[DENVER] Spooky stuff is not my thing. After reading The Amityville Horror, I couldn't sleep on my stomach for years. I grew up Catholic, so I have an active imagination for spirits.
But I knew my daughter, Mia, would be into the Stanley Hotel tour. You've seen the movie The Shining? It originated from the novel by the same name by Stephen King. And the hotel that started it all, the Stanley, is situated in Estes Park, Colorado, gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. Hello, jaw-dropping scenery. So despite the gray, snowy weather (it could only be more ominous if it were January), we headed up.
DD gave Mia of Local Universe and a little friend on the tour suckers to monitor the movement of spirits in the tunnel at The Stanley Hotel.
This wuss right here was really glad that we chose the tour that's approved for kids 8 and older. No way am I staying overnight or doing the seance tour. Maybe you're brave. Maybe you don't believe. I do. I think evil spirits can mess you up. So we took the noon availability and landed DD, the best tour guide ever. She re-enacts events. She tells stories. She makes history great fun for any age. She should be everyone's teacher. See her on most Fridays and Saturdays. We love DD.
One of the staircases that DD says creates a vortex of energy.
The stories are fascinating. You'll learn about the brilliant twin brothers, F.O. and F.E. Stanley, Geminis like me and entrepreneurs at age 5. They made toys, violins, photography, a car and a fortune. You'll learn about tuberculosis, economics, the way women behaved in those days, structural engineering and the environment. And you'll have a ball.
Room 217, allegedly home to the ghost of Miss Wilson. Note the blue energy orb on the door...
Highlights include the story of Miss Elizabeth Wilson, who, upon lighting a gas lamp in Room 217, uncovered a gas leak and prompted an explosion that shot her through the first floor and the basement, where she landed on her feet and the ceiling collapsed on her. She shattered her legs and hips, but her corset saved her spine and her life. When F.O. Stanley visited her in the hospital, he assured her that she was family and would have a job for life. Miss Wilson returned to her job and kept it in the afterlife, lining up favored visitors' shoes, creating cold spots between unmarried couples and scaring actor Jim Carrey right out of his room and the hotel.
You'll also learn about the Cowboy, the spirits of children in the upstairs hallway, and the floating foundation. Fortunately, all that you learn feels relatively safe and full of goodwill. Most wonderful is the story of F.O. and his beloved bride, Flora, who enjoyed long life, great fortune, good friends and adventures together, serving each other until the end. It's a love story to make one swoon.
I was surprised to learn that the popular movie with Jack Nicholson wasn't shot on site; in fact, Stephen King didn't agree with Stanley Kubrick's movie interpretation of his book. He created his own miniseries, filmed at the hotel, to better represent his vision and the setting. I'm torn: I love Stephen King, and I love Jack Nicholson. I guess I need to include the miniseries in my viewing classics.
After an overpriced and under-delivered lunch in the hotel, we headed to downtown Estes to scope out the shopping. But it was somewhat disappointing. Just one shop carried goods from local artisans, and most of that was large-format painting, photography and glass. Beautiful, but not practical for shipping. The rest consisted of the same branded T-shirts and mugs over and over, as well as some Nepal-style clothing and incense, I suppose because we were at elevation. The town largely serves as the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, so I guess one can't expect much beyond that role. There is a Fizz Rocket, which is fun, and a Starbucks, useful for a potty break and a hot drink.
The Stanley Hotel tour is 90 minutes and a bit costly as these things go (there's a AAA discount), so plan your day around it. Keep in mind that if you want Stanley Hotel or Shining memorabilia, you'll likely need to buy it there--the shops don't carry it. (Licenses, likely.) Make reservations for the tour online so you're guaranteed a spot.
F.O. Stanley was a brilliant man, a wonderful husband and a great environmentalist, establishing Estes Park to preserve the scenic beauty and natural resources. If he or his talented pianist wife, Flora, are haunting the hotel, I don't think I mind. Miss Wilson seems like a fairly harmless soul as well. And the kids? Their exuberance seems to lend happy life to the hotel. Go explore the area and take the tour...during the day, of course!