Inside the Haunted Hotel That Inspired ‘The Shining’

Stephen King fans know that the author based his Overlook Hotel on a real-life place. The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, has a long and fascinating history–and, according to legend, it’s super haunted.

The Stanley Hotel was built by Freelan Oscar Stanley in 1909. He hoped that the fresh air of the Rocky Mountains would help ease his tuberculosis. Something must have worked, because Stanley passed away at the age of 91!

He was so captivated with the area–and so pleased with his recovery–that he decided to turn Estes Park into a resort town. He dreamed of creating a vacation destination for both the booming upper-middle class as well as those afflicted with tuberculosis.

The sprawling estate includes 142 guest rooms, as well as a separate lodge and concert hall. Although the hotel’s fortunes have waxed and waned over the years, it has maintained a reputation for being haunted. However, it wasn’t until one fateful night in 1974 that the Stanley Hotel became a true legend.

Stephen King Spends One Night at the Stanley

In 1974, Stephen King and his wife, Tabitha, spent the night at the hotel. They arrived at the end of the season, when the hotel was almost deserted. After the publication of The Shining in 1977, King said in an interview that “it was like God had put me there” to experience the eerily empty spectacle of the massive hotel.

He recalls the “long, empty corridors” and the haunting strains of music echoing down the halls during a formal dinner where the only diners were the Kings.

“I dreamed of my three-year-old son running through the corridors, looking back over his shoulder, eyes wide, screaming. He was being chased by a fire-hose. I woke up with a tremendous jerk, sweating all over, within an inch of falling out of bed. I got up, lit a cigarette, sat in a chair looking out the window at the Rockies, and by the time the cigarette was done, I had the bones of The Shining firmly set in my mind,” King stated.

And yes, he stayed in room 217.

Ghosts Of the Stanley Hotel

According to many accounts from people who have stayed at the hotel, along with staff members, multiple ghosts haunt the hotel.

F.O. Stanley himself is rumored to be seen at the bar and the billiard room, while his wife has been spotted near the piano.

Other reports include the ghost of Elizabeth Wilson, a maid who was seriously injured in a gas explosion in 1911. Although Miss Wilson did not die in the accident, some psychic researchers believe that impression can be made by intense trauma or heightened emotions. Perhaps the presence is not her ghost, per se, but a psychic stain left over from her ordeal.

Guests report that the concert hall is the most haunted place at the resort. Ghost tours include a visit to the basement of the hall, where a haunted mirror sometimes shows eerie visions of shadowy figures.

If that wasn’t creepy enough, there’s also a tunnel below the hotel, carved into the rock. It is only accessible by guided tour, but brave visitors report encounters with multiple spirits. One of the most commonly seen ghosts isn’t a person but a cat.

If you want to experience the supernatural for yourself, you can book once of the “spirited rooms” offered by the hotel. That includes the Stephen King Suite 217, as well as rooms 401, 407, and 428.