"Shining" and The Stanley Hotel

Posted by Hilary Hulsey on

“Some places are like people: some shine and some don’t.” – Dick Hallorann

All work and no play makes Hilary a dull girl, or… so I’ve heard. My parents decided, spontaneously, to take a trip to my second childhood home, Colorado, for the weekend and I, of course, tagged along. What’s not to love? Breathtaking scenery, lax attitudes, and iconic haunted hotels. Okay, usually Colorado does not conjure up thoughts about the paranormal, but if you’re a film buff and a fan of The Shining… Colorado is the place to be and I finally had the opportunity to visit the Stanley Hotel.

(Not my photo, but it's a nice exterior shot.)

(Not my photo, but it’s a nice exterior shot.)

The Stanley Hotel is a richly historical and haunted hotel — luckily, the ghosts, if you so believe in them, are mostly friendly entities. While most probably know the hotel based on its connections to Stephen King, its story begins years before he was a guest in room 217. The property belonged to F.O. Stanley (of Stanley Steamer fame) and the hotel was originally a guest house built out of love and adoration for his wife, Flora, who wanted all of her friends to visit Estes Park (the Rockefellers and Marriots among them).

How did F.O. manage to build such an extravagant guest house? Well, it wasn’t the steam engines that made him wealthy, no, we have F.O. and his twin brother to thank for the photographic ability to capture images at a faster exposure rate. They mass produced the product and eventually sold it to George Eastman (of Kodak!) which enabled F.O. to not only build the property but also the electrical power plant that sent power to the guest house and residents of Estes Park until 1980 when the town finally outgrew it. Needless to say, if F.O. did something, he did it extravagantly.

Now, you’re probably wondering why I’m boring you with history, but I swear I enjoyed learning about the Stanleys more than the ghosts… but, since I want you to keep reading, I suppose I will entertain your curiosity. While there are many hauntings in the hotel, they certainly gained notoriety when Stephen King decided to put some of his own experiences of the Stanley Hotel in his successful novel,The Shining.

On a cold blustery night, King barged in the hotel and asked for a room due to severe winter weather on the roads. As the hotel was seasonal and without heat (at the time), they were no longer renting out rooms — in fact, King and his wife arrived on the final night of the season and were the only people on the property aside from a few staff members. After pleading with the staff and landing the best room on the premises, King had a couple of drinks at the bar and began roaming the halls. On the fourth floor, King experienced his first encounter with two little girls down a never-ending hallway — remember, I said they were the only guests with a room? Yeah, two little girls… hmm… sounds familiar…

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Come and play with us, Danny.

This eerie encounter sent King back to his suite, the infamous room 217, where he had a terrifying dream about his son being strangled by a firehose in the hallway. He awoke in a cold sweat, walked out of the room, lit a cigarette and by the time he reached the staircase… he had conceived the entire outline for The Shining. Writers, eh? How do they do it? No idea, but, based on his works, I would imagine Stephen King has the worst nightmares.

Even though Stanley Kubrick did not set foot on the property for filming, the overarching influence of this Colorado gem is evident in the 1980 adaptation of The Shining. While my family and I did not personally experience any “shine,” many guests still experience paranormal activity on a regular basis. If you’re ever in the Denver area, make the trek over to Estes Park to the Stanley Hotel. Our tour was easily the highlight of the trip.