Behind the Scenes of the Stanley Hotel: A Haunted History

May 31, 2023 (Last updated on: November 30, 2023)
estes parks stanley hotel

If you’re a horror enthusiast, you’ve undoubtedly heard all the spooky tales and ghost stories surrounding the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. The historic hotel’s mysterious and otherworldly entertainment attracts tourists and ghost hunters from all over the country.

Established in 1909 by Freelan Oscar Stanley and his wife Flora, the Stanley Hotel became an instant favorite among the wealthy elite who sought peace in the Rocky Mountains.

With its unique location in the Rocky Mountains, the hotel offers a luxurious retreat for those searching for relaxation and a rich and colorful history for those seeking an exhilarating ghost-hunting adventure. It’s said that the ghosts whom the Stanley Hotel houses span eras and social classes – from the royal Lord Dunraven, a visitor at the end of the 19th century who failed to complete his plans to build a Scottish-style mansion on the land, to ordinary housekeepers famous guests who passed away at the hotel long ago.

Here’s a closer look at the Stanley Hotel’s haunted history and what makes it a popular spot for those searching for paranormal adventures.

A Look into the History of the Stanley Hotel

The Stanley Hotel was built by Flora and Freelan Stanley in 1909. Although the hotel was designed by the famous F.O. Stanley, who invented the Stanley Steamer, it was Flora who was primarily responsible for the luxurious aesthetic elements of the hotel’s design. She wanted to make Stanley the most famous hotel in Estes Park – a goal they certainly achieved. By 1915, the hotel had over sixty rooms and even boasted essential air conditioning – an incredible achievement for a luxury hotel of that era.

The hotel remained a hotspot for wealthy guests and celebrities throughout the early 20th century. The history of the Stanley Hotel is closely entwined with that of the Rocky Mountain National Park, which was opened to visitors in 1915. The national park and the Stanley Hotel were the brainchild of Freelan Stanley, who founded the hotel to entertain his friends.

Eerie and imposing, the Stanley Hotel stands tall, exuding an otherworldly aura

Guest Rooms at the Stanley Hotel

Today, the Stanley Hotel has 142 guest rooms, each with its unique and distinctive style – some famously haunted. A former hotel housekeeper, Elizabeth Wilson is known for her meticulous work, even in the afterlife. Legend has it that in 1911, a pipe burst in Room 217, occupied by a wealthy guest who needed to be moved to another room.

Elizabeth volunteered to stay in Room 217 to ensure the damaged pipe was repaired immediately. As she was holding the candle that the guests left behind during their evacuation, it ignited the gas leak and caused an explosion. Elizabeth survived the blast, and her spirit is rumored to roam the halls of Room 217 still. Guests who spend the night in the haunted Room 217 often report rumpled sheets and being woken by the smell of pipe tobacco which no one was smoking.

Room 217 is also known for its role in one of the most famous thrillers of all time, Stephen King’s “The Shining.” Mr. King and his wife Tabitha visited the Stanley Hotel in 1973, intending to spend one night, but they left after three hours. They stayed in Room 217, heard strange noises, and witnessed many other paranormal incidents.

The room’s ghosts would be the main inspiration for King’s spooky and iconic characters in “The Shining.” Stephen King’s book was turned into a film by Stanley Kubrick in 1980, using an entirely different hotel for the exterior shots, the Overlook Hotel, which is far spookier than the Stanley. Still today, guests can take part in a special tour that visits some of the Stanley Hotel’s iconic and inspiring famous book that has become one of Stephen King’s most acclaimed works.

The haunted halls of the Stanley Hotel beckon with their grand, yet ghostly presence.

Exploring the Rocky Mountains National Park

Another reason why tourists come to the Stanley Hotel is its picturesque location, right at the edge of the Rocky Mountain National Park. Visitors to the park can take on many different activities, such as hiking, camping, rock climbing, and various adventures.

Indeed, the park offers a fantastic experience for those who love outdoor activities and appreciate the beauty of the great outdoors. However, some visitors to the hotel tour of the park have also shared ghostly experiences with supernatural beings in the area.

