The Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado

One night in this hotel nestled in Colorado’s mountain wilderness inspired Stephen King’s best-selling novel turned horror film, The Shining. Massachusetts couple F.O. and Flora Stanley opened the isolated resort in 1909—and reportedly never left.

According to staff, Mrs. Stanley can be heard playing her Steinway piano in the music room at night, and Mr. Stanley occasionally shows up in photographs. There have also been reports of bags being unpacked, lights turning off and on, and echoes of children’s laughter heard in the hallways. Paranormal experts hail the Stanley Hotel as one of the nation’s most active ghost sites in the U.S.

The Stanley Hotel is a 142-room Colonial Revival hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, United States of America. Approximately five miles from the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, the Stanley offers panoramic views of Lake Estes, the Rockies and especially Long’s Peak. It was built by Freelan Oscar Stanley of Stanley Steamer fame and opened on July 4, 1909 as a resort for upper class easterners and a health retreat for sufferers of pulmonary tuberculosis. The hotel and its surrounding structures are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In 1903, the Yankee steam-powered car inventor Freelan Oscar Stanley (1849-1940) was stricken with a life-threatening resurgence of tuberculosis.[ The most highly recommended treatment of the day was fresh, dry air with lots of sunlight and a hearty diet. Therefore, like many “lungers” of his day, Stanley resolved to take the curative air of the Rocky Mountains. He and Flora arrived in Denver, Colorado in March and, in June, on the recommendation of Dr. Sherman Grant Bonney, relocated to Estes Park, Colorado for the rest of the summer. Over the course of the season, Stanley’s health improved dramatically.  Impressed by the beauty of the valley and grateful for his recovery, he decided to return every year. He lived to the ripe age of 91, dying of a heart attack in Newton, Massachusetts, one year after his wife, in 1940.

By 1907, Stanley had recovered completely. However, not content with the rustic accommodations, lazy pastimes and relaxed social scene of their new summer home, Stanley resolved to turn Estes Park into a resort town. In 1907, construction began on the Hotel Stanley, a 48-room grand hotel that catered to the class of moderately wealthy urbanites who composed the Stanleys’ social circle back east as well as to consumptives seeking the healthful climate.

The Stanley Hotel has a storied history that begins well before Stephen King stepped foot on the property, and the hotel once hosted guests like Molly Brown, John Philip Sousa, and Theodore Roosevelt. Today the hotel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a member of Historic Hotels of America. Visitors to Estes Park flock to the hotel to take a tour, have a drink at the Whiskey Lounge, and stay overnight in one of its historical (and perhaps haunted) rooms. We’ll share a bit of The Stanley Hotel’s history and our experience touring, eating, and sleeping at this famous hotel. 

the Colonial Revival hotel featured the latest technologies, including a hydraulic elevator, electric and gas heating, running water, steam laundry, telephones in every guest room, and of course a fleet of Stanley “Model Z” Mountain Wagons that would transport guests to and from the local train depot. To entertain guests, a Concert Hall was built which was also a gift for Flora as she loved to play piano. However, the hotel lacked central heating (until 1983!) so it was only a seasonal hotel during most of its history, closing down each winter.

Interestingly, The Stanley Hotel was not the first grand hotel in little Estes Park. The first was actually the Estes Park Hotel built in 1877 by Irishman Windham Thomas Wyndham-Quinn, who became the 4th Earl of Dunraven and Mount-Earl. The Earl enjoyed the hunting in the area and bought up a large amount of land in a manner that made him a very disliked figure among the local people. In 1908, it would actually be Lord Dunraven who would sell F.O. Stanley the land on which he built The Stanley Hotel. Sadly, the Estes Park Hotel would be destroyed by fire in 1911.

The Stanley Hotel would host a number of wealthy and famous people in its heyday, such as socialite Margaret Brown (i.e. the  “Unsinkable Molly Brown” of Titanic fame), composer John Philip Sousa, and Theodore Roosevelt. The Stanleys would arrange an array of summer activities for their wealthy guests, from concerts and picnics to bowling and horseback riding.

I could go on and on but I would like to visit this place sometime, maybe I’ll get inspired to write a novel!

What are your thoughts?