My visit to The Stanley Hotel in Colorado



photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns
photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

House Crazy Sarah loves to explore historic structures so when she had the brilliant idea to hop on over to Estes Park, Colorado for the long weekend to tour the infamous Stanley Hotel, there was no talking her out of it (because all work and no play make her a dull girl).

The Stanley Kubrick version of The Shining is one of my favorite films – creepy and weird and who doesn’t love a crazy Jack Nicholson. Plus, I can somewhat relate to the isolated writer with young child who goes bat-shit crazy in the Colorado mountains. 😉

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns
photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

With the Stanley Hotel’s signature red roof and gleaming white exterior, it’s hard to miss this foreboding beauty nestled in the Colorado Rocky Mountains.

In reality, the Stanley Hotel was not actually one of the filming locations used in the Kubrick movie. The film crew shot some exterior scenes at the Timberline Lodge in Oregon and most interior scenes were done on a massive sound stage in Hertfordshire, Britain.

However, Stephen King was so dissatisfied with the Kubrick film that he made his own version of The Shining in a later TV miniseries which aired in 1997. King made sure that his rendering was mostly filmed on location at the Stanley Hotel in Colorado where he was actually inspired to write the novel.

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns
photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

If you are not familiar with the story, here’s a quick run-down:

In late October of 1974 Stephen King and his wife Tabitha drove up to the Stanley Hotel  from their home in Boulder, Colorado with the hopes of staying the night. They were not aware that the hotel was shutting down for the winter the following day. With only a small portion of the staff remaining to close up the hotel for the season, the King’s were almost turned away. Once the staff learned it was writer Stephen King, however, they changed their minds and let the couple spend the night in one of their best rooms with a balcony: room 217.

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns
photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

That evening Stephen and Tabitha went for dinner in the otherwise deserted hotel dining room with recordings of classical music echoing down the corridors. King said it was one of the eeriest things he had ever experienced. Later, Tabitha went back to the room while Stephen explored the hotel. He ended up sitting at the hotel bar and talking with the bartender who told him stories of the hauntings and tragedies rumored to have occurred at the hotel and in room 217. That night, when King was in bed, he awoke with a start and realized he had been having the most terrible dream about his young son being chased down the empty corridors of the hotel. King went out on the balcony, lit a cigarette and wrote a detailed outline for The Shining.

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns
photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

It took him six months to finish the first draft of the manuscript and the novel was published in January of 1977.

Kubrick’s unnerving film based on The Shining came out in 1980.

The book and the film solidified the reputation of the Stanley Hotel and made it one of the most popular destinations in the United States for those seeking a paranormal thrill. Room 217 is reportedly booked years in advance, along with the numerous other haunted rooms at the Stanley.

This is the main lobby:

photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns
photo credit: Sarah Felix Burns

I paid to take the 90 minute hotel tour with my 7-year old son (kids under 5 are not allowed) and I snapped plenty of photos knowing that I would blog about it, but also secretly hoping to capture some paranormal phenomena. So unless you see me in a photo, all the pictures are taken by me. (Photos of me were taken by my son Noe.) Like this one:

House Crazy Sarah in the Stnaley Hotel

It was difficult to get a clear shot of many of the main areas because the place was just crawling with tourists (long weekend in May).

main lobby, Stanley Hotel

But I persevered and got some decent shots sans humans. Or only slightly with humans.

grand staircase in the Stanley Hotel

There were a few times when my son and I held back until after the tour group had gone ahead and we snapped pics of empty rooms.

One of the first things I noticed in the Stanley was the gorgeous old wood floors, which, despite the hoards of foot traffic, were in remarkably good condition:

wood floors at the Stanley

My eyes were also drawn to the ceiling, to the antique light fixtures…

antique light fixture

And of course, there is the Stanley Steamer:

Stanley Steamer

The Staley Hotel was built in 1907-09 by Freelan Oscar Stanley – the inventor of the Stanley Steamer. Interestingly, F.O. Stanley did not make his fortune from the Stanley Steamer motor company. Rather, he and his brother made money in the late 1800’s by crafting and selling fine violins which became world-renowned and also from a photographic processing company they built and later sold to George Eastman (Kodak) for a large sum of money.

inside the Stnaley Hotel

The Stanley Hotel is a 140-room neo-Georgian style building that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Famous former guests include: Theodore Roosevelt, the Emperor of Japan, the ‘unsinkable Molly Brown’,  and of course, author Stephen King.

