This is a tiny little free subscription ezine for friends of The
Grove - it is by request only. In other words, we NEVER
arbitrarily add email addresses. We also NEVER sell or share
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Greetings from the end of 2011 - no matter how your year has gone, I hope that you're looking forward to 2012 with hope, trust, and faith that it will be the best year of your life. This past year zoomed by with high - and low - points, but as it comes to a close I can't help but feel blessed by everyone who reads the GroveZine. For this end-of-the-year edition, we've put together a number of stories from Jefferson, and also done a little traveling in search of ghosts for you. But getting back to the GroveZine, many of you have emailed me during the year, others have introduced themselves as you came through The Grove on the tours, and still others said hello during Candlelight, when I was docenting on the front porch of several of the houses. I sincerely appreciate all of your support and kind words throughout the year - each and every one of you are truly special. I pray for your health and prosperity in 2012, and hope that it is the most wonderful years ever. And with that, it's on to the GroveZine!
It's hard to believe that one particular journey has come to an end... that of The Grove time capsule. We first envisioned it a couple of years ago and spent an entire year studying and planning. I probably know more about time capsules than anyone in this part of the country... I read everything that I could get my hands on, studied the outcomes of many time capsule unearthings, and so basically, I'm a fount of useless information! Unless you want to plant a time capsule, that is. Anyway, we made our plans, and then spent 2011 gathering items to put in our capsule. The lid is about to be sealed, and we'll leave it to the future owners of The Grove to determine whether we did a good job with our item selections. It will be a very melancholy feeling to place the "Greetings From 2011!" needlepoint on the very top and close it up - an ending, to be sure. It's been such a part of my life for a year or two, and now it's over... future generations of The Grove will inherit it, but I'd give anything to be there and watch them open it. And who knows - we believe that the spirits of the house are those of former owners, so maybe I'll get my chance to do just that!
It's time again for one of the most unique events in Jefferson - the annual "Quilts on the Bayou" quilt show. If you're into quilts at all, this is a great chance to see a huge collection of expert craftsmanship. I volunteer at the show every year, and even though I'm not talented enough to sew or anything like that, I still marvel at the artistic level of the quilts on display. Whether you're driving up for the day, or making a weekend of it, you'll have a great time at "Quilts on the Bayou!" For more information, just visit their Jefferson Quilt Show website with a click.
Okay, it's officially time for me to start losing weight. I'm serious. After the first of the year, I'm getting on it. It's not that my jeans are a little tight, or anything that I read on the scale, but instead something that a little boy said to me the other day. The members of the Jefferson Lions Club had taken a Saturday and divided it up to ring the bell at the local supermarket for the Salvation Army. I was about halfway through my timeslot when a lady and two kids came by. She gave the young boy a dollar to put in the kettle, and as he did, he kept staring at me. I smiled and thanked them, and kept ringing the bell. Fifteen minutes later they came out of the store with their groceries, and the boy stopped and looked at me again. The lady smiled and told him, "There he is - ask him!" The boy walked over to me, very shy, and said, "Are you Santa's brother?" I smiled and told him, "No, I'm just one of Santa's helpers." The kid grinned ear to ear, and then ran back to the lady. As they walked away, I was contemplating the experience. Santa's brother? Well, I'm reasonably sure that I don't look like a "right jolly old elf," but I do have a round belly, that "shakes when I laugh like a bowl full of jelly." Starting in the next week, I'm going to be pounding the pavements of Jefferson, and eating a bit fewer of those delicious chips at Don Juan's Mexican Restaurant. Heavy sigh.
Jefferson is a small town - about 2,000 folks - so there's not much that goes unnoticed around here. Buy a new car, and your neighbors will know about it before you get it home. One of our restaurants adds an item to their menu? Front page news, and everyone flocks over to give it a try. The town therefore started buzzing when scaffolding was set up beside Auntie Skinner's Riverboat Club - everyone was trying to figure out what was going on. Was the brick being cleaned or re-grouted? Did the old 1800s building need repair? After a few days it was obvious - a sign was being painted on the side of the building, very reminiscent of the olden days, when brick walls were used for advertising. In fact, you can still see a few of the old signs from Jefferson's past today:
You may remember from the GroveZine a month or so ago that The Grove is going to be on the A&E/Bio Channel's hit show "My Ghost Story." We were told that it would be one of the first couple of weekends in December, and then later we got a call that it would be the second weekend. We set the DVR and got ready to watch the show - the one and only reason that we didn't have a bunch of people over to watch it was that Tami was sick... but thank goodness we didn't! We watched the show, and to our surprise, no Grove. A few days later we got a call from someone from the show, who said that they'd put together a Christmas special, and pushed out the remaining programs out a few weeks. The new date is January 7th, but we'll be watching every Saturday just to see.
