How the Stanley Hotel inspired ‘The Shining’ and 4 ways you can tour it for yourself

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The Stanley Hotel: From Stephen King’s inspiration to ghost hunter destination

Located in the small town of Estes Park , the Stanley Hotel has been standing since the early 1900s, attracting guests with its stunning views and elegant design. But there’s more to the Stanley than just its beauty — it’s also famous for its ghost stories and paranormal experiences.

What really put the Stanley Hotel on the map for many of us was its connection to Stephen King, the famous author. King stayed at the hotel and was so inspired by his own experience that he wrote The Shining.

This story alone has drawn countless fans and ghost hunters to the hotel, all eager to catch a glimpse of the mystery that inspired such a terrifying tale.

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Tom Lianza from Marlborough, MA, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Whether you’re a fan of ghost stories, a lover of history, or just someone looking for a beautiful place to visit, the Stanley Hotel has something for everyone.

It’s a place where you can explore the unknown, enjoy the beauty of Colorado, and maybe even experience something supernatural.

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The Stanley Hotel history

The story of the Stanley Hotel begins with a man named Freelan Oscar Stanley.

In the early 1900s, Stanley was diagnosed with tuberculosis, a serious lung disease that was often fatal at the time. His doctors recommended he seek a healthier climate to ease his symptoms.

The clean, dry air of the Rocky Mountains was believed to be beneficial for those suffering from tuberculosis, so Stanley and his wife, Flora, ventured to Estes Park, Colorado, in hopes that the environment would aid in his recovery.

The change in scenery did wonders for Stanley. The combination of fresh mountain air and a peaceful setting significantly improved his health.

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A health retreat in the Rockies

Amazed by his rapid recovery and captivated by the natural beauty of the area, Stanley was determined to make Estes Park a resort town.

Using his fortune that he made with his twin brother in the steam engine business, he decided to build a grand hotel. By 1909, the Stanley Hotel opened its doors, offering a luxurious retreat for the rich and famous.

The Stanley Hotel played a significant role in shaping Estes Park. Before the hotel, the area was relatively unknown to outsiders.

But with the Stanley’s electric lights, running water, and telephones — quite fancy for that time — it soon attracted visitors from all over, including famous personalities of the early 20th century.

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Overcoming challenges

Over the years, the Stanley Hotel has seen many changes.

During the Great Depression in the 1930s, the Stanley Hotel, like many businesses, struggled to stay afloat. The number of visitors dwindled as people across the country tightened their belts and cut down on travel and luxury.

As the decades passed, the hotel continued to serve as a destination for tourists and a landmark of Estes Park. However, by the 1970s, the once-glorious hotel had begun to show its age.

Maintenance had been deferred, and the grandeur that once defined the Stanley was fading. The hotel’s infrastructure was outdated, and it no longer met the expectations of modern travelers.

There were even talks of demolishing it to make way for new development, casting a shadow over its future.

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Renovations in the 1970s

The potential demise of the Stanley Hotel sparked a wave of support from the local community and history enthusiasts. Recognizing the hotel’s historical and cultural value, they could not stand by and watch it be torn down.

Local supporters and investors came together to save the Stanley. They launched campaigns to raise awareness and funds for its restoration.

The restoration process was no small feat. It required a delicate balance of modernizing the hotel’s amenities — such as plumbing, electrical systems, and guest services — without compromising its historical integrity.

Designers and architects worked meticulously to ensure that any additions or changes remained true to the original aesthetic and ambiance of the Stanley.

Thanks to these efforts, the Stanley Hotel was not only saved but revitalized. It emerged from this period of uncertainty with a renewed spirit, ready to welcome a new generation of guests.

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Inspiration for The Shining

The Stanley Hotel has left a mark on popular culture, largely due to its association with Stephen King’s The Shining. King’s stay at the hotel in Room 217 is legendary.

The story goes that King, staying with his wife Tabitha, experienced a vivid dream that inspired the novel. This dream, combined with the hotel’s isolated setting, provided the perfect backdrop for one of King’s most famous works.

The novel later became a classic horror movie, although the film’s exterior shots were filmed elsewhere.

This intrigue surrounding its history and the possibility of experiencing something supernatural have drawn visitors from all over the world.

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Sgerbic, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Also see:  Are you brave enough to spend the night with ghosts at the Jerome Grand Hotel?

Hauntings at the Stanley Hotel

Over the years, guests and staff have reported a range of paranormal activities, making it a popular destination for those hoping to encounter the unexplained.

Flora Stanley

Flora Stanley was the wife of F.O. Stanley. She was a talented pianist who loved music deeply. Flora spent considerable time playing her beloved Steinway grand piano, a gift from F.O. to celebrate the hotel’s grand opening.

This passion was a significant part of her life at the hotel, where she hosted many gatherings in their Estes Park home and the hotel itself.

Despite facing health challenges, including issues with her eyesight that led to increasing blindness in her later years, Flora’s dedication to her music never wavered — and many say it continues even after her passing.

Guests and staff at the Stanley Hotel have reported hearing piano music when no one is in the music room. The piano keys seem to move on their own, playing soft, melodious tunes that echo through the empty space.

