Estes Park and the Haunted Stanley Hotel 

(Actually the latest Uncle Billy Road Trip - as it was His 80th Birthday!

Yes, this was the latest of our Uncle Billy Road Trips.  This one was different from the prior five road trips taken in the past was that he had no idea where we were going.  We simply asked him to pack a small suitcase with a few days clothes and be ready to go the morning after we arrived. 


This was the primary stop on a much longer trip.  We started in Florida, of course.  We then went to Annapolis to see our son Michael, his wife Esti and our two grandchildren - Sofia and her 6 month old brother Owen.  Then its over to Ellicott City to see Jackie's twin Judy and her husband Jim, and to pick up a piece of furniture for our daughter Jennifer.  On to Denver to deliver the furniture.  Then to Empire to the Shepherd House (better known as the Ol' Cabin) to meet Uncle Billy, Jennifer and her husband Andrew, who were in on the planning of the trip.  After the road trip to Estes Park, it's on to Decatur, Georgia.  There we visited with our other son Jeffrey, his wife Lynne, and our other two grandchildren - Theo and 8 week old Quinn. 


So in one trip, we surprised Billy, saw all our children and grandchildren and were haunted.  We drove 5,165 miles through 19 states.  One of the best trips ever. 


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The trip and the pictures are broken roughly into the following sets.  Each set is labeled, but not on separate pages: 



Arrival & Weather Surprise


The Stanley Hotel


Estes Park


The Haunting


Elk and Deer in Estes Park


Rocky Mountain National Park 


Going on the 


A Stop at Jennifer's and Andrew's House @ 9,200 Feet


Last Stop at the Ol' Cab


A Couple Pictures at Memphis


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Arrival in Empire at the Shepherd House - Our Weather Surprise


We arrived after coming through Nebraska.  The news on the radio said this was a period of record breaking heat.  It was around 80 degrees.  As we were in the truck, and rather than the 38 - 40 mpg we were used to, we were more in the 18 - 21 mpg range.  We did not want to further reduce the mpg by running the AC.  Consequently we took the occasion to open the rear window, probably for the first time, and roll down our door windows.  


So we roll into Colorado, through Denver and up to Uncle Billy's cabin in Empire.   Although it's hot there, in my view, Billy has the heat on in the Ol' Cab.  I bitch and moan until he turns it down; I'm none-the-less reduced to a tee shirt and shorts.  Although we hear it might snow a coupe inches, its both hard to believe and certain to melt within hours.  We sleep on my favorite spot out on the "porch". 


In each of my several night time walks, I notice it is lightly snowing.


In the morning we have a Light snow of about 8 inches.  The temperature drops.  Billy says the sign that it will soon stop is that the birds have gathered under the kitchen window for feed.   I tell him I agree because my indication is that just before it stops snowing, the flakes get large.


The flakes get large, the birds feed and the damn snow doesn't stop until after lunch - 13 inches! 


All the while Jennifer and Andrew are calling to see who should drive.  Even though I have new tires on the truck and have driven 150 miles a day through all kinds of weather every  day for 25 - 30 years, it is decided Jennifer will drive Jackie and me in her car and Andrew will drive Billy in his truck.  


I feel out-voted, old and feeble..... 


The side yard -it finally stopped

                        The snow covered road sign


                                                        My poor truck - used to storms, salt and sand - its first snow




The magpies and stellar jays are hungry


Shoveled snow for the first time in over 6 years - still hate it! 



Won't be sitting in the glider out front this visit


Some habits never change -

I just needed a few moments to take pictures


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The Stanley Hotel




The Stanley was originally built in 1909 by F.O. Stanley.  He and his brother have quite an unusual  story to be told, but sadly, we do not have the time or the space to tell it.  We recommend you read "A Concise History of the Stanley Hotel" by Ron Lasky.  In addition please take the time to read the information found on Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.   The initial paragraphs are below: 


