A couple weekends ago, I visited The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. Now, for those who don’t know, The Stanley Hotel is the place that gave Stephen King his inspiration to write “The Shining.” In the book and movies, it is portrayed as the Overlook Hotel. This is a hotel I’ve wanted to visit for years now.
To clarify a few things first: don’t expect the hotel to look exactly like it did in the movies. In fact, the original movie wasn’t even filmed there. But if you saw the made-for-TV movie, which I thought was pretty good, you’d get a more accurate look at what The Stanley Hotel really is like because they filmed it there. And guess what? It’s still really creepy!
I’d say the newer movie is pretty spot-on, but the only difference is the location of the hotel is exaggerated just a little. Okay, a lot. It’s not some super difficult drive and the hotel is not isolated in the middle of nowhere. While it does seem to be all by itself once you turn the corner and arrive, the town of Estes Park is just a couple minutes away.
I also learned that various scenes of “Dumb and Dumber” were filmed there. I know they did some exterior shots, but they also filmed that bar scene there (“Really? That’s great. We landed on the moon!”) And the stair scene (“Race you to the top!”) I love that movie, ha.
We arrived late Friday night and were told we’d be staying on the 4th floor. The check-in girl made eye contact with me as she said this, and my jaw dropped a little.
“The haunted floor,” she whispered.
I guess I must have looked pretty terrified, because I just stood there with my mouth open.
“Is that okay?” she asked.
I thought about it for a second. I promised myself before that if they ended up putting us on the 4th floor, I’d ask for a room somewhere else. It was going to be hard enough for me to sleep in that hotel, let alone the haunted floor. But instead, I agreed to the room they had for us.
After we settled in and watched some television, I decided to go for a quick walk before I went to bed. I drank a lot of champagne during the flight, so I was actually pretty tired. But, I was finally at the Stanley Hotel, and I wanted to go exploring.
Joe didn’t come with me, so it was extra terrifying. I brought my iPad with me and filmed everything. It was so quiet and empty; nobody was around. And this hotel is so old that you can hear every creak and noise. Nothing strange happened, but I was getting so freaked out that I didn’t last much longer: I had to go back to my room. I didn’t review my video footage until I got home, which is when I noticed something a bit disturbing. But there will be a video for that soon.
And, of course, there was a quick visit to room 217: this is where Stephen King stayed when he was at The Stanley. Jim Carrey was also staying here when filming “Dumb and Dumber,” but he only lasted about three hours. He got spooked and had to leave.
Our weekend at the hotel was just so much fun. We did a ton of exploring, had some drinks at the Whiskey Bar, ate at the Cascades Restaurant, and did a fun ghost tour on Saturday night. Even if you don’t believe in any of this stuff (to be honest, I’m 50/50 – while I consider myself to be kind of skeptical, I get spooked easily) it’s still entertaining and fun.
Before our ghost tour embarked, we were told we’d be visiting a lot of haunted areas outside. We had a few minutes before the tour began, so I ran upstairs to get my jacket. Little did I know that while I was gone, Joe was plotting.
You see, he was trying to scare me the whole time. But what he doesn’t get is that his scare tactics are extremely lame. He wrote my name on the mirror with soap, he wrote redrum in the shower… he even swore he saw a ghost outside our window. It was a couple of blue-wrapped boxes next to each other, yet he insisted it was a man dressed in blue, pushing a lawnmower. Really, Joe?
Well, this one worked.
Once I got back to the tour, the tour guide started talking about room 432: our room.
“Yeah, you guys heard about room 432? I can’t believe that. It’s super haunted,” he said.
“What?” I asked. “What about room 432?”
“It’s one of our most haunted rooms,” he said.
At that moment I knew exactly what had happened. I called Joe an asshole and everyone in the group started laughing. They were all in on it! How mean! Ha.
The tour lasted approximately an hour and a half. Inside the hotel, he took us to various rooms and areas that are normally roped off, including these creepy underground tunnels. They took us to two of the most haunted rooms in the hotel, room 418 and room 401. Nobody was staying in room 418, but the girls in room 401 were nice enough to let us visit their room. Apparently, there is a creepy ghost man who hangs out in the closet and likes to feel girls up when they walk in. The girls staying there claimed they were both pinched and grabbed when they went in. They seemed serious, but I don’t know. Maybe it’s true. But maybe they’re making it up completely or exaggerating what they felt. If they went in together, it’s possible they both did it to each other and neither will admit it.
Maybe it was because there were too many of us, or maybe the ghost simply wasn’t attracted to any of us, but we all took turns going into the closet. Nothing happened, but I think I’m a little thankful for that.
Outside the hotel, we were taken to buildings and areas I didn’t even know existed, including a creepy pet cemetery. (And no! Stephen King did not get his inspiration for that book here also.)
It was freezing, snowing, and the moon was full – perfect elements for scary ghost stories and a creepy tour. It was awesome! We also visited the Stanley Lodge.
The whole time, he told us different stories and about other peoples’ experiences at the Stanley. True or not, they were still fun to listen to.
A couple other creepy things that happened during the weekend:
Late on Saturday night while Joe and I were exploring the hotel, we heard some very strange noises coming from one of the doors on the 4th floor. It wasn’t a room – seemed like a closet of some sort. Perhaps there was a water heater or something in there, I don’t know. But it sounded like clunking and banging. When I grabbed the door handle, I received one of those lovely electric shocks, but this one hurt so much and I saw the electricity – a bright blue spark. Ouch!! When I tried turning it, it just kept turning, so I don’t know if hotel staff ever actually goes in that room. Who knows what’s in there?
When we were getting on the elevator one time, it instantly closed on Joe once he tried to step on. It almost crushed him! He had to step out and I tried pressing the 4th floor so that it would just re-open, but it didn’t. In fact, it took me to a different floor. I expected somebody to be there, but instead, I heard footsteps and yet saw no one. I know it sounds like a stretch, but I got this eerie feeling that somebody did get on the elevator with me.
On some random little window in the corner of the hotel, there was a lipstick kiss on the window. Now, I’m not saying a ghost did this. It was probably someone drunk or someone just trying to scare people. But, it was really weird.
Some random (and frantic) lady stopped me in the hallway one night to show me a photo she had just taken in the hotel. It was quite creepy – it looked like a little boy ghost was in the wall. Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos this strange, but I do have that video I mentioned earlier.
To sum it all up, we had a great time at this spooky old hotel. You don’t have to believe in ghosts or even be a horror fan to enjoy a visit here. It’s an amazing hotel and the town of Estes Park is quaint and lovely as well. Plus, the Rocky Mountain National Park is just a few minutes away!
Essential Travel Information:
Flights: You’d fly to Denver and then it’s an easy, 90-minute drive (approximately) to Estes Park. I have to emphasize the “easy” part, because it’s not like what you see in The Shining. Check out Skyscanner to compare flight deals and pricing from different airlines.