Paranormal Phenomenon: Thirteen “Super-Natural” Locations in The Natural State


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Kimberly J. Williams, travel writer
Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism

“I think the supernatural is a catch-all for everything we don't understand about the vast other parts of life that we cannot perceive.” William Shatner

Man has been fascinated with the unknown since the beginning of time. Ghosts, spirits, paranormal entities, unexplainable sights and sounds…we hear stories, we see photographs, and we continually strive to offer staunch explanations. At some point, no justification presents itself and the stories lend themselves to legend.

I recently sat down with Larry Flaxman and Amanda Dinwiddie of the Arkansas Paranormal and Anomalous Studies Team (www.ARPAST.org). ARPAST is a science-based paranormal research team that primarily focuses on understanding underlying environmental or quantum variables, which might exist in a location, believed to be "haunted." They have conducted over 200 investigations of allegedly haunted locations throughout the country and have shared a few notables from our home state.

Whether you’re a skeptic, a believer or just wanting to do something a little different, here are 13 locations throughout Arkansas that might convince skeptics that a supernatural world exists within our own known realm. If it doesn’t prove that theory, it’s still a really good opportunity to experience something unusual in The Natural State!

1. The Allen House, located in Monticello, has been cited as one of the “most haunted houses in America.” Built in 1906, the Allen House is a ideal example of Queen Anne Victorian architecture that also features gothic and neoclassical design elements such as massive porch columns and multi-storied turrets. Joe Lee Allen, a successful local businessman, planned the home to be the most impressive the town had ever seen. Allen, his wife Caddye and their three daughters moved into the stately home. In the following years, Allen became a hotelier, bank president and automobile salesman. Allen died at age 54 in 1917. His widow lived in the notable home until her death in 1954. It was the week leading up to 1949 that would begin the legend surrounding the Allen family and their home. The Allen’s second daughter, Ladell, consumed mercury cyanide-laced punch on Dec. 26, 1948, in the master suite of the family home. She died one week later. Her mother sealed off the room and it would not be entered by anyone for nearly four decades. The house remained in the Allen family until 1986. The home was divided into apartments in 1956 by the Allen’s grandson and remained a rental property for three decades. During this time, the Allen House became known for more than its architectural grandeur. Tenants in the apartments would tell stories about paranormal experiences ranging from hazy figures in photographs to furniture being unexplainably rearranged. Many people often commented on a lady sitting in a turret window. The current owners, Rebecca and Mark Spencer, bought the house in 2007. They now offer tours of the house and share their own paranormal experiences. Tickets for tours of the house, including the special Midnight Hour tours, are still available. Visit www.AllenHouseTours.com for details.

2. The 1905 Basin Park Hotel in Eureka Springs is known for several “special guests.” A little girl in a yellow dress with brown pigtails has been seen “skipping” throughout the lobby. Many believe that William Duncan, one of the businessmen who helped build the original hotel, still roams the hallways in his trademark brown suit and derby hat. There are tales of the translucent young woman with "cotton candy blonde hair and steel blue eyes.” Other guests recount the vision of a lovely young lady in a flowing white dress, waiting on her long-overdue groom. During the 40s and 50s, the hotel was the site of illegal gaming halls, and many hotel visitors report hearing the sounds and ringing of slot machines. The hotel offers ghost tours seven nights a week. To learn more about the 1905 Basin Park Hotel, visit www.BasinPark.com. To learn more about the hotel’s ghost tours, log on to www.EurekaGhostTours.com.

3. Battery C Battlefield Park in Helena-West Helena overlooks a portion of Crowley’s Ridge that saw deadly fighting during the July 4, 1863, Battle of Helena. During my recent meeting with Flaxman and Dinwiddie of ARPAST, I mentioned that I’d heard of phantom gunfire being witnessed by a local paranormal investigation group. Not only had Flaxman heard of the experience, he actually witnessed the phenomenon. “My experience at Battery C Park was nothing short of incredible. Over the course of approximately 20 minutes, myself and six other individuals actually saw what we believe to be phantom cannon fire.” The Battle of Helena was an extremely bloody event. A total of 239 Union soldiers were killed, wounded or missing. The number for Confederate was nearly sevenfold – 1,696 killed, wounded, or missing. The Battle of Helena secured the Union stronghold on the Mighty Mississippi. The bloody battle also proved to be the last major Confederate offensive in Arkansas.

