Thursday, September 29, 2016

Haunted Baker Hotel

The Baker Hotel, 2015.
The Baker Hotel in Mineral Wells, Texas was opened on November 22, 1929 just 3 weeks after the stock market crash of 1929. Known as the "Grand Old Lady," the hotel was a success as soon as it opened and was a top spa destination during the 1930s. When the nearby Fort Wolters closed down after World War II in 1946 however, both the Baker Hotel and the city declined. After the war ended and Mineral Wells was no longer the growing, bustling town it was before, the owners of the Baker Hotel did everything they could to stay in business, but costs exceeded income and it eventually closed for good in 1973.
The owner, Mr. Baker, moved into a fancy suite on the 10th floor with his family when the hotel opened. It is known he also maintained a suite for his red-headed mistress on the 7th floor. He lived in his hotel until his death in 1972. For the last 20 years of his life, he endured the decline of his fortune and watched the decline of his once luxurious hotel.

Just because the Baker Hotel has been closed to the living since 1973 doesn't mean it has been devoid of activity. The hotel remains a grand old structure containing thousands of stories of the people that stayed there - some during their last days as they sought cures for terrible illnesses. The reports of ghosts and hauntings began in the Baker long before it closed. A porter who worked there in the 1950's and 60's was the first known to witness the ghost of the woman on the 7th floor. She looks and dresses like the pictures of Mr. Baker's reported mistress. Rumors from the time say Mr. Baker refused her demands that he leave his family and marry her. Distraught, she jumped to her death from the top of the building. The year of the incident has not been verified but the room she stayed in was a suite on the southeast corner of the 7th floor. Many have reported smelling her perfume and her spirit is said to be quite flirtatious with men she may fancy.
Other records report that a drunken woman tried to jump into one of the swimming pools from the 12th floor balcony and died in the fall. Another reports that a married male cook got into a huge fight with his girlfriend, who was a maid at the hotel. She threatened to tell his wife about their love. He lost his temper and control, and stabbed her to death in the kitchen pantry. Recently a woman, who worked as a maid in the hotel, reported that on several occasions she found glasses in one particular room with red lipstick stains on the rims. This took place at times when no one was staying in the room.

The last manager of the hotel while it was still in business reported that one night he was near the main lobby on the first floor when he heard the distinct sound of a woman in high heals walking across the lobby. Thinking the footsteps to be those of his female assistant manager, he yelled out her name. The footsteps then faded away and upon further inspection, he found himself totally alone. Later he discovered that the assistant manager had not even been in the building that day.

On another occasion, he reported being on the 7th floor repairing an electrical breaker for the Christmas lights which continuously tripped every night during the display. As he was inspecting the fuse box, he heard the footsteps of an unseen person quietly walking up to his left as if not to bother him. A bit startled, he turned to look and saw no one. He said it certainly spooked him, but he spoke to the seemingly empty room and assured the possible ghost(s) that he meant no harm. After that night the lights never tripped off again.

Another incident occurred during a tour of the hotel by a group of World War II veterans and their spouses. As the group entered the empty "Brazos Room" on the first floor, which was the main dining room and dance area, a couple suddenly stopped. The woman looked at her husband and asked, "Do you hear that?" He replied, "I certainly do". About that time, several other people in the group began to hear sounds of dishes and silverware clanking as well as people talking with orchestra music in the background. Nearly all of the people there reported this event. It has never happened before nor since, but the witnesses were sure they were experiencing the ghostly echoes of a time long past.

A lady who worked at the drive-through bank located across the street from the empty hotel in the early 1990's reported that she and other tellers had their workstations facing the huge hotel. During slow times they noticed hotel windows open on various floors. Later they would notice these windows closed and others would be open. After awhile they began to take note and count which were opened and closed. One of the girls told the others "it must be the man who lives in the building and takes care of it." After that, the interest ceased and they stopped noticing. The strange thing is, no one has ever stayed in the Baker at any time since its closure in 1973 and there never was a caretaker.

A local Mineral Wells
woman who claimed to be a psychic told a reporter that ever since she was a young girl she had the ability to see spirits. She said she had been in the Baker many times and swore the numerous stories of ghosts and spirits are true. She said, "The Baker is very haunted, but not like we think. Most ghosts didn't necessarily die at the Baker, but returned after death because the hotel represented a wonderful time in their lives."

