Friday, November 11, 2016

Stanley Hotel - Estes Park, CO (The Birth of Redrum)

333 E Wonderview Ave.
Estes Park, CO 80517

I have always had an immense love for horror movies. This love has fortunately been passed down to my daughter, who is equally an aficionado for the sinister cinema. My son, on the other hand, wants no part of anything remotely spooky! Sadly, most of the horror movies of today are not very good and if there happens to be a decent one, it is likely a remake of a classic. Personally, there are no better horror movies than those produced in the 60's, 70's and 80's. Sure, the special effects may not have always been the most realistic but I think that is what makes them so good. Nothing like the neon red blood used in George Romero's Dawn of the Dead or Dario Argento's Suspiria!
What many people may not realize is that there are quite a few fictitious horror movies that are not quite as fictitious as you might think. Many of the classics were at least inspired by some sort of real life events. For instance, Silence of the Lambs was inspired by the true life terror reigned by the Plainfield, Wisconsin serial killer and necrophiliac, Ed Gein. Additionally, while Tobe Hooper's classic, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre was also loosely based on Gein, the whole premise of the character Leatherface is rather comical. During a busy holiday season, Hooper was standing in what seemed like an endless line of shoppers at a department store. As most of us in such a similar situation, Hooper became so aggravated with the crowds, he glanced over to the hardware department and noticed several chainsaws on display. In a moment of hidden rage, Hooper thought, “I bet I could really reduce these crowds with one of those chainsaws!” The rest is history and an instant classic was born for years to come and would ultimately be one of my all time favorites! However, nothing can top my all time favorite movie, the Stanley Kubrick's classic, The Shining.

