Stanley ghost tour popular with park visitors

ESTES PARK, Colo. —Nestled 7,500 feet high in the Rocky Mountains, below cascading peaks and above the charming town of Estes Park sits the historic, elegant and famously haunted Stanley Hotel.

Its red-peaked spires are a beacon for curious guests. Its lobby is dimly lit and complete with luxurious leather couches and a giant and overbearing wooden front desk. As with most hours of the day, the lobby and wrap-around front porch are abuzz with inquiring visitors.

The front entrance of the main building of the Stanley Hotel (Photo by Zongchao Li).

Tidbits of questions about Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film “The Shining” and guestroom 217 can be heard from all corners of the hotel. It is a perfect preservation of early 1900s American glamour. You are half expecting men in top hats and women in petticoats to come traipsing down the staircase for dinner.

Staff members of the hotel call it “happily haunted,” a place where ghosts of summers past reportedly stick around to care for, relax in and play at the hotel that was once a resort and playground to some of the wealthiest and most famous socialites in the country.

The Stanley is certainly known for its several ghostly guests, five of them to be exact, but staff members such as Kevin Lofy, the historic tour supervisor, are more proud of the hotel’s founder than anything else. F.O. Stanley began building the hotel in 1907.

When completed, the resort grounds contained an ice pond, golf course, 11 buildings, and complete servants’ quarters. Stanley, best known for his steam powered automobile, the “Stanley Steamer,” dedicated much of his life to the lovely town of Estes Park and its crown architectural jewel, The Stanley.

“When people walk through the lobby [here], they have stepped back in time,” Lofy stated.

At right, Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 adaptation of the Shining was not shot in the Stanley hotel despite Stephen King’s requests. The exterior shots of the hotel were shot at the Timberline Lodge in Mount Hood Oregon instead. Below, the famous room 217 is booked practically every night of the year. Famous guests include John Wayne, John McCain, and Jim Carey. (Photos by Rebecca Lattanzio and Koutrokoisri Koutrokois).

More than 100 years of circulating guests has left little changed. The lobby is still grandiose with a banistered wooden staircase, there is a music room built by request for Flora Stanley, F.O.’s wife, and there is still no air conditioning in the building.

“What I like about the hotel is that the spectacle of it, the reason people came here 101 years ago, still hasn’t changed,” said Lofy, “We throw parties just like the Stanleys did, the history’s not dead here. Now it’s like our story.”

Lofy and his team of ghost tour guides give three to 14 tours per day in the off-season and as many as 24 per day during the summer season. Each tour hosts about 20 people, so there is no question that the hotel has developed a reputation over the years.

Most of this buzz has stemmed from one of The Stanley’s most famous guests, author Stephen King. King stayed in the hotel’s presidential suite, room 217, in 1973 the night before the hotel was to be closed for the season and the experience served as inspiration for his novel The Shining.

The book was later made into the internationally known movie, although to King’s disappointment, it was not shot at the Estes Park location.

The foundation of the novel and its eerie characters, though, were conceptualized in The Stanley, behind the door of room 217. A door that one tour guide calls “the most photographed hotel room door in the world.”

“Just today I had a group of people here from Germany. They had asked to come up to see the hotel. It has a sort of cult following,” said Lofy.

King didn’t report any supernatural experiences while staying at the hotel, but its guests’ countless accounts of ghost sightings and mysterious experiences has made it a “Ghost Hunters” television show hot spot and has given the hotel the rare classification as a “true haunt.”

“This is like Disneyland for supernatural investigators,” said Lofy.

Some of the resident ghosts that supposedly roam the halls are Mr. and Mrs. Stanley, Lucy who haunts the Concert Hall, Lord Dunraven, a notorious historical gambler and womanizer, Mrs. Wilson, the caretaker of room 217, as well as a slew of children on the uber-haunted fourth floor.

Whether you believe in supernatural activity or not, the dark hallways and old white windows seem to invite ghost stories. You catch guests and visitors on the tours, constantly looking over their shoulders, almost waiting to be brushed by a child still playing 101 years later.

Recent Stanley guests Amber Pangallo, Shelby Vogelpohl and Stacy Packer have no doubt that the hotel has guests that have yet to check out. The two teenage girls, Pangallo and Vogelpohl, as well as mom Packer, stayed in room 208 before moving to the fourth floor and they have no shortage of spooky stories.

“Right off the bat, I literally walked in [to the room] and the toilet flushed,” said Vogelpohl. “The bath towels were moving back and forth, so I ran out.”

At right, the Stanley Hotel offers ghost tours all day. The tour guides see thousands of visitors a week from all over the world looking to be a part of the Stanley’s history. Below, the hotel is only four floors and still has no air conditioning. In 2009 the Stanley hotel celebrated its 100th anniversary.

After bringing up the hotel’s resident psychic to investigate, the girls came to their own conclusion that a male ghost was following them on their stay.

“We figured it’s probably because I brought two young pretty girls up here,” said Packer, an avid believer in the supernatural.

The experience is different for each guest. Some say they hear children running through the halls above them during the night. In fact the hotel telephone operator claims to get three or four calls a month from guests complaining about the racket on the fourth floor, a racket that doesn’t actually exist.

Some say they hear a piano playing while no one is in sight. Some say they have seen Mr. Stanley lounging at the bar. And others report no ghost stories whatsoever.

Either way the hotel is a must-see historical site and the true testament of the do-gooder that its creator F.O. Stanley was in his day.

“Let’s just say this isn’t the Marriott,” said Packer with a grin.

If You Go

The Stanley Hotel
333 Wonderview Ave.
Estes Park, CO 80517

888-827-1973 Toll Free
970-285-3518 Local

Directions from Denver International Airport to The Stanley Hotel (taken from
North on Pena Boulevard to terminal departures and airport exit
Take Pena Boulevard
Take E-470 N, exit number 6B
Merge onto E-470 North
Merge onto I-25 N / U.S. 87 N, towards Fort Collins
Take the Colorado Route 66, exit 243 to Lyons.
Turn left onto Colorado Route 66 to Estes Park, Continue to follow CR 66
CR 66 becomes U.S. 36 West.
Follow U.S. 36 to Estes Park.
Stay straight at St. Vrain / Colorado Route 7 stop light and Elkhorn / Colorado Route 34 onto
East Wonderview Avenue
Take second right into Stanley Hotel.

There are two restaurants within the hotel as well as a spa.


Stanley Hotel Ghost Tours

  •    Times available throughout the day
  •    Maximum of 25 people per tour
  •    No dogs or children under the age of 5
  •    $15 per person/ $10 for children ages 5-10
  •    Advance reservations required. Please call 970-577-4110

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