The Stanley Hotel | Estes Park, Colorado

Have you heard the name, Stephen King?

I presume, most freakin’ definitely!

If you know of the man, but not the famous hotel in which his 1977 book (and later film) The Shining was inspired, please take a seat, get comfy, stay awhile; I am about to give you an in-depth look at one of the coolest places to visit in Colorado.

You can find the iconic hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. The Stanley Hotel was built in 1909 by Freelan Oscar Stanley.

Mr. Freelan Stanley co-founded, with his twin brother Francis Edgar Stanley, the Stanley Motor Carriage Company – building steam-powered automobiles until the 1920s. He is also known for the manufacturing of photographic plates, which he eventually sold to Kodak.

Originally from Maine, Freelan Stanley moved to Colorado in hopes to extend his life expectancy. You see, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis at the age of 54, and it wasn’t long after that his health began to significantly decline. The hope was that Freelan Stanley would benefit from the high elevation and dry climate in Colorado.

Mr. Stanley and his wife, Flora, originally moved to Denver in 1903, but at the time Denver was known for its heavy coal mining; in other words, the air quality was sh*t.

On the advice of his doctor, the Stanleys moved themselves up to Estes Park. It was here that he began to see a significant improvement in his health and declared permanent residency.

Mr. Stanley thrived in Estes Park. So much so, he reportedly managed to climb Longs Peak twice in his 70’s.

Mr. and Mrs. Stanley, originally from the East Coast society, were quite used to the sophistication that accompanies their origins. Because of this, and the vastly different social climate that was Estes Park at the time, Mr. Stanley decided to build a grand house, turned hotel, for when his friends and family visited.

Throughout the years that followed, Freelan Stanley helped to develop the surrounding town of Estes Park. “By 1917, it was an official municipality with water-works, a power plant and civic organizations that were all, in some way, thanks to Stanley.”

He passed away at the age of 91.

Around the 1970s, due to lack of care and poor management, the hotel had begun to lose its spark. It was fading relatively quickly into bankruptcy, and at the time, surely destined for demolition.

But a fortuitous visitor would begin the revival of the old hotel.

Author Stephen King was traveling with his wife Tabitha, headed for Boulder, Colorado. As the story goes, they were on the road for quite some time, growing tired, and frustrated with weather conditions they determined the next hotel in sight would be where they lay their heads for the night. That hotel? The Stanley.

The couple was roomed in 217.

Mr. King, having trouble falling asleep, wandered the halls of the historic hotel. He stopped into the hotel bar for a nightcap where he was served by a bartender named Grady, eventually returning to his room, and drifting off to sleep.

In the night, he dreamt of his son, running frantic through the corridors, being chased and smothered by a demonic red firehouse located in the halls of the hotel. He awoke in a sweat-filled fright. The shaken King went for a smoke, and in the time it took him to finish one cigarette he had the basic plot of the The Shining outlined in his mind.

The book became the third major work from the author, quickly a bestseller, and later the film adaptation – a leading light in a long and well-known list of novels.

Haunted History

The Stanley Hotel is host to a number of otherworldly guests and spooky encounters.

The most notable of these guests is Mr. Stanley himself. He has reportedly been seen wandering around the lobby and the Billiard Room, which makes sense, as the Billiard Room was Mr. Stanleys favorite part of the hotel. He had a myriad of famous guests to play against and act as audience during his tournaments; including The Unsinkable Molly Brown and the famous magician Harry Houdini.

Bartenders of the hotel have also described Mr. Stanley visits through the bar, often strolling into the kitchen and disappearing just passed the walls.

Room 418 receives a high level of reported spiritual activity, specifically children’s spirits, from impressions being made on the bed to strange noises. Guests of the room report hearing children playing in the halls at night.

One of the most notorious stories is almost not a story at all, because no one truly knows what happened.

In 1994 the film Dumb and Dumber was set to film in the old Stanley Hotel. Actor Jim Carrey requested to stay in the same room as Stephen King from all those years prior. Jim Carrey was only in the room for three hours, before running out of the hotel in a post-ghostly panic – proclaiming he would never return. To this day, Carrey has not spoken about the event; but he refused to return for Dumb and Dumber Too if any filming was to take place at the hotel.

