Nestled in the Rocky Mountains overlooking Estes Park, Colorado, the Stanley Hotel sits in quiet splendor, offering fine dining, beautiful views, elegant rooms, and one thing more that sets it apart from other hotels in its class. The Stanley Hotel just happens to be haunted, VERY haunted.
Over the last century, the hotel has slowly collected a host of ghosts and no one knows exactly why. What we do know is that, for whatever reason, the hauntings of the Stanley are very active and have inspired the imaginations of authors and filmmakers alike, not the least of which was Stephen King and his novel The Shining.
In the last two decades, the Stanley has fully embraced its history and its spiritual denizens and has begun offering daily tours so that guests of the hotel and other visitors to the region can have the full Stanley experience. Some cover the history of the buildings and its builder; some, the beautiful antiques and furniture added to the hotel’s collection over the years. And then there are the ghost tours held late in the evening designed to give those with an interest in the paranormal a taste of the very best the Stanley has to offer.
I had the good fortune, recently, to take one of these evening Ghost Tours and it was an experience I won’t soon forget. I won’t tell you everything that happened on the tour. If I did, there would be no reason for you to take it yourself and it’s something you should really experience firsthand, but I am going to give you some of my favorite highlights of this fascinating tour.
We arrived at the hotel as the sun was slowly sinking below the line of the mountains. The sprawling grounds are beautifully kept and we quickly spotted several elk that had wandered down from the surrounding forests, lazily grazing on the manicured lawns. The hotel was undergoing some needed construction and they were also laying the groundwork for an elaborate maze that will be added to the grounds later this summer. We entered the hotel and quickly found the meeting room for the beginning of the tour.
We found seats in the small tour room and our guide showed us a short section of The Stanley Effect, a documentary about some of the strange goings on at the hotel. After the clip, she gave us a few instructions about staying together and we were off to our first stop on the tour, the Concert Hall. We stepped inside the building and made our way upstairs to the balcony overlooking the hall.
As the guide gave us some brief history of the hotel and its builders, F.O. Stanley and his wife Flora, I sat watching the stage and the two rooms to each side. Turning from the history lesson, she began to relate a story of a workman who had been hired to do some refinishing on the stage. He was working alone overnight so he would not interfere with the guests who were coming in for a luncheon the next day. He was on his hands and knees, sanding the stage, when he felt someone’s arms slide around his waist and pick him up so that he was standing. He turned quickly, and no one was there. The man fled, leaving his tools on the stage. He returned the next morning to collect them, but only after the manager agreed to send someone with him to the stage. He left and never returned.
The story is a chilling one, but what was really fascinating is that, as she told it, the curtains to the left of the stage moved a total of six times. The room was sealed and there was no breeze, but even if there had been, this movement could not be put down to the wind. It was the kind of movement that happens when someone grabs a curtain and roughly readjusts it. The curtain literally jerked back and forth. When we went downstairs, I got a closer look, and not only was no one in the room, but it was filled with various supplies so a person would have had a hard time fitting in there.
Leaving the balcony behind, we made our way down into the basement of the Concert Hall. When the Stanley hosts weddings, it is here that the wedding party changes and prepares for their big day. As we sat down in the Bride’s Room, the tour guide handed me an EMF detector. EMF detectors read electromagnetic fields and parapsychologists and paranormal investigators will tell you that when spirits are present, the energy in these fields will often spike.
I took a seat in a chair just inside the room next to the door, and listened to the guide as she told us the story of Lucy, a woman who was once found squatting in the hotel. At the beginning of the story, there was very little movement on the EMF meter, but when she spoke about Lucy dying and supposedly returning to the hotel in spirit, the meter spiked and the door next to me slowly shifted forward and then closed. The guide smiled and reopened the door, explaining that Lucy very often played games with guests down in the Bride’s Room lounge. Once again, there was a spike and the door slowly shut itself again.
Later, when we were given time to wander the basement area on our own, I took some time to examine the door. It was a heavy door, and not easily moved; there was also no evidence of tampering or circuitry that could cause the door to close via remote and therefore could not cause the spike in the EMF meter.
Before we left the Concert Hall, our tour guide took a few minutes to introduce some of us to her favorite spirits that roam the hotel. There are many children in the hotel, but only part of those children are alive. In the ladies restroom on the ground floor, we gathered in a loose circle. She put some candy down on the floor and laid a small Maglite on the floor after she allowed us to examine it. It was a simple model that required twisting the top to turn on and off.
