Is the Stanley Hotel Haunted?

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The Historic Stanley Hotel

If you’ve never heard of The Stanley Hotel we assume that you’ve never watched or read The Shining or done any research on haunted hotels because this is, perhaps, one of the most famous haunted hotels in America because of its association with famed horror writer, Stephen King, and it’s role as the muse for the book (and subsequent film) The Shining.

The Stanley Hotel is a Georgian-style hotel located in Estes Park, Colorado, roughly 90-minutes from Denver. Georgian architecture style, for those that are curious, is marked by the “symmetry and proportion-based on [the] classical architecture of Greece and Rome.”

The Stanley Hotel is an “elite, 420-room retreat” that offers panoramic views of Lake Estes and the Rockies with ample old-world charm and exceptional service. It was built by investor and entrepreneur, Freelan Oscar (AKA “FO”) Stanley, who was the owner of the Stanley Motor Carriage Co., in 1909, and his wife Flora travelled west from Chicago and fell in love with the area. FO Stanley is best known as the inventor of the “Stanley steam engine” which was essentially a steam-powered horseless carriage (AKA a car).

FO had tuberculosis and was given six months to live. His doctor recommended that he and his wife seek out fresh air as treatment and arranged for the couple to travel to the Denver area. Surprisingly, his health did, in fact, start to improve and they loved the area so much that they decided to open up a little retreat there. Construction on the hotel started in 1906, and the hotel officially opened in 1909.

The Stanley Hotel was a grand, top-of-the-line hotel equipped with running water, electricity and telephones. The only amenity that the hotel didn’t have was heat because it was intended to be a summer-only resort. The Stanley’s build their own private residence a half-mile west of the hotel. Famous guests include The Unsinkable Molly Brown—who was the American socialite and philanthropist who survived the Titanic, the Emperor and Empress of Japan, John Philip Sousa, Teddy Roosevelt and, later, Stephen King. And, like many of the places on our list, it’s also recognized for its history, though, in this case, it’s recognized by Historic Hotels of America that recognizes the “nation’s finest historic lodging properties.”

Prior to the Stanley’s purchasing the land, it was owned by Earl Lord Dunraven who came to the area in 1872, on a hunting trip. The Earl built a lodge, cabin and a hotel for guests and “illegally homesteaded up to 6,000 acres in an unsuccessful attempt to create a private hunting preserve.” Naturally, he wasn’t super popular in the area, and after attempting to swindle locals out of land and money he was promptly run out of the area.

The Stanley Hotel Most Haunted Room

Room 217: The Stephen King Room

Room 217 is the famed room that Stephen King stayed in that helped inspire his famous book, The Shining. This second-floor room has a beautiful view of the Rockies and today you’ll find a library of King novels, because why not?

Stephen and Tabitha King arrived in the off-season and ended up being the only guests in the hotel, which means they ate in an empty dining room with “pre-recorded orchestra music playing.” King described suddenly waking up from a nightmare in which his 3-year-old son was being chased, screaming through the corridors of the hotel. And by the time he headed out onto the balcony for a smoke, the storyline for The Shining was already well on its way.

This room is said to be haunted by the ghost of Elizabeth Wilson AKA Mrs. Wilson who was the hotel’s former housekeeper. Mrs. Wilson was injured during a 1911 storm, when she went to light one of the lanterns in room 217, it exploded without warning. Luckily she survived but unfortunately ended up breaking both ankles.

Even though Mrs. Wilson didn't pass away during the incident, it appears that she has chosen room 217 as her afterlife digs. Guests report that she moves items around, unpacks their luggage and turns on and off the lights, depending on her mood. She’s also apparently quite old-fashioned and doesn’t appreciate when unmarried couples bunk together—those that do in this room report that a “cold force” comes between them. Many believe that this room is never available but you can absolutely book it… you might just need a little lead time.

