I stayed in Colorado's 'haunted' hotel and quickly learned why it inspired Stephen King’s 'The Shining'

Business Insider US
The author in front of the Stanley Hotel.
  • I spent a night at the Stanley Hotel, the place that inspired Stephen King to write "The Shining."
  • There are accounts of doors slamming, beds shaking, and lights flickering across the hotel's property.
  • While I didn't see any spirits, I couldn't shake an eerie feeling as I left the hotel.
  • For more stories go to

As you're driving along US 36, you know you've reached the small town of Estes Park, Colorado, when a bright-white building with a rust-red roof comes into view.

The hotel can be viewed from the highway.

It's the famed Stanley Hotel. Built in 1909 by Freelan Oscar Stanley, the hotel is considered one of the most "haunted" hotels in the US.

The Stanley Hotel's main building.

Perhaps the most popular advocate of its supposed paranormal activity is novelist Stephen King, who spent a night at the hotel in 1974 and left with the entire plot line for his thriller, "The Shining."

A typewriter in the Stanley Hotel that refers to Stephen King's book, "The Shining."

Exactly 47 years later, I was following King's footsteps and had a one-night stay booked in the famous hotel. As fog filled the surrounding mountain landscape, I quickly understood why King was haunted by this place.

A street view of the Stanley Hotel, which was built in 1909.

According to a guide who took me on a tour of the hotel, King claims he was "haunted" by a possessed fire hose during his stay. The tour guide also shared accounts of doors slamming, beds shaking, lights flickering, and the voices of children floating through the hallways.

The entrance to the Stanley Hotel.

Stepping inside the hotel felt like travelling back in time. Patterned carpet fills the reception area, dark oak paneling covers the walls, and a grand staircase leads guests upstairs.

The reception area of the hotel, which has a classic, dark interior.

I wasn't the only one eager to begin my stay. As the 4pm check-in time approached, a line stretched the entire length of the first floor.

A line formed on the first floor when the check-in window officially opened.

Instead of waiting in line, I toured the hotel's property. Outside, I navigated through the hotel's hedge maze, which was built in 2015. A maze is a key element in "The Shining," and after years of guests inquiring about it, the hotel finally added one.

The hotel added a maze to the grounds in 2015.

The property is comprised of four main buildings, including a concert hall built by Freelan Oscar Stanley for his wife. Today, it's one of the hotel's most "haunted" buildings, the tour guide said.

The concert hall was built for FO Stanley's wife, Flora Stanley.

Back inside the main building, there's a classic grand ballroom, named the McGregor Ballroom.

The MacGregor Ballroom.

Across from the ballroom is a music room and billiards room. I stepped inside the billiards room where I saw a familiar-looking bar.

An arrow points to the entrance of the billiards room.

Yes, it's the bar that inspired the iconic bar scene in "The Shining." According to the tour guide, King visited the last night before the hotel shut down for the winter and, since the business had filed its taxes for the year, the bartender wouldn't take his money so King drank for free.

The bar Stephen King drank at; a screenshot from Stanley Kubrick's movie "The Shining."

Upstairs is perhaps the most famous room: room 217, where King and his wife spent a single night. When Stanley Kubrick was adapting King's novel into a movie, producers changed it from room 217 to 237, afraid that no one would want to stay in a "haunted" room. But today, room 217 is the most popular in the hotel.

In "The Shining" it's room 237, but in actuality, Stephen King stayed in room 217.

After exploring the property, I headed to the now-deserted reception desk where rows of antique keys filled the wall. Unfortunately, I was handed a typical, plastic room key.

The reception area of the Stanley Hotel.

With my key in hand, I stepped into the hotel's original elevator from 1909 and headed to the fourth floor where room 402 awaited me.

The original Otis elevator from when the Stanley Hotel was first built.

When I arrived, the key oddly wouldn't work. I debated whether on not this was a bad omen, and headed back downstairs for a replacement.

I couldn't manage to get the first set of keys to work.

Finally, I entered the suite, which was one of the hotel's original historic rooms. While I expected it to have a lavish, classic feel like the rest of the hotel, the bedroom felt dated.

My hotel suite included a foldout couch and a living space.

When I stepped inside, there was a living-room area with a fold-out couch, coffee table, and entertainment unit with a TV inside.

A view of the room.

The bedroom had a matching headboard, a small desk, and another TV.

The bedroom had a similar, classic style.

While the bedroom was home to a mysteriously locked door, there wasn't a mini fridge or AC.

I pondered what could possibly be behind the door.

But there were breathtaking views from the bedroom window.

The next morning, I woke up to clear skies and a beautiful view of Estes Park, Colorado.

Perhaps the spookiest part of my room was the bathroom. There wasn't an air vent, so mold filled cracks between tiles and a discoloured shower curtain hung from the rod.

I decided to avoid showering during my stay.

Of course, I wasn't paying $359 a night for a lavish room - I was on the lookout for a potential ghost sighting. So as the sun set and only hotel guests remained, I explored the empty hotel.

The Stanley Hotel at night.

I returned to King's famed room, and this time noticed someone had written "REDRUM," a reference to "The Shining," in the corner of a nearby mirror.

Someone scribbled "REDRUM" on this mirror, a reference to "The Shining."

I also took another moment near what the hotel calls "the vortex," which is a spiral staircase with supposedly high spiritual energy.

This spiral staircase is said to be one of the most "haunted" parts of the hotel.

Back up on my floor, I stopped at room 428, where a ghostly cowboy is said to haunt the room. The floor is apparently also known for its sightings and sounds of children in the halls. Unfortunately, I didn't spot anything out of the ordinary.

Room 428 and 407 are two of the most "haunted" rooms in the building.

But the empty hallways left me thoroughly spooked out. I retreated back to my room for the night. And as I attempted to fall asleep, I waited for any signs that the hotel was haunted.

While crowds filled the lobby for check in, I didn't run into many people during the nightly exploration

I woke up the next morning with no nightmares or recollections of ghostly visits. But thanks to the tour guide, I did leave with a collection of ghost stories I won't forget anytime soon.

The author in front of the Stanley Hotel.

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