Few places in America are as iconic as they are haunting, but one look at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, and you immediately understand how Stephen King could find inspiration in the mountainside resort to pen quite possibly his most terrifying story.
The History: The Stanley Hotel opened its doors in 1909 after steam-powered car inventor Freelan Oscar Stanley moved out to Estes Park to help fight tuberculosis (fresh mountain air will do wonders). When the hotel first opened, it featured a hydraulic elevator, both gas and electric lighting, running water, a telephone in every guest room, and even a small fleet of Stanley “Model Z” Mountain Wagons which would bring guests to the hotel from the train station twenty miles away. Stanley is credited for building Estes Park into what it is today and he even contributed to the opening of the Rocky Mountain National Park in 1915. Of course, the most famous guest in the hotel is the master of horror, Stephen King, who was inspired by his stay at the Stanley Hotel to write The Shining in 1977.
The Haunting: There are several places in the Stanley Hotel that are considered to be “hot spots.” You might hear Flora Stanley’s ghost playing piano in the concert hall or ghostly children laughing and playing on the fourth floor. The #1 spot on almost every ghost hunter and weary traveler’s bucket list is Room 217, the room Stephen King was staying in when he was inspired to write The Shining. It is believed this room is haunted by Elizabeth Wilson (or rather, Mrs. Wilson), the head housekeeper from when the hotel first opened. During a storm, she was lighting lamps in room 217 when one of the lamps exploded. She survived the incident but many believe her spirit has returned to the room. Guests claim lights turn on and off, luggage gets unpacked, and items seem to move on their own.
The Stanley Hotel embraces its creep factor. The gift shop is filled with Stephen King memorabilia. There are two walking tours to choose from: the Stanley Tour or the Night Spirit Tour both of which run 90 minutes. The Shining is playing 24/7 on the TVs in the hotel rooms. Ask any staff member about their experiences and they will go into full detail. Where some hotels shy away from advertising their haunts, the Stanley fully embraces it. Oh, and did we mention that both Syfy’s Ghost Hunters and Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures have investigated here?
The only downside of being a tourist not staying at the Stanley Hotel and covered in mud from hiking in the Rocky Mountains is that sometimes the staff at the restaurants aren’t quite as welcoming as you’d hope. Because of that, I was only allowed into two of them, however, there are four dining experiences available at the Stanley: Table, Cascades, Whiskey Bar, and Colorado Cherry Co. I managed to get into the cafe, Colorado Cherry Co., and Whiskey Bar where (of course) I ordered the Redrum Punch which was delicious but not necessarily worth the struggle of trying to just get seated.
Type of Experience: Hotel, Restaurant, Bar
Dining Style: Varies from casual to dress casual
Price Range: $7-47 (not including the Table experience)
Phone Number: (970) 577-4000
Hours of Operation:
Colorado Cherry Co.
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