When it comes to haunted stuff, ghosts, what have you, I am a skeptic. Mind you, I am a fantasy reader and writer. I love me some ghost stories, but believing in actual spooks? No way. So it was with a huge grain of salt that I accompanied my friend, Susan, to the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado.
Haven’t heard of it? You may have heard of “The Shining,” the ghost novel by Stephen King. The Stanley Hotel was his inspiration for the story. It is famously haunted and its fame has grown in recent years due to TV shows such as “Ghost Hunters.”
Susan is a huge fan of the show, so when we planned her visit to Colorado (she’s from California,) we included an overnight stay at the Stanley, along with a couple of tours.
As you can see in the picture above, it is a lovely hotel. Unlike the hotel in “The Shining,” the Stanley is located in close walking distance to downtown Estes Park. I mean, even in heavy snowfall, you could walk there with a good pair of snow boots. However, the hauntings have nothing to do with isolation or lack thereof. According to the tour guides, the ghosts are mostly those who lived or worked there.
Upon arrival, Susan and I were greatly amused to discover we were in Room 215. This is directly next to Room 217, famously the most haunted room in hotel. It is also the room Stephen King stayed in. As it turned out, Rooms 215, 217 and 219 had all once been one room, and we were assured our room was also haunted, mainly by a former maid who liked to walk through the walls and pace in our room. Although Room 217 is booked months in advance, at a premium price, I got Room 215 at random and at a Colorado resident’s discount price. Score!
The funny thing about staying in Room 215 is that the extremely popular Ghost/History Tour pauses there every 20 minutes while the guide explains about Room 217. We startled groups of tourists whenever we opened our door.
However, despite all my skepticism, stuff did happen. Spooky stuff.
On our first day at the Stanley, Susan and I went on two tours, one in the afternoon and one at night. I didn’t expect much out of the afternoon tour aside from some history and few good stories, and our guide served up both. At the end of the tour, she took us down to the caverns which are used by the staff to get around the hotel without disturbing the guests. While she gave a few tasty examples of paranormal activity, I decided to take a picture of a dark, spooky corner.
And that’s when it happened.
I took this photo using my iPhone. After the flash, I continued staring at the screen and thought about taking another shot. All of the sudden, these strands of blue and white light appeared. They looked like someone had dipped their fingers in fluorescent light and moved them in an upward motion in front of me.
Freaked. Me. Out.
I told the guide what happened. She called it an “orb,” which it wasn’t. There was nothing round about it. She also pointed out the quartz in the cavern walls, which were said to be possibly responsible for residual hauntings, i.e., haunting that are from left over energy without any intelligence. Looking back, I can see how the quartz might have tweaked my flash and made something appear. Though I did take the same photo again in similar circumstance and nothing happened.
Flash forward to 8 pm that evening. Keep in mind I only had one glass of wine at dinner, around 6 pm. The night tour goes for two hours and there’s a lot more emphasis on the paranormal. Our guides were enthusiastic on the subject, which made it more fun. After wandering through the actual hotel, we headed for the concert hall, the most haunted property on the lot. According to the guides, the hotel has 20% intelligent hauntings and 80% residual hauntings. It’s the exact opposite at the concert hall. They named three frequent ghosts, Lucy, Edward and Paul, and took us to their hotspots.
First, we went to Edward’s spot, which was the front the concert hall, including the balcony and the stage. The first guide told us some stories about Edward, a former handyman at the hotel who didn’t like people very much and was protective of his work space. After the guide spoke, we were free to wander a bit. Susan and I wandered over to the other guide and asked her about any recent activities. She pointed to the bathroom and said she won’t go in there, it’s been really active and it gives her a creepy feeling. Of course, Susan and I made a beeline for the john. We went inside and I took this picture. As you can see, it’s a single toilet bathroom, no stalls or anywhere for someone to hide. Didn’t see or feel anything weird. We stepped out and started chatting with the guide for a few minutes.
All of the sudden, we heard a loud banging noise come from the bathroom, like someone had hit the wall with their fist, hard.
Yeah, I jumped. So did Susan and the guide. After about a minute, Susan went to investigate. She opened the door, took a look inside, and the banging noise happened again.
Freaked. Me. Out.
There was no one in the bathroom and the sound came from inside, not outside.
Okay, so, color me a little less skeptical.
We told the other guide about the experience and he was quite impressed. He went to the bathroom, but whatever was in there had quieted down. So the guides led us downstairs to Lucy’s room.
Lucy is supposedly a homeless woman who lived in the concert hall during the hotel’s bankrupt period. She was discovered and told to leave and, according to local legend, later froze to death in the snow. While the first guide told us this story, he got a startled look on his face and turned to the door that leads into the room.
He asked, “Lucy, is that you?”
Everyone went silent. Then, I heard what sounded like a woman’s whisper coming from the area of the door (the guide at the door was male.)
