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If you’re a fan of Stephen King’s “The Shining”, you know that the inspiration for the Overlook Hotel is The Stanley Hotel. Nestled in the Rockies and located in Estes Park, Colorado, The Stanley Hotel is a grand, old dame that has a lot of history. Built by Freelan Oscar Stanley (of Stanley Steamer fame) and his wife, Flora, the Stanleys traveled from Newton, Massachusetts to Estes Park, for the dry mountain air, which was excellent for his tuberculosis. After seeing how greatly improved his condition was, they decided to build this grand hotel. The Stanley opened to the public on the 4th of July, 1909. The hotel has hosted numerous holidays and weddings and events and has a great deal of history—and some say it’s haunted.
My husband and I recently stayed at The Stanley. I’m going to say right now that my stay was less than satisfactory. The hotel doesn’t have air conditioning and the cramped room was stuffy and hot. The only way to get any airflow was to open the drapes and sheers and expose your entire room and bed to viewing by other guests–blinds or shades would have made much more sense.
The room was also shabby, there were dried bloodstains on the coverlet, and the bathroom had a giant window in front of the shower/toilet with only a filthy, torn sheer covering it—on a window that overlooked the main courtyard. We never received maid service and no one ever came to fix or replace the window covering. If you look at the room rates, you’d see that they charge entirely too much for the lack of customer service and the poor condition of the rooms.). That being said, the experience was still worthwhile.
If you want to have The Stanley Experience (as I shall now call it), you really only need to walk around the premises and then sign up for one of their numerous ghost tours. I recommend stopping off at Cascades Bar first. I’ll say it’s so you can lower your inhibitions and let your guard down so you are free to experience whatever the spirit world has in store for you…but mostly it’s because you need to try their Redrum Punch. It packs a kick and is just a delight. If you love macaroni and cheese half as much as I do, grab one of their sides of the cheesy stuff (it contains bacon, y’all) while you’re at it. Your mouth will thank you. Once you’re feeling pretty good, head to your ghost tour.
The ghost tours convene in the basement. While they don’t take you to any of the supposedly haunted guestrooms in the hotel, you do get to go into a music room in a basement, larger rooms used for banquets and an employee tunnel. The tour guide gave us Dum Dum lollipops that apparently get knocked over when you put them head down in the middle of your palm. She said it was ghost children reaching for the candy when the sticks were pulled down. I have to say that it seemed pretty silly, but my lollipop did get moved all over the place–not sure if it’s from spectral activity or just a wobbly lolly.
The ghost tour itself was fairly hokey. They guided us to rooms that wouldn’t bother paying visitors and tried to make dead rooms (rooms that have zero activity and just feel…dead) seem like hot spots. My husband and I did encounter a couple of cold spots during the ghost tour—in a hot hotel, you really notice the cold spots. These spots weren’t just cold; they gave that sensation of every hair on your body standing on end and chills traveling over you. We experienced that in the former Billiard Room and in the MacGregor Ballroom. I have a couple of green orb photos from the Billiard Room, but I still wonder if it’s a trick of the light.
Later that night, my husband and I went to the supposedly very haunted 4th floor for some ghost “hunting” and encountered another couple doing the same. I felt some chills in the hallway and took a photo of the couple as they walked away from us and you can see orb-like shapes following them–like footprints. As soon as they turned the corner, the photos showed no such activity. Make of that what you will. We never encountered any creepy twins wanting us to “come play” with them.
I think my favorite things about The Stanley Hotel (besides the Redrum Punch) are its proximity to Rocky Mountain National Park (The hike to Emerald Lake was gorgeous—I highly recommend it!) and how when we returned from our hike, we encountered about 20 or so elk, grazing in the parking lot and side yard of the hotel. It was surreal. If you plan on being in the area, you might want to skip an overnight stay, but a side trip to The Stanley is definitely worthwhile!
SIDENOTE: If you’re in the area, I do recommend checking out the Hotel Boulderado in Boulder, Colorado. Stephen King mentions it in “The Shining”, too, and it features in “Misery” (Paul Sheldon, the main character, stays there while he writes the first draft of all of his novels). The proprietors have maintained the property a bit more and it has a really cool, old vibe to it—their lobby is what I pictured when I read “The Shining.”
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