As we start to embrace sweater weather, changing leaf colors, pumpkins, and everything else that comes with autumn, we also get ready to get a little spooky. And what better way to kick off the Halloween season than by taking a trip to a haunted place that inspired one of most iconic horror stories of all time? Introducing the Stanley Hotel.
If you recognize the historic hotel, located in Estes Park, Colorado, you’ll recognize it from Stephen King’s 1977 bestselling novel The Shining and its 1980 film adaptation starring Jack Nicholson. But did you know that the story was inspired by true hauntings and paranormal activity within the place? Let’s dive more into what happened here.
The Haunted History of the Stanley Hotel
Famous writer Stephen King and his wife had stopped to stay at the Colorado hotel back in the fall of 1974, checking into room 217, the Presidential Suite. The highly-recognized horror author had a nightmare in which he saw his young son being chased by a possessed fire house down the Stanley’s long, empty hallways, causing him to wake up in sweat. This horrifying dream would be the catalyst for King’s next story, The Shining.
But long before the Kings had stayed at the haunted hotel, the Stanley had already earned a paranormal reputation. The hotel was completed in 1909 by elite entrepreneur and inventor Freelan Oscar Stanley (F.O. Stanley), co-founder of the Stanley Motor Carriage Co. And after his death in 1940, his ghost has been reportedly appearing to guests who check-in at the front desk. There have also been claims that the apparition of his wife Flora Stanley, a pianist, can be heard playing piano keys in an empty music room.
But although most expect murder and gore from haunted places, the Stanley Hotel simply isn’t like that. It does have one traumatic story, however, that also happened in the same room that the Kings would stay in, just decades before. In the 1920s, a gas leak caused an explosion in room 217, almost killing a chambermaid known as Elizabeth Wilson. Although she did recover and return to her job, after her death, guests reported seeing her hovering and walking through closed doors. And unmarried couples have recalled feeling an invisible force wedging them apart as they slept, while single men report waking up to find their bags packed and left outside the door.
What to Do at the Stanley Hotel
The Stanley Hotel isn’t just a place made for accommodations. And it also offers more than just its iconic name as a filming location (Jim Carrey once stayed and fled, never to return, while filming Dumb and Dumber). Located at 333 E Wonderview Avenue, Estes Park, CO 80517, this historic place is just a short trip from the city of Denver!
The main hotel holds the classic guest rooms from the original place, but there are three kinds of other accommodations. However, the main building does not offer all the modern amenities that normally come with hotels. There is no air conditioning, since the place is cooled down by the natural mountain breeze. But don’t worry- there is free Wi-Fi should you need it. The fourth floor also offers rooms under the “Ghost Adventure Package,” which gives hotel guests a pocket-sized electromagnetic field reader and other ghostly mementos, including a mug that reads “REDRUM,” attributing to the word “murder” spelled backwards, the word concept taken from King’s novel.
The three other options include the Lodge, Aspire, and the Residences. The Lodge is a boutique hotel, made for a more updated, intimate experience. Aspire offers apartment-style rooms for extended stays. And the Residences serve as an overlook hotel that has expansive condos with views of Rocky Mountain National Park. The Residences are also a close walk to the Whiskey Bar, Cascades Restaurant, the Concert Hall, and more. The Stanley Historic District also serves as a stunning place for meetings, conferences, and weddings with their business centers and wedding venues.
For all you ghost hunters out there, the hotel also offers ghost tours, teaching more about the history of the Stanley after dark. The Stanley Hotel Spirited Night Tour is a 60-minute walking tour with a knowledgeable tour guide that tells the haunted tales of the place under the ambiance of nighttime in the Rockies. Just make sure to buy tickets in advance, which you can find here, and get ready to explore and be spooked! There are also plenty of events to attend, especially around Halloween time, including the Shining Ball, Devotchka Halloween Black Tie Ball, Three Eleven Halloween, and Aiden Sinclair’s Underground.
If you want to explore Rocky Mountain National Park, the hotel also offers guided hikes, mountain bike rentals, rock climbing classes, and more through Kent Mountain Adventure Center. You can also head to Lake Estes to go kayaking or paddle boarding during the summer. So with a little bit of everything for everyone, you can count on this hotel to be a place to visit with friends or with the whole family! Don’t forget to stop by the gift shop to grab something to commemorate your time there.
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