These occurrences are often attributed to Flora, continuing to play her beloved piano from beyond. It’s said that her presence in the hotel is a comforting one, filled with a love for music and the hotel she called home.

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Elizabeth Wilson & Room 217

One of the most popular ghost stories regarding the Stanley Hotel surrounds Room 217. This room is closely linked with Elizabeth Wilson, the hotel’s head housekeeper in the early 1900s.

The legend of Elizabeth Wilson begins with a stormy night in 1911. During this storm, she was lighting the acetylene gas lanterns in Room 217 when an explosion occurred.

The blast sent her through the floor into the dining room below. Remarkably, Elizabeth survived the incident, though she was seriously injured.

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Over the years, guests staying in Room 217 have reported a variety of unexplained phenomena. Belongings are mysteriously moved or unpacked, lights turn on and off by themselves, and doors lock and unlock without human intervention.

These occurrences have been attributed to Elizabeth Wilson’s spirit. Some visitors have even reported feeling an unseen presence, describing a sensation of being not quite alone.

Despite these spooky happenings, reports suggest that Mrs. Wilson’s ghost is not malevolent. Instead, she seems to continue her duties as a caretaker, ensuring the comfort and safety of the hotel’s guests.

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Child ghosts on the fourth floor

Originally, the fourth floor of the hotel served as the servant quarters, a space separate from the main guest areas, where staff could live and work.

Today, it’s renowned for a very different reason — the presence of child ghosts, whose laughter and footsteps are said to echo in the hallways.

Visitors to the fourth floor have shared stories of hearing children’s laughter and the sound of small feet running when no children are present. These accounts often describe the laughter as coming from nowhere, filling the hallways with a playful presence.

Some guests report experiencing shadows that move without a source. Others mention sudden cold spots that appear unexpectedly, adding a chill to the air that can’t be explained by drafts or the hotel’s heating system.

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Lord Dunraven

Lord Dunraven (whose full title was the 4th Earl of Dunraven and Mount-Earl) was a notable figure in the 19th century, and he was known in the Estes Park area for his land holdings before the Stanley Hotel was built.

He was an Irish nobleman, involved in various pursuits including politics and land investment. By 1874, through a combination of legal and questionable methods, he had acquired 8,000 acres in Estes Park.

Dunraven’s land acquisition did not sit well with local settlers, leading to disputes and resentment. His aggressive tactics and the activities of his associate especially left many locals with a bitter taste.

Though he had ambitious plans for a private hunting reserve, the influx of tourists and ongoing disputes with locals led him to sell his holdings and return to England, never to return to Estes Park​​​​​​.

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Despite the fact that Lord Dunraven never visited the hotel in his lifetime, his spirit is rumored to haunt the premises. This connection to the land predates the construction of the hotel, which opened in 1909​​​​.

Guests have reported sightings of a male figure peering from the windows of Room 407, even when the room is unoccupied, suggesting an otherworldly inhabitant.

The stories of Lord Dunraven’s spirit involve mischievous activities, with some guests claiming their jewelry went missing, only to reappear in unlikely places.

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Visiting the Stanley Hotel

The Stanley Hotel offers a variety of tours that cater to different interests, including the history of the hotel and its spooky reputation.

4 tours of the Stanley Hotel

The Historic Day Tour provides a 60-minute exploration into the stories of F.O. Stanley, his wife Flora, Stephen King, and other notable visitors since 1909. It’s a fantastic way to learn about the hotel’s architecture, folklore, and pop culture​​.

The Night Tour is for those who prefer a spookier experience. This tour takes you through the hotel’s darkened corridors and you will learn more about its ghost stories under the cloak of night.

The Shining Tour focuses on the hotel’s connection to the novel and film. Fans of The Shining will appreciate this tour.

The Frozen Dead Guy Tour offers a quirky side of Estes Park’s history — not directly related to the Stanley Hotel but intriguing all the same! It’s an excellent option for visitors looking to explore a wider range of local lore.

In addition to tours, the Stanley Hotel also hosts a variety of entertainment events, including performances by musicians, comedians, and speakers.

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Tips for visitors

Best times to visit: The hotel and Estes Park are beautiful year-round, but each season offers something unique.

Fall brings a spooky ambiance, making it an excellent time for those who are interested in the paranormal, while summer offers perfect weather for exploring the surrounding natural beauty.

Booking your stay or tour: Advance reservations for both accommodation and tours are highly recommended.

This ensures you get to experience the Stanley Hotel to its fullest, especially if you’re keen on participating in specific tours!

What to bring and expect: Prepare for your tour with comfortable walking shoes and a camera to capture the stunning architecture and scenic views.

Note that the Historic Day Tour is wheelchair accessible, making it an inclusive experience for all guests​​.

For more details on planning your visit, check out the Stanley Hotel’s official website.

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Have you braved the Stanley Hotel?

From its architectural elegance to the tales that echo through its halls, the Stanley Hotel invites us to step into a story that continues to unfold.

Have you wandered through the same halls as Stephen King and felt a shiver down your spine? Did you encounter one of the Stanley Hotel’s famed ghosts or hear the mysterious piano music? We’d love to hear about it!

DON’T MISS! The Crescent Hotel in Arkansas: One of the most haunted hotels in America

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