Take a ghost tour at the Haunted Stanley Hotel

We were spending the night in the haunted Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. The door to our room flew open. A Native American warrior in a loincloth rushed into the room, weapon raised in his hand. I did a sideways, karate-style kick from the bed. It connected and he disintegrated. A bad dream? No; a night at haunted Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. I had awakened moments before it happened. Half asleep, I looked at my watch; it was 5:40am. I turned over and went back to sleep. I was reawakened when the door flew open. I looked again after this strange experience—the watch said it was 5:50am. A mere ten minutes had passed. Dream? Ghostly encounter? Residual energy? I’ll never know.

Was it frightening? More startling than blood-curdling and nothing less that I would have expected staying here. The haunted Stanley Hotel, a  is a hot bed of ghosts and residual hauntings. The hotel’s ghosts and their ghost tours attract a lot of visitors each year.

The Stanley in the Rockly Mountain town of Estes Park photo.courtesy Stanley Hotel

The Stanley nestled in Estes Park, Co in the Rocky Mountains photo.courtesy Stanley Hotel

 A Brief History of haunted Stanley Hotel

Freelan O. Stanley (known as F. O.) and his wife Flora first discovered Estes Park in the early 1900s. The inventor of the Stanley Steamer had TB so his doctor recommended the crystal clear Colorado air. They fell in love and built The Stanley as a refuge for their wealthy friends and family. It opened July 4, 1909.

Famous guests who have slept here include John Phillip Souza, The Unsinkable Molly Brown, Theodore Roosevelt and more recently novelist Steven King. The hotel was the inspiration for The Shining.

At the time King stayed at The Stanley the hotel was down at the heels, unheated and about to close for the winter. King arrived at the hotel in October 1974 with his wife, Tabitha. The couple wanted to drive over the scenic Trail Ridge Road which, due to snow, was closed for the season. The hotel at first said no, there were no other guests in residence. Somehow he convinced them and they relented and said the Kings could spend one night. King had a few drinks with Grady, the bartender, then took a walk and went to bed. He had a nightmare about an old fire hose nozzle outside Room 217 came to life and tried to eat his three year old son (who wasn’t there with them). He woke with a start and went onto the balcony for a cigarette. He has said that by the time he finished the cigarette he had the bones for The Shining. He has said it was almost as if the hotel was talking to him. Six months later the book was on bookstore shelves. When the  Stanley Kubrick movie of the book wasn’t filmed at The Stanley,  King was furious. According to The Stanley’s Tour Supervisor, Hannah Prow, he told reporters the book had been “hijacked”. Fifteen years later King reacquired the rights and produced a made-for-TV version here in 1997.

Room 217, courtesy Stanley Hotel

The infamous Room 217, photo/courtesy Stanley Hotel

Take a ghost tour

Ghost tours are big business at the hunted Stanley Hotel. When we stayed last Thanksgiving weekend, by Sunday night we almost had the hotel to ourselves, I figured we’d be taking the 80-minute Night Ghost Tour on our own. I was wrong. The tour was full.

The tours given during daytime hours are focused more on the hotel’s history with just a mention of Stephen King and the paranormal. If you want to experience ghosts (and no guarantees here) take the Night Ghost Tour that we took. There were enough possibilities of ghost encounters for me.

If you want a more in-depth and really eerie experience, sign up for one of the five-hour Stanley Paranormal Investigations. They take you to the most haunted spots in the hotel, including an underground tunnel. Although there used to be a web of tunnels under the hotel for the staff to move around unobtrusively, only one remains. It runs from the employee dining room to the area under the McGregor Ball Room. A lot of time is spent in the Concert Hall, which Prow called “the fifth most haunted building in America”.

We didn’t have any major ghost encounters on our tour, but there were a few paranormal happenings. Ironically, the biggest skeptic in our tour group had the most other-worldly experiences. Outside Room 217 he felt something tug on his jacket and there were no earthly beings close to him when it happened. Later he photographed an orb in the very haunted Concert Hall. This building is where I got closest to perceiving ghostly energy, more about that later..

Everyone seemed to enjoy the evening. Our guide was knowledgeable and enthusiastic. It’s the kind of job that’s not always strictly routine. This night, mostly it was.

Stanley Steamer, (inventor F.O. Stanley haunts the hotel), sits in the lobby hoto/courtesy Stanley Hotel

Stanley Steamer, (inventor F.O. Stanley haunts the hotel), sits in the lobby photo/courtesy Stanley Hotel

Ghost or residual haunting?

One of the things we learned on our tour is the difference between “ghosts” and “residual energy”. According to our guide, a ghost can and will interact with you and residual energy is the imprint of an event that is so strong it happens over and over again. One theory is that the hotel is built atop rock with a high crystal content and that the crystals retain the energy impressions from a particularly traumatic event.