She went on to say that most of the spirits in the hotel do not want to be seen or heard with the exception of a small child. A little boy, about six to eight years old, was the only one to communicate with her. He told her he died in a hotel apartment in 1933 while his parents were seeking medicinal treatment for his leukemia. She also reported that a large shaggy dog always accompanied the child. She said he had bounced a ball to get her attention and " he was watched by an older woman who was always near him."

The psychic indicated the spirits don't necessarily look the same age as they were when they died. Some had been employees of the hotel years before they passed on and, in spirit form, looked like they did when they worked there. She said one of the resident spirits was a helicopter pilot who attended basic flight training at Ft. Wolters in the 1960's and was killed in a helicopter crash while at Ft. Rucker, Alabama. For reasons she doesn't understand, he had returned to the Baker
with his body in the same terribly mutilated condition that resulted from the crash.

In October 2000, two Paranormal Investigation teams, "DFW Ghostwatchers" from Dallas and "Lone Star Spirits" from Houston were contacted to perform a full-scale investigation. With over $100,000 of high tech scientific instrumentation, the teams made three separate visits to the building. One of the investigators using a digital camera photographed hundred's of orbs. Orbs, according to many experts, are actual spirits of the dead. Orbs were photographed throughout the building with the largest concentration being in the basement and on the 5th, 7th and 14th floors. She also captured what appeared to be 2 very distinct "ecto mist" apparitions in the 14th floor ball room. Another investigator was taking still shots with a high-end 35mm camera at the same time and captured what appeared to be another ecto mist above the first photographer. An independent psychic who accompanied the team reported "seeing" an old woman in a wheelchair in the southeast corner of the ballroom who kept saying, "I can't do it," "I can't do it".

The 5th floor was usually the most active. The psychic with the group felt uneasy and nauseous as she walked around at the west end of that floor. She felt that someone was trying to make the team "sick" so they would leave and she was too upset to go any farther in that direction. Later that night, other members of the team who visited the area began to choke and cough at the same spot. They had been on a different floor of the building and were totally unaware of the psychic's earlier experience.

Even during daylight hours and with a
professional-grade 35mm digital
camera, strange things happen and
strange images, unseen at the
time, are captured.
On the next visit, the psychic visited a room on the north end of the 5th floor and heard a young lady making rustling sounds with her dress. She sensed her  moving back and forth while making sure her makeup was applied perfectly. The spirit would move around the men in the group and seemed to be in a flirtatious mood. The psychic also sensed a man was coming to escort her to a dance in the Sky Room.

A second psychic arrived later, joined up with the group on the fifth floor and reported sensing the same thing as the first psychic. When he ventured to the west end of the floor, he picked up on a feeling of  "disgust and discomfort." He said he felt as if the area was occupied by a large disgusting man who wanted everyone to leave.

A time-lapse video camera was placed in the doorway of the Brazos room on the 1st floor  and during a 4-hour period recorded 151 instances of things moving. The room had been closed off to the investigative teams and entrance was not allowed by anyone "living." Some of the objects could have been simply dust motes reflecting light, but there was no wind that night and nothing in the room happened which would stir up the dust. Some of the objects were clearly orbs mysteriously moving around in the empty, undisturbed room.
An audio recorder placed next to the basement elevator captured the distinct sound of a man screaming in agony. A different group recorded the same sound on another investigation in June 2001. It would have been difficult for anyone in the team to mimic the sound since the area had been locked to keep everyone out. One of the expedition members gets nauseous when she gets around haunted places. At the Baker, she wasn't able to stay more than a few minutes before becoming so ill she was forced to leave. With so much activity in the building it may be one of the most haunted places in Texas if not in the country. One psychic claimed to have counted at least 49 different spirits in the building.

Once the playground for cattle barons, oil tycoons, Hollywood celebrities, and military and political leaders, the decaying grand hotel sits slowly wasting away, a remnant of a bygone era. Gone are the starlets, the proud men in uniform, the big bands, the conventions, and others who made the Baker a memorable part of their lives. It seems some never left at all or have returned to forever experience a time when Mineral Wells was one of Texas' finest cities. If you get the chance to visit the beautiful old hotel, please have respect for those who are still there - the Baker's patrons who refused to check out.


Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Angry Man in the Powhatan Courthouse

The old Powhatan Courthouse
The Powhatan, Arkansas courthouse, built in 1885, is a majestic building sitting on a hill overlooking the county it once served. The original courthouse on this site was built in 1873, but it burned to the ground and had to be rebuilt. In a little park next to the courthouse is the original jail. The building now houses a county museum and is part of the Powhatan Historic State Park, but the visitor's brochures don't tell you there is something very strange happening here; something unexplained; something sinister.

