Ghost hunt! A weekend at the Stanley Hotel passes without haunting
Well, it looks pretty ominous.
It was partially by coincidence and partly by design that the opening credits of Stanley Kubrick's The Shining had just started rolling when we flipped on the TV Saturday night in our room at the Stanley Hotel; the movie, of course, is based on Stephen King's novel by the same name, which in turn was famously inspired by the writer's one-night stay at the Stanley -- evidently, the movie plays in an endless loop on channel 42. Which was cool, because the closest thing we found to a haunting was Estes Park is like a ghost town after about 8 o'clock on Saturday night. The ghosts, we guessed, were in the main hotel -- maybe the Manor House, where we got roomed, just doesn't have as many.
We were not to find out definitively, because the Stanley Hotel Ghost and History Tour ($15/person), which we showed up to at noon after a sound, spirit-free night's sleep and a mildly overpriced breakfast in town, only covers the main hotel -- that's maybe its own answer right there, I guess. At any rate, the tour offers more "history" than "ghost," but it's still pretty interesting, and clocking in at close to two hours, offers plenty of bang for the buck. We also got a really good tour guide.
I've been on some pretty shitty tours in my life -- I still get tired every time I think about a certain candy factory -- and this was not one of them. Guide Kevin Lofy's presentation was interesting and well rehearsed, and while too much rehearsal can sometimes be the death of the material, he still seemed genuinely excited to be telling us about it. Starting out in the gambling room of the hotel, Lofy began with a short discussion of the various incarnations of The Shining, noting that the he's less enthusiastic about Kubrick's version of the story -- which alludes to and is "set" at the Stanley but not in any way filmed there -- than he is about Stephen King's The Shining, the 1997 miniseries directed by the author and filmed entirely at the actual hotel. (Just for the record, I felt like Lofy and I could maybe be friends, but I'm pretty sure I ruined it when I pointed out the Stephen King's The Shining was terrible, which seemed to really irk him. Seriously, though, Stephen King is not a filmmaker. Anyone ever seen Maximum Overdrive?)
Every good story needs a hero and a villain, and the Stanley's story according to Lofy has both. The hero: Freelan Oscar Stanley, the hotel's founder and all around genius: He invented the Stanley steamer, a steam car that broke land-speed records in its time, and a technology that revolutionized photography; plus, he built violins that still have a reputation for excellence, was a philanthropist, and rocked at basically everything he did. He had a fleet of Stanley Steamers to take guests up to Estes to stay in his hotel, Lofy mentioned, and he used to pay a guy to jump out in front of the cars on their way up in a bear suit. "Stanley had an awesome sense of humor," he mused.
The villain: Windham Thomas Wyndham-Quin, the 4th Earl of Dunraven, a guy who not only looks like Snidely Whiplash, but also was just kind of a dick -- the type of guy to fish with dynamite. He eventually got ran out of town when his scheme to buy up fraudulent land-claims to create a hunting preserve was discovered by the feds, but he's a part of the Stanley's history, because the land he'd accumulated became the basis for the town of Estes Park. At any rate, his ghost reputedly still haunts room 401, the old nannie's quarters, where he feels up women when they go into the closet because he was also a brothel owner and a pervert.
We learned about a few other ghosts along the way, but our stay at the Stanley otherwise passed without incident, except for all the times after the tour my girlfriend got "Dunravened." Sadly, she still doesn't think that joke is funny.
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