The Stanley Hotel, Estes Park

  • By: Timothy Rose
  • Date: 30 July 2023
  • Time to read: 11 min.

The Stanley Hotel is a well-known historic landmark in Estes Park. It has fascinated visitors for many years. This article explores the hotel in detail. It discusses the history, features, and ghost stories associated with it. The Stanley Hotel is special because it inspired Stephen King’s famous book, “The Shining“.

We will explore how the hotel was built and its early years. We will also discuss the spooky experiences that led to its reputation for being haunted. At the Stanley Hotel, we will talk about its different features, amenities, and accommodation choices.

If you’re planning a visit, we’ll give you all the details about the location, how to get there, tour choices, and tips for a great stay. If you love history, the paranormal, or just want a unique getaway, the Stanley Hotel offers an unforgettable experience.

History of the Stanley Hotel

Let’s explore the fascinating history of the Stanley Hotel, which has an interesting past and a mysterious reputation. Get ready to delve into the captivating history and spooky stories that influenced “The Shining” at this famous Estes Park Hotel. Prepare for a journey! It will reveal the secrets and eerie experiences linked to the Stanley Hotel.

Construction and Early Years

F.O. Stanley, who had tuberculosis and was an inventor, felt better in Colorado’s fresh air and sunlight. Arriving in 1903, he bounced back to health in just one season, crediting the hotel staff. Stanley felt ecstatic and made a promise to visit every summer. In 1909, he built the prestigious Stanley Hotel to bring elegance to the area.

Stanley died in 1940, but there are rumors that he still visits his favorite hotel, particularly the billiard room and bar. His wife Flora is rumored to sometimes appear as a ghost and can be found playing the piano.

Stanley Hotel Lobby
Stanley Hotel Lobby – Credit Wally Gobetz

The Stanley Hotel, in its early years, mainly served rich guests seeking a luxurious mountain getaway. The hotel had modern amenities such as electricity, telephones, en suite bathrooms, and a hydraulic elevator. Located in Estes Park, Colorado, it offered stunning views of the Rocky Mountains. Plus, it was conveniently close to outdoor activities.

During the early period, the hotel was a central hub for social gatherings and events. The venue held fancy dances, fun parties, and amazing shows with famous musicians and performers. The Stanley Hotel quickly gained fame for its elegant atmosphere and exceptional service.

The Stanley Hotel was built with a strong foundation and has a lasting legacy from its early years. The hotel is famous for its history and paranormal activity, attracting visitors from all over the world.

Ghost Stories and Paranormal Activity at the Stanley Hotel

Haunting corridors at The Stanley Hotel
Haunting corridors at The Stanley Hotel – Credit Wally Gobetz

Get ready to be captivated by the spine-chilling tales lurking within the historic walls of the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park. In this mesmerizing section, we’ll dive into the realm of ghost stories and paranormal activity. Prepare to be thrilled as we uncover famous ghost sightings and encounters that have left visitors trembling with fear. We’ll also explore the haunted rooms and areas within the hotel, where restless spirits are said to roam. Brace yourself for a journey into the eerie and supernatural at the legendary Stanley Hotel.

The Stanley Hotel’s paranormal allure has attracted the keen attention of The Rocky Mountain Paranormal Research Society. Armed with cutting-edge equipment, this squad of specialists has led multiple probes into the hotel’s spectral happenings over time. Their intriguing discoveries have graced popular TV series like Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures, further cementing the hotel’s stature as a hub of supernatural intrigue.

The Haunting and Inspiration Behind “The Shining”

“The Shining” at the Stanley Hotel has a fascinating history that is both haunting and inspiring. The hotel has a creepy reputation because of reported ghostly events. Those experiences inspired Stephen King’s famous book and movie.

In Stephen King’s “The Shining,” Jack Torrance, a struggling writer and recovering alcoholic, becomes the winter caretaker of the isolated Overlook Hotel in Colorado. Jack’s son, Danny, possesses psychic abilities (“the shining”) and sees disturbing visions of the hotel’s past. As supernatural forces take hold, Jack descends into madness, influenced by malevolent spirits, and threatens the lives of his wife, Wendy, and Danny.

The Stanley Hotel in actuality had many ghostly encounters. Guests and staff members have seen ghosts and experienced unexplained events there. Encounters can involve hearing voices without a body, seeing ghostly figures, and watching objects move by themselves.

Room 217

Room 217 at the Stanley Hotel is famous for being haunted. Many believe that the ghost of Elizabeth Wilson, a former housekeeper, can be found there. Guests have reported strange things happening. The lights flicker, and items seem to move, suggesting that there is a ghostly presence. Note that the movie the Shining referenced Room 237 – but that can be attributed to some creative license by the film’s director, Stanley Kubrick.