She began to talk to the child spirits of the hotel and you could feel the temperature begin to drop in the room. I looked down to the half-forgotten EMF reader in my hand and it was pegged out at its highest measurement. That was when the flashlight turned on, and a few moments later, back off again. As she continued to talk to the children and ask them questions over the next ten minutes or so, I lost count of the times the light switched on and off seemingly in answer to her questions. The EMF reader bounced back and forth between its highest and lowest readings with almost no warning between the changes. I spent some time checking the outlets and light fixtures but could not find any interference from them. But we had other rooms to explore and other sights to see, so we eventually had to pack up and head to the main building for the remainder of the tour.
Inside, we wandered from room to room, hearing more of the stories about hauntings and the repercussions of disrespecting some of the spirits in the hotel. Mrs. Stanley was apparently a concert level pianist and her pianos are scattered throughout the hotel, but they are not for guests to play, especially the piano in what was once a ladies’ parlor in the main building. The spirit of Mrs. Stanley is still as harsh a critic in death as she was in life, and she has been known to slam the piano lid on the hands of people who are not up to par in their playing skills. It’s happened so often that the pianos are roped off with warnings posted to any mischief makers who might attempt to try their hand at “Chopsticks” on one of her instruments.
From the parlor, we moved into the Ballroom, and it was here that we were finally told the story of Stephen King’s visit to the Stanley Hotel. It seems that King had hit a wall on his latest novel. It involved a family of psychics who get trapped in an evil haunted house attraction at an amusement park, and it was going nowhere. A friend of his suggested he get away for a couple of days with his family and recommended the Stanley as a destination. He and his wife arrived on the last day of the season and were told that everything was closing up. King haggled for a bit and was finally told they could stay for a single night. He went down that evening to have a drink in the bar and lost his way coming back to the room. Upon finally falling asleep, he found himself in the midst of terrible nightmares where he was being strangled by the sprinkler system hoses in the wall.
He jumped out of bed and stepped onto the veranda for a smoke. By the time he stepped back inside, he had already begun an outline in his mind for what would become The Shining.
By this time, the tour was winding down, and as our tour guide dismissed the group, she called me over and asked if I might like to take a look at a couple more things. She knew I was there for iHorror and she just thought that there might be one or two more things that would interest me. This was where things began to really get interesting.
We rode upstairs in the antique elevator and exited on the second floor. The hallways here are unsettling. They seem out of proportion, as though they are longer than the hotel itself, a feeling exacerbated by large mirrors hanging at each end facing each other.
We walked down a short side hall. The rooms here were all set aside for hotel staff who might need a room for the night and were currently empty. She told us the story of several staffers who had run out of the room at the end of the hallway unable to return because of the presence they felt there. As we turned to walk away, we all three froze in our places as we heard that very same door open and then shut. We turned back to look and there was no one there. After a moment, the guide suggested we move onto something new.
We climbed the stairs to the next floor and came upon a trio of people sitting in the center of the hallway attempting to contact the spirits of the children we had encountered ourselves earlier on the tour. A boy was sitting with Tootsie Pops in both hands offering them to these young spirits. They asked us to join them and I sat down on a small couch next to where the boy was sitting on the floor. I asked if he would mind sharing the candy with me and letting me try, and he eagerly handed one of the suckers over to me.
I placed my hand, palm up, on my knee and laid the sucker down with the stick next to my thumb and the candy in the center of the palm. I very quietly spoke to the children and told them they could have the candy if they would just take it. After a moment, to all of our surprise, the stick from the Tootsie Po began to rise off my hand. It moved into a completely upright position, stood there a moment, and then fell over and out of my hand.
I looked around at everyone else, smiled, and said, “I think it’s time to go home, now.”
The tour guide walked us back downstairs and we chatted for a few more minutes before we headed out into the cool nighttime mountain air. There was so much more that happened on the tour, so many little unexplainable phenomena that had those of us on the tour staring at one another for explanations. It’s the kind of thing you should experience for yourself, and if you’re a fan of the paranormal and hauntings, I urge you to take a trip to Estes Park and do just that.
You can find more information about the hotel and the various tours at the link here.