Even in the safety of a tour group, the people tiptoeing into the Baker Hotel’s ballroom feel uneasy. Then they apparently hear something: the sound of a party ringing out. But there’s only one problem. The hotel has been closed for years, and no one has celebrated in the once-glamorous banquet hall for decades.
The Baker Hotel officially shut its doors in 1973. Then the owners sold all of its furniture – right down to its finishing fixtures – over the following decade. Its empty guestrooms and cavernous hallways now amplify every sound that reverberates in this abandoned building.
If you’re expecting to hear the traditional creaks and drips that echo from an old building, well, you might. But the Baker has become infamous for noises that have no logical source. Allegedly, you may hear the clopping of high heels getting closer. Though when you turn around you don’t see a soul.
Or maybe you take note of the smells surrounding you in the Baker. Chances are, the place smells a bit musty. It has been left to deteriorate for decades, after all. But then a new smell fills your nostrils. A woman’s perfume. The smell of chocolate. A smoking cigar. There’s no logical explanation for where these supposed aromas come from, either.
Those who believe in the supernatural say it’s ghosts who haunt the Baker. This is a particularly interesting proposition when we consider who has walked through this hotel’s hallowed halls. Bonnie and Clyde checked into the place in the midst of their crime spree. So, could their spirits still linger?
The town of Mineral Wells in Texas didn’t become a tourist draw until the turn of the 20th century when word got out about the water there. In 1880 a local named James Lynch reportedly drilled a well on his property and quickly noted that the H2O had a strange taste. But he and his family kept drinking it, and that’s what started the craze.
According to the website Crazy Water, the Lynch family saw their health improve. Even the patriarch and his wife’s rheumatism apparently got better! By the next year, thousands of people had heard about this magical well. They would camp out on Lynch’s property to buy ten-cent glasses of his liquid. Unsurprisingly, more wells started springing up across the town over the subsequent years.
By 1900 the website notes that Mineral Wells was drawing in more than 150,000 visitors each year. And this was in a town which has only 7,000 residents, according to Texasescapes.com. They came from across the country to sip on and wade into the healing waters that bubbled out of wells across the Texas town. But not everyone who ventured there had to camp out in order to afford such a getaway.
In fact, there were some luxurious hotels to be found in Mineral Wells. The Baker Hotel opened in November 1929, and its exterior alone set it apart from every other building in the area. The building measured in at 14 stories tall, so it towered over the otherwise small-town buildings that stood in the area.
The Baker’s interior matched the grandeur of the exterior, too. For one thing, it is said to be the first hotel in the United States to have an Olympic-sized swimming pool. Guests could also dip their toes into the magical mineral springs water or in the therapeutic baths.
The Baker had two in-house spas where their guests could relax with massages, too. A day of pampering certainly would ready them for the glamorous turn the place took at night. People packed in for galas, dances and events held in the ballrooms – the Brazos Room on the first floor, and the Sky Room at the top of the towering hotel.
In those swanky spaces, the Baker played host to some of the era’s hottest acts – including Lawrence Welk and the Dorsey Brothers. Behind the glitz and glamour, the Baker also had some secret activities going on. Guests could gamble and drink here in spite of the Prohibition era, which ended in 1933.
All of these amenities drew some famous faces to visit the Mineral Wells-based resort. The glory days of the Baker – which stretched from the 1930s into the early 1950s – saw the biggest stars of that time checking in for a stay. According to Hauntedhouses.com, guests included Judy Garland, Clark Gable, Marlene Dietrich and Helen Keller. As we mentioned earlier, even the famous gangsters Bonnie and Clyde hung their hats at the hotel – albeit under false names.
Rumor has it that Bonnie and Clyde had the carpet removed from the floor in front of their door so they could hear if cops approached. Some wonder if the pair needed a reprieve from their stressful, illegal day jobs. Indeed, the expensive hotel would have been a good place to spend stolen cash. And then, of course, there was the spa. It seems even two fugitives could relax in the magical mineral pools!
But the story of the Baker – much like Bonnie and Clyde’s – doesn’t have a happy ending. Really, either tale is spine-tingling enough to keep you up at night. In the case of the hotel, the downturn in its popularity and apparent uptick in otherworldly clientele happened gradually as the place slipped into disrepair.
During World War II, the Baker and its owner T.B. Baker sheltered dependents of servicemen and women who had been deployed. After the conflict ended, though, things never quite returned to their roaring normal at the hotel. And that was down to the water in Mineral Wells.
The mineral water didn’t change, but medicine had advanced by the mid-20th century. As such, people began relying on traditional, doctor-prescribed courses of treatments – rather than the promise of healing from the mineral springs. And with less people traveling to town, it became difficult for the Baker to stay afloat.
According to Hauntedhouses.com, constructing the Baker Hotel had cost $1.25 million in 1929, which is around $19 million today. Upkeep on such an expensive building would be pricey – especially without guests coming in to pay for rooms and cover the bills. So, the place shut down in 1963. Though it would open once again two years later when Mineral Wells locals rallied together to revive their town’s massive hotel.
The residents’ efforts were enough to keep the Baker open for eight more years. Though the place permanently shut down in 1973 – one year after its owner passed away. By the 1980s the building’s new landlord had sold off all of the hotel’s original decor and furniture – right down to the fixtures.
Tours shuttled potential investors through the building, but no one took on the massive task – and exorbitant cost – of restoring the Baker. Yet there was still some money to be made from this property for Mineral Wells residents who knew the stories surrounding the hotel. And, no, we’re not talking about the tales of Hollywood glamour and Prohibition-era drinking.