The Stanley Hotel is a 138-room neo-Georgian hotel in 

Estes Park, Colorado. Located within sight of the

Rocky Mountain National Park , the Stanley offers

 panoramic views of the Rockies. It was built by

 Freelan O. Stanley of Stanley Steamer fame and 

opened on July 4, 1909, catering to the rich and 

famous, including the Titanic survivor Margaret Brown, 

John Phillip Sousa, Theodore Roosevelt, the Emperor and 

Empress of Australia, and a variety of Hollywood personalities


The Stanley Hotel also hosted the horror novelist Steven King

inspiring him to write The Shining. Contrary to information 

sometimes published, King was living in Boulder at the time

 and did not actually write the novel at the hotel. Parts 

of the mini-series version of The Shining were filmed there,

 although it was not used for Stanley Kubrick's cinematic 

version.   The hotel and its surrounding lands are listed on the 

National Register of Historic Places


The Stanley Hotel shows the uncut R-rated version of Kubrick's   

The Shining on a continuous loop on Channel 42 on guest room televisions.

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Of course the Stanley is supposed to be the most haunted building in Colorado - but more about that later. 

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The centerpiece of the hotel is the lobby on the first floor.  This beautiful staircase is the central attraction. 



As you seed it splits halfway to the second floor with two side sets of stairs.  The walls are lined with mirrors and original portraits. 


The stairways were designed by Stanley's wife.  The posts are to represent Indian designs for the four seasons.  Every stairway has this design for every rail. 

At the split of the stairs is a wall to wall window seat before a wall to wall set of windows. 


Because the hotel has been foreclosed several times, much of the original furniture and lighting has been sold to pay debtors, most of the current lighting and nearly all the furniture is of a more modern era.  However, when possible, older factures were used wherever possible to replace those removed - as below. 



The central lobby must be 150 feet or so. 

Until the late 60's, the hotel's only heat was two fireplaces in the lobby.  As a consequence, this was primarily a summer vacation spot for the well to do .



The lobby has not only beautiful fireplaces, but also elegant furnishings, leather seating, fresh flowers and a piano. 

As Stanley built ands sold the Stanley Steamer, he never made a great deal of money from his very advanced design, certainly not his fortune. 

None-the-less, a fully restored Stanley Steamer sits in the lobby. 



The wood work is sumptuous and expertly detailed. 


The woodwork is actually plaster faux wood. 

It is so very well done that one has to touch it or look very carefully

 for a flaw to determine it really is plaster, not wood. 


The double doors at each end of the lobby open to two great rooms.  The doors do not open, but slide into the walls. 


One of the great rooms is the music room; each room is described with a plaque. 

The Music Room has the original Steinway piano.  The room has beautiful large windows displaying the impressive views.









            The Steinway was tuned for years by John Phillip Sosa, 

            bore his dates of tuning and signature 



This room, as does the other great room, has stunning design and detailed cornices, borders and fireplace designs. 





The Stanley was built upon the bed rock of the mountain.  

There is a small piece of the original wiring.  

The Stanley was the first hotel in America to be completely lighted with electricity and to have running water and a bathroom on every room. 

Our guide told us about this original foundation; the fact it was deeper in years past and is currently used as part of the work support for the hotel through today.   Hotel personnel were walking through the tunnel-like basement as we were listening to the guide. 


The basement was a portion of the Ghost Tour pointing out the most haunted parts of the Hotel - but more on that later. 


The tunnel above was a couple feet deeper , but was partially filled as the latest owners refinished the floors here.   The tunnel went more than a hundred feet to other hotel buildings.



Not only can you see the rocks supporting the hotel, the drill marks where the bed rock rock was cut and dynamited away, but also tree stumps that were inconvenient to remove as the hotel was built in1909.


The stumps and roots look petrified, but they are only old, dry and rubbed smooth by all of us who have rubbed them as they passed. 



 The door at the end of the basement passage empties to a fully finished hotel basement with displays, a gift shop, an aquarium with rainbow trout and a coffee shop. 


The basement also has a Mentalist and here office - open by appointment.   We talked to her about haunting and she made Jackie easy be telling her that out third floor had little haunting - other than people in 1900's clothing walking the hall. 


