In case you aren't familiar with the history, West Baden and French Lick are full of natural mineral springs. In 1902, Lee Sinclair opened the West Baden Hotel, which until 1955 sported the largest free spanning dome in the country and offered baths in the "healing" springs. West Baden catered to the upper class and many hotel guests (like Al Capone, FDR, Bing Crosby) would come from Chicago on the Monon Train to bask in the mineral waters of the area. At the time the mineral waters were touted to cure just about any ailment.
Not only did West Baden sport a plush hotel complete with casinos, billiards, a pool but outside there were vast gardens, golf courses and hiking trails among other amenities. Although not as lavish, a mile down the road French Lick also had a hotel.
Interior 1993 (photo courtesy of this site)
West Baden hasn't always looked so nice though. During the depression the hotel was finally closed and sold to an order of Jesuit priests in 1934. And through the years the hotel deteriorated until the early 90's when interest in restoration of the building began to grow.
I was able to tour West Baden in December of 1998 in the midst of restoration. I know I took pics but for the life of me I don't know where they are. Even then however I remember being in awe of the size of the hotel's atrium.
The winter of 2006/07 DR and I spent the weekend at the French Lick Casino, only a mile from West Baden. West Baden is now a fully functioning hotel but high priced! It is fabulous! I don't even have the words to describe it!
Anyway, back to my book. So Cold the River is a mystery about a man from Chicago who has come to West Baden to film a documentary but in the process is "bewitched" by some of the mineral water. He begins to see visions of the past and ghosts and one particularly evil ghost returns to the present.
Not only do I love this book because it is a well told story full of suspense but it's full of Indiana history and geography too. Larry Bird, Upland Brewery, the love of Indiana basketball are all mentioned through the story.
If you have ever been in southern Indiana or heard of West Baden/French Lick or just like a good ghost story you would enjoy this book.