The Stanley Hotel: Colorado’s Most Famous Haunted Attraction

Opened to the public in 1909, the Stanley Hotel is located in Estes Park, Colorado. The luxurious Stanley was the inspiration for Stephen King’s 1977 novel, The Shining, and has since been the subject of numerous paranormal investigations. Today, the hotel makes the most of its fame, offering ghost tours, hosting paranormal conferences, and has even launched a horror film festival.


The Stanley Hotel was built by Freelan Oscar Stanley on land he purchased from the Fourth Earl of Dunraven. Lord Dunraven began acquiring the land in the 1870s, by questionable and possibly illegal means. He built the English Hotel and Lodge on the site, which opened in 1877, and was enormously successful.

Lord Dunraven left the area in the late 1880s, exasperated by the controversy over how he acquired the land, and back property taxes. His hotel burned down in 1911.

F.O. Stanley, of Stanley Steamer fame, first visited Estes Park with his wife Flora in 1903, after he was diagnosed with tuberculosis and given no more than six months to live. The mountain air was more restorative than expected, and Freelan’s health improved greatly over the summer. The Stanley’s decided to make Estes Park their home.

In 1906, Freelan began building the Stanley Hotel from locally sourced materials. When the hotel opened in 1909, it only operated in the summer.


Sightings have been reported in all parts of the Stanley Hotel. Rooms 217, 401, 407, and 418, the entire fourth floor, the ballroom, bar, billiard room, lobby, and the staircase are all reported hotspots.

In 1911, housekeeper Elizabeth Wilson was seriously injured in a gas explosion in room 217. She survived the accident with two broken ankles, but after her death in the 1950s guests began reporting disturbances such as lights turning on and off and doors opening and closing, and being tucked in at night by what can only be presumed to be the ghost of Ms. Wilson.

Room 401 is a favorite of modern-day ghost hunters. In the early 1900s, it served as a break room for nannies. It is said that a male entity opens and closes the closet door and likes to get fresh with the ladies in this room. Some believe it is the spirit of Lord Dunraven.

The Irish lord’s presence is most often reported in room 407, where he is said to hang out in the corner near the bathroom, turn lights on and off, and where the smell of his pipe tobacco sometimes lingers. From outside of the hotel witnesses report seeing a man looking out of the window of room 407 when the room is supposed to be empty.

Room 418 is known for being haunted by children. Guests who stay in the room have reported being kept up all night by the sound of children playing in the hallway, and others have reported seeing impressions on the bed.

Flora Stanley is said to play the piano in the ballroom and is sometimes seen on the main staircase of the hotel with her husband Freelan. Freelan is most often seen in the lobby and the billiard room, his favorite room when he was alive. He is also known to take the occasional stroll through the bar.

Influences from The Shining

Of course, no account of the Stanley Hotel would be complete without mentioning The Shining. The book was conceived when Stephen King and his wife Tabitha spent the night in room 217, on October 30, 1974.

Today, the hotel is open year-round, but back then it was closed for the winter, and when the King’s took their impromptu getaway it was the last night of the season. They were the only guests in the hotel that night, making the atmosphere even more eerie than usual and a ripe environment for fueling the imagination.

The Shining, All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
The Stanley Hotel was a great inspiration for the The Shining film.

The story is not a recounting of actual events in the hotel, as some believe, but was inspired by the experience and a dream that Mr. King had while staying in room 217.

The 1980 film adaptation, directed by Stanley Kubrick and starring Jack Nicholson, was not filmed at the Stanley Hotel at all. Also worth noting, the hedge maze featured in the movie does not and has never existed at the hotel.

King wrote the teleplay for the 1997 TV miniseries, directed by Mick Garris. The miniseries was filmed, in part, at the Stanley, and is said to be King’s answer to his dissatisfaction with the 1980 movie version.

The Stanley Hotel Today

Although the Stanley Hotel had been a popular tourist attraction, known for being haunted for decades, the movie and then the miniseries launched the hotel into unprecedented fame, drawing tourists on a nuisance level.

But, rather than discouraging the attention, the Stanley Hotel has found ways to capitalize on its reputation and make the public happy in the process.

The hotel now welcomes paranormal investigators and has even been featured on popular shows such as Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures. It regularly hosts paranormal conferences featuring celebrity speakers.

In May 2013, the hotel had hosted its first Stanley Film Festival, showcasing independent horror films. The Stanley Hotel also offers several ghost tours, a Halloween Murder Mystery dinner, and Halloween Ball and continues to this day.

Leave a Comment