It's Halloween! Take a shining to the Stanley Hotel.

The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park is a lovely old place. Built in the early 1900s at the mouth of what is now Rocky Mountain National Park from wood salvaged from the Bear Lake burn of 1900, it was best-known then for the Stanley Steamer, a steam-powered automobile invented by hotel owner Freelan Oscar Stanley that ferried patrons up the mountain road Stanley built from Lyons to Estes Park.

Today the Stanley Hotel is famous for another reason: its association with Stephen King's The Shining, the horror tale's inspirational setting. King was displeased with Stanley Kubrick's film of the same name, and he later took back his intellectual property and oversaw the making of a television mini-series that was actually filmed at the Stanley. (It also appeared in Dumb and Dumber, which is terrifying, if not truly spooky.)

Aside from its Tinseltown affiliations, the Stanley is purported to have real ghosts, including that of Mr. Stanley's wife, who's said to haunt the ballroom -- where she ostensibly played the piano while alive. Several paranormal investigators have checked the place out, and it remains an object of fascination for all who visit.

Since it's Halloween, maybe you should consider playing hooky and visiting the Stanley Hotel, too. A Historic Ghost & History Tour is offered there daily throughout the year, including several times today; sign up for a tour, and you'll hear scary stories, visit an underground tunnel and see the room where King supposedly conceived the scary bones of The Shining's plot, as well as other rooms where things have gone bump in the night (or just disappeared, in a so-called act of ectoplasmic thievery).

You can no longer take a Stanley Steamer up the road from Lyons, of course, but it's an easy daytrip. Tours are by reservation, which can be made at the hotel website; they run $10 to $15 for ninety minutes of pure history and terror.

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Susan Froyd started writing for Westword as the "Thrills" editor in 1992 and never quite left the fold. These days she still freelances for the paper in addition to walking her dogs, enjoying cheap ethnic food and reading voraciously. Sometimes she writes poetry.
Contact: Susan Froyd