Advertisement

Glass bottles found behind 'haunted' Arkansas hotel date to 1938 cancer elixir

Bookmark this
12 April, 2019 By Bill Bowden

EUREKA SPRINGS -- More than 400 glass bottles have been unearthed in the backyard of the Crescent Hotel.

They appear to date from 1938-40, when the building served as Baker Hospital and Health Resort.

Norman Baker, who owned the hospital, claimed to have found a cure for cancer. But there is no evidence his concoction ever cured anyone.

According to Eureka Springs lore, in the hospital morgue, Baker had rows of jars full of samples of tumors that had been removed from patients. A full-page advertisement in the hospital's magazine included pictures of the jars.

"We have hundreds of specimens like these," the ad said. "Actual cancer specimens and laboratory data proves all. ... All specimens are preserved in alcohol."

The bottles in the advertisement look a lot like the bottles buried behind the 133-year-old Crescent Hotel.

"These bottles perfectly match with the posters and photographs of Baker's bottles at that time," said Mike Evans, station assistant archaeologist with the Arkansas Archeological Survey in Fayetteville who has been working at the site.

Baker was convicted of mail fraud in 1940 and his hospital closed, according to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture. He spent three years in the federal penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kan. Baker died in 1958.

Keith Scales, who leads ghost tours at the Crescent, said officials were told that subsequent owners of the building took all of Baker's specimen bottles to the dump in the 1960s. He thought that meant a landfill near Berryville, but apparently it meant a dump behind the building.

Susan Benson, the Crescent Hotel's "landscape artist," uncovered the "bottle dump" Feb. 5, when she was moving earth with a backhoe to make way for an archery range behind the hotel.

The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality and the Arkansas State Police were called in. State police officers determined that it wasn't a crime scene or burial site, Evans said.

"ADEQ took samples and said it's mostly alcohol, so it's safe," he said.

More than 20 of the bottles contain what appears to be tissue. Whether that tissue is human, animal or prefabricated "props" has yet to be determined. Evans said the samples will be sent to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and the state Crime Laboratory for analysis. If some of the samples are of humans, DNA tests could be done to provide more information, he said.

Those samples were still floating in alcohol. Evans said 100 other bottles, from which the alcohol had escaped through decaying lids, may also contain tissue samples -- still pickled and preserved.

Evans said Baker could have purchased tissue samples in the 1930s. Also, he might have taken them with him when he moved to Eureka Springs. He previously operated a similar facility called the Baker Institute in Muscatine, Iowa.

"This is part of medical history for Arkansas," Evans said of the excavation. "A lot of doctors are interested in this."

Jack Moyer, vice president and general manager of the Crescent Hotel, said he doesn't believe Baker performed surgeries on live patients at the hospital in Eureka Springs, but he performed autopsies on patients who died there.

Scales said the records indicate that 40 people were taken from the hospital to the mortuary during the 20 months that Baker operated the hospital.

Scales said Baker wasn't a doctor. He was an entrepreneur who started out in vaudeville, where he performed as a hypnotist and illusionist. He later got into radio broadcasting and invented a portable organ called the Air Calliaphone, which ran on air pressure. Baker ran for U.S. Senate and governor of Iowa, losing both elections. He was often cross-ways with the American Medical Association.

"This showman, with his white suits and lavender ties, hawked a form of populism that distrusted science, education, Jews and Catholics," according to the encyclopedia article. "Paranoia ran throughout his life, and in Eureka Springs he had his office sealed off in bulletproof glass and kept two sub-machine guns within easy reach."

Moyer said the bottle dump is another piece of a puzzle.

"There's a lot of lore of what happened in the past," Moyer said. "This site is proving what we heard happened here in the past is true."

Moyer said they've found a couple of bottles of what they believe was Baker's cancer "cure."

Scales said the ingredients of the elixir were revealed in a 1940 court case. He said it contained brown corn silk, red clover, ground-up watermelon seeds, peppermint, glycerin and carbolic acid. Documents indicate some patients were injected with the "cure" seven times a day, he said.

Evans said 16mm film reels were also found at the excavation site. The words on one frame could be deciphered through the decay. It read "Before Baker Treatments."

Jared Pebworth, another archaeologist from the survey who's been working at the site, said hundreds more bottles may be in the ground, but they have removed a representative sample.

Pebworth said the bottle dump could be an old root cellar. He's basing that on the fact that one side of it seems to be very well-defined with a straight line. He said dirt was placed over the bottles.

"They were hiding their trash," Pebworth said.

He said archaeologists will soon stop working at the site and leave it to the property owners.

Scales said he hopes to incorporate the archaeological finds into the ghost tours he has at the Crescent, which the tours promote as the most haunted hotel in America.

"I think we'll put up an interactive display of what we've found -- the innocuous stuff -- and it'll be part of our ghost tours," he said.

Scales said he hasn't noticed an increase of paranormal activity at the hotel since the bottle dump was found and excavation began.

But he'll bring in some experts who have machines for testing such things.

"This is providing validation to the lore that we have been spreading for years," Moyer said.


Advertisement

Recent Articles

Mandy Moore’s Mindful Tips for a Well-Balanced, Lively Summer

Mandy Moore’s Mindful Tips for a Well-Balanced, Lively Summer

in Food & Drink News

With plans of trips and relaxation on the horizon, it can be easy to give your wellness routine a vacation, too. Take a moment to be consciously aware of how your mind and body may react to an overly active and jam-packed summer schedule.

June 3, 2019

Village Inn Marks 25-Year Anniversary in Fayetteville Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and Pies Done Right

Village Inn Marks 25-Year Anniversary in Fayetteville Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and Pies Done Right

in Food & Drink News

May 23rd was the official 25-year anniversary of their Grand Opening, and it was business as usual for the local favorite.

May 31, 2019

Concert series expand across Northwest Arkansas

Concert series expand across Northwest Arkansas

in Entertainment News

Sunny summer days and a desire to get outside after the cold has melted away, and more bands living in and coming through the area than you could shake a stick at, and Northwest Arkansas is primed for outdoor concert season.

May 29, 2019 By Jocelyn Murphy

Vintage treasure found in eye of the beholder

Vintage treasure found in eye of the beholder

in Community News, Event News

With the huge red barn and the gentle sound of cattle lowing in the background, the Junk Ranch delivers exactly what its website promises: a country barn sale.

May 31, 2019 By Lara Hightower

Must Read Articles

Mountain biking takes over Northwest Arkansas

Mountain biking takes over Northwest Arkansas

in Community News

The mountain biking community of the region has grown impressively over the past three to five years, but in 2018, the sport and its economic and social impacts on the area simply exploded.

December 26, 2018 By Chip Souza

Bella Vista Arboretum To Open At Blowing Springs

Bella Vista Arboretum To Open At Blowing Springs

in Community News

A project that has been on the Property Owners Association master plan for years is coming to Bella Vista at no cost to local residents.

March 20, 2019 By Lynn Atkins

'Percy Jackson' Sparks Magic: Larger than life show returns to heart of theater

'Percy Jackson' Sparks Magic: Larger than life show returns to heart of theater

in Community News, Event News

Fayetteville will be the very first city outside of New York to experience the magic, adventure and electricity of "The Lightning Thief."

December 31, 2018 By Jocelyn Murphy

Advertisement