4. The Clayton House in Fort Smith is a restored antebellum residence that was home to one of Fort Smith’s most well known historic figures, William Henry Harrison Clayton. Clayton was the prosecutor for “hanging Judge” Isaac Parker. During his years before Parker, he convicted 80 men of murder (a greater number than any prosecutor in the United States), 40 of which were executed. The family home is now a museum and reports of supernatural activity flourish. The museum’s director reports seeing an apparition of a woman in Mr. Clayton’s study. The woman also seems to appear in photographs taken by construction workers in 2007 and 2008. People have also claimed to be “touched” when no one else was in the room and others have reported having their hair pulled. Visit www.ClaytonHouseFortSmith.com to learn more about the historic home.

5. Cosmic Cavern in Berryville is one of Arkansas’s many belowground attractions. The cave features two bottomless lakes and one of the region’s largest “soda straw” formations, at over nine feet long. Cave owners also believe there to be supernatural happenings within and outside the cave’s parameters. ARPAST has captured the sounds of a little girl’s voice on an EVP from the house next to the cave. Several visitors and workers have seen a lady in a blue Victorian dress mysteriously appear and disappear. The cave is also believed to be “home” to a little boy that owners refer to as “Sam.” He likes to play with the intercom, the light bulbs and, in general, create mischief. Log on to www.CosmicCavern.com to learn more about the cave.

6. The legendary Crescent Hotel & Spa in Eureka Springs is considered by many as one of the most haunted locations in Arkansas. Paranormal researchers have studied the Crescent Hotel, a beautiful structure built in 1886, time and again. Claims include feeling the lick of a dog (said to be from the two St. Bernard dogs who died in the facility), the apparition of an Irishman (nicknamed “Michael” by the staff) in Room 218, and a ghostly waiter in the hallways. In fact, Room 218 is the most requested room in the facility, giving creed to the belief that we are a society infatuated with the supernatural. There’s also Dr. John Freemont Ellis, still dressed in his Victorian finery. Dr. Ellis was the hotel physician in the years following the opening of the resort. The hotel also hosts the Crescent Hotel Ghost Tours, every evening beginning at 8 p.m. throughout the year. Visit www.Crescent-Hotel.com for more details on the historic resort and its “ghostly” past.

7. The Empress of Little Rock stands today as one of the best examples of Victorian architecture in the state. In 1888, when it was completed at the cost of $20,000, it was known as the Hornibrook House. Bob Blair, along with his wife Sharon, has owned the beautifully restored home since December 1993. In January 1994, Blair had his first “encounter” with a “dapperly dressed” gentleman in a peaked homburg hat. Since then, workers and visitors have reported “seeing” the ghostly vision. Others have heard voices, footsteps and “smelled” the scent of cigars, although no one would be anywhere in the house smoking. Log on to www.TheEmpress.com to learn more.

8. The Gurdon Lights was first reported in the 1930s and the sightings haven’t stopped since…nor have the “explanations.” Many claim the light comes from an incident in December 1931, when William McClain was beaten to death during an argument with another railroad employee. Believers claim that the light is that of McClain’s lantern. In 1994, the “light” garnered national attention when the NBC television series, “Unsolved Mysteries,” featured the phenomenon on the program. Regardless of the origin of the Gurdon Lights, nearly 80 years after the first document sighting, people are still visiting the site and seeing the glow. Gurdon is located in Clark County, 85 miles south of Little Rock.

9. The King Opera House in Van Buren is a stunning facility, featuring Victorian-era flourishes and details. The theater also has its own legend…the Ghost of the Opera House. Legend has it that an actor who performed at the King Opera House fell in love with the local doctor’s daughter. The pair planned their escape, making it to the train station before locals informed the doctor of their imminent departure. The doctor made his way to the scene, dragging his daughter away. Stories tell that the doctor later went back and beat the young actor to death and that his spirit still roams the King Opera House to this day. Several directors at the theater have reported sightings of an apparition in a long cape.

10. The building that stands amid MacArthur Park in Little Rock has a long and varied history. It started as the Little Rock Arsenal in 1836. More than 30 buildings would comprise the munitions storage facility, but today all that remains is the 1840 Tower Building, which houses the MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History. The building has become so well known for the variety of unexplainable activities that it is now the first stop on a new tour, Haunted Tours of Little Rock. Visitors and employees alike have recounted events, ranging from voices to music to solid apparitions of a man in a dark uniform. One paranormal investigation group believes there to be more ghostly presences outside the building than inside. Visit www.HauntedToursofLittleRock.com for more information on supernatural tours of the Capital City.

