Exploring The Stanley Hotel: Home of The Inspiration For “The Shining”

Stanley Hotel, the famous "haunted" hotel that once was the inspiration for the horror movie "The Shining", attracts many tourists each year to this unusual place.

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The Stanley Hotel is a prestigious Colonial Revival hotel located in Estes Park, Colorado, United States. Situated only five miles away from the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, it offers guests a convenient and picturesque location. Originally constructed in 1909 by Freelan Oscar Stanley, renowned for his Stanley Steamer automobile, the hotel was primarily designed as a luxurious retreat for affluent individuals from the Eastern part of the country. It also served as a health resort for those suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis. The hotel and its accompanying structures have been officially recognized and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In addition to its historical significance, the property boasts a range of modern amenities including a restaurant, spa, and bed-and-breakfast services. Guests are treated to breathtaking views of Lake Estes, the Rocky Mountains, and the iconic Long’s Peak.

The Stanley Hotel served as the inspiration for the Overlook Hotel in Stephen King’s critically acclaimed novel, “The Shining,” published in 1977, and its subsequent 1980 film adaptation. Additionally, the hotel itself was featured as a filming location for the related 1997 TV miniseries.

Exploring the Fascinating History of Stanley Hotel

Photo: Agoda
Photo: Agoda

The Stanley Hotel, located in Estes Park, Colorado, is renowned for its timeless elegance and exceptional hospitality. Not only does it exude old-world charm and provide unparalleled service, but it also holds a reputation for its captivating paranormal activity and rich history of spirit folklore. With over a century of history, this exquisite hotel sits just five miles away from the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, offering sublime vistas of Lake Estes and the majestic Rocky Mountains, with the iconic Long’s Peak at the forefront.

Built in the early 1900s by F.O. Stanley, renowned creator of the Stanley Steam Engine, this iconic hotel showcases magnificent Georgian-style architecture. Having opened its doors in 1909, it has long been celebrated as a premier destination for affluent and distinguished clientele.

Freelan Oscar Stanley (F.O.) and his wife, Flora, embarked on a journey to Colorado in 1903, driven by F.O. Stanley’s doctor’s recommendation to experience the invigorating mountain air.

F.O. Stanley, the founder of the hotel, acquired the land from Lord Dunraven, an Irish Earl. Lord Dunraven arrived in the region in 1872 during a hunting expedition, where he built a hunting lodge, a cabin, and a hotel to accommodate his guests. In an unsuccessful bid to establish a private hunting preserve, he unlawfully claimed up to 6,000 acres of land. However, due to his fraudulent attempts to deceive people and embezzle their land and money, Lord Dunraven was ultimately ousted from the area.

Photo: USAToday
Photo: USAToday

The Stanley Hotel’s construction began in 1906, utilizing wood and rock sourced from the neighboring mountains. Drawing inspiration from the Georgian architectural style, which saw a resurgence in the early 1900s, the hotel was meticulously crafted. By 1909, the lavish establishment was ready for guests, boasting state-of-the-art luxuries such as running water, electricity, and telephones. The hotel only lacked heating, as it was originally conceived as a summer retreat.

The Stanley Hotel has been a prestigious destination for numerous esteemed guests, such as The Unsinkable Molly Brown, John Philip Sousa, Theodore Roosevelt, the Emperor and Empress of Japan, and various notable Hollywood figures. Notably, the hotel also served as an inspiration for renowned author Stephen King, who based his acclaimed novel “The Shining” on his own personal encounter at the Stanley Hotel.

Harry Houdini mesmerized audiences with his awe-inspiring performances in the exquisite concert hall, where the very trapdoor he used for his iconic escape act still remains as a part of the stage. Additionally, during those times, while the men indulged in games of pool and libations, the women would convene for diverse letter-writing campaigns. Notably, the whiskey bar, now recognized as one of the largest establishments of its kind in the state, served as a unifying space for both genders.

Photo: Alumina Railings
Photo: Alumina Railings

In 1930, FO sold the buildings to a corporation that redeveloped the property into a hotel. However, due to the slow growth of the nearby national park, their success was limited. Despite efforts to improve the situation, the property faced challenges and was eventually sold to John Cullen in the mid-1990s. At the time of the sale, the hotel’s financial situation was so dire that the turndown service consisted of a makeshift solution – the top bed duvet being hung on nails across the window, as they couldn’t afford curtains.

Exploring the Mysteries of Stanley Hotel – A Beloved But “Haunted” Location

The Shining, a renowned film, raises an intriguing question about The Stanley hotel: is it haunted? Visitors to the hotel certainly seem to think so. In 1911, a tragic incident occurred in room 217 when an explosion resulted in chambermaid Elizabeth Wilson falling through the floor, sustaining two broken ankles. Though she survived and had her medical expenses covered, many firmly believe that her spirit lingers within the hotel’s corridors. Furthermore, numerous guest lodgers have consistently reported sightings of a ghostly figure on the fourth floor, a description that bears a striking resemblance to Flora Stanley.

Photo: Location Hubs
Photo: Location Hubs

There have been reports from both employees and guests regarding the presence of music emanating from the room. Upon closer inspection, the moving keys of the piano can be observed. Curiously, the music abruptly ceases and no further movement is detected when someone approaches to investigate further.

