Tucked away in the stunning landscapes of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, the Stanley Hotel is an emblem of Edwardian opulence, its grand white facade standing in stark contrast to the rugged natural beauty surrounding it. For over a century, the Stanley has not only been a beloved luxury retreat but has also gained a reputation as one of the most haunted hotels in the United States. Its charming and opulent exterior belies a spine-chilling history filled with eerie tales and spectral sightings. In this blog, we will delve into the dark past of this fascinating establishment, and unveil the mystery behind why it is known as America’s most haunted hotel.
Founded by Freelan Oscar Stanley, the hotel was intended as a haven for those stricken with tuberculosis, offering them a place to recover in the fresh mountain air. However, what was initially envisioned as a sanctuary of health soon became a hotbed of uncanny occurrences and ghostly encounters. To this day, guests and staff alike report inexplicable phenomena that hint at an otherworldly presence within its walls.
In the Stanley Hotel, the veil between the physical and the spectral world appears to be thin, giving rise to countless tales of unexplained sounds, objects moving on their own, and apparitions from another time. Whether these are mere figments of an overactive imagination or genuine paranormal activity, the Stanley has successfully captured the fascination of ghost enthusiasts, historians, and fiction lovers alike. The hotel’s haunted reputation has even made its way into popular culture, notably inspiring the setting for Stephen King’s horror masterpiece, ‘The Shining’.
The History of The Stanley Hotel
Constructed in 1909, the Stanley Hotel was the brainchild of Freelan Oscar Stanley, the inventor of the Stanley Steamer automobile. Suffering from tuberculosis, Stanley moved to Colorado for its clean air, where he was convinced that the healthful climate would offer him a reprieve from his ailment. With his health improving, Stanley decided to build a luxury hotel in Estes Park to offer a similar solace to fellow tuberculosis patients.
In 1911, just two years after its grand opening, the Stanley Hotel was rocked by a gas explosion in room 217. Elizabeth Wilson, a chambermaid, was lighting the gas lamps when the explosion occurred, sending her through the floor with severe injuries. Miraculously, she survived and continued working at the hotel until her retirement. This room, incidentally, would later become one of the most requested rooms due to its paranormal reputation.
Despite this early setback, the Stanley Hotel quickly became a popular retreat among the American elite. The hotel offered a variety of sophisticated amenities that were ahead of its time, such as a hydraulic elevator, running water, and electric lights, all of which were powered by Stanley’s own hydroelectric plant.
Over the years, the hotel has been renovated and expanded, but it has managed to retain its old-world charm. Today, it stands as a testament to Stanley’s visionary spirit and perseverance, continuing to draw visitors with its grandeur, history, and of course, its haunting allure.
Is The Stanley Hotel Haunted?
Stories of haunted happenings at the Stanley Hotel are as old as the establishment itself. Over the years, guests and employees have reported a variety of paranormal experiences, ranging from the innocuous to the outright terrifying.
One of the most frequently sighted apparitions is that of Freelan Oscar Stanley himself. Despite passing away in 1940, Stanley is said to still frequent the hotel, his specter seen in the lobby and the Billiard Room, his favorite places during his lifetime. His wife, Flora, is also reportedly seen playing the piano in the Music Room.
Room 217, the site of the 1911 gas explosion, has become notorious for its spectral activity. Guests have reported experiencing strange phenomena such as doors opening and closing on their own, lights switching on and off, and even the feeling of an unseen presence in the room. Some also claim to have encountered the ghost of Elizabeth Wilson, the former chambermaid, who seemingly continues her duties from beyond the grave.
The fourth floor, once a cavernous attic where female employees and children stayed, is another hotspot for ghostly encounters. Guests staying on this floor have often reported hearing phantom footsteps, giggles, and other unexplained noises, supposedly the echoes of children playing in the hallway.
While there are countless stories of supernatural occurrences, one incident stands out in the hotel’s spectral history. This particular encounter didn’t involve a regular guest, but acclaimed author Stephen King. It was his experience at the Stanley Hotel that became the inspiration for one of his most famous novels, ‘The Shining’.
The Shining was based on Stephen King’s own haunted encounter at The Stanley Hotel
In 1974, Stephen King and his wife Tabitha found themselves as the only guests at the Stanley Hotel. The solitude and the eerie atmosphere of the hotel intrigued King and soon began to permeate his imagination. That night, a dream (or perhaps a nightmare) stirred him awake.
In his dream, he saw his young son running through the long, winding corridors of the hotel, being chased by a fire hose that seemed to have a sinister life of its own. This nightmare was so vivid, so chilling, that King found himself sitting on the balcony, smoking and watching the dawn break, and the genesis of ‘The Shining’ was born.
King’s novel, set in the fictional Overlook Hotel, bears a striking resemblance to the Stanley, from its remote and picturesque location to its haunting history. More than just a setting, the hotel itself becomes a character in King’s book, its malignant influence turning an ordinary man into a monster.
While King was hesitant to admit his personal paranormal encounter, there’s no denying that his stay at the Stanley Hotel stirred up the creative forces that led to the creation of one of the most iconic horror novels of our time. It’s fascinating how real-life experiences can seep into fiction, creating a narrative that continues to captivate readers decades later.
Can you stay in room 237 at The Stanley Hotel?
The room number 217 in Stephen King’s book was changed to room 237 in Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation of ‘The Shining’, adding another layer of intrigue to the Stanley Hotel’s haunting reputation. However, at the real Stanley Hotel, there is no room number 237; the closest equivalent is room 217, the infamous location of the gas explosion and numerous paranormal sightings.
Today, not only can you stay in room 217, but the hotel encourages guests who are interested in the paranormal to do so. The hotel provides a variety of themed rooms and tours that delve into its ghostly history, offering thrill-seekers a chance to potentially come face-to-face with the otherworldly residents of the Stanley Hotel.
Ghost tours are held regularly, guiding visitors through the various haunted locations within the hotel and sharing chilling anecdotes from its past. Night tours with paranormal investigators are also offered, providing an even more immersive experience for those interested in the supernatural.
Staying at the Stanley Hotel is not just about luxury and scenic beauty, but also about experiencing its rich history and unique spectral ambiance. Whether you are a paranormal enthusiast, a history buff, or a fan of ‘The Shining’, the Stanley Hotel offers an unforgettable encounter with the mystical side of life – and perhaps, even the afterlife.
In conclusion, the Stanley Hotel is more than just a beautiful, historic hotel nestled in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. It’s a place where the past lives on, sometimes literally, according to many guests and staff members. It’s a hotel that has earned its reputation as the most haunted hotel in America, providing chilling yet fascinating stories that continue to captivate us all.