Few buildings in Texas radiate atmosphere like the Baker Hotel in Mineral Wells. The fourteen-story pleasure dome rises out of the rolling prairie like the misplaced skyscraper it is. For over forty years it was the destination of magnates, movie stars, and mere mortals, who wanted to drink or soak in the area’s healing waters. But since the 1970s when it closed, it has been left to molder away like Miss Havisham’s wedding cake. There has been talk of a complete renovation, which may already be underway—it’s been some months since we visited. I can only salute the courage (and line of credit) of any developer willing to take it on.
In the meantime, the old hotel’s picturesque decay attracts people seeking not health but something more other-worldly: ghosts, para-normal phenomena, etc. The thing is, in the admittedly limited research I’ve conducted, I find very little to suggest that anything awful, mysterious, or macabre ever happened there, at least nothing anyone published. I have found one instance of the resident house detective dying during his afternoon nap, and another about a fracas at the west entrance which resulted in one cabbie shooting and killing the owner of a rival taxi service. That’s about it–no St. Valentine’s Day Massacres, no murdered brides in bathtubs, no prom nights gone wrong á la Carrie.
I would love to hear from anyone who has ever gone on one of the Mineral Wells ghost walks, just to learn what the guides have to say. There is ample fodder for rumor and innuendo, of course: closed off underground space radiating out for blocks, for example, or broken windows with ragged curtains fluttering in the wind, or mildewed plywood blocking old doorways. But what else? Everyone loves a good thriller, and surely a luxury hotel operating at the apex of the last century’s longest economic boom has many anecdotes associated with it. To me the mystery surrounding this “haunted” hotel, however, is what are they?