The Stanley Hotel demands attention as it reigns majestically above Estes Park , Colorado on the eastern edge of Rocky Mountain National Park. Resting royally atop a wide, spacious lawn, the Stanley spreads its wings in a welcoming gesture despite its reputation as one of America’s most haunted hotels. I can’t take my eyes off the grand, Georgian-style structure as I slowly wind my way to the parking area in the back of the hotel. Although it is not an “official” national park lodge, the historic Stanley Hotel, about three miles from Beaver Meadows Visitor Center, can certainly be considered as “almost a park lodge” and will be my home for the next two days. I will be sleeping here, in the very same hotel where Stephen King got the inspiration for his third novel, The Shining. Hopefully I will get some sleep. I decided to reread The Shining during my stay.
At check-in, the desk clerk asks if I like ghosts and assigns me to Room 414 on the top floor of the hotel. I push the “up” button, the gate on the small, rickety elevator rattles open, and I step cautiously into the tiny, confined space. As I rise slowly to the fourth floor, I think about the drunken, phantom party-goers going up-and-down, up-and-down in King’s classic horror tale. When the elevator finally stops and the gate slides open, my luggage and I spill out of the tiny space like the mysterious party confetti Wendy threw at Jack Torrance. Stumbling down the hall with my suitcase, backpack, and computer bag, I discover Room 414 is all the way at the end of the wide hall, turn left, last door on the right. Secluded and alone, I calm my jitters enough to slide the key in the lock and survey my new digs.
The room is small but tidy and comfortable with a tall, soft, downy queen-size bed the predominate piece of furniture. A huge flat-screen TV covers the wall directly in front of the bed where the movie “The Shining” runs 24 hours in a continual loop. There is a large wing-backed chair in the corner next to a wall of old-fashioned, original windows with a view of the snow-covered back lawn. The bathroom is small, clean, and functional. The most unusual feature of this standard room is a large closet that is tucked well under the eaves of the roof. Kinda creepy, I search for trap doors or anything unusual. Finding nothing suspicious, I unpack, grab the camera, and leave my room to explore the hotel.
The second half of the 1994 movie “Dumb and Dumber” with Jim Carey and Jeff Daniels was filmed at the Stanley Hotel. I embarrassingly admit that I have seen this movie many, many times. It is Stephen’s favorite comedy film; and I confess that the movie is part of our small DVD collection. I recognize the elegant front entrance where Loyd and Harry drive up in their newly-purchased red Lamborghini Diablo. The lobby is easily recognizable, especially the registration desk and the stairs where Loyd grabs Mary Swanson’s leg causing her to fall as they are going to the Presidential Suite to retrieve the briefcase Loyd is returning. The scene where Loyd waits patiently for Mary, who never shows because she is skiing with Harry, was filmed in the Whiskey Bar at the Stanley Hotel. Remember the framed newspaper article next to the door of the bar? When Loyd exits he points to the exhibit and comments “Man Walks on Moon? Can you believe it?” That newspaper article is actually hanging on the wall in the hotel bar and, keeping in character as dumb Loyd, Carey ad libbed that line as he exited the bar.
After a quiet, peaceful, comfortable night in my cozy little haunted room, I decide to have breakfast in the hotel’s main restaurant, Cascades. For eleven dollars I order the American Breakfast: two eggs (over easy), bacon, and home-style potatoes. The food is good, not great, but the bacon is thick-sliced and the potatoes are homemade. The only problem I have is with the coffee. It is lukewarm and not very good. A couple at the next table notices the same thing and complains to the waitress. She is quick to accommodate and offers to brew a new pot. As she passes my table, I let her know my coffee is cold as well and I would like a cup from the new batch. The waitress returns with hot coffee; however, it is still not very good. The couple at the next table and I discuss this and decide the coffee tastes like Folgers. It is drinkable, but not what you expect from a high-end restaurant in a luxury hotel. We ask the waitress and learn that the coffee is Farmers Brothers, the same coffee that is served at Super 8 and Days Inn. When the couple receive their bill for breakfast, they notice that they were charged $4 each for their coffee. They inform the waitress they are not going to pay $4 for a cup of Farmers coffee. The waitress is extremely apologetic and takes the charge off their bill. I am grateful this couple spoke up because the waitress also removed the charge from my bill! The morning coffee incident is the only negative mark on an otherwise pleasant experience. I do believe that if a luxury hotel charges four dollars for coffee, the coffee beans should be blended by the chef, or the coffee come from a local roaster, or the coffee should be of higher quality. The waitress at Cascades Restaurant in the Stanley was excellent and absolutely did everything she could to remedy a difficult situation.