Tuesday, January 28, 2003
The story behind the real Overlook Hotel. Or the Stanley, to give it its correct name.
The ghostly apparitions, dead bodies in the bathtubs and ax-wielding madness of the fictional Overlook Hotel are figments of King's twisted imagination. But the place that inspired him to write "The Shining" is very real -- the Stanley Hotel, smack up against the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. And like the book it inspired, the hotel comes with its own harrowing ghost stories. [...]
The story of the Stanley is a little bit fairy tale, a little bit financial nightmare, a little bit ghost story -- the kind of tale that makes your skin crawl while it's being recounted around the campfire late at night when the flames send streaky shadows across the trees.
It starts with Freelan Oscar Stanley, known more often as "F.O." He was an inventor who had established a booming business in steam-powered automobiles. He suffered from tuberculosis, and his doctors sent him to the Rockies in 1903, where he fattened up, gaining 28 pounds, and stopped coughing. Some say his friendly ghost still wanders the hills around the hotel.
Stanley and his wife, Flora, dreamed up the Georgian-style confection of the hotel, right down to the double rows of pillars. A lot of the wood and rock are from Hidden Valley, which would soon be the heart of the new Rocky Mountain National Park.
The hotel opened in 1909 and soon attracted the wealthy to the mountains. Flora would play the grand Steinway piano for guests. The piano's still here, and some say that late at night, there's music coming from the piano room, but open the door and no one's there. Well, no one you can see. Flora?