Would You Stay at the Overlook Hotel?

Colorado's Stanley Hotel was spooky long before Stephen King spent the night. He reimagined it as the Overlook for The Shining...and things got even weirder.

As Haunted USA fans know, there’s no shortage of spooky hotels in this country. As horror fans know, one destination rules them all: Stanley Hotel, in scenic Estes Park, Colorado, where Stephen King and his wife, Tabitha, spent the night (in room 217) on October 30, 1974.

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AE17STANLEY__HHR4504

Photo by: Helen H. Richardson

Helen H. Richardson

George Beahm quotes the master of the macabre in Stephen King: America’s Best-Loved Boogeyman:

[The Stanley was] just getting ready to close for the season, and we found ourselves the only guests in the place—with all those long, empty corridors...

That night I dreamed of my three-year-old son running through the corridors, looking back over his shoulder, eyes wide, screaming... I got up, lit a cigarette, sat in a chair looking out the window at the Rockies, and by the time the cigarette was done, I had the bones of [The Shining, his 1977 novel and first hardback bestseller] firmly set in my mind.

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AE17STANLEY__HHR2809

Photo by: Helen H. Richardson

Helen H. Richardson

The Stanley’s proprietors have been good sports about the fact that their luxury property is forever associated with King’s novel and Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining (1980), one of the most terrifying films of all time. As a recent guest reports, “the movie runs on a continuous loop on a channel of every TV in the hotel.”

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AE17STANLEY__HHR2790

Photo by: Helen H. Richardson

Helen H. Richardson

Associations with Stephen King’s work are good business, of course. The 1997 television-miniseries version of The Shining (in which the author played the bandleader) was filmed on location at the Stanley, and the hotel teems with memorabilia. In October, guests can attend the Shining Ball, and a year-round, 90-minute tour traces the building’s Colorado and Hollywood history.   

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AE17STANLEY__HHR2728

Photo by: Helen H. Richardson

Helen H. Richardson

The Stanley is an unquestionably solid choice for a Colorado getaway. The Overlook as Kubrick imagined it, on the other hand—

It’s beautiful, and having a classically expansive fireplace to one’s self for the winter is very Citizen Kane. (Great place to warm up after a long day of sledding, no?)

Uninterrupted hallways and the freedom to pedal away: Also pretty great. (That marvelous geometric carpet! As a nod to the film, Alamo Drafthouse Cinema outfits its theater lobbies with a similar pattern.)

If cabin fever gets to be a problem, there’s always the hedge maze. (Guests at the Stanley were disappointed to find that the hotel lacked its filmic counterpart’s landscaping, courtesy of a studio set in England, so owner John W. Cullen indulged them: To celebrate 20 years of helming the property, he held a design competition and ultimately hired a New York architect to riff on the movie’s labyrinth.) It must be said that maze aficionados find the Overlook’s 13-foot hedges superior to the Stanley’s, which will only grow three feet tall. The Stanley doesn’t want children getting lost in there, you see.

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AE17STANLEY__HHR2315

Photo by: Helen H. Richardson

Helen H. Richardson

Both the Stanley (pictured here) and the Overlook boast grand staircases, which come in handy for both dramatic and practical reasons.

Elevator service at the Overlook: Kinda touch-and-go.

Keeping odd hours isn’t a problem, as last call is a play-it-by-ear sort of thing. Truly personalized service is rare these days, but the Overlook team is interested in you.  

There is such a thing as too much of a good thing, of course, and who among us hasn’t occasionally felt the need for a getaway from their getaway?

In the final analysis, the Overlook isn’t for everyone—but if you’ve been hacking away at the same-old same-old for too long, it could be a helpful change of pace. As they say, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

You can check in any time you like: Haunted USA airs Sunday nights at 10|9c.

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