In the months of October 1974 Stephen King, back the rising star of the horror literature, spent with his wife a night in an rather scary old hotel at the base of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. With the cold and snow approaching, the hotel was about to shut and King plus wife were the only guests. After a supper in a huge empty dining room, with all the chairs turned upside down on top of the tables besides their own, and having walked along the desert never ending hallways, a new novel started taking shape in the mind of the writer.
That night King had a terrifying nightmare in which his son was shadowed through the corridors by a fire hose. He immediately understood he had to write:
“I woke up, lit up a cigarette and remained on the chair, looking to the Rocky Mountains (…) and when the cigarette was over I had the skeleton of the book ready in my mind”.
The book of Shining changed completely the destiny of the Stanley Hotel of Estes Park in Colorado. That which was nothing but a fading residue of old splendors reborn and is now called “The Shining Hotel”.
Above: Public Domain Picture
The famous businessman – inventor Freelan Oscar Stanley finished the construction of the hotel in 1909. Six years before his doctor had told him to spend some months in a place where to breathe clean mountain air, hoping that this could improve his tuberculosis. Once in Estes Park for a holiday, Stanley fell deeply for the area and promised to come back every summer.
Above: The Stanley Hotel. Public Domain Picture
Stanley built the hotel on a field bought from the Count of Dunraven, Irish nobleman. Today the ghost hunters believe that the ghost of Dunraven haunts the room number 407. According to their stories, the lights turn off on its own and his spectral face often appears through the windows of the room.
Above: painting representing the Count of Dunraven
Many features of the Stanley Hotel, like the veranda, the billiards room (one of F.O. Stanley’s favourite rooms), and the staircase, are still the same ones that were originally used.
Above: picture by Hustvedt shared via Wikipedia – licence CC BY-SA 3.0
Stanley would accepted only clients coming from the high society, excluding who was not part of it. During the WWI, when tourism decreased to almost nothing, Stanley would sit personally in the hall, rejecting clients non suitable, even when the hotel was almost empty.
Above: picture shared via Wikipedia – licence Creative Commons
In the moment of maximum glory at the beginning of the 20th century before it was the “Shining Hotel”, the Stanley Hotel hosted public characters such as Theodore Roosevelt and the Japanese Emperor Hirohito.
When Stephen King in the 70’s winded up at the Stanley Hotel, the place was already facing a bad economical situation. But the arrival of the novel of the horror author and the successive film of Stanley Kubrick as well as the change of management brought it back to its ancient beauty.
Above: Ahwahnee Hotel. Public Domain Picture
The room number 217, core of the novel, then changed in 237 in the film of Kubrick, was the one in which King slept that night. Throughout the years it has become extremely popular amongst the guests of the Hotel to the point on almost becoming a place of worship; to make sure the room is available people book it months in advance.
Way before the Stanley Hotel became the Shining Hotel, the room number 217 had been the set of an interesting story. In 1917 the head governess Elizabeth Wilson, afraid that the storm would have caused a blackout, started to light the lanterns of the hotel. When she tried to light the one of room which today is the number 217, the lantern exploded, and the floor under her feet collapsed and she found herself in the room underneath.
Even though the woman broke her ankles, she survived the episode. For the paranormal investigators though, Mrs Wilson’s story is way scarier than it seems because many papers of the time delivered very different versions of the event, where even the name of the woman was different. Since the registers of the employees went lost and there is no picture of any Elizabeth Wilson, some people believe that it is impossible to reconstruct the events of who really was in that room.
The American actor Jim Carrey asked to occupy the room 217 at the Stanley Hotel while working at the production of “Dumb and Dumber”. The story tells that only 3 hours after he asked to change it. “What happened inside that room is not known. He never said a word about it”, reported one of the staff members.
Many ghost hunters say that the room 401 is in reality the most haunted room of the hotel, where the “thief ghost” dwells and steals personal belongings from the guests. Other people highlight the noise caused by the lift next to it, main character in the film too, which is able to shake the nerves of the visitors by itself.
Apart from the room 401, many ghost hunters believe that the whole 4th floor of the Stanley Hotel is central site of paranormal phenomenons. There are loads of reports of people who have supposedly heard children giggling who were running back and forth through the corridors.
Another popular ghost in the hotel is the one of an ex maintenance man named Paul, who died for a heart attack while shoveling snows outside the hotel in 2005. The guides believe that Paul converses with the guests during the night visits to the structure.
The inside of the Hotel showed in the film (reconstructed in a film studio) weren’t shot inside the Stanley Hotel but were instead result of a mix of different locations throughout the whole country; one of the main Hotel where the film was recorded is the Ahwahnee Hotel (picture above), in California.
Above: Public Domain Picture
Since the snow was not enough in Estes Park a the time of the shooting, Kubrick decided to not use the Stanley Hotel but the Timberline Lodge, in Oregon. However when Mr King, known to not be a supporter of Kubrick’s films, adapted his book for a mini-series in 1997 and picked up the actual Stanley Hotel.
From the 2013 the hotel hosts the Stanley Film Festival, with its red lighting, where new indie horror films and special events are presented. For Halloween, the Stanley Hotel turns into the place from the film in a sense that a great ball occurs every year; everyone who attends it dresses up with garments from the 20’s just like the one in the film.
Above: image from the film “Shining” by Kubrick. Public Domain Picture
The hotel attracts big numbers of people with its 4 types of day trips, thought for those looking for a haunted experience. Tens of thousands of people book such trips every year.
Even when the ballroom has a creepy role in the film, the Stanley MacGregor Ballroom is today a popular place where to celebrate weddings. Despite this though amateur ghost hunters who have eaten in the room have declared to have heard the sound of the piano of Flora Stanley, the long dead owner’s wife.
Above: picture shared via Wikiwand
While Mrs Stanley supposedly haunts the ballroom, the hotel guests and personnel affirm to have seen the husband both in the billiard room and the bar.
Both the novel and the film depict a place extremely isolated from civilization but, in reality, the Stanley Hotel is just outside the centre of Estes Park, popular summer area near Denver.
Above: Public Domain Picture
Even though in the film great importance was given to a hurdle maze, the Stanley has never had one, up until recent times. By the end of June of this year, after sifting over 300 projects, the Hotel has launched a maze open to the public, which makes it definitely the same as the Shining Hotel.
Below: the scene where Danny on his tricycle meets up with the twins