Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas, is a beautiful place with flowing waters, luscious nature and friendly faces — but today we are here to talk about our dark side. Every place has one, and we embrace our local thana tourism (also known as dark tourism). Whether it’s myth or legend, Hot Springs’s folklore holds quite a few stories to tell in the dark, giving those seeking the thrill of fear a spooky good time in staying, eating and touring our local haunts.
The Arlington Resort Hotel & Spa has been deemed a local haunt in recent years, and in the massive historic hotel that sits in downtown Hot Springs, I can direct you to exactly where to go to possibly meet a few souls from the past.
For years, employees and guests have swapped unexplainable experiences among one another. From light flickers and dimming remaining after electricians come by to check the wiring in the Magnolia Room and Venetian Dining Room, to footprints seen in the carpet in front of Room 723 — the hotel holds an undeniable eerie feeling.
While at the hotel you may meet the woman dressed in a white gown walking the halls of the seventh floor. Or perhaps the man resembling a soldier who has been seen taking a bath in the men’s side of the hotel’s bath house. Check into Room 824, or 443 to have a night full of haunts.
In Room 824 there have been reports of the bathroom sink turning on and steaming up the room, items falling off the shelves and lights turning on and off between the hours of 3 and 4 a.m.
In Room 443 — also known as The Capone Suite, where infamous American gangster Al Capone stayed when he would frequent Hot Springs — guests have reported the smell of a cigar in the non-smoking hotel. Another strange experience that may just be Capone himself is guests having heard and seen the room’s connecting door knob turn, despite there being no door knob on the other side.
Is it mere tall tales? Or is there something to the numerous reports of hauntings in this hotel? Come stay to find out for yourself.
The Ohio Club is not only a local eatery providing you with one of the best burgers in town, it is also a local haunt. It’s only fitting for the oldest bar in Arkansas with a past full of illegal gambling and guests like gangsters Al Capone, Bugsy Segal and Lucky Luciano frequenting the joint.
For years, the owners and employees have encountered numerous unexplainable experiences after hours. Now, whenever they hear doors slamming, glasses clinking or music playing — whatever or whomever it is, they let it be.
Come to this historic haunt and you may be dining with more guests than meets the eye.
The Malco Theatre has sat at 817 Central Ave. since being rebuilt after a 1935 fire, and since Magician Maxwell Blade began managing the building in 1996 he has witnessed countless eerie happenings — something no old theater is immune to.
Has Blade seen a ghost? No, but he says he has heard one a couple of times.
One night when exiting the main theater, Blade heard a theater seat folding up and down, followed by a shadow figure crossing the exit. He left quickly and did not return alone past sundown for quite some time.
Another unexplainable occurrence in the Malco is when Blade’s now-adult daughter would ask at the age of three who the little boy always standing at the top of the theater’s staircase was, when no one else could see him.
There have been four people who have died in The Malco, one of which is rumored to be a little boy in the upstairs bathroom of the theater in the early 1970s.
Even guests have had haunted encounters while coming to the theater for a show. Some have left before the show even began. Some have wet themselves in fear.
“Why do I think it’s haunted? Why wouldn’t it be?” Blade asked. “It’s the perfect spot. … Why wouldn’t they stay here? It’s a fun place. Matter of fact, when I go, this is where I want to hang out — catch me here.”
Local legend has it that there are bones buried beneath the Catholic Church of St. John the Baptist at 589 W. Grand Ave. The location of the church was previously the site of a paupers’ cemetery, which was a cemetery for the poor who could not afford a burial.
The property was sold as a cemetery to Col. George Latta, who would be the owner of the St. John’s Church to be built. It’s said efforts were made to remove the graves, but when the church’s construction began bones were still found.
The remaining bones found were gathered and put into a very large box, which was sealed and placed under the altar rail of the church for many decades.
Although the current whereabouts of the recovered bones is unknown, the fact that the church sits on what is likely still graves is enough to give me the heebie jeebies and remain far away after sundown.
What’s better than having Magic Springs Theme and Water Park for a hot summer’s day? Heading to Magic Screams this Halloween. Every weekend in October you can experience the park like no other way before.
By day, you’ll have countless family friendly activities to choose from, like taking a stroll on Trick or Treat Trail, bouncing along the inflatable corn maze, getting busy with spooky crafts, or indulging in haunted foods and beverages. And of course rides and games will be open and available.
By night, bring on the fright. Past dark, around every corner you run the chance of crossing a ghoul or goblin. Experience the numerous haunted houses built into the park, and have the unique opportunity to ride some of their most thrilling roller coasters into the night. And don’t miss the live music playing every evening, alternating between Wicked Fire and Slash Dance.
Bridge Street LIVE! just got a whole lot scarier. Typically an event with live concerts held in downtown Hot Springs during June, this year will be the first time a special Halloween-themed edition will be held. From 5-10 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 28, this totally FREE event will have live music by Memphis Soul Revue, food, drink and a variety of vendors. That's not all, Butch Patrick, aka Eddie Munster from the The Munsters TV show will haunt the Ichabod Bash! He will have the amazing Munster Koach car with him on display during the event, and fans will have the opportunity to interact with him. Save the date! You won’t want to miss this spooktacular event.
It doesn’t get much scarier than listening to scary stories told in the dark on a Haunted Walking Tour with Hot Springs Haunted Tours. Lasting one hour, this tour will take you to some of the rumored scariest sites in downtown Hot Springs. Tours begin at 8 p.m. every night.
Come one, come all, come to Hot Springs for some wicked fun this October. We love our spooky past so much, we’ll even encourage you to dress in costume as much as you want on your visit. Well, I’ll encourage you at the very least. Living in Hot Springs during the most wonderful time of the year is such a scream. But don’t just take my word for it, come see our part of the spooky south for yourself. Happy Halloween, y’all!
Cassidy is a Hot Springs-based freelance journalist. She spends most of her time exploring and writing about the city for her online publication The Hot Springs Post, and has recently published her first book, 100 Things to Do in Hot Springs Before You Die. In her freetime she enjoys playing games, skating, walking her dog Murphey and spending time with her nieces and nephews. Cassidy aspires to create a positive impact with her writing, be it fun or informative (or both!).