Episode 15: The Shining

The Shining is a 1980 psychological horror film produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick and co-written with novelist Diane Johnson. The film is based on Stephen King's 1977 novel of the same name and stars Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Scatman Crothers, and Danny Lloyd.

The movie follows a man named Jack Torrance and his wife and son as they move into the Overlook Hotel during the offseason. Jack is meant to be the caretaker of the large resort during this time. Danny Torrance, Jack's son, possessed something we will later come to know as the Shining. He can feel the presence of ghosts, communicate through telepathy and tell the future. The 2019 sequel Doctor Sleep follows Danny through adulthood. Doctor Sleep was also a FANTASTIC movie and deserves a watch.

The Shining has an 85% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and will make you terrified of your own family. Jack Torrance goes crazy somewhere between the ambiguity of cabin fever and spirit interference. He slowly goes mad before he decides it's best if his family gets chopped into little pieces. The movie has a sense of claustrophobia to it. Your trapped via snow storm in a giant haunted hotel with your own family member who wants to chop you into pieces.

Although some don’t agree I think it’s a great classic horror film. So let's get into some fun trivia behind this film.

Danny Lloyd played Danny Torrance in the film. He was told the movie was a drama and was unaware of the truth until several years later when he saw the uncut version of the film. He also came up with the moving finger named Tony on his own. If you don't know who Tony is, he's Danny's so called imaginary friend that lives in his mouth but is really a representation of the shining to Danny. He moves his finger to talk as Tony.

In the infamous "Here's Johnny" scene, the door was built to be somewhat soft for easy tearing by Nicholson with the axe. However, Nicholson has worked as a volunteer firefighter and found this to be too easy. The prop team had to keep recreating doors to reshoot the scene. According to Shelley Duvall the scene took 3 days and 60 doors to complete.

Stanley Kubrick is famous for numerous retakes and compulsivity, so much so that Scatman Crothers who plays Halloran cried tears of gratitude to Clint Eastwood who directed the next film he was on for not putting him through so many takes. Despite this reputation, Kubrick was able to film the famous elevator blood scene in 3 takes… This totally has nothing to do with the fact that setup and clean up was so long that this scene actually took a year to perfect.

Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall expressed resentment for most credit of the film going to Kubrick as they both said it was the most demanding role of their careers. Nicholson also wanted Jessica Lange to play Wendy but later described Duvall's performance as fantastic stating it was "the toughest job that any actor that I've seen had."

Moving on to inspiration, we’ll take it straight from the mouth of Stephen King himself:

"In late September of 1974, Tabby and I spent a night at a grand old hotel in Estes Park, the Stanley. We were the only guests as it turned out; the following day they were going to close the place down for the winter. Wandering through its corridors, I thought that it seemed the perfect—maybe the archetypical—setting for a ghost story. That night 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 the 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."

Although Stephen King and Kubrick did not get along in the making of the film, we thought it would be interested to go into the Stanley Hotel in Colorado and discuss some of its spooky history and stories.The following information has been collected from the Stanley Hotel’s website and anecdotes from staff and guests.

The Stanley Hotel was built by inventor Freelan Oscar (F.O.) Stanley , who moved out to Colorado hoping that the fresh air and plentiful sunlight would relieve his tuberculosis. When he arrived in 1903, he was weak and underweight, but after just one season, hotel staff says his health was restored.

The hotel says Stanley was so overjoyed that he vowed to return each summer and ended up building the hotel to bring a level of sophistication to the region. The Stanley Hotel opened in 1909.

Stanley died in 1940 at the age of 91, but his spirit is said to still roam the hotel. Specifically, staff says he’s often spotted in the hotel’s billiard room and bar. Stanley’s wife, Flora, has also reportedly been spotted in the hotel and is known to tickle the keys of a piano.

The spirits aren’t limited to adults. Tour guides say the ghost of a child with autism also roams the grounds and is known to play with the hair of guests. Staff says the boy, named Billy, is drawn to people who work with people with autism or are familiar with the developmental disorder.

Not all of the hotel’s purported ghosts stand on two legs. There’s a pet cemetery on the grounds that guides say is the final resting place of some of the owners’ animals. Staff says the ghosts of a cat and a dog have been seen roaming around.

It’s time for us to get into the really intense hot spots of the hotel.