Just two years after the hotel was built, a thunderstorm hit Estes Park and the Stanley Hotel lost power. Housekeepers, Wilson included, navigated rooms with candles to light the gas lamps.

Wilson was drawn to Room 217, which has been a center of ghost stories for over a hundred years. Wilson didn’t realize the room was filled with a gas that had no smell. When she lit her candle, there was a huge explosion. It launched her through the floor and into the MacGregor Dining Room. Miraculously, despite the violent blast, Wilson survived with only two broken ankles.

Wilson the ghost is known for being friendly. She frequently tidies up the room and unpacks guests’ belongings! This is a lot friendlier than some of the ghosts we tend to encounter.

Colorado - Estes Park: The Stanley Hotel - Dollhouse
The Stanley Hotel – Dollhouse – Credit Wally Gobetz

Stephen King’s stay

Stephen King got the inspiration for his novel “The Shining” while staying at the Stanley Hotel in 1974. It was offseason, and he and his wife were the only guests at the hotel. The eerie atmosphere sparked his imagination.

“The Shining” is a fictional story, but the Stanley Hotel inspired the Overlook Hotel in the book and movie. The hotel’s features and characteristics shaped the setting and atmosphere in the story.

While King took considerable artistic liberties in crafting “The Shining,” elements of his narrative have a basis in reality. The Stanley Hotel was once closed during the winter months due to the absence of central heating until 1983. This left the establishment uninhabited for extended periods, similar to the isolated Overlook with its hotel caretakers.

Allegedly, King was served by a bartender named Grady during his stay at the Stanley, a name that resonates with readers of “The Shining.” However, the real-life Grady was probably not the dangerous maniac portrayed in the novel.

One of the defining features of the Stanley Hotel is Room 217, which, during King’s visit, featured a clawfoot bathtub enclosed by a curtain — a detail that made it into his novel. Yet, while this room might have given King an eerie feeling, the spectral apparitions that populate his novel were born from his imagination.

Many guests at the Stanley Hotel have reported paranormal activity in Room 217. This room is known as one of the most iconic rooms in the hotel. Many guests say they have seen the ghost of Elizabeth Wilson, the housekeeper we mentioned earlier.

Room 217 - stanley hotel
Room 217 – Stanley hotel – Credit Tom Ruppe

The Concert Hall

The Concert Hall at the Stanley Hotel is another notable location for ghostly encounters. Both guests and staff members have reported witnessing apparitions of children playing in the hall. Some have also heard the sound of laughter and footsteps when no one else is present. The Stanley’s Concert Hall is said to be haunted by the spirit of Paul, a former handyman. Visitors and staff members have frequently witnessed Paul wandering around the building, and he has even been known to interact with guests and staff.

The Fourth Floor

The fourth floor of the Stanley Hotel teems with an uncanny air. Many guests feel uneasy when they hear children’s laughter and footsteps in the corridors late at night. Whispered tales of shadowy figures and a disconcerting presence abound. .

The hotel was launched into chaos by an explosion. Most of the strange events happened on the fourth floor, which is known to be haunted. This floor has a lot of ghostly activity, like closets opening by themselves and hearing children’s laughter.

Room 428

Room 428 is a standout – reputed to host a ‘friendly’ cowboy ghost who lounges on the bed’s corner, poised to greet the room’s visitors. The grand stairway, leading from the lobby and spanning the hallways, is another hub of apparitional sightings, acting as a paranormal nexus allowing the hotel’s spirits to traverse the premises.

The Basement

In the basement of the Stanley Hotel, guests and employees have reported unusual occurrences. Whispers have been heard, sudden drops in temperature have been felt, and objects have been witnessed moving on their own. The basement is widely believed to be a hotspot for paranormal activity.

Not all phantoms here are grown-ups. Billy, a ghostly autistic child, purportedly tugs at guests’ hair, particularly those familiar with autism. The fourth floor rings with the eerie laughter and footsteps of phantom children, a throwback to when nannies and their charges spent their days there.

The pet cemetery on the grounds is also reputed to host spectral guests. Unnerving sightings of phantom cats and dogs add to the hotel’s otherworldly ambiance.

These encounters with famous ghosts at the Stanley Hotel have solidified its reputation as one of the most haunted hotels in the United States.


For those who are intrigued by iconic landmarks with ghostly reputations, The History and Haunting of the Stanley Hotel by Rebecca F. Pittman is a tantalizing read that you won’t want to put down. This book dives into the rich history and reported hauntings of the famous Stanley Hotel, known for inspiring Stephen King’s “The Shining.” Pittman’s thorough research and engaging writing style provide readers with an immersive experience, blending historical facts with firsthand accounts of paranormal encounters.

Whether you’re a fan of ghost stories, a student of history, or simply looking for a gripping read, this book is a must-have, offering a captivating journey into one of America’s most fascinating and eerie landmarks.

