Colorado 112We recently took a family vacation out to Colorado to see some nature. Normally, when we travel I research our destination’s history and find either a historical biography or a novel set in the area to learn about the people and the culture. For this trip, I chose The Shining by Stephen King.  Ok, it is not exactly high brow literature or history but it sure made the trip fun.

room 217One of our destinations was the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park.  For those who don’t know, this historic hotel was the inspiration for King’s book.  The story on the street is that the King family was living in Boulder and King’s wife decided one day that they needed a break from the kids (always a good source of inspiration).  On the advice of locals they headed to The Stanley about 50 miles away.  They did not have reservations (remember no internet) and arrived the day before the hotel was to close for the winter.

After convincing the manager to let them stay the night the Kings were put in room 217, which was reportedly haunted. According to King, when they dined in the grand dining hall all the chairs were up on the tables except theirs and taped orchestra music echoed eerily throughout the hotel.   

After his wife went to bed King roamed the empty hotel and by the end of the night he had the skeleton of the book laid out in his head (for more see, Stephen King Country: The Illustrated Guide to the Sites and Sights That Inspired the Modern Master of Horror by George Beahm).


History of the Stanley Hotel

The hotel was built in 1907 by Freelan and Flora Stanley, who ironically had also just moved from Maine like Stephen King. Stanley had made his fortune as a co-inventor of the Stanley Steamer motor car and there is a beautifully maintained car in the lobby. The entire hotel still has a turn-of-the-century feel. In front there is a lovely porch to relax and sip lemonade or champagne and reflect on an era gone by as you enjoy the spectacular view of Rocky Mountain National Park.Colorado porch

We did not stay in room 217 (book well in advance if you want it) but we did have a nice quiet room on the third floor. For those who prefer more modern accommodations, the hotel also has luxury cottages. The hotel capitalizes on the association with the book and the film runs 24/7 on the television. It also has a haunted tour, which would be great for older kids but it was too scary for our child. We had dinner and breakfast in the hotel and both were very good but don’t expect 5 star cuisine.

I planned it so that I finished the last chapter of the book during our stay at the hotel and like King, after my family was asleep, I took a walk through the long quiet corridors to find room 217. It was spooky fun. The hotel manager must have been glad that he made the decision to let the Kings stay that night.

Or maybe it was the hotel itself that wanted them there…