As the location that inspired The Shining, the Stanley Hotel is notorious for bizarre and unexplained paranormal activity. Each of its 140 rooms holds a secret, each of its walls tells a story. But is that unassuming hotel in Estes Park, Colorado really haunted by the ghosts of its past residents?
Before we get to answering that question, let’s take a brief look at some of the latest pieces of ghostly evidence that have spilled out of the Stanley Hotel. These first two arrived in the form of alleged spirit photographs taken in April 2016.
Ghosts On A Staircase
On April 18, 2016, CNN shared an Instagram image posted by tourist Henry Yau. He’d taken a photo of a staircase, only to find what appeared to be two apparitions at the top of the stairs. The figures have been described as a woman in old-fashioned clothing with a child standing next to her.
According to CNN, Yau had reportedly visited the Stanley Hotel based on its haunted history and connection to Stephen King’s The Shining, and had waited for the staircase to be empty before taking the photo. However, skeptics have deemed the figure nothing but an image “artifact.”
A Figure From Above
On April 22, Meghan Levy and her fiancé, Kyle, visited the Stanley Hotel and took some pictures, only to find a strange anomaly in one of them – a mysterious figure that seems to peak through one of the windows (top left).
— Denver7 News (@DenverChannel) April 24, 2016
You may think that photo is a bit lacking, but it’s not the only case of a spirit caught gazing out one of the hotel’s windows. Stephen Wagner, About.com’s Paranormal Phenomena Expert, has collected many ghost stories, one of which involves a man named George and his own encounter with what may be the ghost of a young child looking down at him from a window at the historic hotel.
In October 2017, a new photo of ghostly activity surfaced, this one of two haunting, vaporous girls near a staircase inside the hotel. Jay Mausling, who took the photo, claimed there were no girls present in the room when the photo was taken.
Lucy In Pink
To round out the more recent ghost sightings, on August 19, 2015 Week In Weird highlighted a photo taken by Stephanie Reidl and her coworker while on an infamous Stanley Hotel ghost tour. They captured the photo as they ventured down into the Concert Hall basement, and on closer examination it contains a haunting visage, indeed – that of a small girl wearing a pink dress, staring deathly forward.
According to Week In Weird, they believe it may be the ghost of Lucy, a young runaway girl who had once taken refuge in the hotel’s basement and later died.
The History of a Haunted Hotel
Now that we have those out of the way, we can look back and wonder why the Stanley Hotel may be so haunted. Its history is very odd, to tell you the truth, starting with how it first came under the ownership of Freelan O. Stanley, the hotel’s namesake. He and his wife, Flora, visited Colorado in 1903, in hopes that the clean air and fresh climate would help cure his tuberculosis.
It did, and the Stanleys chose to make the location home to a grand hotel, which they opened in 1909. They outfitted it with the latest technology, including electric lights, running water, telephones, and automobiles. They even built their own hydroplant that provided electricity to the hotel.
They say both F.O. Stanley and his wife, long dead, have since materialized within the hotel, with Mr. Stanley appearing at the bar, while Mrs. Stanley can sometimes be heard happily playing the piano. They aren’t alone. Many other ghostly sightings have occurred throughout the years.
- The land’s previous owner, the 4th Earl of Dunraven, haunts Room 407. He’s occasionally been seen in the room, standing in the corner, the smell of pipe tobacco lingering in the air.
- Ghostly children haunt Room 418. Sounds of laughter and running footsteps can sometimes be heard in the room and throughout the hotel’s hallways. Strangest of all are the indentations on the bed despite no one having been in the room.
- Flickr user David shared a photo from the exact moment a Stanley Hotel tour guide had a ghostly encounter of her own in Room 418. She’d been talking about the room’s ethereal occupants when she shuddered and said, “One of them is hugging my leg right now.”
- According to the Stanley Hotel’s official website, the Concert Hall is also haunted. While you may hear Flora Stanley tapping on the piano keys, there are also reports of an occasional ghostly “Get out!”
- The ghost of Lucy, as well, has been found in the Concert Hall, answering questions for curious staff and ghost hunters. She can sometimes be heard humming distant melodies. (Here’s a picture of the Concert Hall and its pianos, by the way).
Room 217 at the Stanley Hotel
All of these are fascinating tales. However, it was one specific event that may have opened the way for the numerous paranormal experiences that followed.
It happened in Room 217.
According to the Estes Park Trail Gazette, one night in 1911, a thunderstorm knocked out the hotel’s power, and chambermaid Elizabeth Wilson entered Room 217 with a lit candle to relight the acetylene gas lamps. What she didn’t know was that the room was already filled with leaking gas, and as soon as she entered, it erupted in an incredible explosion. However, there are many conflicting reports about what happened that night, and the truth of the story is itself a compelling mystery.
Suffice it to say, something happened. Elizabeth Wilson, or whoever entered Room 217, did not die that night, but like lightning striking the elevator at the Hollywood Tower Hotel, perhaps that event sparked some kind of opening to the dimension of the other side, a road leading directly into The Twilight Zone.
Or not. It’s always hard to say.
Do strange things happen at the Stanley Hotel? Almost certainly. Stephen King himself spent a night in Room 217 in 1974. Only he and his wife were at the hotel, aside from staff, and that night he had the strangest nightmare of his son running through the halls screaming and being chased by a wild fire hose. It was then that the idea of The Shining came to be, and King used the Stanley Hotel as a model for the novel’s setting.
But are these events paranormal in nature, ghosts or specters, visitors from the great beyond? That, ultimately, is for you to decide. If you dare, the Stanley Hotel offers ghost tours so you, too, can explore its haunted corridors. What will you find if you do?
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