Colorado: The Stanley Hotel’s Mysterious & Haunted Past

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Stanley Hotel - Inspiration for the Overlook in The Shining

Stanley Hotel

The 1980 horror film ‘The Shining’ has only gotten more terrifying with age. While critics and audiences were initially put off by the slow pace and unanswered questions in Stanley Kubrick’s production, it’s now considered one of the best horror movies ever made—hypnotic in tone, beautifully open to interpretation, and a pitch-perfect example of the director’s twisted sense of logic. Adapted from the original novel by Stephen King, the movie tells the story of a man’s (Jack Nicholson) descent into madness after he, his wife, and their young son become the winter caretakers of an isolated Colorado summer resort hotel, The Overlook.

The Overlook doesn’t actually exist, but it has a real-life counterpart which directly inspired it: The Stanley Hotel, located in Estes Park, Colorado. King reportedly got the basic idea for the novel after staying there for a night before the estate closed for several months. The spot’s long history among the living has been eclipsed by the popular stories about the dead, as many sources claim that the real hotel is, in fact, genuinely haunted.

Hopeful Beginnings

The hotel is named after Freelan Oscar Stanley, the inventor of the Stanley Steamer automobile. In 1903 he found himself in bad health, suffering from tuberculosis; doctors advised that he go west and see if the dryer climates would do any good. Along with his wife, Flora, they stayed in a cabin at Estes Park and were so enamored with the area that they decided to stay there for the long haul. Construction on the hotel began in 1907 and it opened two years later, fully equipped with electricity, running water, and telephones. Notably, it did not have a heating system, and was designed to be a summer resort only.

It’s not known exactly when reports of odd sounds and sights began, but the ‘haunting’ of the Stanley Hotel has been a part of its legacy almost from the start. In 1911, the chief housekeeper was injured in an explosion in room 217; when she died in the 1950′s, guests began reporting extra housekeeping duties in that room, including mysterious unpacking of their belongings. Items move from place to place without any (reported) human help, and children can be heard running up and down the halls of the fourth floor even if there are no under-aged guests staying there.

Freelan Oscar, who died in Massachusetts in 1940, can often be spotted wandering the lobby, and his wife Flora is heard playing the piano in her beloved Ballroom. These reports have generated a great deal of interest in the Stanley hotel, and has been featured on several paranormal investigation shows like SyFy’s ‘Ghost Hunters.’

You don’t have to be a guest of the Stanley to take a tour, and the estate offers several. There are historical walks through the beautifully preserved gathering rooms, and there are full-on ghost walks where you can visit the spookiest corners of this Colorado attraction. Even if you don’t see an apparition, there are still stunning views of the Rocky Mountains, great neoclassical architecture, and a critically acclaimed restaurant to enjoy too.

Jamie Matzke represents Diamond Resorts International a leader in worldwide vacation resort destinations. Join Diamond Resorts International at The Historic Crags Lodge in Colorado when you come to visit the haunted hotel!

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