The hotel boasts a number of rooms with a reputation for being haunted, including Room 407. According to local lore, this room is occasionally visited by Lord Dunraven, the previous owner of the land before it was acquired by F.O. Stanley. Witnesses have claimed to see Lord Dunraven standing in the corner of the room near the bathroom door. In one instance, guests noticed that a light in that corner was repeatedly turning on and off. Seizing the opportunity, they addressed the ghost, expressing their awareness of his presence and requesting that he turn the light back on if he was indeed there. Remarkably, the light promptly illuminated once again. However, during their stay, while the lights were off and they were trying to sleep, they were disturbed by constant noises emanating from the neighboring elevator, despite the fact that it was not in use at the time. On other occasions, guests have reported seeing a ghostly face peering out of the window of Room 407, even when the room is unoccupied.

Room 418 is frequently associated with reports of paranormal activity, specifically linked to the presence of children’s spirits. Cleaning personnel have reported numerous instances of unexplained noises emanating from the room, along with inexplicable impressions left on the bed despite the room being unoccupied. Guests who have stayed in the room have frequently reported hearing the sounds of children playing in the hallway during nighttime hours. One particular couple even decided to check out of the hotel prematurely, citing disturbances caused by children in the hallway that kept them awake throughout the night. Interestingly, no children were actually registered as guests in the hotel during that time.

Photo: Vice
Photo: Vice

Numerous accounts from guests and staff at the hotel have detailed haunting phenomena in Rooms 217 and 401. One prevalent ghostly narrative revolves around a small child who has been sighted by multiple employees in different sections of the establishment. Stephen King himself reportedly encountered this child, who was beckoning for his nanny on the second floor. Former workers have also reported hearing footsteps and witnessing apparitions throughout the entire property.

“Remake of Classic Horror Film “The Shining” Announced

Photo: Frequency Machine
Photo: Frequency Machine

In 1974, acclaimed horror writer Stephen King and his wife Tabitha had a brief stay at the Stanley Hotel in Boulder, Colorado. Although the details of their visit are mainly known from interviews given by King, the experience remains intriguing. During their visit, King was working on a book called Darkshine, set in an amusement park, but he was unsatisfied with the setting. Seeking inspiration, the Kings took the advice of locals and checked into the Stanley Hotel, a resort located in Estes Park, about an hour’s drive to the north. Interestingly, their arrival coincided with the hotel’s closure for the winter season, leaving them as the only guests during their stay.

After completing the check-in process and with Tabitha already asleep, King decided to explore the hotel. He wandered through the halls and eventually made his way to the hotel bar, where he was served by the bartender, Grady. As he made his way back to his room, which was numbered 217, King couldn’t help but be captivated by the hotel’s remote location, impressive size, and eerie desolation. It was in this moment, while in the bathroom and pulling back the pink curtain to reveal the claw-footed tub, that a thought struck him: “What if someone had died here? That was the moment I knew I had the concept for a book.”

Photo: Trip to Discover
Photo: Trip to Discover

During a 1977 interview with the Literary Guild, Stephen King recounted his experience in Boulder, Colorado where he discovered a captivating old mountain resort hotel. Despite arriving just as the hotel was closing for the season, King and his wife found themselves as the only guests in the vast establishment, surrounded by long, empty corridors. They were served dinner in a desolate dining room, accompanied only by canned orchestral music that echoed hauntingly throughout the halls.

This scene left a profound impression on King, as he described it as if “God had put me there to hear that and see those things.” It was during that very night, as he lay in bed, that the entire concept for his book, The Shining, formed in his mind.

In another retelling of this experience, King mentioned a vivid dream he had, where his three-year-old son was running through the hotel corridors, fearfully glancing back over his shoulder, his eyes wide and screaming in terror. In this dream, his son was being pursued by a menacing fire-hose. The intensity of this dream startled King awake, his body drenched in sweat and on the verge of falling out of bed. He then sat by the window, cigarette in hand, gazing at the majestic Rockies. By the time the cigarette was finished, the fundamental framework of The Shining had firmly taken root in his imagination.

The Shining, a novel written by Stephen King, was published in 1977. It quickly became one of King’s most successful works, following the successes of Carrie and ‘Salem’s Lot. The story takes place at the Overlook Hotel, an isolated resort in Colorado that closes down for the winter season. In the introduction of the book, King respectfully acknowledges that while Colorado is home to many beautiful resorts, the Overlook Hotel and its characters are purely products of his imagination.

Secure Venue Set for Upcoming Movie Release

The haunted Room 217. Photo: Locations Hub
The haunted Room 217. Photo: Locations Hub

The historic Stanley Hotel has had prominent roles in various films and TV shows. Notably, it was featured as the Overlook Hotel in Stephen King’s 1997 TV miniseries adaptation of The Shining. Additionally, it portrayed the fictional Hotel Danbury of Aspen, Colorado, in the 1994 film Dumb and Dumber.

From 2013 to 2015, the hotel property served as the venue for the Stanley Film Festival. This independent horror film festival, run by the esteemed Denver Film Society, took place annually in early May. The festival comprised of screenings, panels, student competitions, audience awards, and receptions. However, the Stanley Film Festival was temporarily discontinued in 2016 and subsequently canceled for 2017.

The Stanley served as a venue for Episode 10 of Season 15 of Bravo’s cooking competition show, Top Chef. This particular season was filmed in several locations across Colorado.

Indie rock band Murder by Death has been hosting an annual series of winter concerts at the historic Stanley Hotel since 2014. The band recently completed their seventh event in 2020. The Stanley Hotel serves as the perfect backdrop for their unique performances.

Charlotte Pho