More About The Stanley Hotel

It’s not a small legacy, being the known location for one of the most iconic horror films in history. Still, the hotel really does its part to carry the weight of this iconic title – going as far as to establish an actual hedge maze, similar to the one featured in the 1980 cinematic adaptation.

Dogs are welcome at The Stanley in The Lodge accommodations. As a matter of fact, Casey was a resident dog who delivered news papers room-to-room in the grand-hotel replica – barking when the paper reached the door. You can pay a visit to Casey on the premise’s Pet Cemetery.

Fun fact! The hotel, having originally been white in the interior (still is white in the photos on their website) was painted at the request of Stephen King when filming the mini-series of The Shining.

Mr. Stanleys wife, Flora, enjoyed playing piano, and had dreams of playing the Boston Symphony; but she was born in the wrong time-period, women were not allowed to play in the symphony at the time. So, Mr. Stanley decided to build Flora her very own replica of the Boston Symphony House. While much smaller in size, the Stanley Hotel Ballroom is meticulously crafted, and quite beautiful.

Flora reportedly played once and got stage-fright.

Famous performers from Houdini to Pink have since preformed on the handcrafted stage.

Get the full experience with The Stanley Hotel Tours!

Not all tour experiences are worth the buck, but I highly encourage you to book one for The Stanley Hotel. You can even book a tour without having a room.

The Colorado Cherry Company has a coffee and treat shop inside the hotel. With a great selection of coffee and teas, it was one of my favorite features of our stay.

It was wonderful waking up and walking down the gorgeous grand-stairs to the smell of deliciously crafted lattes. The two nights we were there my coffee of choice was the “Red Rum Latte” – a flavorful combination of cherry, vanilla, and (of course) coffee. If you enjoy your coffee a little less sweet (which I do), ask for half the amount of cherry and vanilla.

The shop also offers ice-cream, pies, cupcakes, and a variety of cherry ciders.

We tried all the flavors of ciders. Our favorites were the Peach Cider, and the Cherry Juice.

If you want more from the Colorado Cherry Company they have a few locations (including one in Denver) – Learn more from their website.

There is so much to see, from the inside to the out. Make sure you do a good exploration of the grounds.

If you execute your exploration due-diligence, you just might stumble upon the pet cemetery.

Visiting Options & Reservations

Although I highly encourage it, you do not have to reserve a room to tour the hotel. The Stanley has multiple visiting options including day and night historic guided tours. They do periodic shows from a variety of visitors – currently featuring illusionist Aiden Sinclair.

Reservations can be made from their main site, The Stanley Hotel or by visiting The Stanley Live.

Believe it or not, there is still so much you are missing from the story of the Stanleys and the hotel itself. I just couldn’t include it all in the post. You will have to reserve a spot yourself to learn more about the incredibly rich (and a bit spooky) history of The Stanley.

Do You See a Ghost?

Un-edited and my flash wasn’t on.
Ghost or Dust?

The Surrounding Area of Estes park

Estes Park is known as “the base of the Rocky Mountain National Park.” It’s a total must-visit for Colorado travelers and residents alike.

With a population just over 6,000, saying Estes Park is just a quant town-hood would be an under-sell.

Full itinerary on Estes Park coming soon.

So, make your stay in Estes Park truly memorable with the most historic and luxurious (let’s not forget, haunted) hotel in Colorado, The Stanley.

And perhaps, in the deepest of sleeps, when tucked tightly away in bed, you will hear the screams of children on the grounds… or are those simply the cries of elk grazing around the lands. That’s for you to determine.

Happy travels.

2 responses to “The Stanley Hotel | Estes Park, Colorado”

  1. Ali, what a very cool place to visit. When we go to Rocky Mt. Nat’l Park (on our vagabond travel list), we will make sure to visit and take a tour. If you are ever in San Antonio, make sure to visit the Menger Hotel. I have stayed there, and they have a storied, iconic bar as well.

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