The basement also has one of two replicas of the hotel built for later filming of the Shining. They were to be used in a scene where to hotel burns to the ground.  As the first take was good, the second model was not used and left to the hotel. 



The basement had Halloween decorations.




The front porch is a wonderful place from which to view the grounds, other hotel building and the fantastic scenery surrounding the hotel. 


The central walk from the porch.

The front porch is the same length as the lobby. 


A panoramic shot from the porch.


A view of the porch from the central walk

Love among the Halloween decorations. 


Jackie and Billy discussing the weather with a porch resident


More pictures from the area around the front walk.



We had breakfast in the Staley Dining Hall.  What a great menu.  Jennifer and I had smoked trout - we agreed it was the best we ever had.

  When the wonderful  waitress learned it was Uncle Billy's 80th birthday, she brought out a Stanley Hotel specialty - a pinch cake.

Not to put too fine a point on it, and we're not pointing fingers, but Uncle Billy rode the 80th birthday bit for all it's worth.  It seems wherever we ate, somehow the birthday would come into the conversation in ear shot of a waitress or waiter and, "surprise", 

Billy would end up with a dessert.  (We were jealous) 


After breakfast, a walk through the lobby, porch and the front walk, we get on the original Otis Elevator to go to the third and forth floors. 



We gather in the rear at the parking lot to visit Estes Park.  As you see the rear of the Hotel is as ugly as the scenery surrounding it.......





















A view of the Stanley as we leave from the front drive to go into Estes Park


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Estes Park

No, not a park - a small town.  Although, in the snow, without the shoulder-to-shoulder summer crowds, one can find a park-like atmosphere. 


A view down to Estes Park from the Stanley front walk 

This small creek runs right by the public parking area

Jackie is attempting to look as if she likes the snow

The bridge there provides a look up and down the icy, snowbound creek




Across the street a rock face coated with icicles

A six to eight foot icicle beside a store front


Looking up the main street and its shops

Estes Park joins in the Halloween scene




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The Haunting


OK, about the haunting.  


As said, the Stanley is supposed to be the most haunted building in Colorado.    It has been the subject of several of the ghost hunting programs.   We took a guided Ghost Tour while there.  The tour was exceptionally valuable for learning about the Stanley family, the two brothers, how F.O. made his fortune, the history of the hotel and the relationship between the hotel and Estes Park.  Oh, and all about the ghosts. 


We saw each of the locations and rooms where ghosts experiences were to have taken place.  We could not go into rooms that were occupied of course, but stand in the hall beside the door / area and listen to the tales.


The most famous room is 217.  Although it is central to several ghost occurrences, it is best know for  Steven King's The Shining.  Steven King lived about a hour away in Boulder.  He was in Estes Park, and as it was late, he asked for a room.   The hotel attempted to dissuade him as it was the end of the season, they had cleaned and closed most of the rooms, and there was no head but for the fireplaces down in the lobby.   Mr. King insisted.  As room 217 was empty, open and was the Presidential Suite, he was given it for the night.   What ever happened that night, the idea and central plot of The Shining can to him that night.  It was not written in that room, but basic notes appear to have been written there. 


He left to write the script back in Boulder in the next seven days.  Again there are some exceptionally interesting stories about how Mr. King hated the film, after 18 or so years, bought the rights, and filmed The Shining a second time as a TV series.  Again a little research will flesh out the entire story. 


Additional haunting reading, in addition to Wikipedia, is Ghost Stories of the Stanley Hotel, Volumes 1 and 2, by Celeste Lasky.  


About room 17.  No-one had the room, so we could enter.  Our guide, Hollie, showed us the room and told us the story about the ghost who occupies it. 


A beautiful room - much as Steven King found it.


A great bed and an old fashioned bath room 


I don't think the crew was too impressed with the ghost stories - yet.



The 217 ghost is supposed to be a maid who worked on this floor in the first years the hotel was built.   The second floor had wealthy roomers and 217 was the best room in the hotel.  The kitchen was directly below this room.  She was cleaning 217 when a disastrous explosion occurred in the kitchen.   It blew the kitchen and room 217 up and out in the front yard.  She was blown perhaps a hundred feet. 


