Saturday, July 14, 2012

Stanley Hotel, Haunted History?

I decided I needed a weekend away - away from our ancient and worn mountains and the stifling heat and humidity of the Southeast to somewhere with jagged peaks of a younger range, snow still capping mountains, and a potential to see the Milky Way without the hazy blur of water saturated air.  So, I booked myself (and Funkdubie) a weekend in Colorado.  It's Funkdubie's first trip to the Rockies, so I rented a convertible and booked our stay in a historic (built in 1909 by F.O. Stanley of Stanley Steamer/Engine fame) lodge known as the Stanley Hotel.  The Lodge is historic - a love of mine and an insurmountable call when nestled in the grandeur of mountains - and boasts guests such as The Unsinkable Molly Brown, Theodore Roosevelt, and Japanese royalty.

Built in 1909, The historic Stanley Hotel of Estes Park, CO.
It was only after booking our flights, hotel, car, etc - about the time when the confirmation emails all start pouring in - that I noticed 2 little words on the "things to do" at the lodge:

"Haunted Tours".  

Anyone who knows me knows I'm a science geek with a penchant for wishing cryptic things exist. It's an interest that I have because I'm a very logical person with an eclectic past* and a very open mind.  So, I clicked it.  Low-and-behold, I seem to have booked a hotel with history.  Stephen King even stayed this hotel which inspired the setting for the book The Shining.  He did also allow his room, room 217, to show up in the work and there are other influences from the hotel, but I promise you he wasn't a casual traveler who stayed here and "boom" - idea for book due to experiences.  (It's worthy to note that he already had the idea for the Shining in his mind, hence the 'up and move the family' to Boulder, Colorado - also the setting for much of The Stand.) Beyond that, there's a menagerie of "weird" things that happen here.  There are certain rooms reported to be more haunted than others but, in general, the 4th floor is a hotbed of 'paranormal activity'.  So, of course, I called the hotel and requested a room on the 4th floor (which I was granted for 1 of the 2 nights I am staying).

I was advised that for the first night I would be allowed to stay in room 428.  I jokingly asked the very personable receptionist if it was haunted and she said "enough where you can google it and get a lot of information."  I told her I liked that idea and also told her to sign me and Funk up for the ghost tour.  I was hesitant to look up any history on room 428 - or on the hotel in general.  I think that one's mind can easily deceive, especially if it has preconceived notions on what to 'expect'.  For 2 weeks I haven't looked anything up.  This morning, however, additional logic set it and I decided I already had preconceived expectations because I wasn't going into the experience unknowingly.  That being said, I'm already an invalid data sample and may as well read more.  "Research" is easier done than said in this case, there are HUNDREDS of "fo' real paranormal investigators, we promise we're legit cuz we use acronyms!" that claim to have conducted scientific research at the hotel.  I love this stuff, not for it's scientific credibility but more for a comedic appreciation. Anyhow, here's some of the rumors... err, I mean facts. (Of note, I have color-coded REAL facts in purple.)

Hotel: The Rocky Mountain Paranormal Team have created a stellar ensemble of history about the hotel here and their investigation included the now famous "TAPS Ghost Hunters". Most of the 'tales' from the haunted hotel are very similar and echo the mundane experiences that I can't really give logical credence to.  Floating orbs in pictures are far too explainable through dust particles, the "feeling" of someone being in a room can be completely self-wrought if that is what you're expecting.  The sounds of children play in halls is decent (rumors abound that S. King saw a little girl who called to his nanny in a hall) but if it was that frequent, wouldn't we have some audio proof?  I mean, the hotel was built in 1909,... that seems like a long enough time for someone to have nabbed some audio?!

Room 428: Room 428 is "google-able".  Whether the information is credible is a different story.  The "Paranormal Outcast Team" stayed in my room and reported window slamming, strange noises and items relocating (of note, only 1 of the 4 mentioned the items disappearing or ending up in the other's bag).  The Missouri Ghost Hunter's Society also appeared to land my room and a few others on the 4th floor. They report doors opening, shadows, feelings of not being alone, etc etc.  The "Spirit Seekers" said there was writing on a mirror (and also provided inaccurate history regarding King's inspiration for the Shining as being the ghosts of the hotel).

4th Floor: The "Colorado Ghosts" states the hot bed for activity is room 418, alas, not mine.  They say that this is the most active room according to the employees who have reported noises, 'imprints' on the bed, etc.  They are also one of the many who state that the essence of the owner's wife (Flora Stanley) is also very well known to still play the piano.  Spooky Mountain News and The Coloradoan (unverified) supposedly also talk about the piano, staff experiences, etc.

Room 217:  Room 217 is the room that Stephen King stayed in during his brief visit.  He and his family were - literally - the only guests in the hotel that night as it was the last night before the hotel closed for the season.  I should state here that I adore Stephen King and he is my favorite author - I've traveled hundreds of miles just to see him play bass in his band (yes, he's in a band).  I have an autograph from his son (also an author).  But the moment that I trust Stephen King's late night escapades into a deserted, historic hotel is likely the same day that feral, winged pigs fly out of my tookey.  I mean... it's Stephen King... have you read his stuff?  That man has an imagination like no one else; horrors rattle around in his head that could strip the paint off a wall or the shine off of silver! Love him! Anyhow, room 217's history doesn't entail death, just a chambermaid who was in an "explosion" accident and suffered 2 broken ankles as a result.

So, essentially I'm going into my stay with three thoughts:

  1. I am not valid sample data.  I can't rely on a single "feeling" that I may have that someone's in the room, blah blah blah.  I'm already predisposed to 'look' for something where there's nothing simply because it's what I'm virtually expecting due to exposure.  I do wish to hear piano playing, if Ms. Stanley is talented with it.  On the flip side, I hope not to hear children playing in the hall at all hours of the night.  Unlike other visitors who 'check out early' or those that just get 'creeped out'... I'm far more inclined to throw open a door and start cussing like a sea-jaded sailor.  I do like my sleep, after all. 
  2. It would take a ghost literally challenging me to a pudding-wresting contest and then beating me in that contest for me to depart the Stanley with claims of haunting.  I'm not one of "those" people who see things in the dark (I mean, I camp alone on the side of mountains... the only thing I'm afraid of are trolling men).  
  3. I hope the weather is decent so I can take Funk through the mountains with the top down and, because the Stanley is historic, it doesn't have air conditioning.  
If, by some odd chance that the solar systems are aligned and I were to mud-wrestle a ghost, I'll be sure and let you all know.... 

*Once, Funk and I were staying in a historic B&B in Gettysburg and couldn't sleep b/c of the racket from the room above us.  Over breakfast the following morning we told the B&B owners that we either needed a new room or they needed to tell whomever in the room above us that moving chairs on hardwood floors made it impossible for us to sleep and was very rude of them at all hours of the night.  The B&B owners looked at us in a peculiar manner - like we were a strange breed of insect - while we ranted.  Then they told us there was no one booked in the room above us.  Ghost? Maybe.  Raccoon or Opossum? Maybe... it was December, perhaps it was just wildlife taking refuge from the cold?

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