The Jefferson General Store is a place that every visitor to town loves - whether you're five years old, or ninety-five, you'll enjoy exploring it. Block off at least half an hour when you go there, because there are many, many things to see. And their pecan pralines, well, that's another topic altogether - as the saying goes, "they're to DIE for..." The Jefferson General Store has added a feature to their Facebook page called "Sharing a Shake" where they'll be interviewing some of the local folks from Jefferson. They asked me to be in the first episode, and you can see it by clicking on the photograph.
To close out 2011, we'd like to join us on a little ghost-hunting adventure. We traveled to Eureka Springs, Arkansas for the Christmas holidays and stayed at one of our favorite places in the world (outside of Jefferson, that is): The Crescent Hotel. If any place could conceivably be haunted, it is the Crescent. The "Grand Old Lady of the Ozarks" was built in 1886 as a resort for those seeking the healing waters that flow from beneath the mountains in the area. The popularity of healing waters eventually waned, however, and the Crescent fell on hard times. Just after the turn of the century, the front doors to the elegant lobby closed. In 1908, a group of investors purchased the building and opened it as the Crescent College and Conservatory for Young Women. The accommodations were first class, the faculty was prestigious, and wealthy families from across the nation sent their daughters to the exclusive Eureka Springs school. Several businesses tried to make a go at the Crescent over the next few years, until in 1937 it was purchased by Doctor Norman Baker to be used as a health resort. Baker had to tiptoe around the law because his title of doctor was self-conferred, and he had recently been in trouble in Iowa for practicing medicine without a license. He brought his guaranteed "six-week cure for cancer" to the Crescent, however, and replaced the stately decor of the hotel with bright art-deco designs featuring his signature color: purple. The American Medical Association alerted the authorities about his new hospital, and Norman Baker was convicted in 1940 and sentenced to serve four years in Leavenworth. Yet again, the doors to the building were locked, and the Grand Old Lady sat silent on the hillside. In 1946, the building was purchased once again, this time with the intent of restoring the hotel to its original glamor. To put it simply, those owners succeeded. It has changed hands a few times, but the beauty and service of the hotel has never been compromised. Today it is a magnificent place full of history - and more than a few ghost stories...
I've been researching and studying The Crescent for some time, and I even wrote about it in my book A Ghost in My Suitcase: A Guide to Haunted Travel in America several years ago. To end 2011, I wanted to take you and the other GroveZine readers on a trip there, to explore some of the hotel's haunted tales. While we were in Eureka, however, it wasn't just an opportunity for paranormal investigation. We also took some time out for some serious photo shoots, trying to capture a professional, mysterious portrait that I can use for the back cover of my next book. Here is one that we found to be a little too dark and somber to use.
Okay, I was just kidding around. We couldn't resist the stick-your-face-in-the-hole gingerbread man that we found on the way to one of our favorite Eureka Springs restaurants, The Local Flavor. The Chicken Parm there is indescribable. When it comes to the tales of The Crescent, though, they truly are serious. The ghost stories go back as far as anyone can remember. Probably the best place to start is with the hotel's most famous spirit: Michael. He was an Irish ironworker who fell to his death while working on the framework of the hotel. The area where he died is room 218, and when we stayed there a few years ago, we experienced some interesting activity. As we were in bed reading before going to sleep, there was a knocking on the headboard - several fast knocks, that almost sounded like wood splitting under pressure. We jumped up, and my first thought was that someone was outside beating on the wall. Since it is foot-thick stone, however, that couldn't have been the case. It happened a few more times during our stay, and with each occurrence, it became more obvious that it was a supernatural experience - a sound emanating from the headboard that could not be naturally reproduced.
Michael has done things to other guests, though, like pushing men out of the bed, moving things in the room around, and more. But he also enjoys playing pranks on the hotel employees. Next door to Room 218 is the chambermaid's closet, where sheets, towels, and sundries are kept. It is locked when the maids are not on the floor, but more than once the door has been opened in the morning to find things thrown off the shelves and disheveled - and once all of the linens had been tied together in knots (the hotel took a photo that morning, and has the picture of the knotted sheets in their scrapbook).
On the fourth floor, at the top of the south stairwell, the sounds of a child playing are sometimes heard. A little historical research turns up the fact that during the time when the hotel was a hospital, a housekeeper used to bring her two-year-old daughter to work and let her play in the hall. The girl accidentally fell through the large slats in the railing to her death four floors below. Her spirit seems to be returning to the area where she spent her last few moments alive.
