With the kids too old to be trick-or-treating but too young to attend most of the Halloween parties in the area, some people decide to make a family outing of the holiday and visit some “truly haunted” place. Many would agree that the best way to spend Halloween is with the ghosts in the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. Being a Stephen King fan helps, too; the idea of spending some time where “The Shining” movie was filmed much less where King has visited himself is too good to pass up. To spend it with family and some ghosts makes it even better.
You don’t need to worry about having specific directions to the Hotel. Follow the main road as you enter Estes Park, and you’ll find it. As soon as you come around the second curve, there it is like a sparkling white castle against a brilliantly blue sky most fall and summer days. It is definitely like a scene from the movie. The haunted Stanley has held up well over the last 100 years. We got checked in on the second floor and then just wandered about for a bit. The hotel felt and sounded like a beautiful old building, with lots of creaks and groans and charming old décor.
Much of the main floor was made up of ghostly decorations, Halloween displays and items from the movie. The television movie that is based much more closely on King’s novel rather than the Kubrick version with Jack Nicholson is “The Shining” version filmed at the Stanley, but it is the Kubrick version that is prominently displayed through the Hotel. A large board was covered with pictures, and the door with the hole Jack had chopped through the middle was there. It was great wandering through rooms that we had so recently seen in a movie, tread by actors bigger than life. There were nods to the other “The Shining”movie since it was based upon the experiences Stephen King had at the Stanley, even though Kubrick didn’t film in Colorado. Again, a poster had some stills from the movie, and another claimed that “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy!”
Year round, the Stanley provides a ghost tour. It includes a visit to the haunted piano that Mrs. Stanley still supposedly plays at night. Employees sometimes feel or see Mr. Stanley looking over them as they work in the check-in counter area. The tour passes through the billiard room where someone apparently plays although no one is there; our guide said a number of people say they hear the balls crack against each other. Mr. Stanley apparently enjoyed billiards while alive-maybe he still does. We couldn’t go in, but we also saw where room 217 is, a room that has a tragic history and so is associated with ghost stories today. The story is that during a fire, a maid was killed and she still haunts the room. This is also the room that Stephen King is said to have occupied. We walked the fourth floor, the old servants’ floor that is the most haunted area of the Stanley. Ghost children seem to play on every floor, their laughter echoing down the haunted hallways. The guide said that patrons year-round comment about the noisy children when no children are staying at the Hotel.
Our night on a movie set
So we were prepped for that evening, expecting to find a lot of ghost activity once the sun went down. We set out after watching a movie to get us in the mood, Kubrick’s “The Shining” that plays 24-7 at the Stanley. We aren’t experts and were armed with only a digital camera, but we figured we could wander around and surely bump into at least one ghost in a place this haunted. Unfortunately, we saw nothing. We heard nothing. We felt nothing.
Maybe we just had unlucky timing. The lack of ghost activity was certainly disappointing to us. We were also bummed that the elevator was out of service, the piece that figures so prominently in “The Shining.” But all in all, it was a fun family Halloween. It was enough that we decided we would like to do something similar every Halloween if we can. And we would also recommend the required two-night stay at Estes Park’s Stanley Hotel. Even if you don’t see a ghost, it’s a fun place to be on Halloween night.