In the shadows of the Rocky Mountains lurks a vast, spectral-white structure. For more than a century, strange occurrences have been unsettling those brave enough to stay within its walls. Creaking floorboards, flickering lights, haunting voices – rumor has it the Stanley Hotel is home to a few guests who’ve long overstayed their welcome…
Hidden away in acres of remote Colorado land, the Stanley Hotel has earned itself a rather ominous accolade over the past 100 years. You see, it’s reputed to be the most haunted hotel in America. And even if you don’t believe in the otherworldly residents that many claim roam its corridors, this place has some spooky secrets that might be enough to change your mind.
The hotel’s haunting history began in 1903, when inventor Freelan Oscar Stanley was plagued by a severe case of tuberculosis. Following medical advice, he and his wife Flora headed for Colorado in search of its therapeutic fresh air. Soon bored by rustic rural living, however, they decided to build themselves a grand resort. The couple subsequently opened the Stanley Hotel in 1909 – and, supposedly, never left.
Their giant Georgian mansion boasted 48 guest rooms, 160 acres of land and several lavish luxuries. These included a large concert hall – allegedly a gift for Flora, who liked to tinkle away on the grand piano. Given such affluent beginnings, then, how did the Stanley Hotel succumb to such a sinister reputation?
Well, reports of paranormal activity at the Stanley date back nearly as far as the hotel’s first occupants. But its notoriety reached its peak when it hosted horror maestro Stephen King, who took refuge at the isolated hotel one wintry night in 1974. He and his wife were the only guests when they checked into room 217.
And as darkness fell, King was terrorized by a nightmarish presence that he dreamed was chasing his son down the hotel hallways. When the author awoke, he couldn’t shake the strange sensation. In fact, the eerie dream had already inspired what would become one of the most iconic horror stories of all time.
Indeed, King’s stay at the Stanley Hotel was so spooky that it served as the basis for his best-selling book, The Shining – and, of course, the bloodcurdling blockbuster movie that followed. King, in fact, called the historic hotel “the perfect – maybe the archetypical – setting for a ghost story.”
King’s fictional Overlook Hotel, with its endless corridors and isolation, thus bears uncanny resemblances to the real-life Stanley. And his protagonist – also a writer – faces a similar bone-chilling ordeal in the same room: number 217, switched to 237 in Kubrick’s movie adaptation.
But it’s actually believed that the real room 217 hides a sinister secret that could explain King’s unsettling experience. You see, one summer evening in 1911, the hotel’s head housekeeper, Mrs. Wilson, entered the room to light a candle. Unaware that there was a gas leak, she caused an enormous explosion and was thrown through the floor. And, rumor has it, her spirit has hung around ever since.
Just ask the guests whose clothes have been mysteriously unpacked and folded, or those who’ve found themselves frozen in fear as their lights flickered on and off. But perhaps most chilling are the accounts from unmarried occupants of room 217, who’ve described feeling a strange energy pushing them apart at night. After all, according to hotel staff, Mrs. Wilson was a somewhat traditional woman.
Room 217 isn’t the only one in the Stanley that’s reputed to be haunted, though. Guests in room 401, for instance, have reported sounds of children giggling and running down the halls. And to make matters even creepier, that same floor was used back in the early 1900s to house children and their nannies. Some of them, it appears, may have stuck around.
Another spooky spot, according to several visitors, is Flora Stanley’s beloved concert hall. It’s said to be a favourite haunt of Mrs. Stanley’s, who many say can still be heard playing her piano from time to time – decades after she died from a stroke. And some even claim to have seen the old keys mysteriously moving of their own accord.
But the hall is apparently home to another ghostly presence, known as Paul. An employee back in the hotel’s early days, he was allegedly tasked with ensuring guests adhered to the 11:00 p.m. curfew. Perhaps that explains why some people say they’ve heard the words “get out” murmured in the hall after dark.
Venture down below the music room, though, and reports get even more unsettling. Specifically, guests have recounted eyeing a young girl wandering alone through the dark basement. One visitor, Stephanie Reidl, even captured on camera what appears to be a little, dark-haired girl, who she claims wasn’t on her tour. So if no child was present, who could the figure in the pink dress be?
Well, staff are sure that it’s Lucy, a 13-year-old girl who was found hiding in the basement decades ago. Apparently, the young child had run away from home. She was allegedly thrown out into the cold, where her body was later discovered, frozen and lifeless.
But Reidl’s isn’t the only suspicious snap to have been taken at the Stanley. The Mauslings, a family from Aurora, CO, spotted something peculiar in one of their pictures after a trip to the hotel in September 2017. The photograph, captured during one of the infamous “spirit tours,” includes what looks like a girl making her way down the grand staircase.
However, John Mausling and his partner Jessica Martinez-Mausling are certain that the numbers on their 11-person tour didn’t include a young girl. “At first we tried to be logical and think we somehow missed her, so we asked our kids, their girlfriends and our friend if they remembered seeing a little girl,” they disclosed to the Huffington Post. “We do not remember seeing anything on the stairs when we took the picture,” they added.
But the strangeness didn’t stop there. Ben Hansen, an ex-FBI agent and frontman of TV series Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files, discovered another peculiarity while scrutinizing the Mauslings’ photo. He identified another blurry figure seemingly walking up the stairs, which he believes to be a second ghostly apparition.
“Through the stair railing posts you should see the lower half of this person like you do the tour guide and the shoes of the person on the stairs,” Hansen explained to the Huffington Post. As he pointed out, though, the figure in question is inexplicably lacking a lower half.
We may never know whether such sightings are, in fact, proof of paranormal forces at play at the Stanley. But the hotel has nonetheless embraced its ghostly fame. For instance, guests are welcomed with The Shining playing in their rooms – on a 24-hour loop. That might be enough to send shivers down even the most skeptical of spines. So spend a night there, if you dare.