The Creswell Bath House


Our family visited Lake Elsinore, California, during the 2022 holiday season to spend time with my mother-in-law. I’m always on the lookout for unique and interesting places to see. In addition to visiting several historic buildings, we also stopped by “The Mindful Lotus,” a business located at 115 West Franklin Street. The Mindful Lotus is a mix of New Age Wellness and energy balance by offering a mix of products such as candles, herbs, and crystals. In addition, it provides services such as yoga, Tarot readings, and Reiki.

creswell bath ghost
Creswell Bath House Purchased Post Card Artistic Enchancement circa 1950
creswell bath today
2023 Mindful Lotus Exterior

As a paranormal investigator, I am familiar with new-age metaphysical shops. When I first entered the store, it seemed normal, but as soon as I entered the third room on the right, I felt a familiar “paranormal” energy that reminded me of our recent trip to Tombstone, Arizona.

When I inquired about paranormal activity, the owner asked if I had been “touched” while in the back room. It has been said that some people believe that a ghost of an older woman and a spirit of a young boy lingers on at the Mindful Lotus. After returning home to San Diego, I began researching the building and finding any possible historical information that could explain my psychic experience at Mindful Lotus. The results of this research are outlined below.

From 1910 to 2011, the land on which The Mindful Lotus sits was a natural hot spring used for “healing and wellness.” There are five time periods of interest: pre-Creswell, Creswell, A. Johnson, Nakai, and post-Nakai.

Pre-Creswell Time Period 1885-1910

Originally, the land was part of block 53 on Fountain Street, but two conflicting accounts exist about its early development. In the Lake Elsinore Valley Sun-Tribune August 18, 1927 edition, it is mentioned that a hand pump was placed in this hot spring that flowed slightly. The spring was also referred to as “Dutchman’s Spring” due to its owner. A small bathhouse was built atop the well but was not used commercially. The property was later purchased by Dr. F. Ellis, whose heirs sold it to Mrs. Kate Coster and then to Captain Creswell, who developed the hot well.”

creswell bath spring
Creswell Bath Natural Spring Bundy Hotel Lot

A later version of the story contradicted an article from the Elsinore Valley Sun-Tribune dated October 25, 1912, which said, “There are no buildings on the property, but there is a very fine hot sulfur well.” A short time later, Mrs. Coster sold the property to Captain Rufus Milton Creswell after upgrading the property.

Captain Rufus Milton Creswell Period 1916-1920

Known for his boating and shipping prowess, Captain Creswell was equally well known in Lake Elsinore as he was in San Diego. His family-based company, Star and Crescent Boat Company, became San Diego Harbor Excursions until 2011 when Flagship Cruises and Events took its place.

Located on block 53 of Fountain Street in Lake Elsinore, Captain Creswell acquired a 50 x 150 plot of land in 1916. The plot included a small, natural spring with sulfur-rich water and a hand-operated well pump. During that time, Creswell, along with many other people in that era, strongly believed that natural mineral springs could cure illnesses. He devoted significant time and money to developing the property into a fully functional rejuvenating bathhouse.

In the construction of Creswell’s bath, a new building product was used called hollow tile. Hollow clay tiles were used to face the arches in an adobe style. A cement patio surrounded the hot well. A covered area allowed the public to pump water for drinking. Individuals were able to submerge completely in the curative waters by climbing down several steps to the full-size bathtubs.

Creswell Bath managers Mr. and Mrs. William B. Dimon reported nearly 20,000 baths served between 1917-1920, the majority of which cost .25 cents, an amount that rivaled local competitors. Even after the Creswell Bath House became successful, Captain Creswell sold it in 1920 to Alfred Johnson and Matilda Hall.

Alfred Johnson and Matilda Hall Period 1920-1940

Alfred Jönsson (later anglicized as Johnson) moved to San Jose, California, at the age of twenty to become a Swedish massage therapist. In 1906, Johnson opened the Sutter St. Hamon Baths in San Francisco, which were destroyed after the 1906 earthquake. As a result of the destruction, Johnson opened Post St. Baths, which were very popular. He had a son and was married. He moved to Oakland, followed by Piedmont, where he met Matilda Hall, his business partner. They moved to Lake Elsinore, California, in 1919 and worked and lived there. However, Emilie and Emory Johnson lived across the Bay Area as they were involved in early cinema.

