Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, CO: Inspiration for ‘The Shining’ – Part 1

I know I promised the Christmas market this week, but, to paraphrase Robert Burns, “the best-laid plans of mice and men are ofttimes torn asunder”. And I’ll just throw in another quote I learned in college, too: “And malt does more than Milton can / to justify God’s ways to man.” Whatever that has to do with it, A.E. Housman!

Anyway, you’ll have to wait til next week for the Christmas market. Instead, this week’s post is about the historic Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado.

Estes Park is a small town (population nearing 6,000) nestled in a beautiful valley along the Big Thompson River. Aside from being a summer resort town with lots of rental cabins, it also is the gateway to the Rocky Mountain National Park. Two of the park’s entrances are about five miles away.

I can drive to Estes in about an hour and a half. It never seems like that long because of the great mountain views along the way, though.

The most historic and famous structure by far in Estes Park is the Stanley Hotel. Here’s a shot of the Stanley as you drive into Estes. It’s the white building with the red roof in the distance.

For an in-depth look at the Stanley, check out this episode of the excellent PBS show called Colorado Experience. I can also recommend ALL the Colorado Experience episodes.

For this post, I’ll give you a few quick facts and some photos I took last June during my first visit to the hotel. In the future, I’ll post a Part 2 about the Stanley, which will include winter photos with snow and some interior shots from the tour I took.

Fun facts:

  • The Stanley was built by F.O. Stanley, a very wealthy businessman from New England (of Stanley Steamer car fame). It opened in 1909. He chose the location because he had TB and being in the mountains was an effective treatment. He built a home in Estes Park and also a huge guesthouse with 12 suites for friends and family to use. The guesthouse is today’s main hotel building. Today the hotel has 142 rooms.

  • Because the lodgings were for guests and family, the place didn’t make any money as a hotel until the 1980s. Today, there are actually 11 different buildings, including a concert hall, carriage house and a small BnB.

  • An original Stanley Steamer car stands in the hotel lobby today:

  • The Stanley used to be open only 90 days each year (during the summer).
  • Horror author Stephen King stayed at the Stanley for only one night at the end of the season in 1974. Because he and his wife were the only guests, I guess he got freaked out by the emptiness of the place and was inspired to write The Shining, which was published in 1977. The hotel featured in the novel was the Overlook. If you remember the movie (it came out in 1980), you’ll remember the giant hedge maze in front of the Overlook. In the book, there was no hedge maze, but there were giant topiary animals. Neither a hedge maze nor topiary animals existed at the Stanley when King was there. As a nod to the connection, though, the Stanley installed a (very small) hedge maze out front in 2015:

  • I rewatched The Shining after I did the tour since the guide made constant reference to it. Does anyone else think it’s one of the WORST movies ever??? I appreciate the cultural icon and I love what it stands for, but sheez! Is it just me?
  • NONE of The Shining (1980) movie was filmed at the Stanley. However, there was a TV miniseries in 1997 that WAS filmed at the Stanley.
  • In the film Dumb and Dumber, the Stanley played the part of the Danbury Hotel. The scene where Jim Carrey rolls up in a Lamborghini and handed out hundred-dollar bills to the staff was filmed in front of the main building. They also used the hotel’s bar in that movie, too. The newspaper article on the wall about the moon landing that Jim Carrey notices still hangs there.
  • The Stanley, like most historic buildings in these parts, is reputed to be haunted. I’ll go more into all that in Part 2, but it’s interesting that you can buy replicas of the keys to both the most haunted room 401 and Stephen King’s room (213, I think) in the gift shop, as well as shot glasses and wine glasses with ‘Redrum’ on them.
  • There is a Resident Psychic with an office at the Stanley. If you watch the PBS show I recommend above, you can see her. I saw her there during the tour. She kept telling our guide she had something to tell him!
  • A room at the Stanley these days costs about $200 and up, depending on the size and amenities. I don’t think it’s bad for the location and reputation. But I have seen inside some of the rooms and they are not really that special. They just looks like rooms in an older hotel to me.

But here is one of the stunning views from the place:

  • The Stanley hosts concerts and all sorts of things like outdoor summer laser light shows and such. They hold big Halloween events, including a Murder Mystery Dinner and The Shining Ball, as well as a fancy New Year’s Eve party, etc.

I’ve been to the Stanley three times so far because visitors wanted to see it. I’ve yet to stay there overnight, but I bet there’s a Part 3 blog post when I do!

I hope your holiday preparations are going well – look for the Denver Christmas Market pictures on the blog next week! Happy holidays!

Photo for No Apparent Reason: