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The Stanley Hotel is a stunning Colonial Revival-style hotel located near the base of Rocky Mountain National Park. The hotel has become known as the most haunted hotel in Colorado and quite possibly the most haunted in the United States. After spending a single night there, author, Stephen King was inspired to write one of his most popular novels, “The Shining”, which was later turned into a film starring Jack Nicholson.

Since then, The Stanley has hosted quite a few paranormal investigators and has even been featured on A&E’s “Ghost Hunters” and The Travel Channel’s “Ghost Adventures”. Guests have reported all kinds of spooky experiences and the hotel is said to be haunted by a few different ghosts; including past owners, some children, and even a couple of pets.

The haunted Stanley Hotel is located in Estes Park and is just an hour and a half from Denver. The property grounds are expansive, beautiful, and surrounded by wildlife. The hotel features 140 rooms, dining areas, ballrooms, and even an underground cave system. Continue reading to find out how to visit the haunted Stanley Hotel and read some spooky guest experiences, including my own.

The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado

History of the Haunted Stanley Hotel

Estes Valley was once a remote and rustic area that was known for its open lands and peaceful meadows. In the late 1800s, it began to become popular with hunters due to its extensive wilderness and American settlers began to flock to the area. In 1903, Freeman Oscar Stanley, the inventor of the steam-powered car, was diagnosed with tuberculosis. The doctor prescribed sunlight and fresh, dry air. At the time, many people with tuberculosis headed to the Rocky Mountains in hopes of a cure. Stanley made the decision to relocate to Colorado from Maine for the summer.

He chose to stay in the town of Estes Park and over the next couple of months, he saw dramatic improvements in his health. He returned to Estes Park each summer and made a complete recovery by 1907. Stanley and his wife fell in love with Estes Park but they were accustomed to a much more sophisticated and glamorous lifestyle. They decided to build a beautiful hotel that would be up to par with those back east. The 48-room hotel opened in 1909 and had electric lights, telephones, en suite bathrooms, a fleet of steam-powered cars, and a full staff.

It was unlike anything Estes Park had seen before and did wonders for the area. Rocky Mountain National Park was established in 1915 and by 1917, Estes Park was a fully functioning town with a power plant and waterworks. In 1926, Stanley sold his hotel to a private corporation. The venture failed and the hotel was sent into foreclosure. Stanley repurchased the hotel, to only sell it again in 1930 to Roe Emery, a businessman who owned automobile companies and lodges.

By the 1970s, the hotel had become extremely run down due to lack of investment and until 1983, it was shut down every year during the winter. If it wasn’t for the writer, Stephen King’s famous stay then the hotel could have very well been torn down. Today, the hotel has been restored to look like the grand hotel it once was. It’s elegant, tastefully decorated, and just a tad creepy.

Statue of F.O Stanley at the haunted Stanley Hotel

The Stanley Hotel and “The Shining”

In 1974, horror novelist, Stephen King was living in Boulder, Colorado. He was in the process of writing a book and was experiencing some writer’s block. He wasn’t happy with the book’s setting and someone recommend he visit The Stanley Hotel. He drove an hour north to the hotel with his wife and as they were arriving, he found that the hotel was getting ready to shut down for the winter.

They ended up being the only guests on the property that night. They were served dinner in an empty dining room with orchestral music playing in the background which echoed down the long, empty hallways. He knew he had a book by the time he went to bed. That night, while staying in room 217, he experienced terrifying nightmares. He dreamt that his then 3-year-old son was being chased through the hallways by a firehose and when he awoke he had the premise for “The Shining”.

“The Shining” was published in 1977 and became one of King’s most successful books. It was later made into the well-known Stanley Kubrick film by the same name; however, it was not filmed at The Stanley Hotel and was almost entirely a set. Room 217 is featured in the story and is the hotel’s most requested room.

Typewriter replica from Stephen King's The Shining

Scary Stories from the Stanley

Over the years, The Stanley has earned its reputation as the most haunted hotel in the United States. Employees and guests have retold countless spirited experiences at the hotel, ranging from sounds to forms showing up in photographs to visible appearances. These are some of The Stanley’s more well-known hauntings:

Room 217

In June of 1911, a disaster put The Stanley’s room 217 on the map. A large storm knocked the power out and the hotel turned to its backup gas lamps. Elizabeth Wilson, the chief chambermaid was sent to light the lamp in room 217. It turned out that the gas had been on for quite some time and a huge explosion occurred as she entered the room with a candle. The force was so great that she was thrown into the dining room below and the southwest end of the hotel was destroyed, sustaining about $50,000 in damages. Elizabeth managed to survive the experience and returned to her job at The Stanley after her recovery. She remained loyal to Mr. Stanley and continued working at the hotel until her death in the 1950s.

There have been a number of odd happenings in and around room 217 since her passing. Staff members have reported seeing a woman dressed in an old-fashioned maid uniform near the room. A tour guide reported that while she was giving a tour, the door to room 217 opened and then closed as she approached with the tour group. There was no one in the room at the time. Guests of room 217, have reported that they have left the room only to return to find their clothing folded and put away. There have also been reports that the awkwardly-located light in the bathroom will sometimes turn itself on for guests.

The Shining's Room 217 at Haunted Stanley Hotel

The 4th Floor

The fourth floor is frequently visited by spirits and seems to have more stories than any other location in the hotel. In the hotel’s early days, families would come and stay at The Stanley for the summer. They would often bring their nannies to take care of their children while they were out during the day. It was a time when children were to be seen and not heard. The children ate in a designated windowless dining ro