Stephen King’s 1977 novel The Shining holds a reputation today for being one of the best horror novels of our time. It is well written and thoughtful while also being terrifying, both in terms of what happens to Jack, Wendy, and Danny inside The Overlook Hotel and in the psychological aspect of the book.
Did you know that The Overlook Hotel was inspired by an actual hotel that King stayed at in the fall of 1974? The Stanley Hotel is located in Estes Park, Colorado, and was opened and built by Freelan Oscar Stanley in 1909. The hotel has a rich history regarding various owners and guests over the years. No one was more famous than King, who found the stories told there and the cold isolation he felt when he and his wife were the only guests to be the perfect setting for his next novel.
In May 2023, my friend and I spent the night in the hotel. This having been before I read King’s novel and before seeing Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film adaptation, I got to go into this with few expectations regarding the story. The hotel itself is beautiful. The main building is white with a red roof and is surrounded by well-kept greenery. While the hotel’s main attraction is the fact that it inspired The Shining, and they definitely take advantage of that, it is simply a beautiful place to stay if you are ever looking for a weekend getaway.
My Experience at The Stanley Hotel
The first thing we did after checking in was look for Room 217. This is the room that King stayed in on that first night, and it is also the room he has stayed in during every visit since. It’s costly to stay in, and you must book in advance. It is also the same spot in The Shining where Danny is chased out of the room by a haunted, terrifying woman lurking in the bathtub. When touring the hotel, tourists don’t usually see the room in question. So, we stopped outside Room 217 to take a picture of the door. As we took the photo, one of the guests inside opened the door. It scared the crap out of us at first, but he was a nice guy around our age and said it was cool if we wanted to come take a look in the room. That was just the first time we got to see the Stephen King room that night.
The hotel itself is not at all shy about its haunted status and, in fact, holds tours every day. There is a history tour that focuses mainly on the history of the hotel. There is a ghost tour that takes you around and tells you about the haunted origins and the experiences people have had. There is also a The Shining tour, where your tour guide tells you about how it became the inspiration for Steven King’s novel as well as stories they know regarding the Kubrick adaptation and the 1997 mini-series for which King wrote the screenplay.
We had initially only planned on going to the Ghost Tour, as neither of us had much experience with the story and were, in fact, mostly there for the hauntedness of it all. The ghost tour was excellent. We got to hear more about the stories we had already read about and seen on YouTube. We were encouraged to keep an eye out for anything supernatural as we explored parts of the hotel that had the most reports.
We decided to sign up for a late-night Shining tour at the last minute, and I’m very glad we did. While the tour focused on the story of Stephen King’s first stay at the hotel and everything that came after, it was also part of a ghost tour. We saw other parts of the hotel and learned about even more strange occurrences. It helps that we also had an incredible tour guide whose delivery of each story was the perfect balance of funny, engaging, and a little creepy. This second tour is also where we again met the people staying in 217.
The main reason we visited the hotel in the first place was my friend’s fascination with the supernatural aspect of it. They had seen Youtubers Sam and Colby’s paranormal investigations at the hotel and wanted to go ever since, and after I watched the videos, so did I. This being the case, we came prepared with an EMF (electromagnetic field) reader that can allow you to communicate with the paranormal.
We used it repeatedly throughout our stay, primarily out of curiosity. During The Shining Tour, one of the other people staying in 217 noticed the EMF. She wanted us to return to 217 and ask some questions with the reader for peace of mind. So we got to go in the room again and get a closer look at stuff. It is really more of a suit than a hotel room. Much larger than the one we were staying in. We got to see the little details, like the row of Stephen King books on the dresser. I even took a look at the bathroom, not knowing how helpful that would be to my imagination when I finally read the book.
This was such a fun experience, and I am glad I got to have one before reading The Shining or seeing the movie. Having read the book and planned on watching the film for Halloween, I am not at all deterred from the hotel, and I look forward to going back on occasion when I visit my parents. Not only is it a beautiful hotel, but the history and legacy that follow it make a great addition to any horror fan’s bucket list.
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