Historic Argo Hotel – Crofton

Most of the restless spirits at the Historic Argo Hotel are in the basement. It’s not known exactly how many human bodies might be buried down there, and even on the grounds. The “doctors” who operated a popular bogus health clinic there in the 1940s and ’50s did not want anyone to know that their patients had died. It would have been bad for business. So bodies were quickly carried out the back door in the middle of the night, or buried in the basement.

Employees refuse to go down there alone. During the renovation of the Argo Hotel, workmen dreaded having to go down to the basement, claiming that they felt like someone or something was down there. A telephone employee, sent to set up the hotel phones, knew nothing about the history of the hotel or its ghosts when he began his chore. He wasn’t down there long when he bolted upstairs and absolutely refused to go back down. He reported that he felt as if his every move was being watched, even though he was the only person there. Then “someone” started messing with the lights, turning them off, then back on. He turned to see who it was and came face to face with an apparition.

Intrigued, I went to experience the basement for myself. It was late at night. The owner unlocked the door. I took a few steps down into the darkness, and every hair on my body stood up. I felt afraid. “No, thanks,” I said as I backed up out of the stairwell. “I changed my mind.”

As a New Age retreat half a century ago, the center became very well known, and boasted of “miracle cures” and
“spontaneous healings,” as well as one of the very first Xray machines in the nation. However, of the forty “doctors” who practiced at the center, not one was a licensed physician. These so-called healers used methods including potions, massage, mud baths, and miracle cures to heal the sick, many of whom were deathly ill. Patients flocked to the center from all over the Midwest, often as a last resort. Many patients actually did walk out well, though some didn’t. Those who died were quickly buried in the basement or quietly carried out the back door in the middle of the night so as not to tarnish the center’s bogus reputation.

The operation was finally shut down in 1954 by the health department. The hotel remained closed for six years,
until Dr. Charles Swift Jr. bought it as both his home and his office. Dr. Swift was often called “the most colorful doctor in the land.” Serving in the cavalry during World War II, Major Swift was awarded the Silver Star in 1945 for gallantry in Luzon, where he was regimental surgeon. The doctor was known for prescribing a “shot” of this and a “shot” of that. Today, the bar at the hotel is called “Doc’s Place” in his honor, where guests come for their “shots.”

The Argo has a long history of both prostitutes and movie stars. Aspiring actress Leslie Brooks, voted as having the best figure in all of Hollywood in 1940, lived at the Argo for several years before moving west to Hollywood. She became a Ziegfeld Girl, and appeared in thirty-three movies.

Jerry Bogner, who once managed the Hotel Monte Vista in Flagstaff (also featured in this book; see page 250), and
his sister, Sandra McDonald, bought the place, which had been vacant for several years, in 1994. The property was
run-down, and the interior had to be gutted. Jerry admits he has had several experiences in the hotel. Often during the restoration, when he walked through the front door, he would catch a shadowy image and feel a draft rush past him as he walked in, even when there was no wind outside. He later had trouble with his computer, which began to send strange messages.

Sightings

Baffled about the strange happenings, Jerry contacted a professional ghost hunter. He purposely didn’t tell
her the gruesome stories about the basement. The psychic examined the hotel from top to bottom. She determined that the upstairs was usually “clear,” and that most of the ghostly activity was confined to the basement. She saw many distressed spirits down in the basement and cautioned, “They do seek light, and will probably move on upstairs.” She also picked up on old Doc Swift: “He is here in the hotel. He is here to see what is going on. He wanders freely through the hotel.”

Best Rooms/Times

Definitely the basement, now the Speak Easy nightclub. The ghosts are active any time of the day or night.

The Hotel
In 1912 in Crofton, Nebraska, there were forty-two businesses, four lumberyards, five freight trains passing through daily, and over a hundred prostitutes. Nick Michaelis, a Greek immigrant, convinced the town board that he would build a nice hotel if they would put in a sewer. They did, and he named his pristine brick hotel the Argo after the ship that carried him to America. The Argo enjoyed its well-earned reputation as the finest hotel in town, until it was sold in 1940 to Dr. Wiebelhaus and began its new life as the natural healing center.

The outside of this very plain, square brick structure, built on the original Lewis and Clark Trail, doesn’t hint at the size or grandeur that lies within. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the turn-of-the-century Argo Hotel is an imposing three-story redbrick building with 3,600 square feet on each floor, very large crowned windows, lace curtains, ceiling fans, and oak chair boards and moldings. The interior has been restored to its early 1900s ambiance, featuring a magnificent oak staircase, fireplaces, and tin ceilings. Upstairs are twenty guest rooms, all appointed in period decor, many with brass beds, chandeliers, and pedestal sinks. All rooms include a continental breakfast and a tour of the property.

Dining

Candlelight dining is offered on the main level in an elegant dining room that seats 120 people. Specialties include charbroiled steaks, prime rib au jus, and seafood. Doc’s Place, the bar named in Dr. Swift’s honor, is also on this level.

Don’t Miss

The dreaded basement, now renamed the “garden level,” houses the Speak Easy nightclub, complete with a hundred-year-old bar, dance floor, cigar room, and two fireplaces. Hermenia Bogner, nearly ninety years old, who happens to be Jerry and Sandra’s mother, plays piano several nights a week, pounding out all the old favorites from the 1920s, ’30s, and ’40s. Don’t worry too much . . . three staircases lead out of the basement.

Historic Argo Hotel
211 West Kansas
Crofton, NE 68730
402-388-2400 or 800-607-2746

From : Ghostly Encounters: True Stories of America’s Haunted Inns and Hotels by Frances Kermeen – Copyright © 2002 by Frances Kermeen.

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