Saturday, January 12, 2019

The Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado

In Estes Park, Colorado, stands the Stanley Hotel - a large, beautiful edifice that houses many of the tourists that pass through or come to stay in Estes Park. The hotel was built between 1906 and 1909 by Freelan Oscar Stanley (who, according to the hotel's promotional material, was suffering from consumption - that is, tuberculosis, when he arrived and was somehow miraculously healed by the surroundings...color me skeptical - also, along with his brother, he was a co-inventor of the early automobile known as the Stanley steamer), and was something of a luxury palace: a hydroelectric plant built up-mountain supplied electricity to the hotel (keep in mind that much of the US was not yet on the electrical grid at the time), and telephones (still something of a luxury item in 1909) were installed in each room. That said, it was a summer resort, closed int he winter, with the only heat coming from fireplaces on the first floor until a more extensive heating system was installed in the 1970s or 1980s, depending on which source you trust.

Like many such landmark buildings, the Stanley Hotel has a reputation as a haunted place.  And, like many an allegedly haunted hotel, the symptoms of the haunting are usually location-specific. So, to that end, I am going to structure this entry by location:

General Hauntings
Yeah, for all that I say about the localized nature of the claims, there are a few things that are reported throughout the hotel. This includes apparitions stealing guests belongings (the sources are unclear as to whether this is in one room or in multiple rooms, so I'm placing it in this section); figures, sometimes looking very much like living people, sometimes more shadowy or faded, appearing in guest rooms at night, and just standing there; some visitors have reported seeing people walking through the hallways, who then would hide and/or vanish (though this was reported by the TV crew of the show Ghost Hunters*, so take it with a table spoon of salt); people have also reported hearing children running and playing on the floor above wherever they are, only to find the area empty (again, though, this was reported by the crew of the same sensationalistic TV show); Allegedly, Stephen King saw two unattended children in the hotel during his short novel-inspiring stay in 1974 (though I suspect that this story was retrofitted into the hotel's legends to accommodate the events of the novel The Shining); and, finally, people report seeing a well-dressed man who looks like Freelan Stanley standing or walking at various places throughout the hotel, though he is reported to favor some specific locations (described below).

The Ball Room
One of the more persistent stories is that hotel staff, often specifically stated to be the kitchen staff, will hear a party occurring in the ball room, but find the room empty on investigation. At other times, staff and guests have reported hearing someone playing the ballroom's piano, again only to find the room empty, and the piano unattended, upon investigation. It has been claimed that the unseen pianist is the ghost of Flora Stanley, Freelan Stanley's wife, who apparently was quite the pianist in life. It should be noted that different stories hold that this music is heard not from the ball room but from the music room and the concert hall, so there is that.

The Music Room
As noted, the ghostly Mrs. Stanely has been said to play the piano in this room, as well. Again, Mr. Stanley is said to appear in this room. There is also a flag hanging on one wall that, allegedly, a face will mysteriously appear on from time to time (or the face is always there as part of the fabric...the sources are inconsistent on this one).

The Billiard Room
People report seeing Mr. Stanley (or, the more ambiguous "feeling his presence") in here, said to be one of his favorite rooms in life.

The Lobby
The Lobby is yet another place where people report seeing Mr. Stanley.

The Bar
Again, Mr. Stanley is said to be strolling through the bar on his way to the kitchen.

The Grand Staircase
While probably technically part of the lobby, the staircase is plenty impressive and deserves its own entry, if for no other reason than that I get to link to a photo. People have seen a woman in early 20th century clothing descending down the stairs, and she has been said to show up in photos even if she were not visible when the photo was taken.

Room 217
Probably the most famous room at the hotel due to the fact that this is where Stephen King was inspired to write The Shining while staying in this room at the mostly empty hotel in the days before it closed for an extended period. Other than a nightmare that shocked him awake, nothing spooky is said to have happened to MR. King here. However, legend holds that during a power outage in 1911, a maid named Elizabeth Wilson entered the room, sparking a gas explosion (gas was used for lighting in the building at the time, a common arrangement in the late 19th and early 20th centuries). The resulting explosion did considerable damage, and sent Ms. Wilson hurtling to the floor in the room below...but she survived and apparently lived a long life. However, guests have reported seeing a young woman in period clothing appearing in the room, and then walking through a wall where the door once was, and many have assumed that this is Elizabeth Wilson. People have also reported clothing being mysteriously folded, having suitcases unpacked and items mysteriously put away, doors opening and closing on their own, lights turning on and off, and an unseen force (assumed to be Ms. Wilson) getting into the bed to separate unmarried couples.

The Fourth Floor
The fourth floor is reputed to be the most haunted part of the building. Stories include hearing children rushing and playing through the halls, despite there being no children present (allegedly the children of wealthy visitors and their families would stay on the 4th floor - though some stories report that the hotel maids lived with their children on this floor); the ghost of two little girls are said to be seen on a pair of couches in the hallway on the 4th floor; apparitions seen walking in the halls and vanishing; noises have been said to come from the elevators even when the elevators are not operating; and several rooms specifically said to be haunted, including:

Room 401
This room is reputed to be haunted by an apparition of a man who appears and steals guest's belongings - mostly small objects such as jewelry, keys, and wallets. The closet doors are also said to unlock, objects (including furniture) are said to move, and the Ghost Hunters staff (who, again, are a bunch of sensationalist doofuses) claim that one of theirs stayed in the room and his water glass mysteriously cracked. People also report seeing the spirit of one Lord Dunraven, former owner of much of the land that is now Rocky Mountain National Park, in this room.

