Colorado Vacation (Part 1): The Stanley Hotel

Additional lodging at the Stanley with the mountains in the background
Additional lodging at the Stanley

At the start of the year, my husband and I headed out west for a quick trip to Colorado.

The impetus for the trip was seeing one of my all-time favorite bands, Murder by Death.

They’ve been playing a show at the historic Stanley Hotel for the past few years, and I’ve always wanted to attend. This was the fifth anniversary for the shows, as well as my husband’s and my 15-year anniversary (since we started dating), so it seemed like the perfect time to finally pull the trigger and go!

Murder by Death concert poster
Concert poster

This was a bucket list trip. We’d be staying at the Stanley Hotel! When telling people about the trip, I was actually surprised how many people hadn’t heard of the Stanley–and of the weird looks they gave me when I told them it was haunted (this is probably a good time to tell you that I love Halloween).

The twins from The Shining

I actually didn’t know until planning this trip that Kubrick’s The Shining was not actually filmed at the Stanley. The association between the hotel and the book was a stay at the hotel where Stephen King and his wife were the only guests. King had terrible nightmares, and upon waking, he felt inspired to write the story. King actually hated Kubrick’s interpretation of the book and filmed his own made-for-TV version that was shot at the Stanley. I haven’t had any luck tracking this version down, but I’d love to watch it!

Although the popularity of the book and subsequent film made the Stanley a popular tourist destination, it was already developing its own creepy history.

Stanley Hotel
Me in front of the Stanley

Freelan Oscar Stanley–inventor (with his twin brother) of the Stanley Steamer–built the hotel , which opened in 1909. It became quite the destination, with families staying for full summers and events regularly taking place. It languished by the ’70s, but the release of the The Shining and the spread of ghost stories made the hotel a hot spot once again.

There’s an episode of the podcast Lore that talks more about the hotel’s haunted history–check it out if you’re interested! Here’s also a short article covering more of the details. The most haunted rooms are supposedly the fourth floor and room 217 (where King stayed).  Guests have reported hearing children laughing, having their luggage unpacked (honestly, I wouldn’t mind that one), and even seeing figures.

We flew into Denver and, after a quick bite, drove the ~90 min up to Estes Park. We stayed at the Stanley for two nights. I was so excited once we saw the white hotel start to peek out against the mountains. The Stanley is just a few minutes from Rocky Mountain National Park, and the scenery alone was absolutely gorgeous.

The Historic Stanley Hotel with blue sky in background
The Historic Stanley Hotel

Coming in early January, we weren’t sure what to expect weather-wise, but we lucked out! We left sub zero windchills in Michigan and met 40-50 degree weather in Colorado. We took advantage and walked the hotel grounds after checking into our room.

The first night, we did a ghost tour of the hotel. The Stanley offers two tours: one is a historic tour, and the other is the night spirits tour. If you’ve ever done a ghost tour, this met the traditional mold–flashlights turning on and off, divining rods, and a few creepy stories. Most of the tour was spent in the hotel’s concert hall, which is supposedly one of the most haunted spots on the grounds.

Hallway at the hotel
Obligatory creepy hallway picture

Our guide shared a bit about some of the spirits haunting the building: Paul, a former employee and guard; Eddie, a former convict who was later employed by the hotel as part of a program to help transition inmates back into the career force; Lucy, a teenage runaway; and three children. None died on the property, but the theory is that they returned to a place they bonded with in life.

Nothing particularly eventful happened on our tour, but the guide told some good stories and shared pictures from other tours where people captured images of ghostly figures in period clothing. Even though she showed us photos, I’m what I’d call a hopeful skeptic. I am open to the idea of the existence of the supernatural, but until I actually experience something, I find it hard to believe. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the stories or that I won’t keep trying! (Although if I did ever experience anything, I’d probably run out of the room screaming.)

Even though we didn’t meet a ghost (friendly or otherwise), I’d definitely recommend the tour! It’s about $25 a person and lasts 90 minutes, and you get to go in a neat cavern beneath the hotel (where there’s reportedly a ghost cat!).

Sadly, no ghosts popped up behind me in the mirror

The next day, we headed out to explore the Rocky Mountains (I’ll cover that in another post) before the concert. The concert is a formal affair in homage of the last shot of The Shining film, which shows Jack Torrance in a group picture taken at the hotel several decades earlier. Everyone was decked out in their finest twenties apparel–it was a really good time. We got dressed up and headed down to the hotel restaurant for dinner before the show. One cool thing about the hotel (aside from its history, hauntings, and insane whiskey bar) is that it offers two themed beers brewed by Estes Park Brewery: The Shining Pale Ale and the Redrum Red Ale. Both were good, but I preferred the Red. I also had an insanely delicious cocktail called the “Lucky Lucy” that contained bourbon, cognac, lemon, grapefruit, and agave syrup. I’m not a cocktail person, but this was so good I had a second (and felt pretty good the rest of the night).

The Shining Ale and Redrum Ale
The Shining Ale and Redrum Ale

The concert was amazing. I’ve seen Murder by Death several times, from outdoor festivals to an old lagering cavern in Kentucky. The first time I saw them, they were opening for My Chemical Romance in a tiny basement venue in Detroit (to give you an idea of how long ago that was!). They always put on a great show, and if you haven’t heard them, I suggest you check them out (don’t be scared off by the name!).

Murder by Death performing
Murder by Death!

One creepy thing did happen during our stay: my husband experienced sleep paralysis one night, which he’s never had before or since. He said it felt like something was holding him down. He eventually fell back asleep. Ghost? Or simply a dream that felt real?

All in all, it was a ton of fun, and I’d highly recommend a stay at The Stanley! It was definitely a bucket list trip.


This turned into an extremely long post, so thanks for hanging in there! I’ll cover the rest in a future post!

Tell me: Do you believe in ghosts? Have you ever stayed at a haunted hotel?

2 thoughts on “Colorado Vacation (Part 1): The Stanley Hotel”

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