Of course, we’ll start with the famous room 217 as mentioned in King’s novel. Here’s a quote from hotel staff about King’s stay in the room:

“The hotel was getting ready to shut down for the season due to the fact that they did not have heat in the hotel (and wouldn’t till the 80s I believe) and it was just to cold, so they were surprised when Mr. King showed up unexpectedly with his family. They were stuck in a snow storm and so were offered bedding for the night, making them essentially the only people in the hotel that. Later on, when exploring the halls of the hotel, he witnessed an apparition of a woman that chilled him to the bone. The apparition was said to be that of a former employee who was the head maid. Many years before, the hotel had lost power due to a storm and she was asked by the manager of the hotel to go through and light the lamps (their back up source of light). What no one knew was there was a gas leak in one of the rooms. When she opened the door her open flame ignited the gas and essentially blew the room apart and sent her through the floor and into the room a story down. That room was 217. The same room Stephen King was staying in the night he was visiting the hotel. Now the maid did survive this catastrophe and went on to work at the hotel for a few more years but she still sticks around. If Stephen King hadn’t been stuck in a snow storm and offered boarding we wouldn’t have The Shining today.”

The room is thought to be haunted by Elizabeth Wilson, AKA Mrs. Wilson, but she wasn’t the only spirit King encountered.

“King is said to have encountered a young child during his stay, though there were no children visiting at that time. Guests have reported items moved, luggage unpacked, and lights being turned on and off.

Another famous guest of the Stanley was the skeptical comedian Jim Carrey. He requested room 217 during the filming of Dumb and Dumber, but checked out—so the story goes—after only three hours. “That’s a shady one,” says the hotel’s tour guide Kevin Lofy. “What happened to him in that room, we don’t know. He’s never spoken of it.”

Another hotspot area is the area that doesn’t exist at all.

“When I was a kid, the Stanley was just a pretty hotel with dumpy rooms (1970s canary yellow and olive drab. Borderline craphole). We never stayed there, it was just a place to get a good, cheap lunch. (Obviously, this was before the miniseries, when it was still cheap and not haunted).

Anyway, I’d screw around and explore the hotel because hotels are fun to screw around in and explore. My brother, my sister, and myself were wandering the hotel after lunch, poking our heads into open rooms and whatnot. Well, we round the corner of the hallway and to our right is an small opening in the wall of the hall leading to a set of very narrow and steep circular stairs descending into pitch black darkness. None of us had the cojones to check it out. Wish we had, I never saw that staircase again.”

Next we have the concert hall. Paul, one of the well-known ghosts haunting The Stanley, was a jack-of-all trades around the hotel. Among his duties? Enforcing an 11 p.m. curfew at the hotel, which could be why guests and workers hear “get out” being uttered late at night. The area is also a favorite spot for hotel founder Flora Stanley’s ghost to play the piano.

Quick anecdote about Paul:

“The Concert Hall also is a hot spot of paranormal activity. Paul worked at The Stanley from 1995-2005 and died of a heart attack while en route from the hotel to the hospital after suffering chest pains. Known as a jack-of–all-trades, one of Paul’s responsibilities was to enforce the hotel’s 11 p.m. curfew. It’s not uncommon to hear a faint and ominous “get out” in the after hours, though it’s unclear if he’d be so bold as to shush hotel founder Flora Stanley, who can often be heard playing the piano, some seven decades after her demise. A construction worker sanding the floor just a few years ago believes Paul was brazen enough to physically nudge him to the door after feeling two arms pull him back. Paul is also known to flicker the flashlights of touring groups.”

Another ghost known to wander about Concert Hall is Lucy, who quite possibly was a runaway or homeless woman who found refuge in the hall. She entertains the requests of ghost hunters, often communicating with them with flashing lights. Stanley historians, however, aren’t quite sure about her pre-death connection to the hotel.

“Over the weekend, about 15 coworkers and myself had our company trip to The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, known for being Stephen King’s inspiration for “The Shining”. We took an 8pm ghost tour, where we joined about 15 other people to get guided around the property and told stories about it’s history and creepy things that are said to have happened. We were told to take lots of pictures, I’m sure to try and capture orbs or ghosts. Many green orbs were caught in pictures, but I don’t think anything is as creepy as this photo taken by my coworker- a little girl in a hot pink dress, who was definitely not on our tour.

And apparently years ago, a young girl (12-13) by the name of Lucy was squatting in the basement of the concert hall (which is where this photo was taken), and discovered upon plans to begin some construction. She was forced to leave, the night got below freezing, and she froze to death. Everyone on my tour has vouched that this girl was not on our tour (who wouldn’t remember someone wearing that hot pink?). The man pictured is our tour guide- no one would have been in front of him. I am convinced this is the ghost of Lucy. Just one more added note, though I doubt if anyone would believe me, but there was only ONE time throughout the tour where I felt any strange energy or feeling, and it was right here, heading down to the basement of the concert hall.”

