Sunday, April 2, 2017

Stanley Hotel Visit

“Every big hotel has got a ghost. Why? Hell, people come and go …” - Stephen King, The Shining
In the last month before my big move to Colorado, I decided to read The Shining.  
Because, what else could prepare me for the breath-taking mountain views and viciously fickle weather, right?  
 I watched both movies (for the first time ever) after reading the book and I have to tell you: the book is so much better.  You probably already know that though, because the book is always better, isn't it?  I imagined that Colorado would look and feel just like the opening credits of the 1980 Stanley Kubrick version with the tiny smudge of a yellow car weaving through the beautifully vast and lonely mountains.
For the most part, I wasn't wrong.

I've been hearing about this infamously creepy hotel since arriving here, so Patrick and I made the three and a half hour drive to Estes Park just to experience it.  Literally, every person I've talked to who has stayed at the hotel has unsettling stories to share: no joke.  Even if nothing spooky happened to them, they claimed to feel a heavy, uncomfortable energy in the rooms and hallways.  I love taking adventures, so how could I NOT visit to investigate?  

The Stanley Hotel is a lavish building tucked up in the Colorado mountains that inspired the fictional Overlook Hotel in the story.   It was built in 1909 and has a reputation for leaving guests with an uneasy feeling.
Mr. Stanley, a very wealthy man, made his way to Colorado in the late 1800's with hopes of the clean mountain air reversing a terminal tuberculosis diagnosis.  Luckily for him, it did, and he built the opulent structure as a guest house for his wife Flora and the many people she invited to visit.
According to our tour guide, Stephen King and his wife were traveling into the mountains and opted to stay overnight at the Stanley when the roads to their destination were closed due to inclement weather.  It was closing day (sound familiar?) at the Stanley and the staff was preparing to leave for the winter, so it took him a bit of convincing.  He stayed in room 217 and had "the worst nightmares he'd ever experienced in his life."
(photo by Patrick)

Apparently, he heard is three-year-old son screaming (who was not traveling with the couple) and raced out in the hallway to find a white rubber fire hose wrapped around the little boy like a snake biting his head.  Stephen King was paralyzed in the doorway with sleep and couldn't move to help him.  When he finally awoke, he went out to the balcony to have a smoke.  By the time his cigarette was finished, he had the skeleton of The Shining story in his head.
(photo by Patrick)

Book aside, the hotel has many unsettling stories of its own.  
Even before the author's stay, guests believed the place was haunted.  They claimed to hear footsteps on the roof above their rooms, saw unknown figures in the hallways or near their beds, and insisted they heard the late Mrs. Stanley playing her grand piano at night.  I don't know if I believe in ghosts, but I definitely felt uneasy as we wandered through the old historic building. 
Not all of the events are thought to be caused by supernatural forces.  
Like many locations in the Rocky Mountains, the Stanley property is home to a quartz crystal deposit under the rocks.  It rests underneath this elaborate stairwell known as "the vortex." A geology report suggested the formation is unusually large and may affect electronics, possibly causing defects in photographs.  Some people discover orbs of light or mysterious figures in the photos taken here.
The hotel has changed ownership several times during the last century and our guide mentioned that it was briefly owned by the mob.  It's been a while since I read the book, but I believe Stephen King attached this detail to the Overlook Hotel and Jack read about it in newspaper clippings he discovered in the basement.  Does this sound right?  Please let me know if this is wishful thinking and I'm not remembering correctly.
In my opinion, the eeriest part of this hotel was the unfinished servant's walkway on the basement level.  As you can see in this photo, the floor is dirt other than a narrow paved walkway and the rock is exposed along with the original beams supporting the structure.  The employees still use this walkway because it leads to the break room.  The spots you see are dust particles, not light orbs... at least, I think they are anyway...
There are even more narrow tunnels in the rock previously used for workers to crawl from one area to another.  This little tunnel in the walkway is only a few feet deep and isn't utilized any longer, but supposedly there are (or were) several others for the workers to avoid being seen by hotel guests. I'm assuming that was long ago, like back when the hotel opened.   Can you imagine inching around in here every day?  Think of all the creepy-crawlies that would lurk and make these caverns their homes.
I was surprised by how much the original movie differed from the book.
For example, in the book, Jack and Danny are haunted by elaborate hedge animals coming to life, not a haunted hedge maze.  Apparently, Stanley Kubrick never finished reading the book and the 1980 movie ending was his creation.  It wasn't filmed at the Stanley Hotel, but I appreciate the hotel's enthusiasm about the popularity gained through The Shining book and movies.  If I was a hotel owner, I imagine I'd be disappointed about having my business associated with hauntings and gruesome death.   They are even growing a hedge maze of their own to honor the movie.  Currently, it's cute and tiny but in a few years, finding your way out will be a challenge.  
(photo by Patrick)

However, the 1997 made-for-tv adaptation, Stephen King's The Shining was filmed here at the Stanley Hotel.  It's fun to find the different areas of the hotel in the movie screenshots.  
Look at the staircase behind Dick Hallorann in this clip where he speaks to Danny. 

This is the same staircase. Do you recognize it?  It is located right inside the main doors as you enter the hotel.  Funny story: I learned this stairway was also used while filming Dumb and Dumber.  Remember the "I'll race you to the top" scene?
And now I will tell you about my slightly spooky experience:
I looked over my photos carefully and the only mysterious image I found was this curious looking gentleman standing in front of the hotel.   Doesn't he look regal and old-fashioned in his long coat?  It wasn't cool enough for a coat by any means that day, I even wore a sleeveless dress.  He may have a top hat on as well, but I can't tell from such a small image.  Is this residual energy from a previous guest who met an unfortunate end at the hotel?  To be fair, this was probably a normal guy who happened to be standing there when snapped the picture and just I didn't notice him.  
But... I guess we'll never know for sure...
Have you had a chance to visit the Stanley Hotel or other places known to be haunted?
If so, what experiences did you have?
Did anything unusual happen to you?

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