The elegant and gargantuan Baker Hotel, located in Mineral Wells, Texas first opened its doors for business in 1929. It was patterned after The Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs, Arkansas. The success of The Crazy Hotel had shown that the “Crazy Water” of Mineral Wells was a marketable commodity. Crazy Water was so called because in 1880 an insane woman had supposedly been cured by drinking the mineral waters which had given the city its name. When the Crazy Hotel burned in 1925, a plan was made for the Baker Hotel to be more than twice as big. Built by hotel magnate T.B. Baker, the Baker Hotel has 14 stories and and 460 rooms and two complete spas, and features the first above ground swimming pool which was ever built in Texas. The Baker offered therapeutic baths and massages for its guests.
The purportedly curative properties of Mineral Wells’ mineral waters spread far and wide. The hotel attracted famous guests and performers such as Judy Garland, Clark Gable, Lawrence Welk, Mary Martin, Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson, Marlene Dietrich, Jean Harlowe, Sammy Kaye, Helen Keller and Ronald Reagan.
The hotel has suffered financial difficulty, filing for bankruptcy in 1932, and then functioning as a home for military dependents from 1941 to 1944. It was closed in 1963 by Earl Baker, the nephew and heir of T.B. Baker, then was reopened in 1965. It closed its doors permanently in 1972, and since then it has steadily deteriorated.
Today, the Baker stands, a gutted shell rife with broken and boarded-up windows, and a shadow of its former glory. It appears to be structurally sound despite years of neglect. However, it is a fire hazard, and the local fire marshall has forbidden anyone to enter the building. You can still walk on the front steps and the balcony.
Some people say that it is haunted, many of them paranormal investigators who have examined the hotel with expensive equipment. One purported ghost was the mistress of the hotel manager, who had thrown herself off the top of the building. Visitors have reported smelling her perfume, hearing her footsteps and seeing her red lipstick on the rims of glasses in ways they could not otherwise explain.
Another ghost story was about Douglas the Elevator Operator who worked for the hotel around 1948. There were conflicting stories regarding his death. Some said that he had been part of a prostitution ring, and that upon his confessing his mother had encouraged him to resign. According to the story, he had reported the prostitution ring to local authorities, unaware that they were involved in it. After some time off, he apparently returned to work, only to be killed in a bizarre, freak accident. Supposedly somebody had mistakenly pressed the call button while he was not all the way out of the elevator, causing his body to be severed at the waist.
However, a distant relative of Douglas has related that this story is untrue. Apparently he was in the habit of playing games with the elevator along with his friends, trying to jump onto it while it was moving. His friend, Logan Shoemake, tried to pull him out of the elevator one time when he saw that Douglas wasn’t going to make it. Instead of rescuing him, he only pulled him out halfway, causing him to be crushed at the waist.
People have reported seeing Douglas’ ghost in the basement of the building.
I can’t personally vouch for whether or not the Baker is haunted. I am moderately psychic, and when I visited the Baker while on vacation I sensed nothing unusual here other than a powerful history and a lot of physical decay. I can understand how people can react emotionally to a decaying building like this, and mistakenly think their reaction means it’s haunted. Many ordinary people with undeveloped psychic powers often mistake their own emotions and odd phenomena for ghosts. Several people had reported that they had become nauseous when they visited the Baker, and that they believed that the ghosts were making them sick to get them to leave. This is very unlikely; I don’t believe ghosts have such an ability, nor would they really have any motivation. However, it does make sense that people would react emotionally to the decay of the building as they would a decaying body, or that they would react to mold and mildew that was allowed to grow unrestricted. I’m no skeptic, and I don’t mean to deny the existence of ghosts. My personal opinion is that the building has a strong imprint of the people who once stayed there, a psychic traces or echoes of the sights, sounds, smells and emotions they left behind. It continues to play over and over like an old phonograph record that somebody left running on a machine that starts itself over automatically. However, that doesn’t mean that they’re still there.
The Baker was recorded in the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. It is presently up for sale, and will cost about $30 to $55 million dollars to renovate. So it’s uncertain whether anyone will be willing to refurbish this gigantic white elephant, or what purpose it could be put to. When I went to visit Mineral Wells, the hotels were booked up, and there was only one room available. However, that doesn’t mean that there’s a demand for 460 luxury rooms. However, I think the building is far too beautiful to stand decaying in the middle of town, or to be torn down. I sincerely hope that somebody will purchase it and fix it up, but I’m afraid that the Baker may be doomed.
Bob Hopkins, “The Ghosts of the Baker Hotel.” Texasescapes.com. URL: (http://www.texasescapes.com/TexasPanhandleTowns/MineralWellsTexas/BakerHotelGhosts.htm)
Johnny Stucco, “Baker Hotel.” Texasescapes.com. URL: (http://www.texasescapes.com/TexasPanhandleTowns/MineralWellsTexas/BakerHotelMineralWellsRWP.htm)
Uncredited, “Baker Hotel.” Wikipedia. URL: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baker_Hotel)
Uncredited, “Baker Hotel.” DurangoTexas.com. URL: (http://durangotexas.com/eyesontexas/textour/mineralwells/bakerhotel.htm)