the pancakes.

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

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.

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.

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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

The Blue Spring

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This mound is where the Cherokee camped for 9 days as they walked the Trail of Tears.

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 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.

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.

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.

Straweberries, cream, and granola.

Green eggs, ham, and fried potatoes.

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.

Till the next adventure. . .

Eureka, Ho!!, Days 1 and 2: Small Town Americana & A Day in Nature

Grand Avenue Bed and Breakfast

Grand Avenue Bed and Breakfast

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

The Mark Twain Room

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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.

Whislers

Whisler’s Hamburgers

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

Bananas, granola, and cream

Breakfast at Grand Avenue

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

Natural onyx AKA bacon strips

The Dragon

The Dragon

The Fireplace

The Fireplace

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

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.

Treasures Room

Treasures Room

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Antique Rose

Antique Rose

The Gallery

The Gallery

Sun Room (Breakfast Room)

Sun Room (Breakfast Room)

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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.

Bubba's BBQ

Bubba’s BBQ

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.

Pivot Rock

Pivot Rock

Natural Bridge

Natural Bridge

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.