Everyone thought she was certainly killed.  Yet she was found alive and carried to the hospital.  F.O. came to her and apologized for the accident.  He promised to pay all her hospital bills.  He promised her a job for life, and that from that point on, she would care only for 217.


She returned and worked the rest of her life, caring for 217. 


Roomers have reported a number of strange occurrences.  Several times a roomer would come to the room, leave for dinner or some other reason and return later to find the luggage unpacked and put away neatly in the drawers of the bureau .   Other roomers, perhaps spending a week or more, would return to find their clothes neatly packed and their luggage, ready to go.   In both cases, roomers thanked the staff for unpacking only you find the house rules is maid are never, under any circumstances to ever touch roomer's belongings........


Jim Carey in one of many who spent the night in 217 only to pick up and leave suddenly in the night.  Jim has never told anyone what happened to him. 


If you want room 217 you will need to book in advance.  Currently Halloween, through 2013, has already been booked.  It, as all the other rooms, cost no more than nay other equivalent room in the hotel.  Further, no-one is told in advance if circumstances might be strange in their room.   


            The stairways in the hotel are all beautifully design - 

            each with the four season designed rail supports.

As seen below, the old fire equipment 

remains , though inactivated, on the walls. 



The forth floor is the most haunted we learned.  In the early days the children and their nannies stayed on the forth floor.  In fact, children were not allowed on the other floors.   Because of who stayed on this floor, the hallways are narrower and the ceiling lower.  A large number of the rooms have peculiar activities and many times guests are awakened or bothered by children playing noisily in the hall or in different rooms. 


Hollie loves her guiding job and was delighted to share all type of tales with us. 

The fourth floor also has a short set of stairs that lead to the belfry.   The belfry has been closed for years.  After we looked up the belfry stairs, we were lead down the hall.  Several rooms had stories which were told us.  



One of the more active rooms was the 407Lord Dunraven Room.   This room is the only room in the hotel with windows, although they are painted over now to give guests privacy.  Lord Dunraven is thought to inhabit the closet in this room.  Nearly all women who enter the closet and close the door experience someone running their hand through heir hair, or down their arm or back.  We could not go in this day as the room was occupied. 




After this story, she said we might want to take a clearer look at the door ending the belfry stairs. 



At what  a small area at the earlier end of the one hall, there was a small sitting area.  In earlier days this was the end of the hall and had stairs and doors leading down.  When the hall was extended a loveseat was placed there for guests.   Apparently on a regular basis the loveseat is moved to the other side of the hall at night.  People have heard it being moved or found it moved, but no one has seen anyone move it. 


As Andrew's and Jennifer's room is just two doors down the hall she was interested in this story. 


As we walked by Jennifer's and Andrew's room, we asked if there was anything unusual about her room. 

Hollie said, in fact there is.  Something in the room like to steal any candy left on the bureau ad leave the wrapper on the floor in front of the dresser. 


Did we experience haunting?


1) We finished the tour with introductions to other rooms and tales.  The group dispersed and we decided to go to dinner.  Although Jennifer's ghost prefers saltwater taffy, all we had was a hard chocolate mint.  As a dare we left a piece on the dresser before we left. 


After dinner, Jennifer found the candy exactly where she left it. 


2) As I said earlier, Jackie, Billy and I originally had the room next to Jennifer.   When we found there was only a single bed in the room, we were moved to the third floor.  When Jackie came back with the news we were moving, I told her that was good - the children in the next room down were too noisy and would keep us awake.   This happened within 20 minutes of initially arriving at our floor - a day before the tour where we we were told about "noisy children" being heard on the fourth floor.


As near as we could tell, there were maybe only 4 or 5 children, with their parents, as guests in the hotel.  None roomed on the forth floor. 


3) When we met for breakfast the next morning Jennifer was upset.  When they had gone to bed that night  Andrew fell to sleep quickly.  Jennifer fell asleep only to feel someone pressing down on the mattress next to her feet, as with a hand.  This was happening on the other side from where Andrew was sleeping.  This happened several times, it upset her and she got up for a while.


