El Dorado News

October 15, 2018
El Dorado News Times
The storefront display for Oddities, Novelties and More recreates how the Madam's room looked when the building was still known as The Crystal Hotel along with a mannequin of how Madam Betty Fortenberry may have looked while working. Terrance Armstard/News-Times

The storefront display for Oddities, Novelties and More recreates how the Madam's room looked when the building was still known as The Crystal Hotel along with a mannequin of how Madam Betty Fortenberry may have looked while working. Terrance Armstard/News-Times

El Dorado madam yet to leave her old haunts

By Haley Smith
This article was published October 29, 2017 at 5:40 p.m.

Up a set of narrow stairs that were once worn down from the continuous stream of male visitors, now sits a set of apartments that were once home to El Dorado’s seedy past.

Once the longest running bordello in the south, the upstairs apartments above Oddities, Novelties and More, known previously as the Crystal Hotel, is now home to all walks of life. Although the apartments are filled with new faces, some of those from the past are said to still linger.

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Although they adamantly swear that there are no malicious spirits in the building, the store workers say there are at least five ghosts inside the apartments and the store.


At the top of the stairs, is where the spirit that they call “the bouncer” tends to hang out.

While walking up the stairways, tenants say it isn’t uncommon to feel like eyes are watching their climb. At the top an individual can feel an unseen person standing beside them. If the person happens to be male, an uncomfortable feeling will overcome him and he may even feel like someone is breathing down his neck.

It is believed that the person in the stairwell was once the bouncer for the brothel. He would stand at the top of the stairwell and checkout the would-be patrons before allowing them into the bordello’s parlor. If they passed muster, he would allow entry but would toss anyone down the stairs who got out of line.The name of the bouncer is unknown, but he was said to be a huge imposing man who still protects the building inhabitants into the afterlife.


Workers have seen a little girl hanging around Oddities one second and she's gone the next.

The little girl loves to play with the two black cats, Thor and Raven, in Oddities. Several people have seen her throughout the building sitting on desks and on the sales floor, among other places.

One employee walked by the store’s office and saw her sitting by the computer and when she asked who the child was, she was met with questioning looks.

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She is believed to be one of the children of the working girls. Her name is unknown but if someone sees a 5- year-old girl in a vintage dress, they might have just spotted the little girl of The Crystal Hotel.


Another apparition that is commonly seen around the property is that of one of the former working girls.

As the story goes, one of the girls had a baby and the state took it away because of her profession. She will walk back and forth in front of Oddities mourning the loss of her child.

Employees feels like it’s a girl named “Blondie” and says she's in an old fashioned dress. Some believe she is the same girl as “Two Shot Blondie," the ghost of the woman who haunts the Rialto Theater but no one is able to confirm or deny that.


The late owner of Oddities, Leeann Herndon is said to still be hanging out at the store after her passing in 2013.

Her mother Julie Waschka, said that she can feel her presence in the store. She finds pennies laying around the store and believes that it is Leeann trying to brighten her day, calling them “Pennies from Heaven.”

When the carpets were pulled up in the store and they painted the concrete, they painted themselves out the door and locked up for the night to allow it to dry. When they came back the next day, there were heel prints in the paint. Waschka said she likes to believe that was Leeann checking out the changes because of Leeann’s love for wearing high heeled shoes.

When psychics come into the store, they describe a redheaded woman that stands behind Waschka. They told Waschka that she is watching over her.

Several employees have even seen someone who appeared to be Leeann around the store and outside smoking. When they walk outside they smell smoke.


The madam is the most active spirit on the property. She will turn on the lights, move things, knock things down and change the radio. People can also catch whiffs of perfume as well as hear whispers and footsteps on the stairwell.

The staff jokes that you know when madam isn’t happy with something because she will knock it down. She has also locked people in the bathroom if she didn’t like how they acted when they had came in.Although she has knocked stuff over, the store’s staff maintains that the spirit is not malicious in anyway – they consider her to be “temperamental.”

She is believed to be the Madam Betty Fortenberry, the madam that was running the bordello when it closed.

She was known for dressing like a man and running a theft ring. One of her more infamous heists occurred when the crown and jewels of the El Dorado native Miss America, Donna Axum, were stolen. Although she ran the bordello and had people who stole for her, she also cared for orphans and took care of the sick.

“She was a harlot with a heart of gold,” Waschka said.

Mediums have come into the store and have said that the madam is quite happy in the building and has no intention of moving on to the afterlife. The people of the building have come to terms with their constant unseen visitors. They have become part of their daily life and they wouldn’t have their home or workplace any other way.

Haley Smith can be contacted at 870-862-6611 or at hsmith@eldoradonews.com. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter at @hsmithEDNT.

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