A minister of the church of Sweden adopted Emilie Johnson as a child because she had excellent writing skills. The minister became an advisor to the King of Sweden and introduced her to the Royal court. After marrying Al Johnson, she started writing screenplays for Hollywood. Al’s son Emory also was involved in the movie industry as a cameraman, actor, producer, and photographer. He married actress Ella Hall, a former co-star of his. As a result, Emory and Ella became the first high-profile couple in early Hollywood. Their relationship attracted clients to his father’s bathhouse.

During that time, Lake Elsinore was being billed as the next Palm Springs, attracting celebrities, vacationers, and the rich. Though Al Johnson was married to Emmie Johnson, he spent most of his time with his business partner Matilda Hall*, whom he would marry later in life . Johnson was a true believer in the healing qualities of natural hot spring waters and likely saw Creswell Baths as a surefire way to help cure a wide range of clients.

When Johnson owned the company, facility improvements, pump upgrades, and increased productivity occurred. Al and Mrs. Hall even used the exterior sunrooms for Sunday mass and religious functions. According to various newspaper clippings, Al and Mrs. Hall were extremely hands-on and meticulous with managing the Creswell baths. The two took long trips back to Sweden several times during their ownership, which resulted in them temporarily leasing out ownership to others.

Several times, it appeared that Mr. Johnson and Mrs. Hall were not satisfied with the condition of the baths. As soon as Al reclaimed ownership, he immediately placed advertisements pointing out that he was determined to bring the baths back to his high standards. In other news articles, visitors also commented that the Johnsons had returned as proprietors, which would please the public.

In 1936, Alfred, who had operated the Creswell baths for 16 years, unexpectedly fell ill due to heart problems and died of heart failure. After Mathilda (Hall) Johnson took over ownership, the Creswell property was managed by Dr Peetz of Eissinore Bath House and Treatment Centers until finally it was sold to Japanese immigrant Noritatsu Nory Nakai and his wife American born Japanese wife Mitsuyo Nishida Nakai.

*Matilda Hall – There is some question as to whether Matilda Hall, Mrs. Hall was a separate person from Alfred’s wife Emilie or the same person. In talks with a living relative of Alfred, it is unclear who Mrs. Hall was.

Nakai Family Wellness Period 1941-2014

Upon the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941 and the subsequent declaration of war on Japan, the Nakai period at the Crewell was interrupted by Japanophobia among Americans. In 1942, Mrs. Nakai was forced into the Manzanar selection center with her two young daughters, Margaret Yoshiko and Jane Horiko Nakai. Mr. Nakai was drafted into the U.S. military and while in internment, the had two sons, Tsuyoshi Roy and David Kei Nakai. The Creswell Baths would remain closed until 1945, when the Nakai family was released from internment.

In 1945, the Nakai family reopened the Creswell for business in no time, but anti-Japanese sentiments were strong, and business was sluggish. In an article titled Jap Situation Locally Posted in the Lake Elsinore Valley Sun-Tribune Feb 22, 1945, the author directly refers to the Nakai family and strong anti-Japanese sentiment to allow Japanese families to come home and their kids back to school before an official end to the war.

The Nakai family struggled financially at the Creswell and in a series of New Year newspaper ads, communicated their commitment to service by stating, “We’re looking forward to the coming year with optimism. We urge you to do the same. We wish you every success possible, Mr. and Mrs. M Nakai Creswell Baths.” Their strong family bond and optimism would eventually win over Lake Elsinore residents. Over time business returned to normal.

A few years later, the Nakai family renamed Creswell Baths to Nakai Physical Therapy and continued renovating the facility for nearly 73 years. The Nakai namesake became a solid fixture in Lake Elsinore not only for their business but also for their strong involvement in the community. Mr. Nakai passed away in 1994, while his wife died in 2011.

Post Nakai Period 2014-Current

In 2014, the remaining Nakai family sold the property to Raymond C and Yuann L Kuo. An antique called “The Needful Things Addiction,” operated in the building for two years. It closed its doors during COVID, leading to Mindful Lotus’s opening. The folks at Mindful Lotus are great people and very passionate about the land and history they are very helpful and highly knowledgeable in their field and I hope for the future success of their business.

Is The Building Haunted

The question remains as to whether the location is haunted by ghosts and if so, whose spirit remains, and why. In our research, we did not find any smoking guns. However, we do know that Captain Creswell, Al Johnson, and the Nakais took pride in their work and literally poured blood, sweat, and tears into the building and services. Besides that, I’m sure many really sick people used the baths for their supposed curative powers, many of whom later died. Perhaps a dissatisfied client is upset about not getting healed? Perhaps it is the water flowing beneath the building that is actually driving paranormal activity?

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