As incredible as the 1980 film is, it is based on the 1977 novel written by none other than Stephen King. The story begins with a businessman by the name of Jack Torrance. Jack decides to take over
A true horror classic!
the caretaker duties of the Overlook Hotel during the winter months, which is set deep in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. He is soon told that the hotel was home to a horrible murder/suicide. Although briefly unnerved by the stories, he blows them off and brings in his wife, Wendy, and clairvoyant son, Danny. As Danny begins to get visions of the horrendous events that took place over the years, Jack literally takes on the persona of the hotel as well as the decades of murder and violence, ultimately going mad. Without spoiling any more of the book/film, in case you have lived under a rock for the last few decades and have never seen the film or read the book, I highly recommend doing both.
For the vast majority who are familiar with The Shining, a good bit of people are not aware that true events inspired Stephen King to write such a terrifying piece of paranormal prose. (say that five times fast!) After writing his previous classics Carrie and Salem's Lot, King was looking for a change of scenery to stir up his creative juices for another story. He would literally open up an atlas at his kitchen table and blindly point to a spot on the map. Whether it be by fate or pure chance, his finger landed on Boulder, Colorado. As he and his wife, Tabitha, visited the area, they soon ended up in the small town of Estes Park, about thirty minutes northwest of Boulder. Here, they would find a beautiful hotel known as The Stanley.
The history of The Stanley Hotel begins with the life of the man whom the hotel is named after. Freelan Oscar Stanley, along with his brother Francis Edgar, were owners of the Stanley Motor Carriage Company. The company was extremely successful and the two became quite wealthy from their creation. Bad luck would not spare the fortunate, as F.O. Stanley would contract the ever-so-common disease for the time, tuberculosis. As we have just learned with Waverly Hills Sanatorium, experimental treatments for the ravenous disease ranged from the mild to the deadly. However, good old fashion sunlight and fresh air proved to work wonders for TB. After some research, Stanley would discover that the small town of Estes Park had plenty of both. In June of 1903, he and his wife, Flora, would stay several months in Estes Park. For the next several years, Stanley would fluctuate residency between Estes Park and his hometown of Newton, Massachusetts. Mother Nature's prescription proved to be advantageous, as Stanley would miraculously recover from TB by 1907. Although cured, Stanley had fallen in love with the small town and would permanently move there.
Breathtaking view from the front porch.
Once settled in, Stanley and his wife decided to build a grand hotel to accommodate local and out of town socialites, especially those from Newton. He would purchase 160 acres of land from Windham Thomas Wyndham-Quin, the Earl of Dunraven. Here, Stanley would build the original 48-room hotel, which was completed in 1909. The hotel was quite lavished for the time as it featured a hydraulic elevator, dual electric and gas lighting, running water, a telephone in every guest room and a fleet of specially-designed Stanley "Model Z" Mountain Wagons to bring guests from the train depot twenty miles away!
Today, The Stanley has grown in size but is still known as one of the finest hotels in the country. Celebrities and other notable figures continue to stay at The Stanley, primarily in suite 217. Individuals such as Theodore Roosevelt, Titanic surviver  Molly “Unsinkable” Brown and Jim Carey all stayed in Room 217. Carey stayed here during the filming of Dumb and Dumber and the hotel is featured several times throughout the film. Other celebrities that have rested their heads at The
View of Room 217.
Stanley are Johnny Cash, Wayne Newton, Tony Bennett, Rebecca DeMornay and Billy Graham. It is home to a wonderful restaurant and one of the largest whiskey bars in the United States. Just thought I had to throw that in there for you guys!
I have had the privilege to visit Estes Park several times and personally, it is one of the most beautiful towns I have ever been to. The peak season in the town is normally the spring, when large elk, mule deer and other wildlife roam the streets and the flora is in full bloom. Only about four to five miles from the entrance gate to the Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park brings in thousands of tourists during this peak season. Personally, I prefer the winter months here, as the crowds die down to a slow trickle and the winter is beautiful. Unfortunately, the elevation which is well over 8,000 ft above sea level is torturous for an old cajun like me who is used to altitudes of about 100 feet! I swear, when visiting, I get winded dialing long distance on a rotary phone! However, King and his wife thought along the same lines as myself, as they would visit Estes Park and The Stanley on October 30, 1974.
View of the hallway on the 4th floor.
The off season proved to be just what the doctor ordered for King, as he and his wife were the only two occupants in the hotel. Other than a few staff, the Kings had the place to themselves. King would opt to stay in suite 217, yet would regularly roam the empty hallways and dine in the abandoned restaurant. As with many great novelists, King would often incorporate many of his own personal issues into his stories. While battling the onsets of alcoholism and the pent up anger of raising young children, King would also face his inner demons during his hotel stay. He would approach the empty bar and order a drink from the lone bartender, Grady (sound familiar?). As he slowly sipped his drink (perhaps, Bourbon on the rocks, as in the movie), he thought of ways to incorporate these issues into his new novel. As cabin fever began to set in, King would have a nightmare involving his young son who was attacked by the hotel itself, which had literally come to life. As he woke up shaking and in a cold sweat, King knew he had the starting point for one hell of a story!
The rest is history and the iconic Shining was created. For fanatics of the classic film, I regret to inform you that none of it was filmed at The Stanley. Exterior shots of the hotel were actually of the
Beautiful lobby showing one of the Stanley cars.
Timberline Lodge, located at the base of Mount Hood in Oregon. The interior shots were filmed on a completely fabricated set built on a soundstage in Borhamwood, Hertfordshire, Britain. However, the layout was mimicked after the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park. Still, in 1997, a miniseries titled The Shining featuring Rebecca DeMornay and Steven Weber was filmed at The Stanley.
Today, The Stanley is still a luxurious hotel and now brings in tons of paranormal enthusiasts. Not only for those enamored with the movie and novel, but for the years of haunted stories and experiences that have come out the grand hotel. According to The Stanley Hotel's website, there are several spirits that reside there:

-Lord Dunraven is said to resides in room 401.
-Spirits of young children play along the 4th floor hallways.
-Mr. Stanley appears in the bar and in the main lobby.
-Mrs. Stanley has been seen playing the piano in the Music Room.
-Maid Elizabeth Wilson has been seen cleaning Room 217.
-Homeless woman haunts the Concert Hall keeping guard.

In March of 2009, I was fortunate enough to spend the night at The Stanley. Although it was considered the off season, I wasn't lucky enough to have the hotel completely to myself. Still, it was empty enough where I was able to request a room on the fourth floor, which is said to be the most active. For the life of me, I cannot remember the exact room I was in but apparently it was considered to be one of the most active rooms because throughout the evening, I heard several haunted tours walk and stop in front of my room as they talked about the haunted tales. A very nice, yet unsettling, touch is that on one of the in-house television channels, The Shining is played in a continuous loop. Who needs twenty-four hours of A Christmas Story when you have The Shining 24/7/365! Unless spiders are involved, I am not one to be easily spooked but I must admit, there was something eerie about being alone for the night in a haunted hotel room with The Shining constantly playing. To make matters worse, the bathroom strongly resembled the one in Room 237 from the film. All I could picture throughout the night was that creepy naked old woman sitting in the tub! If you do not know what I am referring to, for the last time, please watch the film!

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