AT THE beginning of the 20th Century, Estes Park was a small community made up primarily of ranchers and pasturalists. That all changed in 1907, however, when entrepreneur Freelan Oscar Stanley decided to turn it into a resort town.
Having been diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1881, Stanley experienced a resurgence of the disease in 1903, and decided, with his wife Flora, to leave his home in Massachusetts and take in the fresh mountain air of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. They spent only the summer months in the community for the first few years, but, having recovered fully, the Stanleys decided to open a hotel that would cater to wealthy visitors, like his friends at home.
The hotel opened in 1909, but closed for the winter every year until 1983 when a heating system was finally installed. It was at the end of the tourist season in 1974 that horror novelist, Stephen King, and his wife, Tabitha visited to hotel for a single overnight stay. They were the only guests in the hotel, which had by then passed its heyday, and the majority of the hotel had been closed down already for winter. During their stay in Room 217, King had a nightmare in which the fire hose chased his then-three-year-old son through the halls of the aging hotel and, upon waking, smoked a cigarette and looked out the window at the Rocky Mountains to calm his nerves, while the story that would become The Shining began to take shape in his mind.
The Stanley Hotel came to life in the novel, and subsequent TV series, of The Shining as the Overlook Hotel, although the film of the same name was shot at the Timberline Lodge in Oregon. The hotel, which has received significant renovations and upgrades since the Kings’ stay, has embraced its connection to the creepy story, and now not only mentions The Shining in its daily tours, but also has a night time ghost tour in the areas of the hotel that are not occupied by guests.
The Shining may have given the hotel its greatest fame, but the ghosts that haunted King are thought to have long preceded him. One story tells of an employee who was electrocuted, but survived, in Room 217, and other guests have seen spectral figures haunting the halls or heard piano music from Flora’s ballroom and children’s laughter on the fourth floor. The hotel promises that all of the ghosts are friendly though, and charges a premium rate to stay in one of the haunted rooms.
Physical address: 333 Wonderview Avenue, Estes Park
Phone number: +1 970 577 4000
Business hours: Open year round
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