The Stanley Hotel. Photo courtesy Visit Estes Park

The Stanley Hotel: Spooky History


Once you’ve graduated from haunted houses, it’s time to go big with a stay at a haunted hotel. You can earn that badge of horror by booking a hotel room at The Stanley Hotel, which is about 45 minutes outside of Boulder. The famed haunted hotel has played host to paranormal investigators from The Travel Channel’s “Ghost Hunters” and SyFy’s “Ghost Adventures,” as well as rookie ghost hunters.

Ready to stay at this dream, er, nightmare hotel?

The Stanley Hotel. Courtesy photo

Here are 13 things to know about The Stanley and its legendary haunted history. (Oh, and if horror stories aren’t your thing, it’s still worth escaping to this historical hotel this fall to enjoy the Colonial Revival architecture and watch elk bugle at Rocky Mountain National Park.)

1. Yes, it’s haunted, the experts say. In fact, it’s been referred to as a “Disneyland for ghosts” by the hotel’s former paranormal investigator Lisa Nyhart.

2. The hotel’s founder originally came to Estes Park for his health. F.O. Stanley, the hotel’s original owner, originally came to Estes Park in 1903 because he had tuberculosis, and doctors recommended dry air and sunlight. He lived to be 91.

3. A stay at the Stanley scared up the idea for “The Shining.” It’s true. Horror writer Stephen King stayed a night at the hotel and had an experience that eventually led him to write The Shining. Stanley tour guides explain that when King and his wife arrived at the hotel, it was closing down for the season. (Worth noting, the hotel is now open year-round). The author dined in an empty dining room where pre-recorded orchestra music played. He then spent the night in room 217, where he stirred awake after having a frightening dream involving his toddler being chased through the hotel’s corridors. He jerked out of bed, lit a cigarette on the balcony and began imagining the plot for “The Shining,” which was released in 1977.

4. You can stay in the same room as Stephen King. In fact, as a tribute to King, room 217 comes with a library of his novels.

5. The film adaptation of “The Shining” wasn’t actually filmed at the Estes Park hotel. This is a common misnomer. While The Stanley was the muse for “The Shining,” the film itself was shot mostly in a studio in England, with a constructed hotel interior. The exterior of the hotel that’s shown in the film, though, is The Timberline Lodge in northern Oregon.

6. However, The Stanley has had its fair share of fame. “The Shining” TV mini-series that came out in 1997 was shot at The Stanley. Also, “Dumb & Dumber” shot some scenes at The Stanley.

7. Rumor has it, Jim Carey got totally spooked at the hotel. It’s been told on tours before that Carey stayed a night at The Stanley when “Dumb & Dumber” was being filmed. It’s rumored that he got so spooked after a few hours in room 217 that he fled from the hotel and refused to stay there again.

8. Room 217 is said to be haunted by a prude ghost. Tour guides spin tales of how the room is haunted by Elizabeth Wilson, but refer to her as Mrs. Wilson, please and thank you. She was the hotel’s head housekeeper in the early 1900s. Unmarried guests have reported feeling a cold force between them, as folklore has it that Mrs. Wilson is old-fashioned and doesn’t like them sharing a bed. Other haunting guest experiences have included luggage being unpacked and lights flickering off and on.

9. And the hotel has a ghost who is a known lady’s man. Another one of the hotel’s ghosts is Lord Dunraven, who was the original owner of the land that The Stanley Hotel was built on. He’s said to haunt the fourth floor, too. He’s known as the hotel’s flirtatious ghost.

10. The fourth floor is haunted. If you’re a scare seeker but not sure if you can stomach a stay in King’s room, check into a room on the fourth floor. Guests have reported hearing furniture being moved around above them, as well as footsteps. If you stay in room 428, you might see a friendly cowboy appear, according to tour guides.  He might even tuck you in.

11. The concert hall is said to be haunted, too. Really, there are haunts around every corner in this historic hotel, according to the tour guides and paranormal investigators. The “Vortex,” as an example, is the staircase between the lobby and guest floors in the main hotel, and a promotional video for the ghost tours referred to it as the “rapid transit system” for ghosts.

But, there’s also paranormal activity happening the concert hall. One of the preeminent ghosts is Paul, who was in charge of enforcing the hotel’s 11 p.m. curfew in the early 1900s. Hotel guests and employees have reported hearing the words “get out” muttered when the clock approaches midnight.

12. Bring your camera, and you might catch an orb. In fact, a Houston man visiting the hotel in 2016 snapped a photo on the hotel’s staircase. He said he didn’t recall anyone else being on the stairs, but when he reviewed his photos he saw a woman standing at the top of the stairs. A paranormal investigator told “Today” it didn’t appear to be Photoshopped, and, upon further examination, the ghostly woman in the photo could have been accompanied by a child.

13. You can take a tour of the haunted hotel, even if you’re not staying at the hotel. The daily, 90-minute tours focus mostly on the hotel’s history and the hotel’s original owner F.O. Stanley. You do get to travel through the secret hallways during the day tours. The night spirit tours focus more on the haunted folklore at the hotel. Tours are $28, and it’s best to book them in advance because they do sell out.

Decorations at the Masquerade Ball. Courtesy photo

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