MUSCATINE — Whether seen as an inventor and healer or a showman and snake oil salesman, Norman Baker was a Muscatine native who earned a place in history — as well as prison sentences of State and federal.

Even after his death in 1958, Baker continued to make headlines. This month, he is the indirect subject of an article in the New Yorker magazine which chronicles the efforts of two photographers to show the history of the Baker’s Crescent hotel in Eureka Springs, Ark. The hotel served for two years in the 1930s as a medical facility where people would flock to lavishly pay for Baker’s ‘cancer cure’.

When the magazine’s Photo Booth editor found a story about the photographers, she thought former journalist and current correspondent Andrea DenHoed would be fascinated by the story.

“I had never heard of him before starting this project,” DenHoed said. “It’s one of those things – why don’t we hear more about it. It’s such a crazy story.

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Since hearing about the hotel, which is now known as one of the most haunted places in the country, photographers Lara Shipley and Antone Dolezel have compiled a multimedia project called “The Naked Truth” which includes video, audio and image portraits. pair had captured around the building.

Neither Shipley nor Dolezel responded to email requests for comment. Photos featured in The Naked Truth can be viewed on their websites.

Baker began his cancer treatment, despite having no medical training or experience, by operating the Baker Institute in Muscatine. In 1930, the state of Iowa filed an injunction against Baker for practicing medicine without a license, which led to his candidacy for governor in 1932. In 1937, he established the Eureka Springs Clinic in the destitute Crescent Hotel, formerly a hotel complex. rich. Thousands of patients have been treated at the clinic.

Arkansas was unable to close the clinic, which had boosted Eureka Springs’ economy. In January 1940, Baker was imprisoned on seven federal counts of mail fraud, and a court ruled that his cancer treatment was a “pure hoax”. The motel closed during the confinement. Because several of Baker’s patients died while receiving cancer treatment, the hotel has since gained a reputation for being haunted.

“One of the things photographers say is how stark the parallels are,” DenHoed said. “They did this project in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic with people who didn’t trust the institutions and where they were going to look for answers. There were many parallels with the Norman Baker story.

She also said she learned that in 2019 someone came across a cache of hundreds of glass medicine bottles buried behind the Crescent, some of which contained alleged tumors and tissue samples.

The article on the Crescent appears in the April 26 edition of the New Yorker. It can also be viewed online at The New Yorker’s webpage.


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