The Stanley Hotel’s Haunted Grand Staircase

While the Grand Staircase is a popular passageway for hotel guests, it’s also frequently travelled by its ghostly residents as well. In 2016, a visitor from Houston, Texas, took photos while he was exploring the impressive stairwell. When he was looking through his photos back at home, he realized one of them had “an apparatus at the top of the stairs” despite the fact that he didn’t recall anyone else being in the area of the time. The imaged featured the ghost of a woman standing on top of the stairs. Travel+Leisure has a creepy photo of a ghost that appeared during a tour as well and, real or not, it’s legitimately creepy.

The Stanley Hotel Vortex

It’s a tad bit unclear but it appears that the same Grand Staircase at the Stanley Hotel, particularly between the guest floors, is often referred to as “The Vortex” or “a natural spiral of energy.” Paranormal enthusiasts refer to it as the “rapid transit system” for ghosts that haunt the area. The theory behind this is that the Stanley Hotel is an energy vortex that opens a portal between space and time creating a “swirling centre of cosmic energy” that’s coming from the ground. Particularly the base of the second-floor staircase.

The Concert Hall

The Concert Hall is another well-haunted room inside the Stanley Hotel. It’s haunted by the ghost of Paul, a former jack-of-all-trades around the hotel. One of his many jobs was to enforce the hotel’s 11 pm curfew, and these days guests report hearing him yell “get out” when they’re lurking around late at night. A construction worker at the hotel also reported that Paul was nudging him while he was sanding the floors. And he’s happy to perform for tour guests, flickering flashlights for them. This is also the favourite haunt for Flora Stanley who can be heard playing the piano late at night.

Finally, the Stanley Hotel’s Concert Hall room is the home of Lucy. She is considered to be a former runaway or homeless woman who’s taken up residence in the afterlife. It’s often touted that no one knows what her pre-death connection to the hotel, but the ONLY known death at the hotel was a transient female who broke into the basement under the concert hall in an attempt to escape the chilling winter cold. Unfortunately, the basement wasn’t much warmer and she ended up freezing to death after she crawled through a window. Lucy often plays along with ghost hunters, communicating with them via flashlight.

Room 401

A hundred years ago, the fourth floor of the Stanley Hotel was an open attic where female employees, children and nannies would stay while there. Now with hotel rooms on the floor, guests who stay here often report hearing children giggling, laughing and running around. Room 401 is also home to the famed Stanley Hotel closet that opens and closes itself.

Room 428

Room 428 is reported as being one of the scariest rooms in the hotel. Guests report footsteps and moving furniture above them, despite the fact that there is no floor on top of them and the slope of the roof is too steep for anyone to even feasibly be there. This is also the room where you’ll find the ghost of a “friendly cowboy” who appears at the corner of the bed.

Visiting the Stanley Hotel

You do not have to be a guest of the hotel to take a spooky tour there. The Historic Stanley Night Tour is offered on a regular basis though times and dates change depending on the time of year and availability, so you’ll want to call first.

We also found mention of the Underground Caves Midnight Spirit Tour, though couldn’t find any information on it directly so you might have to call and ask if you’re interested. This tour will take you to visit an underground cave system that was previously used by workers to move about.

Skeptics chalk the creepiness up of this tour to the wind moving through the old piping and vent systems, but some believe that the higher-than-average concentration of limestone and quartz that the hotel is built on captures paranormal energy.

Staying at the Stanley Hotel

The Stanley Hotel fully embraces its spooky history and makes it easy for guests to book a spirited room, including the Stephen King Suite—217. There are also a few other ghost hunting favourites, including 401, 407 and 428.

It should be noted that these are the most popular rooms so availability is limited. You will have to book well in advance, especially during peak summer months and you’re looking at roughly $430 USD for a mid-week, off-season stay.

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About "Is the Stanley Hotel haunted?"

The Lady Dicks Podcast was created by Tae Haahr. The Lady Dicks are Andrea Campion, Nikki Kipping and Tae Haahr. “Is the Stanley Hotel haunted?” was researched, written and produced by Tae Haahr, and edited by Rory Joy. The Lady Dicks theme music, A Pink Panther, is licenced through AudioJungle.

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