If you visit the Crescent Hotel and Spa in the scenic Ozark Mountains overlooking Eureka Springs, Arkansas, don’t be surprised if you feel a cat jump on your lap or brush up against your legs. You might think you’re imagining things when you look down and don’t actually see a cat, but hotel staff will likely tell you it’s just Morris, the resident feline ghost who inhabits the hotel.
The hotel, which has been open since 1886 and is known as one of the most haunted hotels in America, boasts many ghost stories, but none are more famous than that of Morris, the orange tabby who was more than a hotel mascot from 1973 to 1994.
Morris was named after the orange tabby who starred in advertisements for 9Lives Cat Food at the time. Like his namesake, Morris was smart and independent—he even had his own little door that allowed him to get in and out of the hotel at his pleasure. He also had his own cat flat, says Keith Scales, tour manager for the hotel. During his tenure as the hotel’s resident cat, Morris became a commanding presence at the hotel, even earning the nickname “General Manager” by hotel staff.
Linda Clark, who has been the hotel’s concierge for ten years, grew up in Eureka Springs and remembers seeing the cat anytime she went into the hotel. “People in the community even talked about him,” Clark says.
In fact, when Morris passed away, management held a very well-attended wake for him. He was so beloved that a portrait of him still hangs in the hotel lobby, along with a memorial plaque with a poem about the cat. Morris is buried in the back of the hotel, in a flowerbed just beyond the veranda.
The Hotel’s Spooky Past
The hotel opened to much fanfare and in the years since, it has also operated as a girls’ boarding school and, most infamously, a “hospital” by a charlatan who claimed to have the cure for cancer.
Norman Baker, a man with no medical training or credentials but who called himself a “doctor,” opened Baker’s Cancer Curing Hospital in the building in 1937. It was open until 1940, when he was convicted on federal charges of using the postal system to defraud. Before he was convicted, however, many people who had come to the “hospital” looking for a miracle cure instead met their demise. When they died, their bodies were taken to the basement morgue, which still exists today.
Does Morris Still Roam the Halls of the Crescent?
Rebecca J. Becker, a longtime Eureka Springs resident and local artist who painted the portraits of the human ghosts hanging in the hallways of the Crescent, says she has only had interaction with one ghost – Morris.
“I was sitting in the lobby sketching and Caspurr and Jaspurr [the two hotel cats] were always coming up to me and bothering me,” says Becker. “I felt a cat jump up in my lap and when I looked down, ready to tell one of the cats to get down, there was nothing there.”
Becker’s experience isn’t unique, as many guests have reported seeing a cat disappearing around a corner and when they give chase to look for it, can’t find anything, says Scales.
“One of the most popular places for ghost sightings is on the nightly ghost tours given at the hotel, which end up in the morgue,” says Scales. “Many people report feeling a cat brush up against them on the tours.”
The tour concludes when the guide huddles the group inside the morgue, closes the door and turns off the lights. On one particular night, Scales says that when he turned the lights on, a person said they had felt something brush against their legs and immediately a person on the other side of the room said, “You felt that? So did I!”
Reba Armstrong, a tour guide at the hotel, says there has even been photographic evidence of Morris’ spirit.
“Someone on my tour took a photo of one of the chairs in the lobby. She rushed over to me, and there was an apparition of a yellow tabby,” Armstrong says. “It was an exceptionally clear photo except that you could see the upholstery of the chair behind Morris.”
Whether you see or feel the spirit of Morris upon your visit to the Crescent, there’s no doubt that he is still a lingering presence at the hotel.
“There isn’t a day that goes by that people don’t come in and ask about Morris,” says Clark. “People might have grown up here or came to the hotel as kids and they still remember him. He was a big presence then and is a big presence now.”
Illustrations by Josh Carter