Estes Park, Colorado
Freelan Oscar Stanley, a Northern and cofounder of the famed Stanley Motor Carriage Company, traveled from the East Cost to the wild Estes Valley in 1903, hoping to alleviate his symptoms of tuberculosis. The climate did indeed improve his health, and Mr. Stanley and his wife Flora relocated permanently.
Used to the elite social circles back home, the Stanleys found the quiet community of Estes Park boring and unstimulating. Lack of social aspects aside, it did nothing to stir Freelan’s genius intellect. The couple decided to build a beautiful and grand hotel – and thus, construction on what would become the Stanley Hotel’s main building, one of 11 structures in the original complex, began in 1907. Most of the lumber used was from the Bear Lake wildfire of 1900 in what is now Rocky Mountain National Park.
Surrounded by mountain wilderness, they built a magnificent edifice that compared to the upscale hotels of their previous existence. Amazed guests were delighted to find electric lights, telephones and en suite bathrooms. A massive staff of uniformed servants and a fleet of automobiles stayed at the ready, eager to please. The wealthy flocked to Estes Park to be a part of the newest and grandest distraction.
Stanley further advanced the burgeoning town by creating an infrastructure, including its first bank and a sewer, power and water company. He also helped repopulate the area’s wildlife population and later co-founded Rocky Mountain National Park in 1915.
Sadly, the hotel’s grandeur was allowed to fade over the years and by the 1970s, it was merely a shell of its former self. A fortuitous and timely visit by famous author Stephen King saved it from being razed by developers for the magnificent land on which it sat. His one night stay in room 217 of the Stanley Hotel inspired his bestseller The Shining, which some fans still claim to be the pinnacle of his broad body of work.
Fans and ghost hunters alike visit the hotel, hoping to feel whatever it was that impelled Stephen King to write such a terrifying book. Paranormal encounters and strange experiences have been long reported from guests and employees of The Stanley. Many say the structures contain the spiritual energy of past souls, including that of hotel founders F.O. and Flora Stanley. Perhaps Freelan himself “inspired” the author to write his novel and thus continue to help his town prosper from beyond the grave.
I have visited this place a handful of times, both during winter and summer. To really set the mood for a proper ghost hunt, you need to go during the winter when the hotel isn’t as busy as it is during high season. It also seems the proper time of year given the setting of the book it inspired. The Whiskey Bar inside is a great place to start with a few drinks before exploring this vast old hotel.
As you can probably guess, most of the people visiting the bar at the hotel are eager to hear stories of hauntings and those of one of its more famous guests, Stephen King. According to locals, Suite 217, named after the aforementioned author, as well as rooms 401, 407, and 428 have historically been the hotspots with the most activity. This being common knowledge amongst ghost hunters, these rooms are very popular and thus, extremely hard to reserve.
Since I wasn’t lucky enough to book any of these rooms, I figured my experience would not be complete. That was an inaccurate assumption. The Stanley Hotel is a supernatural beast complete with disembodied voices, the sounds of footsteps when nobody is around, and enough shadow figures to make even the most skeptical person say, “DUDE!”