Paul and Lucy aren’t the only spirits in the hall. Apparently it’s also appreciated by the ghosts of little children.

“I’m pretty skeptical when it comes to supernatural or paranormal happenings but one thing in particular really messed with my head; at the beginning of the tour you follow tour guide to the music hall which would often be occupied by children playing during the day time.

When you arrive in the hall you’re are seated in the observation box and given an introduction of sorts explaining that none of the spirits or activity are angry or violent and that alot of the activity was thought to be that of children (especially in this hall). So, our guide asked by show of hands if any of the tour members are good with kids to which I, along with 4 or 5 others raised our hands; everyone who raised their hands she gave a dum dum sucker to for us to hold out on our palm as if we were handing it to a child and depending on the spirits comfortablity with you they would supposedly pull on the the sucker. Some people claimed to feel movement, some didn’t feel a thing but, I personally felt and watched this fucking sucker drag from the middle of my hand all the way off to the ground. That fucked with my shit.”

Let’s make our way up to the fourth floor. More than a century ago, the entire fourth floor was a cavernous attic. It’s where female employees, children, and nannies stayed. Now, today’s guests will report hearing children running around, laughing, giggling and playing. Plus, there’s a famous closet that tends to open and shut on its own in this room.

A tale about room 401: “A male ghost, who some believe to be an Irish man named Lord Dunraven, is reported to be in this room. Although he never visited the hotel in life, as it was built 20 years after he left Estes Park, it was built on land he once owned. In the closet, women feel their hair being played with, an arm around their shoulder or waist, or a hand moving up the back of their leg. Men don’t feel particularly welcome in this room sometimes, as they have felt someone is pressing them into bed or their jewelry disappearing. This was the room where Jason of the Ghost Hunters television show had his drinking glass, which was set on the night stand, implode while he was sleeping. The closet door also opened and closed on its own.”

A tale of room 407: “People have reported being “tucked in” in this room. A little boy said that he kept kicking his covers off, and they kept coming back up throughout the night. His mother was quite shocked and said that she hadn’t woken during the night, and certainly didn’t keep covering him. Another guest reported feeling someone sit on the edge of the bed, but when she turned the light on, no one was there. She did, however, see an indentation, as if someone had just gotten up.”

Room 413 antics: “Several guests have reported seeing a man dressed in “old-fashioned” clothes standing in the corner of the room. The face of a man in a blue ball has also been seen on the outside door of the room.”

The children of 418: “Ghost children do mischievous things in this room. Covers are sometimes removed during the night, and hangers are known to move on their own. Bathroom lights have also been reported to turn on and off on their own. A little girl, about 4 years old, and her mother stayed in there a few years ago. The following morning, the girl reported being tickled by a little boy during the night. She wasn’t afraid though. Instead, she simply told the little boy to stop, and he did!”

The terror in room 428: Really, you get a badge of bravery for staying in any room on the fourth floor. But, bonus points if you can book room 428. Guests have reported hearing footsteps above them and furniture moving about. But that’s actually physically impossible given the slope of the roof, tour guides say. The real haunt in this room, though, is a friendly cowboy who appears at the corner of the bed.

Moving off the fourth floor, we’ll head to the grand staircase. In 2016, a visitor from Houston snapped some photos on the grand staircase and, upon returning home and reviewing them, spotted an apparatus at the top of the staircase. The thing is he doesn’t remember anybody else being on the staircase at the time he was taking the photographs. The ghostly image of a woman is at the top of the stairs.

The cowboy of room 428 also likes to frequent this area:

“A ghost cowboy tends to frequent this room. A couple a few years back awoke to find a Wild West cowboy pacing at the end of their bed. After watching him for a few minutes, they politely asked him to leave, which he did, but not before leaning over the lady as if kissing her. Female guests sometimes wake to find him leaning in for a kiss on the forehead!”

Lastly, we’ll take a look at the underground caves. If you go on the 75-minute night spirit tour at the Stanley (you don’t have to be a hotel guest to get in on it, but you should book in advance!), your tour will come to an eerie halt at the end with a visit to the underground cave system. Workers moved about the hotel through the caves in the early days so it makes sense this is a popular haunt. Skeptics will pass off the haunts as breezes from the historic piping and ventilation systems. But, beneath the hotel is a higher-than-average concentration of limestone and quartz, which some ghost hunters believe help capture energy at the property.

The most important questions is… Can you request to stay in Room 217?! And ya sure friggin can. Just have to give the hotel a call months in advance and it runs about 450 USD a night.

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