A couple of months ago, a friend on Facebook mentioned how she went to the Stanley Hotel for a ghost tour. For those of you who don’t know what the Stanley Hotel is – it’s where Steven King stayed and gained inspiration for The Shining. It got me really excited that there was a place so close that was full of history and “ghosts” that I made a mental note to get up there as soon as I could – and my parents coming in town was the perfect opportunity!
The first half of the tour was a lot of history on the hotel – it was built just after the turn of the century by F.O. Stanley. He was diagnosed with TB and moved out west from his Maine home for his health. After arriving and residing in Denver, his health continued to fail, and his doctor offered his country home as a place for F.O. to visit until his death – which was supposed to be in less than 3 months. Being in the fresh mountain air, however, was actually really good for F.O. and he made a full recovery.
Since the air was so good for him, the Stanleys eventually built their “summer cottage” in Estes Park, CO. Back in Maine, however, they were known for their huge parties – and they wanted to continue this in CO in the summer. Therefore, they built the Stanley Hotel – which was really just a huge guest house as opposed to a hotel. This building was one of the firsts of its kind to have indoor electricity and flushing toilets – keep in mind it is the early 1900’s, so this was luxury! Due to the nature of this endeavor, those who lived in Estes Park reaped the many benefits of the Stanleys taking up residence – their roads were paved, a new hospital (that the Stanleys built for their summer guests) and not to mention the new sewer and electrical system that they put in. Life became good in Estes Park.
F.O. Stanley lived until the 1940’s, and is rumored to have died of a broken heart – his wife of 63 years died the year before from complications due to a stroke. It is rumored that his wife, Flora, haunts the Stanley Hotel – and sometimes music can be heard being played in the Music Room on one of few original pieces left – her piano.
The other supposed haunts, while not venegeful, are by Lord Dunraven, Mrs. Wilson (the head chamber-maid) and various children that visited the Stanleys during the summer. Since there were no tragedies at the hotel, the ghosts are playful – probably partaking in the same activities that they did back in the early 1900’s. For example – Lord Dunraven, said to haunt room 401 (which was the nannie’s break room), is known for touching women. He made a lot of his money through brothels, and would haunt that room, “looking for more employees”. Mrs. Wilson is said to haunt room 217 (The Shining‘s famous room), which was the “Presidential Suite” back then – where FDR, the “Unsinkable” Molly Brown, John Phillips Sousa (as well as Steven King and Jim Carrey) stayed. Her haunts aren’t scary either – guests sometimes report their luggage stacked neatly and their clothes folded. Also, some unmarried couples who stay in the room have said they felt someone get in bed between them. And, finally, some of the children are said to haunt the 4th floor hallways (see above picture) where they used to play, and some visitors hear children’s laughter and cold spots. We didn’t experience any of these haunts – as we couldn’t go into rooms 217 or 401, and the children “weren’t active”.
The inspiration for The Shining came when King and his wife were driving up in the mountains and Trail Ridge Road was closed due to snow. The original idea for the book was about a family trapped in an amusement park where the rides come to life, but he felt it just wasn’t right. Once they found the road closed, they back tracked and ended up in Estes Park. King saw a partially boarded up, dilapidated Stanley Hotel and booked a room for the night. They checked out the next morning and after returning to Boulder, he sat down and rewrote The Shining in a week and a half.
I had a BLAST on the tour. It was so cool to hear the history and hear about how Steven King really saved the hotel. It also gave me a chance to start our collection of postcards from places we visit. If you’re ever in the area, and love to hear about the wealthy from the early 1900’s, with a bit of ghost thrown in, I suggest paying the $15 and going on a tour. One last picture of our trip to Estes Park – the elk that crossed the road on our way out of town: