Listed among the top five most haunted hotels in the United States, the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, is also one of the most beautiful locations you can visit. Located just six miles away from Rocky Mountain National Park, this historic hotel offers amazing vistas in every direction, mixed with old world charm, served up with a healthy helping of chills and thrills. If the hotel seems familiar, you might recognize it as the place that gave Stephen King his inspiration for his bestselling book, The Shining.
According to Historic Tour Supervisor Kevin Lofy, “Room 217 is our most famous haunted room. Stephen King came up with The Shining in this room. We aren’t really sure if he had an actual experience here or not, because he won’t tell us. In one of his books, he says had a nightmare about a bunch of fire hoses chasing his son down the hallway. The nightmare woke him up and he got up to have a cigarette. While staring out at Rocky Mountain National Park, he says he suddenly knew the plot for his next book. At another time, he mentions that he was wandering around the hotel poking into places he thought he wasn’t supposed to be, and he says it got weird on the fourth floor, but that’s all he’ll tell us.”
Kevin believes the fourth floor is both the most active location in the hotel and the most famous for its children hauntings. People hear children running and playing and laughing or bouncing a ball down the hall. When they open the door, there’s nothing there … except some people still hear the sounds even though they can’t see anything. Room 418 in particular, has an interesting haunt — a little boy ghost who keeps children awake at night by shaking the bed or tickling them.
Room 217 is another interesting room, which people come from all over to experience. As near as Kevin and his team can tell, the room is haunted by a chambermaid named Elizabeth Wilson. In its early days, the hotel was constructed with gas lanterns, just in case the electricity went out. In 1911, a big snowstorm did knock out the power. Elizabeth went up to light the lanterns on the second floor and the one just outside room 217 exploded. She survived the event, and was so loyal to the hotel she came back to work as soon as she recovered. Mr. Stanley, the owner, felt so bad, he paid all her medical bills, promoted her to head chambermaid, and put her children through college. Elizabeth remained head chambermaid for life until she passed away.
“We think she’s been so loyal to the family, that she’s just stayed here,” says Kevin. “Guests have seen a misty figure dressed in a chambermaid outfit drift through the room and out through the walls. Many have returned to the room to find that their luggage has been put away, that coats have been hung up properly, and that shoes are arranged in neat lines. Some of our guests have gone out of their way to mess up the room just to see if she’ll fix it for them.”
Room 401 is the creepiest rooms, according to Kevin, because the ghost is a womanizer. He says that women shouldn’t be surprised if they receive a few intimate touches while in the room. Women have felt arms around their waists, someone playing with their hair or breathing in their ears.
“This is by far the silliest ghost we have because as near as we can tell, he haunts the closet in room 401. We call him Lord Dunraven. Dunraven was one of the early settlers in the Estes Park area, who opened a brothel in town. Needless to say, the locals didn’t much care for him, particularly since he was caught illegally acquiring lands under the Homestead Act. Dunraven left town in a hurry, to the delight of the locals, but we think he’s returned to irritate the town once more,” says Kevin. “I always ask guests on the tour if anyone would like to step into the closet (without telling them who the ghost is). Twice the closet door has opened on its own after I’ve made the announcement.”
When asked which paranormal groups have been to visit The Stanley, Kevin laughs and says the list of which ones haven’t would be shorter. TAPS, probably the most well-known ghost hunter group, did a live broadcast in 2005 on Halloween. They also do a seminar at The Stanley every six months. While they’ve never captured anything in room 217, they did capture a flashlight in room 418 that would flash in response to questions, and one of the investigators slept in a room where the closet door opened by itself during the night.
“The ghosts have never done anything dangerous,” says Kevin. “You may be just a little nervous or scared, but the ghosts have never caused anyone harm, so we’d love to have you come experience The Stanley for yourself.”
The Stanley Hotel’s Ghost & History Tour is very popular, so reservations are required at least one to two weeks in advance. You can make reservations by calling 970-577-4110 . The cost is $15 per person, $10 for children age 5 – 10.
The Stanley opened its doors in 1909. F.O. Stanley, the hotel’s first owner, was forced to move West because of his poor health. He loved the Estes Park area, but could find no accommodations to suit his needs, so he started work on the first of 11 buildings in 1907. Many of the original buildings are still in use today. Perched at 7,500 feet, the Stanley Hotel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a member of the Historic Hotels of America organization. It has 138 rooms, all recently renovated to their original grandeur. The hotel also boasts 16,000 square feet of meeting and event space. It is located one hour West of Denver, Colorado.
The hotel boasts some amazing amenities, including the Steamers Cafe (Starbuck’s Coffee and pastries), the Cascade Lounge for luxurious dining, an outdoor pool, hiking tours during the summer months, the Parlour Salon and Day Spa and fitness center.
Located close to Rocky Mountain National Park, guests can choose from a wide range of outdoor activities: in the winter, a variety of snow sports; and in the summer, hiking, fishing, camping, climbing, horseback riding, golfing, sightseeing and more.
The Town of Estes Park offers fantastic boutique shopping, gourmet dining and great scenery. During the winter months, the town has become the grazing ground for a herd of elk. The elk browse in the yards of many of the homes and wander unafraid throughout the town. The natives have become very attached to these creatures and frown on anyone harassing the herd. So passionate are the locals about their wandering wildlife, that about 10 years ago, when a hunter killed the dominant bull of the herd, the town went crazy with outrage. The hunter was caught and actually spent time in jail (poaching elk in a National Park is a big NO NO).
Don’t be surprised if you have to stop your vehicle as the herd wanders across the road in front of you. Happily, you’ll probably be too busy snapping photos to worry about the delay. However, please stay in your cars and stay safe, because the elk will charge cars, people and almost anything else, especially during mating season. These are still wild animals, so please respect their strength and power.
Stanley Hotel Pricing and Reservations
333 Wonderview Avenue
Estes Park, CO 80517