Filming location for Stephen King’s and Stanley Kubrick’s Films

The Stanley Hotel has become so iconic that it’s even been featured in movies and television shows. While Stanley inspired Stephen King’s “The Shining,” Stanley Kubrick’s cinematic interpretation of King’s book was filmed in a studio in England. The movie’s iconic hedge maze and grand rooms were all recreations of the hotel.

However, for a more accurate representation of the hotel in popular culture, visitors can check out the Stanley Hotel’s original billiard room, which inspired the infamous ballroom scene in Kubrick’s movie. Both Stephen King’s and Stanley Kubrick’s works have played significant roles in cementing the Stanley Hotel’s reputation as a haunted getaway destination.

Gothic elegance takes a ghostly turn at the Stanley Hotel, where paranormal whispers fill the air.

The Stanley Hotel’s Role in Pop Culture

The Stanley Hotel’s reputation as a horror and ghost-hunting destination has primarily been shaped by its role in popular culture. No hotel worldwide has significantly impacted the horror genre more than the Stanley Hotel.

The hotel’s haunted reputation and rich history have made it a popular location for movies, TV shows, and ghost tours. It’s said that nearly every room, corridor hotel bar, and lounge in the Stanley Hotel has a story of its own. Ghost hunters and tour guides claim that the Stanley is one of the most haunted hotels in the world.

The Restaurant and Bar Scene at the Stanley Hotel

The Stanley Hotel offers guests many options for dining and drinking, and for a genuinely authentic hotel experience, visitors can dine at the Cascade Restaurant and Whiskey Bar. One of the highlights of dining at the Cascade Restaurant and Whiskey Bar is the chance to see and hear ghosts.

Piano music was frequently heard from the grand piano in the hotel lobby. Some say that the piano still plays around midnight, and if you listen closely, you’ll even hear the sound of phantom footsteps walking around the grand ballroom.

Amidst its Victorian charm, the Stanley Hotel's haunted facade gives off an unsettling vibe.

The Stanley Hotel Today

The Stanley Hotel remains a famous hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, and it has undergone many renovations over the years while retaining its old-world charm with modern amenities. Today there are more than 40 fireplaces throughout the historic hotel, including one in every guest room, ensuring guests feel right at home during colder months.

The hotel also boasts a lovely garden with outdoor seating and numerous indoor activities. Guests can also explore the historical and cultural region of the Estes Valley, which is home to dozens of local shops, galleries, and other historic places worth exploring.

Haunted Happenings at the Stanley Hotel

Despite the many renovations and changes the Stanley Hotel has seen over the years, its ghostly inhabitants’ sightings persist. Paranormal experiences reported by hotel staff and guests include sightings of the ghosts of children playing in the hallway, the sound of laughter coming from vacant rooms, and even inexplicable cold drafts of air. The fourth floor at the Stanley Hotel is believed to emit many supernatural occurrences, with paranormal activity usually reported during the early morning hours.

Haunted Tours at the Stanley Hotel

Several haunted tours are also available for those looking to explore the hotel’s paranormal activities. Visitors can participate in the traditional ghost tour, the night tour, or even the “spirits tour,” where they can learn about the history of the Stanley Hotel and its famous ghosts while enjoying a whiskey-tasting experience. Guests on haunted tours have reported seeing everything from apparitions of former hotel guests and staff to ghostly pets.


The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, is an extraordinary destination for anyone seeking a luxurious vacation or an exciting adventure. This hotel has a rich history, haunted rooms, ghostly sightings, and a beautiful surrounding landscape. From the hotel’s history to not all the ghosts and legends surrounding it, the Stanley Hotel has become one of the most famous hotels in the world. If you’re brave enough, you should consider booking a stay or taking one of Stanley’s many haunted tours. Undoubtedly, the Stanley Hotel will remain an iconic symbol of the Rocky Mountains’ beauty and fears for many generations to come.