Room 407
People report Lord Dunraven's ghost standing in a corner of this room. Apparently just sort of standing there, hanging out...doing some sort of Lord Dunravenly thing. People outside of the hotel have reported seeing a face peering out the window from this room even when the room was empty. Also, the lights are said to turn on and off of their own accord.

Room 418
Allegedly the most haunted of the fourth floor rooms (I'm always really curious as to how people measure "most haunted" as allegedly most haunted places are usually somewhat less creepy and busy than the supposedly less haunted places nearby), staff report hearing noise (primarily of children playing) coming from the room despite it being empty. The apparition of a little boy is said to appear to guests. People have reported seeing an impression on the empty bed, as if an invisible person were lying on it.

Room 428
A shadowy figure in a cowboy hat has been said to appear and frighten people in this room. Frequently he startles them by appearing at the foot of the bed and watching them sleep...which is creepy even for a ghost. In addition, the furniture is said to routinely re-arrange itself.

The Tunnel
There is a tunnel cut into the granite beneath the hotel, connecting the staff entrance to the hotel proper. A good deal of what I have read describes this as a cave system, and suggests that it is as old as the hotel, but from what I can tell, it was constructed in the early 1980s. People have reported seeing a ghostly cat with glowing green eyes in the tunnel (how they would distinguish it from a normal cat is unclear), as well as smelling what appear to be baked goods, a phenomenon normally attributed to the ghost of a chef who worked at the hotel. 

The Concert Hall
A separate building, but on the hotel grounds, the concert hall is also said to be haunted. One ghost said to inhabit the hall is a former handyman by the name of Paul. He had his own room on the basement level. Paul is said to like to mess with flashlights (though I couldn't confirm whether this refers to a common parlor trick of making flashlights flicker as a form of poor-man's Ouija board, or something different), he is reported to have pushed or nudged a man working on the floors of the concert halls, he is said to be the voice on an EVP saying "get out" (one source suggests that this may be Paul trying to maintain curfews), and another one of the sources I used said that Paul "interacts with men" - though it is unclear as to what that means.

Another ghost often associated with the concert hall is that of a woman named Lucy. Who she was is unclear, though most sources report her as being a homeless woman - possibly a runaway. Children report interacting with her, and she is also said to mess with flashlights (again, not clear on what that means).

The Creepy Mirror
Finally, in the basement of the concert hall, there is a haunted object. Typically referred to as the "Creepy Mirror." Stories of people taking selfies in the mirror only to have a second person show up in the image, someone not present when the photo was taken, abound. So, all in all, the Stanley Park hotel has an abundance of ghost stories for you. Which, considering that it was, apparently, the inspiration of one of the best known horror novels ever, seems appropriate.

* Just for the record, in case I seem like I am overly dismissive of the people from Ghost Hunters - they have a long history of transparently editing video and making highly dubious claims for the sake of ratings. If they were generally just viewed as being goofy entertainment, then this wouldn't bother me, but they tend to portray themselves, and be portrayed by their fans, as serious researchers, when these guys wouldn't know actual honest research if it crawled out of a dark allegedly haunted swamp and bit them. They annoy me intensely. 

Commentary: Although now known primarily as the hotel that inspired Stephen King to write The Shining, the Stanley Park Hotel has a long history tied in to the development of health resorts (which promised all manner of essentially magical healing) in Colorado during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

One of the things that really struck me in researching this entry is the degree to which it is so typical of the haunted hotel archetype. Rather than a single over-arching haunting, there are numerous room-specific hauntings, with each of them exhibiting it's own trends and flavor. Given the Steven-King derived fame of this hotel, I have to wonder whether it fits this mold so well because the pattern set at this hotel has been exported to others, or if people felt the need to make this hotel's stories fit an archteypical structure in order to fit Stephen King's model into something more familiar.

Even most of the specific haunting elements are almost prototypical - the phantom parties in the ballroom are commonly reported in haunted hotels. The late Mrs. Stanley playing the piano is a different touch, not entirely unique (I can think of several other similar claims at other places, including hotels) but it is not the standard hotel haunting, unlike the phantom party.

In going through the various alleged hauntings that I listed above, I tried to steer clear of stuff that seems to have been purely from the novel The Shining. You see, the paranormal waters have been muddied by two facts: 1) The Shining was conceived here after Steven King had a nightmare, and as a result many of the sources take elements from the novel and place them in the hotel, despite the fact that those elements are purely products of Stephen King's imagination; 2) the hostel has discovered that it can cash in on it's haunted reputation (in fact, the allegedly most haunted of the rooms, up on the fourth floor, have to be booked by a specific section of the hotel's website, and haunted tours regularly occur and are a fair money maker for the hotel), meaning that there is a lot of impetus to keep the stories rolling. As a result, it is difficult, and possibly impossible, to tell what people have experienced, what people have claimed to have experienced, what is people muddling fiction with fact, and what is just pure marketing.

Sources: The Bloggess, Wikipedia, Allstays, Haunted Places in America, Spooky Mountain News, Legends of America, TV News, Hotel Website, CSICOP, Amy's Crypt, My Haunted Library, Rocky Mountain Paranormal,,

No comments:

Post a Comment