The Stanley Hotel - Atlas Obscura

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The Stanley Hotel

Paranormal experiences in this hotel's room 217 led Stephen King to write "The Shining." 


The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, is on the National Register of Historic Places and has hosted numerous celebrities since opening in 1909, but it remains most famous as the hotel where Stephen King stayed when he was inspired to pen The Shining, a classic 1977 horror novel about a recovering alcoholic father and his clairvoyant son. The Stanley, which many believe is legitimately haunted by benign spirits, embraces the association, playing the uncut R-rated version of the first film adaptation on a continuous 24-hour loop in all guest rooms.

Nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, the Stanley offers panoramic views of what is now the Rocky Mountain National Park. The picturesque setting has helped to attract famous guests over the years, including Theodore Roosevelt, the Emperor of Japan, Titanic survivor Margaret Brown, and many others.

The 138-room Georgian hotel was constructed by Freelan O. Stanley of Stanley Steamer fame on top of 35 pristine acres after his doctor ordered him to spend time in the fresh air of Estes Park when he came down with tuberculosis. He liked the area so much, he thought he’d stay. In fact, many who believe in the paranormal insist that Stanley can still be seen roaming the lobby and the Billiards room on some nights. Several guests have also reported to have seen the keys of a piano in the hotel’s ballroom moving by themselves. It is said that Stanley’s wife, Flora, would entertain guests on the piano when she was still living.

When Stephen King visited the Stanley, he stayed in room 217. Early in the novel, the same room is referenced—the clairvoyant son, Danny, is told to avoid room 217—but in Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 adaptation, the haunted room has been changed to 237 because owners of the Timberline Lodge, which served as a site for exterior shots, were afraid they would lose customers. 

Although The Timberline is the hotel that fans most closely relate to The Shining, it was actually used in only a few establishing shots; all interior scenes were shot at Elstree Studios in England using a mock-up of the Timberline’s exteriors. King, as it turns out, ended up hating Kubrick’s film so much that he produced a 1997 remake filmed at The Stanley Hotel, the place that had inspired him to write The Shining in the first place.

The hotel was profiled on the Syfy television show Ghost Hunters. During the episode, hosts on the show claimed to have experienced paranormal activity during their visit. People could be seen in the hallways and then hiding, children could be heard running and playing on the floors above them and cupboard doors unlocked and opened while one of the ghost hunters was staying the night in a guest room. Over the years, guests have reported experiencing similar phenomena.

Know Before You Go

About an hour and a half drive from Denver, the Stanley Hotel is located within easy access of Rocky Mountain National Park. Book well ahead for a room during the hotel's special October events, two of the most elaborate Halloween parties in the country: the annual Shining Ball and Halloween Masquerade Party.

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