333 Wonderview Avenue, Estes Park, CO

(970) 577-4000

Status: World Famous Historical and Haunted Hotel and Landmark; Famous for its Link to Author Stephen King and his Novel ‘The Shining’



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The valley in which the hotel now sits was once the land of the Ute and Araphoe tribes. When the Earl of Dunraven visited the area; he purchased a large area intending to convert the land into a huge private game preserve. However, the Earl was intensely disliked by the locals – so much so when it was thought to name the hotel Dunraven a petition was signed by 180 people suggesting strongly that this would be a bad idea. Dunraven left the area in the late 19th Century never to be seen again in the area.

Fast forward to the early 20th century and the steam powered car inventor Freelan Oscar Stanley was diagnosed with tuberculosis (consumption). Previous to the discovery of anti-biotics and cure of this life-threatening disease, sufferers were advised to get lots of cool dry air, sunlight and eat a healthy diet. Stanley packed up and moved he and his wife, Flora, to Colorado.

Originally, they arrived in Denver but at the recommendation of his doctor they relocated to Estes Park. By the end of that first summer Stanley’s health had improved greatly and he decided they should spend every summer in Estes Park. Being used to the socialite scene on the East Coast, though, he decided the rugged frontier of the Rocky Mountains could do with some civilization.

In 1907 a fully recovered Stanley bought the land from Dunraven and began work on a new grand hotel which would provide an oasis for both the rich and powerful Easterners as well as others suffering from Tuberculosis. The main hotel and concert hall were completed in 1909 – the hotel opened on July 4th of the year - and the Manor was completed in 1910.

The hotel was the epitome of both luxury and style for it’s day including a full staff and being run on electricity; although gas lines were installed should the electricity ever fail. The gas lines were not used until 1911 when a failed line leaked between the second floor and the dining room. An explosion did result with injuries to staff; the worst being a broken ankle.

Stanley had a powerhouse built to supply his hotel with electricity which brought the added bonus of bringing electricity to the town of Estes Park. Every room had a telephone and each pair of rooms shared an ensuite bathroom with running water.

The hotel would go through many different owners – Stanley had to buy the hotel back from the second owners in order to prevent it from going under - he once joked he always spent more money each summer than he ever earned – until the current owners: Grand Heritage Hotel Group.

Stephen King

 By the late 1970’s the hotel had almost run its course. Due to neglect and age it most likely would have ended up falling to the wrecking ball shortly. That is, until fate intervened.

In 1974 the famous horror novelist, Stephen King, came with his wife to spend one night at the Stanley Hotel. He was working on his third novel tentatively titled Darkshine but wasn’t convinced about its location being set in an amusement park. When they checked in; the hotel was closing down for the season – until 1983 the hotel was only open for the summer – and they were the only guests in the massive hotel. While his wife slept King wandered the empty halls, had a drink in the hotel bar served by a bartender named Grady and then returned to his room: Room 217.

His imagination fully fired up and the idea for the third novel came into being. Today we know it as The Shining. The Overlook – forgive me – The Stanley Hotel became famous all over again. Room 217 is still the most requested room to stay in by guests.

But the Stanley Hotel has its own haunted history and ghost stories that have nothing to do with Stephen King’s famous novel or Stanley Kubrick’s famous movie of the same title.

Paranormal Activity

Room 217

Yes, the room that Stephen King and his wife stayed in is reputed to be haunted. It is also said to be the most booked room – there are rumors that this room cannot be booked but it can be with some advance notice.

This room is said to be haunted by the maid whose ankle was broken during the gas explosion in 1911. She was not killed in that event but is thought to have not moved on from the hotel after her eventual death. It is unclear if 217 is the room she was in when the explosion happened. Due to numerous versions of her name being printed in different newspapers at the time her actual name cannot be known for sure. People call her Elizabeth Wilson or Mrs. Wilson.

Activity associated with this ghost includes objects being moved, luggage being unpacked and the turning on and off of the lights.  There are also reports of a cold spot between guests in bed separating them; specifically, guests of the opposite sex staying in the room but unmarried. Apparently, the ghost’s morals are a reflection of her time.

Her apparition is seen passing through solid doors. Single men staying in the room have found their suitcases packed and put outside of the room.

Room 401

The 4th floor was once a huge open attic area. This is where the female employees, their children and nannies once lived when the staff stayed at the hotel. The sounds of children running, playing and laughing are now heard on the floor and commonly in this room. The closet in this room also tends to open and close on its own.

Room 428

In this room guests have reported heavy footsteps and the sounds of furniture being moved around above their heads. This is physically impossible due to the slope of the roof above this room. There is also a ghost staying in this room – a cowboy who is reportedly quite friendly. He is often seen sitting on the corner of the bed.

Stairs Between the Floors

The stairs between the floors in the hotel’s main guesthouse are thought to be a vortex between our world and the spirit world. You can run into any of the ghosts that haunt the hotel here.

The Concert Hall

One of the most famous ghosts of the hotel makes his home here; Paul. When he was alive one of his jobs was to clear the concert hall at 11pm. He still takes his responsibilities very seriously as both guests and employees have heard “get out” late at night here. A worker reported Paul gave him a nudge when he was sanding the floors here – perhaps the work hadn’t been run by Paul previous to it commencing. People on the hotel’s ghost tour have also reported Paul will flicker the lights on their flashlights.

The ghost of Flora Stanley, the builder’s wife, still tinkers with the piano in the concert hall.

Although no history can be found of the next ghost’s association with the hotel, she has been named Lucy. She is known for responding to people on the ghost tour’s question by flashing lights.

The Grand Staircase

The grand staircase is unforgettable all on its own but in 2016 a photograph of them showed a ghostly woman at the top that was definitely not there when the photo was taken.

Underground Caves

In the early days of the hotel employees used these caves to move around the hotel. They contain high amounts of both limestone and quartz which are thought to provide energy to ghostly visitors. This is thought to not only provide paranormal energy to the caves but to the property as a whole. Unexplained breezes are reported in the caves themselves.

The underground caves are only accessible by taking the hotel’s ghost tour.

Other Activity

The ghost of the original owner of the hotel, Mr. Stanley himself, is said to haunt the hotel’s bar and billiard room. Billy, an autistic child, roams the hotel most commonly playing with people’s hair. He is said to favor people who work with autistic clients. There is a pet cemetery on the grounds – said to the resting place of former owner’s pets – and the ghosts of both a cat and dog have been seen.

On a closing note for anyone wanting to visit this historic and haunted hotel – any staff hoaxing here to scare guests will immediately be terminated. The hotel takes its paranormal activity very seriously but they are also quick to point out not very many people have actually died on site and there are no terrible and violent events in the hotel’s history. The ghosts seem to come back because they so loved this wonderous location.

Who doesn’t want spend eternity in a place that made them so happy?