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Famed businessman Freelan Oscar (F.O.) Stanley finished construction on the hotel in 1909. Six years earlier, Stanley’s doctor had ordered him to seek the clean, mountain air of the West, in hopes that it would improve his tuberculosis. When his trip to Estes Park, Colorado did just that, Stanley fell in love with the area and vowed to return there each summer.YouTube
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Stanley built the hotel on land that he had purchased from the Earl of Dunraven, an Irish nobleman. After first visiting the area on a hunting trip in 1872, Dunraven illegally acquired about 15,000 of the surrounding acres and attempted, unsuccessfully, to create a private hunting preserve. Understandably unpopular with the locals, Dunraven left the region in 1884.Reddit
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When Stanley suggested "The Dunraven" as the name for his new hotel, 180 locals signed a petition against it. The Stanley Hotel
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Today, some claim that the ghost of Dunraven haunts Room 407, resulting in lights going on and off by themselves and ghostly faces being spotted in the room's windows.Tripadvisor
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Years before the hotel opened, Stanley and his twin brother, Francis, had founded a photographic plate company. They eventually sold it to Kodak, and then invented the “Stanley Steamer” series of steam-powered cars, which made them extremely wealthy.Mille Fiori Favoriti
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Stanley, who didn’t believe in credit and always demanded upfront payment for his cars, paid for the hotel’s construction in cash (which totaled to well over $10 million, when adjusted for inflation).Fatos Desconhecidos
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Many of the Stanley’s original features — including its veranda, billiard room (a favorite of F.O. Stanley himself), and grand staircase — remain in place to this day.Pinterest
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Courting vacationers from his wealthy social circle back east, Stanley spared no expense on the hotel’s luxuries, including a casino, a trap shooting range, and an airfield.Facebook
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Stanley insisted on a high-society clientele, turning away those who didn’t measure up. During World War I, when tourism dwindled to almost nothing, Stanley would still sit in the lobby and have unsuitable guests turned away, even if the hotel was nearly empty.Wikimedia Commons
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In its early 20th-century heyday, decades before it became the "Shining Hotel," the Stanley hosted public figures ranging from Theodore Roosevelt to John Philip Sousa to Emperor Hirohito of Japan.The Stanley Hotel
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By the time Stephen King visited the Stanley in the 1970s, the hotel had fallen on hard times, only regaining its former glory after new management moved in — and King’s novel, and the subsequent film, gave the "Shining Hotel" an entirely new kind of appeal.1930s Hotel
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Room 217, the room in which King himself stayed and the one that is haunted in the novel (changed to 237 in Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation), remains extremely popular with guests who want the "Shining Hotel" experience and is usually booked months in advance. Pinterest
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Long before the Stanley became the "Shining Hotel," Room 217 had an interesting history. In 1917, chief housekeeper Elizabeth Wilson, fearing that a storm would knock out the electricity, began lighting the hotel’s lanterns. As she attempted to light the lantern in what is now Room 217, it exploded, blowing out the floor beneath her and causing her to fall down to the story below. Although she suffered two broken ankles, she survived. Panoramio
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What made Wilson's story even more eerie for paranormal investigators is that, at the time, newspapers reported several different versions of the events and with different names for "Elizabeth Wilson." In fact, because the employee records are now gone and because no photograph of "Elizabeth Wilson" can be found, some believe we can never know who was truly in that room.Fatos Desconhecidos
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Actor Jim Carrey famously asked to stay in Room 217 while Dumb and Dumber was filming at the Stanley Hotel. The story goes that he checked out after just three hours. "That’s a shady one," said former tour department supervisor Kevin Lofy. "What happened to him in that room, we don’t know. He’s never spoken of it."Pinterest
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Many ghost hunters say that Room 401 is actually the most haunted room in the Stanley Hotel, and that it's the home of the "ghost thief," who moves and even steals guests’ belongings. However, others point out that the rumbling caused by the adjacent elevator — which plays a central role in the movie — is sufficient to rattle guests' items out of place.Pinterest
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Beyond Room 401, many ghost hunters believe that the Stanley Hotel's fourth floor is the primary hotbed of paranormal activity. Many claim to have heard the spectral giggling of children running down the halls.Jason's Travels
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Another one of the hotel's most oft-reported spirits is that of a former maintenance man named Paul, who died of a heart attack while shoveling snow outside the hotel in 2005. Tour guides claim that Paul will interact with guests during the hotel's late-night ghost tours.Pinterest
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The hotel plays the film adaptation of The Shining on a constant loop for its guests.Warner Bros.
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The hotel interiors shown in the film (which were not actual hotel interiors, but studio sets) are not based on the Stanley. Instead, they're based on a number of diverse hotels across the country, especially the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park, California. Visitors often ask if it is the "Shining Hotel."DNC Parks/Resort at Yosemite
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Since there was insufficient snow in Estes Park at the time, the film did not use the Stanley as a shooting location. Instead, the crew opted for the Timberline Lodge in Mt. Hood, Oregon. Because of this, some fans will claim it is actually the real "Shining Hotel."The Oregon Encyclopedia
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However, when King (who notoriously dislikes Kubrick’s film) adapted the book into a mini-series in 1997, he shot at the Stanley Hotel. La Poderosa
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Since 2013, the hotel has hosted the Stanley Film Festival (complete with red lighting), which showcases independent horror films and presents special events. Human Echoes
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At one recent festival, an immersive, live-action horror game had players searching for hidden clues across the hotel grounds while agents of the game wandered the hotel, steering — and scaring — the players through a story involving rituals, cults, and all manner of evil. Pinterest
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Around Halloween, the Stanley Hotel hosts the annual Shining Ball, where hundreds come in 1920s-era costumes like those worn in the film.Warner Bros.