Visiting the Stanley Hotel

If you’re looking for an unforgettable getaway, a visit to the iconic Stanley Hotel in Estes Park is a must.

This section covers all the essential information for visiting this historic gem.

Get ready for an unforgettable adventure! This destination has a great location and is easily accessible. There are many tour options and packages to choose from. Plus, I’ll share some insider tips to make your stay truly memorable. You won’t forget this experience anytime soon.

Location and Accessibility

When considering a visit to the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, it is crucial to have a good understanding of its location and accessibility.

  • The Stanley Hotel is situated in Estes Park, Colorado, nestled in the beautiful Rocky Mountains.
  • Estes Park can be easily reached by car, as it is conveniently located near major highways such as US-36 and US-34.
  • For those who prefer to fly, the closest major airport to Estes Park is Denver International Airport, which is approximately 70 miles away.
  • Once you arrive in Estes Park, the Stanley Hotel is ideally located within walking distance of downtown, allowing you to easily explore local attractions and dining options.
  • In terms of accessibility, the Stanley Hotel provides convenient parking facilities for guests, including valet parking services.

A helpful tip for your visit to the Stanley Hotel is to plan your trip during the off-peak seasons. This helps you avoid crowds and ensures a more peaceful experience. Additionally, make sure to take advantage of the hotel’s fantastic location by exploring the surrounding nature and hiking trails.

Tour Options and Packages

When visiting the Stanley Hotel, there is an array of tour options and packages available to enhance your experience.

  • Historical Tour: Take a guided tour of the hotel and learn about its rich history, including its construction and early years. Explore the hallways and rooms where famous guests and notable events took place.
  • Ghost Tour: Embark on a spine-chilling ghost tour and discover the paranormal activity that haunts the Stanley Hotel. Hear stories of famous ghost sightings and encounters, and visit haunted rooms and areas where supernatural occurrences have been reported.
  • Ghost Adventure Package: For those seeking a more immersive experience, the Ghost Adventure Package offers an overnight stay in one of the haunted rooms. This package includes a ghost tour, access to paranormal investigation equipment, and a chance to participate in a ghost hunting session.
  • Redrum Mystery Dinner: Enjoy an evening of delicious food and intrigue with the Redrum Mystery Dinner package. Solve a murder mystery while dining in the hotel’s elegant setting, adding a touch of suspense to your visit.
  • Scenic Tour: Explore the beautiful surroundings of the Stanley Hotel with a scenic tour. Discover the stunning Estes Park area on a guided excursion, taking in the natural beauty and breathtaking views.

Whether you’re interested in the hotel’s history, eager to explore its paranormal side, or simply want to enjoy the stunning surroundings, the Stanley Hotel offers a range of tour options and packages to cater to different interests and preferences.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the history of The Stanley Hotel?

A: The Stanley Hotel, located in Estes Park, Colorado, was built in 1907-1910 by Freelan Oscar Stanley, co-founder of the Stanley Motor Carriage Company. Originally intended as a health retreat for tuberculosis patients and a resort for upper-class Easterners, the hotel opened in 1909 as a grand hotel with 48 rooms.

Q: What is the significance of The Stanley Hotel in popular culture?

A: The Stanley Hotel has a significant pop-culture history. Stephen King stayed at the hotel and was inspired to write “The Shining.” Although the film adaptation was not shot at the hotel, the popular and underrated in my opinion comedy “Dumb and Dumber” was filmed there. The hotel also has a paranormal reputation and offers night tours to explore the active phenomena and spirit folklore.

Q: What amenities does The Stanley Hotel offer?

A: The Hotel offers various amenities including restaurants, gift shops, event spaces, and an expansive whiskey bar with the largest selection of whiskeys and single malt selections in Colorado. The hotel also recently underwent renovations, adding 12 new Specialty Suites, balconies, and updated bathrooms. Additionally, the hotel provides stylish rooms and apartment-like suites with air conditioning and full kitchens.

Q: What is The Stanley Live?

A: The Stanley Live is a unique venue at the hotel that offers guests the opportunity to connect with entertainers, musicians, comedians, and inspirational speakers. It features nationally and internationally-known music and comedy acts. The full lineup can be found at

Q: Is The Stanley Hotel available for weddings and events?

A: Yes, The hotel is a popular destination for weddings and events. With indoor and outdoor venues available, they offer various wedding packages and event spaces. Additionally, The Pavilion, located on the hotel grounds, is a premier wedding and event complex in Northern Colorado with a 250-seat glass door auditorium and over 8,000 square feet of banquet space.

Q: Where can I find The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park?

A: The Stanley Hotel, located at 333 Wonderview Avenue, is a famous landmark in Estes Park, Colorado. It offers panoramic Rocky Mountain views and is situated in a prime spot near downtown Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park.

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