Trivia

Hard

Stephen King’s “The Shining” Was Inspired By Which Of These Real Life Hotels?

The Biltmore Hotel
The Crescent Hotel
The Equinox
The Stanley
A photo of The Stanley Hotel taken in 2008.
Renoman58/Wikimedia

Answer: The Stanley

In Estes Park, Colorado there is a beautiful and expansive hotel that offers sweeping views of the Rocky Mountains. This hotel, The Stanley, may well have simply existed as a footnote on a historic registry and a hidden gem known only to locals if not for one fateful stop by one very iconic horror writer.

Back in 1974, Stephen King and his wife Tabitha made a stop at The Stanley. The hotel was just about to shut down for the season and they happened to be its final guests for the year. If ever there was a scene to spark the mind of a writer, especially one specializing in unsettling tales, that was it. The Kings found the hotel eerily empty—they ate in a grand dining room that had been packed up for the winter, the hallways were empty and seemingly endless, and, to top it all off, canned orchestral music floated through the empty dining room. King later explained, “Except for our table all the chairs were up on the tables. So the music is echoing down the hall, and, I mean, it was like God had put me there to hear that and see those things.”

As if that weren’t enough to inspire, King described his one night in the hotel as such, “I dreamed of my three-year-old son running through the corridors, looking back over his shoulder, eyes wide, screaming. He was being chased by a fire-hose. I woke up with a tremendous jerk, sweating all over, within an inch of falling out of bed. 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 book firmly set in my mind.”

King went on to write The Shining, published in 1977 and, in the process, immortalized The Stanley as The Overlook Hotel in the novel. The owners of The Stanley, in turn, have done their part to immortalize King. Rather than get huffy about their hotel’s infamy, they’ve embraced it—the uncut R-rated version of Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film adaptation of the book plays on continual loop on channel 42 within the hotel and, in a nod to the hedge maze outside The Overlook Hotel, in 2015 a giant hedge maze was installed at The Stanley.

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