Down the hallway, on the north end of the fourth floor, is Theodora's Room. Visitors to the hotel have seen a short lady wearing a hat with flowers and fumbling in her purse. If they ask if they can help her, she replies, "I'm just looking for my keys." If they walk by and then glance back, they'll see that she is gone. Her presence is very active in Room 419 – when the TV show Ghost Hunters was filming at the Crescent, some of the folks were staying in her room. They went down to eat, and upon returning, found that the door wouldn't open. When they pushed it in, their equipment was stacked against the door from the inside, even though no one was in the room. It has been reported by others staying there. The room also has a dressing table where women often sit to put on their makeup and do their hair. If they leave it in a mess, upon returning the guests sometimes find that Theodora has straightened it up – apparently she doesn't like a mess. On one occasion, however, she apparently caused a mess. An engaged couple was staying in the room, but had an argument and were about to call off the wedding. They went for a walk and made up, but when they came back all of the clothes in the closet – including the wedding dress – had been pulled off the hangers and were piled in the bottom of the closet, and looked as if someone had trampled on them. They went on with the wedding, but not before sending some of the clothes off to be cleaned and pressed.
When the luxury hotel was first built, one thing was overlooked – there was no place for the guests' servants to stay. An annex was quickly added for dormitory sleeping to accommodate the help that traveled with their employers. During the hospital period, it was turned into the area where the dying were kept – those who continually cried out in pain and suffering. It was called "The Asylum." Later, on floors 2 and 3 the area was turned into luxury Jacuzzi suites. When it was completed, the hotel manager and his wife spent a night in room 3500. The wife woke up in the night and saw a woman at the foot of their bed, watching them sleep. She nudged her husband, but he turned on the light and didn't see anyone there. The wife woke up later in the night and saw the woman again, and insisted that they move to another room. About three weeks later, after guests started staying in the room, a man took a photo of his wife and when they were looking back at the pictures, there was a reflection of a woman – not his wife – in the glass of the television. When the manager's wife saw it, she immediately screamed that it was the woman she saw at the foot of the bed.
Nurses delivered terminal patients to The Asylum on gurneys, and it apparently happened so often that there is a residual haunting that occurs in the third floor hallway. Guests have occasionally glanced up to see a woman in white walk by, pushing a gurney. There is a figure under the top sheet, as if the woman is delivering a dead body. More often than the visual experiences, however, is the sound of a gurney with a squeaky wheel being rolled along the floor in the wee hours of the morning.
One of the more common stories from The Crescent comes from the staff, not the visitors. Employees of the hotel tell of a man in a Victorian suit who walks through the front door of the hotel and down the hallway to the Crystal Dining Room. He crosses the expanse of the room, and takes a table at the side. When someone approaches and asks if they can be of assistance, he simply says, "I'm waiting for my fiancee." The employee will typically smile and walk away, but when he glances back, the man has vanished.
Another resident spirit of the hotel is that of a little boy. One of the former owners of the hotel had a three-year-old son called "Brecky" – he was named after his mother's maiden name, "Breckenridge." He was born with peritonitis, or twisted intestine. Because of his affliction his body had trouble digesting food, and so he was a weak child who was on a very strict diet. He often played in the hallways of the hotel because he wasn't allowed outside. Brecky died at the age of six years. Today, the second floor hall by the stairs near room 228 is where he is most often heard – people in the rooms sometimes awaken to the sound of someone bouncing a ball in the hallway and up against the wall. A psychic did a cold reading in the location, and picked up on a boy who bounces a ball very angrily, and who gave the message, "It's not fair... it's just not fair."
Past the laundry in the basement of the hotel is the workshop, which served as the morgue during the hospital years. Just stepping into the room gives the visitor an uneasy, apprehensive feeling. On one wall is the autopsy table where the bodies were dissected in the name of science - you can see it in the photo here. The cancerous limbs and organs were removed for study and placed into jars filled with formaldehyde and stored in an adjoining room. Today, that room is where paint, supplies, and hardware parts for the hotel are stored, and it is known (interestingly enough) as the "parts room." A creepy moniker indeed, given its past history. Another adjacent room is the "cold room," a place where the bodies were kept awaiting autopsy. When Dr. Baker was arrested and sent to prison, all of his records at his hospital – the Crescent – were mysteriously destroyed. Still, it is estimated that some 425 people died at the Crescent during the years of 1938-1940. There were quite a few mortuaries in town during those years, at least one of which Dr. Baker is said to have owned. With all of the deaths due to his alleged malpractice at his hospital, the mortuary business must have been booming.