The cast of ghostly characters

Freelan O. (F.O.) and Flora Stanley: The hotels original owners are reportedly still in residence. They have been seen descending the main staircase dressed in formal attire and also in the lobby and the Billiards Room. The haunting sounds of Flora’s piano have been heard in the Music Room. F.O has also appeared in the administrative offices. Perhaps he’s overseeing operations.
Meet Miss Elizabeth Wilson: The hotel’s chief housekeeper the early days was literally blown through the ceiling of Room 217 during a 1911 storm when defective gas line exploded. She survived. The ghost of Miss Wilson began appearing in room 217 after her death in the 1950s. There are reports of doors opening and closing, lights going on and off, bags being unpacked and shoes and other belongings neatly rearranged.
The Earl of Dunraven: The British Earl owed the property before the hotel was built. He’s said to haunt room 407. The aroma of his cherry pipe tobacco lingers in the room and a ghostly face has been seen staring out that room’s window.
The little boys and the ball: In the early 1900s, the hotel’s heyday, children and their nannies were banished to the fourth floor. They call the hallway up here “The Never-ending Hallway.” Guests staying in Room 428 report hearing sounds of children playing up and down the hallway and the sounds of bouncing balls at night. Some have even opened the door but no one is there. Staff has found impressions of bodies on the beds when the room is unoccupied.

The Concert Hall has three primary hauntings, one is believed to be ghostly and two, residual energy:

Lucy: Lucy, the ghostly presence, manifests herself by opening and closing doors. The spring-loaded door sometimes slams and opens and closed sporadically. Paranormal investigators have recorded Lucy saying her name into a “ghost box,” a device used by paranormal investigators that uses radio waves to record energy frequencies. Madame Vera, the hotel’s Resident Psychic, has said that Lucy was a 17-year-old girl who lived there. Some believe that she was a runaway who crashed on the property in the 1970s, but this theory hasn’t yet been confirmed.

The scariest experience I had on the tour was when they closed the door to “Lucy’s room” For me, the energy in that room became intense, almost unbearable. I asked the guide to open the door and it was fine again. Was it Lucy or my imagination? It didn’t matter. I felt like I’d had a Stanley ghost experience.

Eddie: This former security guard, a residual haunting, is detected by the smell of BO.
Paul: a member of the grounds crew died on site while plowing snow one winter. He was a heavy smoker and people often smell the smoke from his cigarettes. He is a residual haunting.

While we were in the Concert Hall a few tour member were able to get photos of orbs, round white lights that are believed to signify an other-worldly presence.

You can book any of the “haunted” rooms at the haunted Stanley Hotel  if they’re available and perhaps have your own ghostly encounter.

At the end of the tour, we went off into the night and back to our room in the annex building, former home to bachelor guests in the Stanley’s days. It had been an interesting, but fairly uneventful evening, but in the morning, the door flew open.

Have you had any ghostly encounters at the haunted Stanley Hotel?

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10 Responses to “Take a ghost tour at the Haunted Stanley Hotel”

  1. Alouise
    October 31, 2013 at 6:44 pm #

    I was think this hotel sounded familiar. I would love to stay at The Shining Hotel, if not for the ghost experience then for the fact the hotel looks like a really unique and beautiful place to stay.

    • Billie Frank
      November 1, 2013 at 11:00 am #

      It is a beautiful place- and the views of the Rockies from the front porch are amazing!

  2. Irene Levine
    November 3, 2013 at 6:40 am #

    What fun it is to visit a hotel with a storied past like this one!
    Hope I can get there some day.
    Best, Irene

    • Billie Frank
      November 3, 2013 at 1:37 pm #

      Estes Park is the perfect jumping off place for visiting Rocky Mountain National Park and if you want a hotel with history- The Stanley is definitely the place to stay.

  3. Darcy Bonovitch
    March 20, 2015 at 5:03 pm #

    “For me, the energy in that room became intense, almost unbearable.”

    Wow, I had the EXACT same experience in Lucy’s room. I went into the ghost tour pretty skeptical. I know ghosts are not circus performers and the power of suggestion and confirmation bias can cause a whole mess when it comes to this kinda of thing….but what I felt in that room was dizzying to say the least. Nothing else unusual happened the entire tour, but while in the Lucy room my hair was brushed over my left ear (nobody was next to me, nor could they have done so so delicately because it was pitch black). I wasn’t afraid, but the energy really was almost overwhelming.

  4. streamsideon
    November 3, 2015 at 2:42 am #

    Estes park is the wonderful place ! Thanks for sharing !

  5. Bryan Prince
    November 22, 2015 at 7:26 pm #

    I stayed at the Stanley Hotel recently for a writers retreat. I was the last person expecting an encounter. But one night, standing at the top of the steps that lead down to the lower level, talking to another guest, I felt something push the back of my leg just above the knee. It was strong enough to bend my knee. I looked behind me but no one was there. It felt like a child playing tag and I was it.

    • Billie Frank
      November 22, 2015 at 9:45 pm #

      Wow! Thanks for sharing your Stanley ghost encounter. You can dine out on that story for years and write about it, too.

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