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The Stanley Hotel draws huge crowds with its daily tours, which are specially designed for those looking for a haunted hotel experience. Tens of thousands sign up for these tours every year. Magickal Musings
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Some of the Stanley Hotel's tours take guests to the tunnels in the resort's basement, where the climax of the novel takes place. Paranormal Investigations
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Paying homage to the novel, one guest at the hotel wrote "REDRUM" on the attic door. The staff liked it enough to leave it there. Torimask
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Even though the hotel ballroom plays a creepy role in The Shining, the Stanley’s MacGregor Ballroom is, today, a popular venue for weddings. That said, amateur ghost hunters who’ve been to the room have claimed to hear the piano playing of Flora Stanley, F.O.’s long-dead wife. Wikimedia Commons
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While Mrs. Stanley supposedly haunts the ballroom, hotel guests and staff claim to have repeatedly spotted her husband in both the hotel's billiard room and the bar. Yelp
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While both the novel and the film portray a hotel terrifyingly isolated from civilization, the Stanley is just outside downtown Estes Park, a perennially popular summer resort town an hour outside of Denver. Locations Hub
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The horrors of the novel and the film cast a dark pall over the hotel settings, but real-life guests are struck by the Stanley’s bright, welcoming design palette. "The one thing people notice is we have a much lighter coloring than you'd expect," said former tour supervisor Walter Oglesby. Mille Fiori Favoriti
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Although the film prominently features a hedge maze, the Stanley did not have one — until 2015. In late June of that year, the hotel’s 1,600-foot maze opened to the public. This is but another key factor that truly makes the Stanley the "Shining Hotel."Warner Bros.
33 Photos That Show Why The Stanley Hotel Is One Of The Creepiest Places On Earth
In October 1974, ascendant horror writer Stephen King and his wife spent a night at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, at the foot of the Rockies. With the winter barrage of snow and cold looming, the hotel was about to close for the season, leaving King and his wife as its sole guests.
After King ate in a grand yet empty dining room — with the chairs up on every table except his own — and walked through the seemingly endless empty hallways, a new novel slowly began to take shape in his mind.
Later that night, King had a terrifying dream about his son being chased through the hotel's halls by a fire hose. As soon as he woke up, he knew that he had to write. "I got up, lit a cigarette, sat in the chair looking out the window at the Rockies," King said, "and by the time the cigarette was done, I had the bones of the book firmly set in my mind."
That book, The Shining, introduced the Stanley Hotel to an entirely new generation. Soon, this faded remnant of early 20th-century high life was reborn as the "Shining Hotel." And once new guests step inside the Stanley, they realize just how much life both does and does not imitate art.
See some of the most chilling images of the "Shining Hotel" in the photo gallery above. Then, learn more about its history below below.
Listen above to the History Uncovered podcast, episode 10: The Shining Hotel, also available on iTunes and Spotify.
The Early Heyday Of The Stanley Hotel
The Stanley Hotel wasn't always considered the stuff of horror legends. First constructed in 1909 by wealthy entrepreneur Freelan Oscar (F.O.) Stanley, the resort was meant to be a luxurious retreat for moneyed travelers.
Boasting a casino, a trap shooting range, a billiard room, a stunning veranda, a grand staircase, and even an airfield, the hotel drew in plenty of Stanley's wealthy friends from the East Coast and elsewhere. But the resort also attracted several guests who were deemed "unsuitable" by Stanley.
Wikimedia CommonsFreelan Oscar Stanley, the businessman behind the Stanley Hotel.
The high-society image of the Stanley Hotel was so important to its founder that he would personally sit in the lobby and turn potential customers away if he didn't approve of their presence. He even did this during World War I, when the hotel and the tourism industry as a whole were suffering.
Still, it seemed as though Stanley believed that his methods paid off. The hotel ended up hosting some of the world's most prestigious travelers, such as U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt and Emperor Hirohito of Japan. But after Stanley died in 1940, the hotel's glorious image began to fade.
The Spine-Tingling Reputation Of The "Shining Hotel"
By the time Stephen King visited the Stanley Hotel in 1974, the resort was struggling to attract tourists. But when King's famous novel was published just a few years later — and new management moved into the resort — people soon became interested in staying at the hotel again.
Though the 1980 film The Shining was not filmed at the Stanley Hotel — the exterior shots in the movie were done at Oregon's Timberline Lodge and the interior scenes were done at a film studio — word quickly spread about the real "Shining Hotel" that had actually inspired King to write his book.
John Greim/LightRocket via Getty ImagesToday, the "Shining Hotel" is famous for its alleged paranormal activity.
Naturally, horror enthusiasts were eager to explore Room 217, the room that King had stayed in during his visit (and the one that was haunted in his novel). According to the hotel's website, that's still one of the most-requested rooms to this day. But new hotel guests were also delighted to hear that King was far from the only person who had an unsettling experience at the Stanley — and that other rooms were potentially haunted.
From claims about the spirit of F.O. Stanley roaming his billiard room to allegations of a ghostly thief stealing guests' belongings in Room 401, the "Shining Hotel" is widely rumored to be a hotbed of paranormal activity. It's little wonder why it remains a top destination for ghost hunters today.
John Kuroski is the editorial director of All That's Interesting. He graduated from New York University with a degree in history, earning a place in the Phi Alpha Theta honor society for history students. An editor at All That's Interesting since 2015, his areas of interest include modern history and true crime.
Jaclyn is the senior managing editor at All That's Interesting. She holds a Master's degree in journalism from the City University of New York and a Bachelor's degree in English writing and history (double major) from DePauw University. She is interested in American history, true crime, modern history, pop culture, and science.