The Most Mystical Hotel of America: The Stanley Hotel

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The Stanley Hotel is one of the most famous hotels in the country. Located in Estes Park, Colorado, the hotel has looked over Estes since 1909. The hotel's owner, F.O. Stanley, built the monumental hotel to attract the elite and provide luxury access to the mountain air. Today, the Stanleys’ reputation lives on through the unique architecture, the hotel’s haunted history, and the museum, attracting visitors from all around the world. Our group toured the hotel, and we were enamored with the rich history and spooky stories our tour wonderful guide had to share.

The Stanley Brothers

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A portrait of F.O. Stanley, at the top of the main staircase

The Stanley twins were born in Maine in 1849, named Freelan Oscar and Francis Edgar and known affectionately as F.O. and F.E. Natural inventors and craftsmen from an early age, F.O. and F.E. were known for their business partnerships and to cruise through town in their Stanley Steamer. After F.O.’s second tuberculosis diagnosis, F.O. and his wife, Flora, moved to Denver, Colorado in search of a fresh air cure. After seeing little progress, the couple retreated to the mountains, to the small mining town of Estes Park for what they believed to be F.O.'s last summer. But when the doctor arrived at the end of the season, F.O. was cured, and the Stanleys made Estes their permanent home.  Less than charmed by the rustic cabins available, they set out to build a place fit for the lush East coast lifestyle they were accustomed to. On July 4, 1909, the Stanley Hotel opened its doors to the wealthy public.

Architecture

When we first saw the Stanley Hotel, it made a lasting impression. The 100+ room hotel was built in the Colonial Revival style, popular on the East coast at the time. It stands in strong contrast to the surrounding wilderness. The building is so beautiful and almost completely symmetric. The outside of the Hotel can be compared to the beauty of palaces and is superior to many in several ways. The interior is almost all wood, some painted plaster and some real, but it is not just pieces of wood. Every detail is carved by hand. Original Tiffany glass spots the ceilings and most part furniture is also made from wood in the original turn-of-the-century style. The Stanley Hotel not limited to one building. The grounds consist of eleven buildings including The Lodge, which holds additional rooms, and the Carriage House, now used for wedding receptions, and the Concert Hall, modeled in the same style after Boston’s Concert Hall. Guests can find peace behind the main building of the hotel where a little waterfall and a lot of different statues border an open terrace with exquisite mountain views.

The main guest staircase, accessible from the second floor
The main guest staircase, accessible from the second floor

 A Haunted History

While the Stanley is famous, its haunted history is infamous. Our guide took us through the Music Room, where Flora’s grand piano sits behind velvet ropes. While beautiful, it has been known to smash fingers if Flora does not approve. It’s this piano the hotel staff hears after hours. When they go to shoo away disobedient teens, however, they find the room empty. A similar phenomenon occurs in the MacGregor Ballroom, once the dining venue of the Stanley’s sophisticated guests. The room once served the dashing and elegant. Here, the staff hears music and chattering, glasses clinking, and laughter. When they check on these rowdy hotel guests, the room is again found to be empty.

    Our tour guide led us up the main staircase to the second floor, to Room 217, our first haunted room. She regaled us with the almost-tragic accident that led to the destruction of an entire wing of the hotel. A maid was preparing a room for the guests when her lantern triggered a gas explosion. She was rocketed through the next floor and suffered significant burns. She returned to work after her recovery, and some believe she never left. Some claim that their jackets have been hung for them in a caring gesture and others who felt less welcome have found their bags packed and waiting for them at the door. It was in this room that Stephen King stayed and gained inspiration for the hotel’s best known feature, the model for The Shining. Jack Torrance’s descent into madness while keeping the Overlook Hotel closely parallels Stephen King’s struggles at the time and The Shining’s barkeep and resident madman, Lloyd Grady was named after two of the staff that King met.

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My carefree sister and I, before we know we weren't alone!

    I was excited to hear this bit of history, since I had my own haunted experience at the Stanley. In August 2015, my family and I toured Estes when I moved to Colorado and the Stanley was one of our first stops. We toured the second floor and my mom and sister posed in front of Room 217 for a picture, then I posed with my sister while my mom took a picture with my phone. When we reviewed the photos, my mom found 17 consecutive photos on her phone (to the right), which we’re pretty sure she didn’t take.

    You can see my mom’s hands on my phone, so her phone must have been around chest height to take the photos. We searched for a logical explanation, but my hair standing on end and the cool chill on the back of my neck suggested it was other-wordly! My dad still doesn’t believe the photos weren’t a prank, even after we tried to prove we couldn’t re-enact the scene and arrange the phones to take another picture like the ones we found. Our tour guide confirmed that strange things happen with people’s phones and cameras. Was it a ghost? I’m still not sure, but I looked forward to telling my mom and sister everything our guide had told us!

    On the fourth floor, once an unfinished attic, children can be heard running around and giggling. The staff often get complaints of children romping in the halls only to find an empty wing. The spooky tales thrilled us and though we remain skeptical, the rooms and multitude of experiences are enough that we’re interested in reserving a room to see for ourselves!

The Museum

We were also surprised that the Hotel is like a museum, there are guided tours and at the same time there are living guests. Book your tour downstairs, and have an ice cream from the cafe. There are 140 rooms available for accommodation in the Hotel. Also on the grounds of the Hotel you can find a gift shop which can offer some unique products, for example there are a lot of products connected with Stephen King’s book The Shining, including “Redrum” chocolates, ghost toys, and the book and movie. Downstairs, you can also find movie memorabilia from Dumb and Dumber that filmed on location, as well as other celebrities who have stayed at the Stanley Hotel.

Your Trip

Book your tour or stay at the famous Stanley Hotel here! If you're interested in learning more about Northern Colorado's famous haunted locations, visit Colorado.com's site for tips here. We recommend the Armstrong Hotel in Fort Collins. TripAdvisor recommends the Haunted Walking Tour of Fort Collins, which you can read about here.

Personal Testimonies

Andrei: I was most struck by the fact that such a beautiful hotel was built and operates deep in the mountains. Many people visit and live in the hotel. It is important that the hotel combines old decoration like the chairs, tables, piano and new high-tech technology.

Kiley: Estes Park is one of my favorite places in Colorado, and the Stanley is one of my favorite places in Estes. It was one of our first stops when my family helped me move to Colorado, so it holds a special place in my heart. I was excited to bring our TPU team here to experience the Stanley’s mystery and charm -- the growing hedge maze, the friendly staff, and spooky atmosphere all make the Stanley so special.

Created by Kiley Miller and Andrei Zviagin

Photo by P2P participants

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