After years of whispers and rumors of ghosts being seen, unexplained moans and screams coming from the walls and mysterious lights in the locked building late at night, a well-respected group of paranormal investigators were invited to dispel the stories. What they experienced though was far from what the town's officials had hoped for.

Right after getting set up for the evening, one of the psychics claimed to have encountered the spirit of a young boy playing in a corner of the courtroom. The spirit told her he was sad because he had been murdered and that he stayed at the courthouse because that is where the man who killed him went on trial. He then said he was scared and broke off contact.

Several of the psychics reported unseen hands grabbing them the way a child trying to get an adult's attention would do. They heard muffled noises in almost every room, but when they went into the rooms to investigate, the noises completely stopped and no source could be found.

The most frightening encounter of the night happened in the belfry. One of the female investigators had climbed up the narrow, rickety stairs to see if there was anything up there. She asked out loud, "Is anyone here?" Suddenly she was attacked by an unknown, unseen entity. She began to have trouble breathing and felt as if there was an invisible hand closing around her throat! At the same time this was happening, she felt an overwhelming sense of sadness and heaviness, like a huge amount of grief had been suddenly cast upon her. She managed to run from the belfry and down the stairs to the courtroom where there were other people. As soon as she left the belfry, the feelings started to subside and she could breath again. The next morning, she and others found a bruise on her neck right where the invisible hands seemed to be attempting to choke the life out of her.

Later that night, with a video camera recording, several investigators heard heavy footsteps on one of the staircases. When they arrived at the foot of the stairs, the footsteps stopped. Several minutes went by and they were about to leave when the footsteps began again. As the investigators began climbing the stairs, they suddenly heard the high-pitched scream of a woman! They ran up the stairs to investigate the source of the scream, but after thoroughly searching the upper floor, nothing was found that could have made the heavy footsteps and no one that could have issued the blood-curdling scream.

Nothing else happened the rest of the night, but a follow-up session was planned. The 2nd night of investigation occurred two months later and just like before, there was no lack of paranormal activity. The first spirit that made contact was a black female who said she was going to stay at the courthouse with her brother until he moved on. According to her, he had been a young man who was falsely accused of raping a white woman and an angry mob of men had abducted him by overpowering the jail guard and had hung him from an oak tree. Although none of the psychics were from the area and knew nothing of the detailed history of the courthouse, later investigation into dusty records revealed that a young freed slave by the name of Andrew Springer had worked as a sharecropper after the civil war and had indeed been arrested for rape in an adjoining county and brought to the Powhatan jail for trial by that county's authorities who had been trying to keep him out of the hands of vigilantes. The vigilantes had taken him out and hung him from a nearby oak tree. The oak tree still stands today a few yards from the courthouse. The female spirit who claimed to have been Andrew's sister had died in the jail. Records indicated that after the lynching, she had attempted to kill several of the men who were suspected of being in the lynch mob. She had been arrested and had died of an unknown illness while awaiting trial.

The belfry where Andrew's spirit lives
Two of the psychics decided to investigate the belfry where the female psychic had been physically harmed during the first investigation. Almost immediately upon climbing the stairs the air became extremely dry and there was a high amount of energy that could be felt. It was almost as if a charge from a lightning strike was in the room. Then the temperature went up until both men were dripping with sweat. After a few minutes, the spirit communicated via a knocking sound and by moving metal rods held by the psychics. The spirit claimed to be Andrew and he did not approve of the psychics being in "his house." He admitted it was he who had attacked the female psychic the last time as he especially hated women because it was a woman who had falsely accused him of rape and had thus condemned him to a horrible death by beating and hanging. The Andrew spirit suddenly told them to leave or he would hurt them. One of the men then felt like there were fire ants crawling on him and furiously biting all over his body. Both men were by this time exhausted as they felt the spirit had been sucking their energy. They both were so unnerved by the encounter, more so than any they had ever experienced before, that they decided to beat a hasty retreat immediately. As soon as they had left the room and started down the stairs, everything returned to normal. They all packed up and left the building shortly afterwards.

Is the old Powhatan courthouse haunted? Those who don't believe in spirits hanging around after physical death will say no. Others will be unsure. But for a few psychic investigators who were brave enough to spend several long, dark nights there, the answer is an unequivocal yes.