11. The charming Magnolia Hill Bed and Breakfast occupies a beautiful setting…on a slight hill along Crowley’s Ridge in historic downtown Helena. Construction on the house began in 1895 and was completed in 1900. The house was built for Charles and Gabriella Moore and it was their home in 1939. The majestic home was also used as a USO club during World War II, and after the Presbyterian Church burned, services were held inside the home. Since 1992, the house has been a working bed and breakfast inn. Past visitors have shared their experiences, including the distinct feeling of someone caressing their hair while sitting on one of the beds. Many have reported having the same dream after staying in a specific room of the inn. Paranormal investigators recorded a variety of Electronic Voice Phenomenon (EVPs), including a small child yelling and a female humming in an empty room. One investigation group believes that the spirit of a Union soldier is trapped in the house’s basement. Visit www.CarriageSquare.net to learn more about Magnolia Hill Bed and Breakfast.

12. The St. Francis County Museum in Forrest City began life as a family home. In 1906, Dr. J.O. Rush built a lovely house for his family, strategically located near the railroad tracks. Rush served as the physician and surgeon for the railroads. Day and night, the home was filled with the maimed and injured, especially those involved in railroading accidents. In the decades to come, many would claim seeing strange movement through the darkened windows. Some local residents claimed that those who were brought to Dr. Rush’s office for medical attention haunted the house. After Dr. Rush’s death in 1961, the house stayed in the family until 1995. Over the years, the stories of bizarre occurrences and shadowy figures in the windows continued to flourish. After extensive renovation, the Rush-Gates House opened in 1998 as the home of the St. Francis County Museum. Virtually every staff member has had incidents happen that are “unexplainable.” Over the past few years, the museum has opened its doors to paranormal organizations such as ARPAST and the newly formed Northeast Arkansas Paranormal and Anomalous Studies Team (NEARPAST) to study the Gates-Rush House. The museum now offers A Night at the Museum program at various times throughout the year, including Halloween. Guests come to the museum and spend several hours inside the house alongside members of the paranormal investigative team. The event starts with a history of the Rush-Gates House and museum staff share stories of strange occurrences they’ve experienced. Tour participants hear a series of electronic voice phenomenon that were previously recorded in the house and, following a quick overview of the equipment that will be used, the visitors watch and participate as team members collect data. Before the guests leave, the investigation team scans the audio recordings that were made throughout the evening and allow participants to hear any easily recognized vocal recordings (not requiring computer enhancement) that were captured. For more information on scheduling A Night at the Museum tour, contact the St. Francis County Museum at 870-261-1744 or visit www.SFCMuseum.org.

13. Smackover can trace its history back to the 1830s, when settlers with land grants migrated to the area. However, the town began to “boom” when, in 1922, an oil well struck what would become one of America’s largest oil reserves. Within six months, the town’s population grew from 100 to 25,000. People believe that some of those original “boomers” still walk the streets of the south Arkansas town. Smackover Ghost Tours are offered each weekend throughout the year and features visits to six buildings that are “known” for their paranormal activities. Participants go inside three of the buildings, wielding a variety of paranormal investigation tools, including electromagnetic field (EMF) detectors and electronic voice phenomenon (EVP) recorders. People have reported sightings of “Jimmy,” a young boy left by his mother at the doctor’s office in 1932. He died before his mother returned, and “Jimmy” still searches for her today. The tour includes a visit to the old jail, where many report loud bangs and unexplained noises. Phone the Smackover Chamber of Commerce for more information on the city’s ghost tours at 870-944-0221.

To learn more about Arkansas’s notorious ghosts, monsters and legends, visit www.Arkansas.com/haunted. You’ll find first-hand accounts, videos, audio clips and a list of upcoming “haunted” events.

The ARPAST website has a section dedicated to “Arkansas Legends,” sites located throughout the state with claims to paranormal activity. “Our organization is unlike any other group out there,” said Flaxman. “We focus on true science in our investigations but also bridging the gap between spirituality and one’s own personal beliefs. That’s never been done before.” To learn more about ARPAST, visit www.ARPAST.org.
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Submitted by the Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism
One Capitol Mall, Little Rock, AR 72201, 501-682-7606
E-mail: [email protected]

May be used without permission. Credit line is appreciated:
"Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism"

Submitted by the Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism
One Capitol Mall, Little Rock, AR 72201, 501-682-7606
E-mail: [email protected]

May be used without permission. Credit line is appreciated:
"Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism"