Estes Park, CO is a very special place to me. My husband and I visited for the first time in September, 2005. I fell in love with it, and eleven months later he and I were married at a beautiful lodge up on a hill overlooking the Estes Valley, including the Historic Stanley Hotel.
You might be familiar with this place if you have ever read The Shining by Stephen King. He spent one night in room 217 and from that experience quickly wrote the book. Years later, the mini-series of the same name was filmed there. (The film was shot in Oregon, and not as true to the book as the mini-series was).
My husband and I took advantage of a Groupon which included a night’s stay and a ghost/history tour. A ghost tour? Why yes, the beautiful Stanley Hotel is haunted.
We had an amazing tour guide – Kevin from Wisconsin, if you ever read this, I give you two thumbs up. I have been to the Stanley a number of times to look around, and have read up on F.O. Stanley, but learned far more on this tour than I could have possibly ever imagined.
F.O. Stanley and his wife moved to Estes Park at the turn of the century from the East Coast after being diagnosed with tuberculosis. At that time, most with TB did not survive. F.O. not only survived, but recovered completely. From then on, he spent the rest of his summers in Estes Park. Because of this, he decided to have the hotel built so that his friends from the East could come and visit and have a place to stay.
F.O. was an incredibly wealthy man. He and his brother designed the Stanley Steamer car, among other things (including ways to improve photography in the late 1800s which earned them around $10 million. Imagine $10 million in the late 1800’s! Rather than be selfish with his money, he loved to spend money to make sure his friends and family were taken care of and enjoyed life. In fact, when he owned the hotel, he was known to lose thousands of dollars a year to keep it running, but had no problem with that.
He was an environmentalist – as the Stanley Steamer was more or less the first hybrid vehicle. He also developed water based electricity plants and not only supplied electricity to the Stanley Hotel, he provided it to all the residents of Estes Park – free of charge. He built the town, including the hospital, roads, bank, and churches.
Enough about Mr. Stanley. More about these ghosts. Mrs. Stanley is often rumored to be heard playing the piano in the music room. Her original piano is on display, and occasionally still gets played (by real living human beings – although sometimes Mrs. Stanley does stop by!).
The spirit of Lord Dunraven, an early inhabitant of the Estes Valley (and a real loser – he hunted indigenous elk to extinction in Estes Park – fortunately Mr. Stanley brought around 30 in from Yellowstone years later), is said to haunt room 401. Besides being a loser, he also ran brothels. Many women who go into the closet in that room report having their thighs stroked, butts grabbed, or hair touched.
The fourth floor is known for being the most “haunted”, as people report hearing footsteps walking across wooden floors (the floors are all carpeted now), hearing children playing in the hallway, and children report being “tucked in”. No wonder, as the fourth floor was the children’s floor, and was occupied by children and their nannies. Coincidentally, room 401 was the nannies’ break room… plenty of prey for the dirty Lord Dunraven, right?
But known as the most haunted room in the hotel is room 217. Shortly after the hotel open, the housekeeper for the Presidential Suite (room 217) went in to light the gas lamp. Unfortunately the gas had been left on and when she lit her match the room exploded. She somehow survived, and F.O. Stanley made sure that all of her medical bills were taken care of – plus paid her salary while she was off of work AND provided a college fund for her children. People who stay in room 217 report returning to their rooms to see all of their clothes put away and things organized – the housekeeper at work. One unmarried couple reported feeling someone climb in to bed in between them in the middle of the night. Jim Carrey stayed in the room for three hours during the filming of Dumb and Dumber, and left and never spoke of the reason why… and spent the rest of his stay at the Holiday Inn.
Scott and I spend the night in room 213, two doors down from 217. Unfortunately, this meant hearing people walk down the hall to take pictures (we could see flashes through the cracks in the old door), and hearing people shriek and run. Perhaps we just had bad luck to be staying last night when there were some immature folks doing things like that late at night.
Sadly, aside from that and the couple upstairs from us really enjoying their stay (if you know what I mean), that’s as much excitement as we had.
The hotel is beautiful, and our room was cozy and perfectly reflected the period in which the hotel was in its prime. Our bathroom was completely upgraded with a granite vanity, jacuzzi tub (which I REALLY enjoyed) and bronze hardware. Our queen bed had a pillow top mattress which, when I was able to sleep, was heavenly. We also enjoyed a 42″ LCD TV, and free wireless internet. We spent some time at the hotel bar (have you seen Dumb and Dumber? That bar.) and had a few Redrum Ale’s from Estes Park Brewery and I had an amazing seared ahi tuna sandwich (my adventurous husband had a bacon cheeseburger).
Rooms are pricey at the Stanley and start near $200 a night and go up over $500 a night. Even if you are in the Estes Park area and don’t want to pay to stay, you can still take a ghost/history tour for $15. I highly recommend this – I learned so much! Just make sure to make reservations at least a week in advance.
While we didn’t have the spooky experience we hoped for, I still truly enjoyed the opportunity to spend the night and learn more about the history of the Stanley Hotel.