It turns out that the Baker had a past just as eerie as it was glamorous! People had long claimed to have seen spirits roaming the hotel’s luxurious halls. Many of those supernatural beings had once supposedly roamed the place when they were alive and the building was in its heyday.
One such person had ties to T.B. Baker – the hotel’s owner. He and his family had once lived on the 10th floor in a swanky suite, according to Hautedhouses.com. But they weren’t the only permanent residents of their eponymous hotel. He also maintained a suite on the seventh floor for his mistress – a woman said to have had red hair.
Some say that the woman committed suicide on the grounds of the hotel – distraught over the state of her relationship with Baker. And after her death, strange things supposedly started happening on the seventh floor where she had once lived. A porter said he saw her ghost floating around sometime in the 1950s or ’60s when he had worked there.
Not everyone sees the lady’s ghost, though. Some have claimed that they could smell the wafting of a woman’s fragrance through the now-empty corridors. Once, the building’s assistant manager Ronny Walker thought he heard a woman’s high heels echoing across the floor, according to Texasescapes.com. He called out his manager’s name – assuming it was her footsteps reverberating through the deserted property.
But Walker soon realized that his manager wasn’t there – she hadn’t been in the Baker all day. The staffer came to credit the footsteps to the apparent ghost of the ill-fated mistress who haunted the property. And Walker said he met her again one Christmas when the hotel’s light display tripped the fuse, which was located on the seventh floor.
Once again, Walker heard footsteps. But this time, the worker allegedly saw someone he didn’t recognize walking up beside him. Fearing it was one of the Baker’s ghosts, the assistant manager said aloud that he meant no harm. The figure vanished, but the Christmas lights turned back on and supposedly never tripped the fuse again.
Others claim to have seen paranormal activity take place from afar. Texasescapes.com notes that a woman who worked at a nearby bank had her workstation positioned so that she could stare at the Baker all day. And, as her gaze fell on the hotel, she alleged that different windows seemed to open and close all of the time.
The woman started to take notes so she could remember which windows had opened, and there was apparently no consistency to it. She and her coworkers apparently wondered why certain panes were pushed up at different times. They decided that the building’s caretaker must have been behind the shifts – perhaps the hotel needed some ventilation.
There was only one problem with this theory – the Baker hadn’t had an on-site caretaker since it shut down in the 1970s. And the women at the bank were observing opening and closing windows two decades later. So, who would bother popping panes up and down?
That potentially supernatural tale is much lighter in comparison to the spirit that still allegedly lingers in the Baker’s former pantry. On ghost tours, women have found themselves feeling rather uneasy as they’ve entered this space. Others have heard a female voice ringing out – warning them to walk away.
According to Hauntedhouses.com, one of the Baker’s former male cooks had a wife at home, but he still struck up a relationship with one of the hotel’s maids. The affair eventually came to a head – she threatened to tell his spouse about the relationship. In a fit of rage, the married man apparently stabbed his mistress. And it could be her ghost haunting the kitchen to this day.
Even the Baker’s more glamorous spaces have their demons. Some of them are even said to be the ghosts of famous guests. Hauntedhouses.com claims that the Brazos Room – the hotel’s first-floor ballroom – sometimes rings out with the sounds of a party. Lights allegedly flip on and off by themselves, too.
Some people credit these supernatural hijinx to the ghosts of Bonnie and Clyde, and it would make sense that two gangsters would continue mischievousness in the afterlife. Are they behind the other observations made in the Brazos Room – including floating orbs and the wafting scent of chocolate?
Paranormal investigators have come to the Baker, and they claim to have found signs that ghosts still roam throughout the hotel. On the tenth floor – once the Baker family’s suite – their detectors apparently started to alert them to an otherworldly presence. Perhaps it’s the spirit of the building’s original owner?
Even reality shows centered on the paranormal have come to shoot at the Baker. They, too, have allegedly seen activity aflutter in the deserted building. For instance, Ghost Adventures came to investigate during their seventh season. The team there argue that they found evidence to back up the personal stories of those who saw ghosts – much like the ones shared above.
But the Baker Hotel itself won’t end up as a ghost of its former self. By the end of 2022, the property should be restored to its original glory – thanks to a development team that sees the potential of this once-luxurious tourist draw. But the project is about more than just the building.
The Mineral Wells locals want to see the Baker reopen, too. Developer Chris Patton told Roadtrippers, “Over the years, the community has really gotten behind us and the project has snowballed. There is strong support from city leadership and the citizens at large. This is a warm, receptive and encouraging community.”
The Baker Hotel will reportedly maintain its Spanish colonial style and many of its former glamorous features. There will be ballrooms, a spa and the mineral water there will once again flow. Yep, this will be the same H20 that made the town into a tourist destination more than 100 years ago.
And that revival will breathe new life into Mineral Wells – a town that’s ready to once again draw in tourists who seek rest, relaxation and a bit of luxury. Developer Laird Fairchild described the importance of the Baker Hotel’s new life in a very succinct way. He said to Roadtrippers, “This is not a renovation of a building. This is a renovation of a town.”
But even with a major facelift, developers can’t erase the hotel’s past. They may not be able to rid the building of its alleged supernatural guests, either. But this could be an even bigger draw to tourists down the line. Do you want to see a ghost? Then plan your trip to the Baker.