And then the door shut by itself.
The guide opened it again and showed us the part of the carpet that’s raised to keep the door from shutting by itself. The windows were closed and there was no breeze that I could detect. We waited and watched, and the door moved a little again, but didn’t shut. So, we left to go to Paul’s room.
Paul was another Stanley Hotel handyman. He apparently had a heart attack while working and died while attempting to drive to the hospital. He’s supposed to be more social and friendly than Edward. While the guides told us Paul’s story, we heard the door to Lucy’s room slam shut.
That was the end of the paranormal activities for the evening. The tour went long as we all roamed around the concert hall and exchanged ghost stories. It was fun and exciting.
I was hooked.
Susan and I returned to our haunted room. We both stayed awake pretty late, but nothing happened. The maid felt no compulsion to pay us a nocturnal visit.
The next morning, we booked ourselves tickets for the Friday night Ghost Hunt.
Now, the Ghost Hunt is a different animal than the other tours. It lasts from 8 pm to 1 am and you are accompanied by paranormal experts. Plus, equipment is made available, such as EMF and K2 meters. Don’t ask me what they are or how they work. All I know is that they’re supposed to measure levels of energy.
Friday night started with an hour long introduction to catch up the newcomers on the history of the hotel, along with an explanation of the ghost hunting equipment. Susan and I scored our own K2 meter and we had it in our hot little hands the entire time. The group then split into two and we headed for the Edward’s balcony, led by a former cast member of “Ghost Hunters International.”
We settled in the dark and our guide placed two flashlights on the ledge. These were the small, screw-on type of flashlights. Susan placed the K2 monitor where everyone could see. Nothing much happened at first. Then the K2 monitor started flashing. The guide asked if the ghost could turn one of the flashlights.
One of the flashlights turned on by itself.
During the next half-hour, the flashlight would turn on by itself at various times. The intensity of light would vary from a quick flicker to strong. That was pretty cool.
What got me feeling skeptical again was some kind of iPhone app the guide used, which supposedly picked up the ghost’s voice. All it did was use a mechanical voice to say random words. If a word seemed pertinent to what was happening, everyone got excited, but the majority of words were too random to mean anything.
After the balcony, we headed downstairs for a ladies room haunted by Lucy, and by ladies room, I do mean bathroom, stalls and all. It did seem a little silly to be sitting in the dark on the floor of a bathroom with a bunch of people, waiting for a paranormal experience. Still, we weren’t disappointed. The K2 monitor flickered and the flashlight went on and off several times. I have to add that I sat right next to the guide and the flashlights were between us. He never touched them. His hands were visible and I couldn’t see any kind of remote control.
After that, we switched guides and headed back to the hotel. We were in luck that night. The group who had booked Room 217 had cancelled their reservation, so the hotel allowed us access.
Very cool and exciting. Except, nothing happened.
We sat in 217 for about half-an-hour. The K2 meter flickered a bit. The flashlights didn’t turn on. Our new guide, who I think was a former cast member of “Ghost Adventures,” turned on a ghost box and told people to ask questions. We dutifully asked the ghost maid questions about the hotel and her life. Then the guide played back our questions and we listened for answers. There was some fuzzy sound after a question about Christmas. People got excited and I got more skeptical.
Then the guide turned on a radio that moved rapidly through the stations. Apparently, ghosts can communicate through the airwaves. Honestly, it just sounded like a lot of noise with an occasional clear word that, again, got folks excited but left me cold.
We left Room 217 and camped out in another empty room, 407, and it was basically a repeat performance.
The last hour was spent ghost hunting on our own in the concert hall. Susan and I once again headed for Edward’s bathroom. No knocking this time, but the K2 meter went off the hook, sometimes blinking rapidly and sometimes not giving any indications. We experimented, taking turns being alone in the bathroom or being joined by two other women. Interestingly, we had the most activity when there were four women in the bathroom, but when we were joined by a man, the meter went quiet. Edward seems to like the ladies.
Overall, it was a very fun experience that passed quickly. However, I did leave more skeptical than when I entered.
I can’t believe in intelligent hauntings. If there was an intelligent presence, why doesn’t it just speak up? Why are all the bells and whistles necessary to communicate?
Residual hauntings… hmm. I can believe in that to some extent. Experiences and emotions can be very powerful and I think residual energy can be left behind, not so much haunting as energy that still has the power to interact in the right circumstances.
As I wrote the above sentence, I was reminded of a Bible verse.
“The Lord said, ‘What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.’“ (Genesis 4:10)
Not “your brother cries out,” but, “your brother’s blood.” Makes me think of when you go someplace where you know something bad has happened and you can feel it, an echo of bad energy. Same thing when you go someplace happy and you get the warm fuzzies.
I remain a skeptic, but one who had a great time and would gladly return to the Stanley for another spooky experience.