Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Nobody Puts the Stanley in a Corner

Yesterday, Beverly, Jo, and I trekked up to Estes Park to visit another historic Colorado hotel -- the Stanley. The Stanley's biggest claim to fame is they were the inspiration for the Overlook Hotel in Stephen King's The Shining, and they are also believed to be one of the most haunted hotels in the country. The three of us braved the ghosts and the winding roads to explore another gem in Colorado history.

We started out with lunch at the Cascades Restaurant, where they have unique spins on classic dishes like Buffalo Sliders, Elk Carnitas Quesadillas, and Big Game Meatloaf. Beverly, our photographer, totally busted me tweeting under the table.

After lunch, we gathered for our tour, where we heard all kinds of ghost stories and looked around the hotel. My favorite room was the Music Room, where Mrs. Flora Stanley loved to spend time with her friends and her piano.

After the Music Room and the lobby, we peeked into the MacGregor Room, where we were introduced to the story of Mrs. Wilson, a dedicated employee from when the hotel first opened in 1909 (same year as the Boulderado, by the way). According to the story, Mrs. Wilson was given the task of lighting the gas portions of the lights one evening. (Also like the Boulderado, the Stanley used fixtures that could run on gas or electric.) This was before they added that odor to gas to alert people to leaks. And sure enough, there was a gas leak in the first room she went to light -- #217, the presidential room. The resulting explosion blew pieces of the hotel half a mile away, but Mrs. Wilson survived with some broken bones, cracked ribs, and damaged hearing.

She remained a loyal employee even after the explosion. She died of natural causes at an old age, but still shows up for work at the Stanley. People who stay in #217 report items being mysteriously straightened, luggage unpacked and packed without explanation, and even an evening turndown service from Mrs. Wilson. Apparently, she feels strongly about unmarried couples sleeping in the same bed, because there are also stories of couples feeling pressure between them in the night. Some even report a visible indentation in the sheets between them!

We also explored the fourth floor, which is where the nannies and children used to be housed. There's stories of hearing disembodied giggling voices and more than one person has felt someone tugging on their shirt, keys, or hand, and it's believed that the children are responsible for this. Before our tour guide mentioned this, Jo felt pressure pulling down on her purse, and then came the explanation. Creepy!

After we finished the tour, we snooped around for just a little bit more, including checking out the dorms that used to house the workers who built the Stanley, but now houses the summer staff. They reminded me of the cabins from Dirty Dancing, so I kept expecting to see Jennifer Gray step out and samba for me.

Overall, the trip was great! If you're visiting Boulder and looking for a great day trip, I highly recommend the drive up to Estes Park and the Stanley. Or, it could be a destination vacation unto itself, since the Rocky Mountain National Park is right there. Remember: all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.