The ghost stories go on and on at the hotel, but allow me to close with something that happened to us on this trip. We were in room 319, just a few steps away from "The Asylum" and adjoining the hallway where the phantom nurse pushes her gurney. The door has a knocker on it, although no one uses it. Room service, housekeeping, everyone simply raps on the door with their knuckles. We were in the room one evening when someone knocked on the door using the knocker. Tami was only a step or so away at the time, so she looked through the peephole to see who it was - but there was no one there. Thinking that it might be kids, she put on some shoes, and as she was doing so it happened again. This time she opened the door just moments after the knocking stopped, and looked out into the hall in all directions... the hallway was completely empty.
After a lot of fun at The Crescent, and a wonderful Christmas, we packed up and headed back for some more familiar spirits... those of The Grove. As much as we enjoyed Eureka Springs, it's like they say, there's no place like home, ghosts and all. While I love telling the tales of Jefferson and The Grove, I thought that it might be fun to have you accompany us for a little ghost-hunting at The Crescent. With a long history as a resort hotel, a school for young girls, and a hospital run by a self-proclaimed doctor where many deaths took place, if there is ever a place that deserves to be haunted, it is The Crescent Hotel. But more than that, it's just a really nice place to visit. Like I always say when we leave it, "We'll be back!"
As 2011 moves into the history books, let me take a moment to thank each and every one of you who read the GroveZine every month (and put up with the occasional delays when life intrudes). I sincerely hope that 2012 will be a more consistent year - believe me I do - but more than that I hope that it will be a happy, healthy, and prosperous year for every one of us. I think that GroveZine readers are some of the coolest people in the world.
But more than that, we all share an interest in the world of the supernatural... that mysterious realm that is beyond the boundaries of what most people can imagine - or are afraid to acknowledge. I love sharing this journey with you all; thanks again for reading. Tighten your seatbelt, and get ready for 2012!!!
And speaking of which, a year or so ago I was looking forward to that movie 2012. Not that I believe that the world will be ending on December 21st - I don't - but still, the myths and legends surrounding the supposed Mayan prophesy are fun. Although it was a special effects extravaganza, the movie had nothing at all to do with the whole 2012 hoopla. Which is why I enjoyed the book 2012: Timeline Apocalypse so much - it is a supernatural thriller that is steeped in the Mayan religion and prophesies. Author Bob Nailor did a masterful job with a story that's the perfect way to start out the "end of the world" year. Click on the book cover for more info on this great read.
And if you'd like to check any of my books, you can find them at Barnes & Noble, Borders, Amazon.com, or at The Grove's website if you'd like to order a signed copy of anything.
If you missed any issues of the GroveZine, you can find them at the GroveZine Archives.
12/31/2011 - Jefferson Carnegie Library New Year's Eve Dance
01/12-15/2012 - Beauty & the Book's Girlfriend Weekend
01/27-29/2012 - Jefferson Quilt Show
02/04/2012 - Krewe of Hebe "Queen Mab Ball"
02/17-19/2012 - Mardi Gras Upriver
04/07/2012 - Jefferson's City Wide Rummage Sale
04/21/2012 - Paws on the Bayou
04/20-22/2012 - Outlaw Nationals Classic & Antique Car Show
04/20-22/2012 - 10th Annual Diamond Don's National Vintage Motocross
05/03-06/2012 - Diamond Bessie Murder Trial Play
05/04-06/2012 - Battle of Port Jefferson Civil War Re-enactment
05/04-06/2012 - 65th Annual Historic Home Tours & Spring Festival
05/26/2012 - Cypress River Airport Fly-In
06/01-02/2012 - 2nd Annual Big Cypress Corvette Classic
07/04/2012 - "Jefferson Salutes America" 4th of July Celebration
07/15/2012 - Krewe of Hebe "Jefferson Heritage Triathlon
10/06/2012 - Jefferson's City Wide Rummage Sale
10/12-14/2012 - 15th Annual Boo Run Benefit
10/21/2012 - Taste of Jefferson
10/25-27/2012 - Marion County Fair
10/27/2012 - Krewe of Hebe & Auntie Skinner's "Monster Bash"
11/09-10/2012 - Trammel's Trace Rendezvous
11/23/2012 - Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony @ Lion's Park
11/29-30/2012 - 30th Annual Christmas Candlelight Tour of Homes
12/01,06-08/2012 - 30th Annual Christmas Candlelight Tour of Homes
12/03/2012 - Jefferson's Old Fashioned Christmas Parade
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