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The History Behind the Luxury, Part 3

The Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, CO


As I'm sitting down to write the last installment of this series, it's Halloween afternoon, so I was inspired to look up "the most haunted hotel in the US" and discovered The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. In fact, it's so notorious that Stephen King checked in (intentionally) and wrote The Shining. So... here it goes.


Freelan Oscar Stanley was born in 1849 in Kingfield, Maine and became a well-known American inventor and architect. He and his twin brother, Francis, started their first business together at the age of nine selling maple sugar. At the age of eleven, their great-uncle taught them the art of violin making, and by the age of sixteen, Freeland had completed three instruments. He continued to make instruments throughout his life, and they became coveted concert-quality pieces. By 1885, he and Francis had started the Stanley Dry Plate Company, becoming prominent (and wealthy) for creating the first dry photographic plate. What the brothers become best-known for, however, was the Stanley Motor Carriage Company, which produced steam-powered vehicles until 1920.


In 1903, Freelan became very ill, having contracted a life-threatening case of tuberculosis and, as was common at the time, doctors recommended fresh air with lots of sunlight to help him recover. He and his wife, Flora, traveled to Rocky Mountain Colorado and, by the end of 1903, Stanley had acquired land in Estes Park. He recovered and returned to his home in Massachusetts, however, he and Flora remained appreciative of the beauty and "healing powers" of Colorado and returned every year. Used to more luxurious accommodations than the primitive cabin he had stayed in during his time there, Stanley decided he wanted to turn Estes Park into a resort town that would appeal to his wealthy friends. He and his wife began imagining a luxurious hotel, and the first guests arrived at The Stanley Hotel (in Stanley-designed vehicles) in 1909. Throughout the years, the hotel hosted such famous guests as Theodore Roosevelt, "The Unsinkable" Molly Brown, the Emperor and Empress of Japan, and several Hollywood celebrities.


The hotel remained a grand resort in the Rocky Mountains for many decades, but by the 1970s, it had fallen into disrepair and may have eventually faded away if it hadn't been for the visit from author Stephen King. From a single night's stay in room 217, he had enough material to write his first bestseller, The Shining.

And now for the more spirited portion of our story... F.O. Stanley himself and his wife Flora are said to frequent the hotel, still playing host and hostess, and Flora is also said to enjoy playing the piano for hotel guests. Room 407 is said to sometimes be occupied by Lord Dunraven, who owned the land prior to the Stanleys, and stories of children are also common. One couple reportedly left the hotel very early one morning complaining of not being able to sleep because of the children playing in the hall all night. No children were booked in the hotel at the time. Hotel staff also tell of a small child being seen throughout the hotel, a child Stephen King reported seeing on the second floor calling out to his nanny. And one of the famous otherworldly residents is said to be Elizabeth Wilson. In the 1920s, a gas leak occurred that caused an explosion and nearly killed Elizabeth. She survived and returned to her job as a hotel chambermaid, a job she held until her death at the age of 90. After her death, the hotel began receiving reports of a hovering chambermaid walking through closed doors, unmarried couples being forced apart while they slept and single men having their bags packed and left outside. As one paranormal investigator said, "Mrs. Wilson does what she wants, to who she wants." Considered one of the most haunted hotels in America, what makes The Stanley Hotel unique is that no deaths or horrible occurrences happened in the hotel. It appears more like the guests enjoyed working or staying there so much that they didn't want to leave.

Today, the Stanley offers four types of accommodations: the original, historic hotel rooms in The Stanley; updated historic rooms in The Lodge; modern apartment-style rooms with kitchenettes in Aspire; and 1-3 bedroom condominiums in the Residences. For those looking for a "spirited" stay, you can request these rooms specifically. Or, if you'd rather not meet Mr. and Mrs. Stanley and their friends, the hotel offers plenty of other less spirited options.


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