The Music Room

This is the eerily empty Music Room…

The Music Room at the Stanley Hotel

gran fireplace in the music room

The Billiards room:

Pinion Billiards Room

One of the fireplaces in the main lobby:

main lobby fireplace

I believe the antique tricycle is a reference to the scene in the movie where Danny is riding through the hallways on his three-wheeler.

My son Noe in front of the antique elevator:

My son in front of an antique elevator

The ballroom where the piano reportedly plays by itself:

the ballroom

the ballroom

Original Tiffany glass ceiling lights in the ballroom:

Tiffany glass lights

Let’s go up to the second floor shall we?

This is what greets as you ascend the stairs from the lobby:

Palladian windows

Palladian windows and a gallery of all the previous owners of the hotel (none of whom ever made a profit, except the current owner who bought the place in 1995).

gallery wall

gallery of former owners

A look up the secondary staircase:

upper floor staircase

And here it is – the infamous room 217 where Stephen King stayed on that fateful night in 1974…

room 217 at the Stanley Hotel

…said to be the most haunted room in the Stanley – and there are a few!

room 217 - where Stpehen King stayed at the Stanley Hotel

Here is the spigot that apparently inspired/terrified Stephen King:

second floor spigot in the Stanley Hotel

An ominous little hallway not far from room 217:

creepy hallway at the Stanley Hotel

Most of the doors had original hardware:

vintage door knob at the Stanley Hotel

Another Palladian door/window set:

balcony door

Below is THE hallway (apparently) that inspired the scene with the creepy girls:

creepy hallway from The Shining

Room 401 is also notoriously haunted and gave the Ghost Hunters crew quite a thrill when they filmed an episode here:

room 401 at the Stanley Hotel

You can read more details on the hauntings at the Stanley Hotel here.

Random creepy hallway on the fourth floor:

hallway on the fourth floor of the Stanley Hotel

Also on the fourth floor are the steps up to the bell tower:

bell tower steps at the Stanley Hotel

The tour guide said that a guest snuck up there and wrote “REDRUM” but management liked it so much, they decided to keep it there.

Before we went down to the basement part of the tour, my son snapped this picture of me in the stairwell:

House Crazy Sarah at the Stanley Hotel

Notice the orb??

In the basement, guests are greeted with this huge doll house model of the Stanley Hotel which was used for exterior snow scenes in the Stephen King TV version of The Shining:

in the basment of the Staley Hotel

Even though the original Kubrick movie was not actually filmed at the Stanley, the hotel is still heavily capitalizing on the connection:

The Shining movie poster

Stephen King's writing desk?

Stephen King's writing desk?

Wondering what’s on the typewriter?

"all work and no play..."

They also let us go into one of the famous “rock tunnels” in the basement:

basement tunnel in the Stanley Hotel

Petrified tree roots in the rock:

petrified tree roots in rock

tunnel in the basement of the Stanley Hotel

The tour we took went all around the grounds of the Stanley Hotel, but since this post is getting really long, I just wanted to highlight two more things:

1) We got a peek into the former ice house on the west side of the property where another vintage Stanley Steamer is stored:

Stanley Steamer at the Stanley Hotel

Also on display was the wood frame from the original Stanley Steamer prototype:

wood frame from the original Stanley Steamer

Isn’t that amazing?

2) The infamous haunted auditorium on the east side of the property:

concert hall at the Stanley Hotel

the concert hall at the Stanley Hotel

It was in the basement of this building that our tour group had our one and only paranormal encounter. There was apparently a homeless squatter who died in the basement here in the 1970’s. It is said that her ghost still actively haunts the place.

When we were in the basement checking out the room where the homeless woman perished, one of the tour members shouted some provoking words.

basment room of the concert hall

Noe and I followed the tour guide out and around the corner while others were still in there taking pictures and suddenly, the door shut on its own! Noe and I didn’t actually see it, so I like to think the ghost was waiting for the one small child in the group to be out of sight when she made her presence known.

Anyway, the tour was tons of fun for an old house history buff like me. The Stanley Hotel did not disappoint.

The Stanley Hotel

It was a bit tedious for my seven-year old…

my son worn out after the tour

But even he got a kick out of the creepy old hotel.

If you are ever in Estes Park Colorado, this place is a MUST SEE.

You can even purchase REDRUM candy bars in the hotel café:

REDRUM candy bars

For more details on the wickedly haunted and historic Stanley Hotel check out the official website.



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