By Nelson Groom
These eerie images reveal the deserted remains of a city’s seedy underbelly once tied to notorious mobster Al Capone.
The stunning shots delve into the now abandoned and decaying heart of an Arkansas resort once frequented by the high-profile gangsters.
Tucked in a mountainous valley of the southern US city stands the thermal hot springs resort – a former hotbed of organized crime like gambling and prostitution that is now left to crumble into ruin.
Urban explorer Dax Ward, 37, was compelled to open a window into its forgotten remains, which include an old brothel and a haunted hotel.
Notorious underworld figures such as Capone came to gamble, bathe in the natural springs and strike deals with bootleggers during the prohibition era.
Dax, who was born in Arkansas but now works as a teacher in Thailand’s Bangkok, said: “I was excited by the colorful history, and the fact it’s my home state.
‘The city was once a gambling, drinking and recovery mecca in the deep south – a sort of pre- Las Vegas of the 1920’s.
“Well-known gangsters like Al Capone, Lucy Luciano, and Bugsy Seigel were a regular presence in those times.
“It was a neutral ground where mafia factions at ‘war’ in Chicago or New York could co-exist with relative peace and quiet.”
Among the dilapidated structures is the once booming bordello owned by Maxine Harris Jones, the walls of which are now crumbling and daubed with graffiti.
The business, which operated from the 1940s to 1960s but is now used as a tavern, drew in high-flying clientele including doctors, politicians and of course, the underworld.
Another favourite for criminals was the Dugan Start building, which housed an underground bowling alley left waterlogged and riddled with decay.
The scoreboard contains Capone’s rumoured nom de guerre, which he used while on leisure trips to the historic city.
So frequent were the Chicago mobster’s visit, he had his own suite still known among some guests as ‘Al’s Suite’ in the nearby Arlington Hotel.
Also pictured is the spooky Savoy Hotel, which is said to be haunted and contains rooms with rusty baths and dust-caked kitchens.
For photographer Dax, who has unveiled a number of creepy abandoned sites throughout Thailand, it was an honour to delve into the history of his hometown in April this year.
Dax said: “Maxine entertained high-class clientele, including local businessmen, doctors, top state officials, congressmen, and prominent mobsters.
“It sounds like it was a wild place. It’s certainly an ‘if these walls could talk’ sort of historic building, with a very colourful past.
“The Dugan Stuart has this ornate, early 20th century architecture and design is still eye-catching, with mosaic tiles and D & S initials engraved into door handles.
“The interior is reminiscent of the bustling 1940’s hotel that it once was. But much of it is lost, and all that remains of the underground bowling alley is the 90-year old scoreboard.
‘The Savoy is said to be haunted haunted by spirits of people who came to the city for thermal bath treatment but died there waiting to be cured. It also contains several rooms with old appliances and a beautiful wooden staircase in its heart.
“I was given access by the owner’s to shoot these locations during a holiday.
“It was like red-carpet treatment, and very different than many places I’ve shot in Thailand.
“It was very special for me to be able to document some historical sites in the area where I am from.”