The Stanley Hotel

Posted by amber in Denver Ghost Tours
The Stanley Hotel - Photo

The Stanley Hotel is a stately one-hundred and forty-two-room hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. It sits just about five miles from the Rocky Mountain National Park entrance and is almost as imposing as the mountains themselves. A true posh oasis, the Stanley sits nestled in the arms of the Rockies, a mountaintop paradise for those affluent enough to have enjoyed it in its heyday. Cherry-colored wood beams line the lobby and rooms, a small grotto pond sits out back, a welcoming spot to have a cup of coffee. Refinement and class are in no short supply at the hotel, and it’s no surprise that some of the visitors of the past have not yet left their accommodations.

History of The Stanley Hotel


The Stanley Hotel was built by Freeland Oscar Stanley of Stanley Motor Carriage Co. and opened on July 4th, 1909, as a posh resort for upper-class easterners and a health retreat for those suffering from tuberculosis. The hotel is rightly on the National Register of Historic Places. It includes a restaurant, spa, bed & breakfast, and picturesque panoramic views of Lake Estes, the Rockies, and Long’s Peak.


In 1903, the steam-powered car inventor Freelan Oscar Stanley was stricken with a life-threatening diagnosis of tuberculosis. At the time, the most highly recommended treatment was dry, fresh air with lots of sunlight and a healthy diet. Like many ‘lungers’ of the day, Stanley decided he needed to retreat into the dry air of the mountains. He and his wife Flora arrived in Denver in March of that year, and in June, they moved to Estes Park by the recommendation of Stanley’s doctor Dr. Sherman Grant Bonney. Over his time in Estes Park, Stanley’s health improved dramatically, the magic of the mountain air proving to be more than just superstition.


Impressed by his drastic recovery, Stanley decided to return every year to spend the summers there. By 1907, he had recovered completely. As a man of high standards, he was not content with their new home’s more rustic accommodations and relaxed social scene. Stanley resolved to turn Estes Park into a resort town for the upper-class socialites he called his friends. In 1907, construction began on the Hotel Stanley, a 48-room grand building that catered to the wealthy members of Stanley’s social circle.


The land was purchased by the representatives of the 4th Earl of Dunraven in 1908, the original owner and family who had acquired 15,000 acres of Estes Park between 1872 and 1884. The local ranchers and farmers intensely disliked Lord Dunraven, and when Stanley suggested that they name the hotel ‘The Dunraven,’ 180 people signed a buckskin petition requesting that he name the hotel after himself instead.


The main hotel was completed in 1909, and Stanley’s car company even produced a fleet of specially designed steam-powered vehicles to bring visitors to and from the hotel. Stanley operated the hotel on the side, remarking once that he was spending more money than he made and that running the hotel was just enjoyable for him, regardless of profits.


1911 Gas Explosion


Up until 1911, things at the Stanley Hotel were going splendidly. The hotel was alleged to be one of a few in the world that was powered only by electricity. Soon, the lack of available power induced the 1911 installation of an auxiliary gas lighting system.  On June 25th of 1911, the day after the pipes had been filled, a massive explosion occurred that injured a housekeeper and several waiters and damaged the hotel’s structure. A build-up of acetylene gas caused the blast from a leaky pipe in the system.


Ghosts of The Stanley Hotel


It all started in 1974 when world-renowned writer Stephen King and his wife stopped at the Stanley for a night of rest. Upon their arrival, they learned that the hotel was closing for the winter, and only a skeleton crew (no pun intended) remained to host them. They checked into room 217 that night as the only paying guests.


That night, Stephen had a horrific nightmare in which he witnessed his young son being chased down the hotel’s long corridors by a predatory fire hose. He woke up drenched in sweat and stepped out onto his room’s balcony to have a smoke. By the time he stubbed it out, he’d worked out the backbone of what would become his third novel, The Shining.


Stephen’s unfortunate nightmare had ended up being a blessing for the Stanley Hotel. After his book was published in 1977, there was a massive surge in paranormally motivated tourism to the Stanley Hotel due to the fact that it was the inspiration for the fictional Overlook Hotel in The Shining. The movie even plays nonstop on a designated channel at the hotel.


But the paranormal history of the Stanley Hotel started long before King visited the mountaintop retreat. During the years since his death in 1940, the well-dressed apparition of Mr. Stanley has been reported by guests checking in at the hotel’s reception desk.


Flora, Mr. Stanley’s wife, was a pianist in life and can be heard playing softly in the empty music room. While some places in the hotel are more paranormally active than others, guests have reported shadow figures, disembodied laughter and talking flickering lights, and moving items in every room on the hotel property. Recently, the hotel has hosted some of the most popular paranormal investigation crews, such as teams from Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures and SyFy’s Ghost Hunters.


Going back to the gas explosion of 1911 that almost killed the housekeeper Elizabeth Wilson – she has also been seen hovering and walking through closed doors in the rebuilt guest quarters of the hotel. Unmarried couples that share a bed complain of feeling an unseen force wedging between them as they sleep, and single men even wake up to find their bags packed and left outside the door!


The Vortex


The staircase between floors in the hotel’s lobby has been named ‘The Vortex,’ as it is considered a tornado of spiritual energy, a sort of portal for all of the paranormal visitors inside of the hotel. Guests report cold spots and dizziness on the stairs, as though something has walked directly through them. Orbs and distortions have also been caught on camera on the staircase, and Mr. and Mrs. Stanley have even been witnessed, hand in hand, watching over the hotel’s hustle and bustle from the stairs.


If you witness something paranormal at the hotel, you can be assured that it wasn’t the hotel staff playing pranks – as hoaxing is a fireable offense at the hotel. So pack your bags, perhaps. Come to the lap of the Rockies and settle into the Stanley Hotel. A true Hollywood gem, with real-life paranormal reports to back it up.


‘Any big hotels have got scandals. Just like every big hotel has got a ghost. Why? Hell, people come and go. Sometimes one of ’em will pop off in his room, heart attack or stroke or something like that. Hotels are superstitious places.’


–           Stephen King, The Shining (1977)



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