4) Going back to bed, she had just dozed off when the drawer pull on the night stand beside her started clicking - being moved up and down.  She woke Andrew and he had heard nothing - and the noise stopped for a while.  It happened again later during the night.  In the morning, when she got out of bed, the pull was sticking straight out. 


5) As she walked around the room.  She found the candy was gone and the wrapper on he floor in front of the dresser. 



So you be the judge 



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Elk and Deer in Estes Park


We went "elk hunting" in Estes Park in the afternoon and early morning.   The places Jennifer and Andrew saw elk in town most often were deserted.  We drove around and encountered a small herd on the grounds of a closed motel. 


One of the life-like statues in central Estes Park


We stopped by a field with a bridge and stream bordering it - no elk


The the motel grounds


The buck was so lazy he was digging through the snow to find grass to eat while laying down. 

One of his "girls"


Still just laying there

The girls started to move


And he just lays there with his nose in the snow

Or on his nose

He finally gets up and I go to the other side of the car

His herd decides to cross the street - slowly - blocking traffic for 3 or 4 minutes as they walk into a housing development.




We drive a bit further out of town and run across a flock of wild turkeys


Then we find some deer



As it get a bit colder and darkness starts to fall, we see the clouds close in on the mountains and fog starting to roll down the mountains into the valley below.  As it was getting dark, I don't know if the rolling fog is clear enough in these pictures - but its an eerie sight. 






And we see more deer.  

We saw two enormous buck elks.  One was within 15 feet, but bolted when I opened the car door to take a picture.  The other, the largest I saw, was standing on a home's front porch, looking at the window in the front door.  Can you just hear someone asking,  "Will you go and see who's at the door, dear?"

This deer was tagged - K2


Some great scenery as we hunted elk. 













We ran across a huge herd of both deer and elk.  There were well over 50 of them.   One of the first we saw was this large "baby" nursing.  We don't know how he could get low enough to still nurse.


The pictures that follow are of several of the deer and elk in that herd.







And then back to the Stanley at night. 


Notice the light above room 217 on the third floor.  I took these two pictures within a couple seconds of each other.  Hmmm











This icicle tree greeted us upon our return.  Hope you can see that every branch and every leave had an icicle. 


This picture was taken to show the waterfall beside the stairs and walkway to the rear main entrance.  The purpose is to show it in day light so one can recognize the scene at night.  

The Stanley really gets into Halloween, as one would expect with its reputation.

At night the waterfall is faintly lighted, and as one walks by the wooden bridge below the falls, one will spot a pair of blue eyes which occasionally look up to you from the depths.  


We leave the Stanley Hotel - Speaking perhaps only for my self, I plan to return - hopefully several times.   A lovely place with wonderful hosts. 



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Rocky Mountain National Park


We left Estes Park to return first to Andrew's and Jennifer's home and then to the Ol' Cab in Empire.   I asked to return via the Rocky Mountain National Park.  Much of it was closed due to snow fall, but we went where we could. 


The scenery was spectacular - the snow made it even more beautiful





This mountain has a formation which is called the "Key Hole"  We were told it was a very dangerous climb 




Jackie still attempting to look as if she loves the snow.

This is far as she would walk to an overlook - maybe 15 inches?




We didn't really see any more elk or deer, but the evidence is overwhelming they are/were here. 


Just look at all the tracks in the snow - a regular highway!











More scenery












Ah, some few elk














Terrible scenery!






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On the Peak to Peak 


We concluded our drive home along the Peak to Peak Byway



"The Peak to Peak Highway is a designated Scenic Byway. It begins as CO Highway 7 in Estes Park, passes Lily Mountain and Twin Sisters, then turns south just past Allen's park on CO Highway 72, goes to Nederland where it continues south on CO Highway 119, through Blackhawk"



Some of the peaks













Along the way is this small church or chapel.  I know nothing of it other than is exquisite setting.  Its just of the road, on a small hill's rock outcropping, overlooking a small lake. 



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Jen & Andrew's Home


Let's Live at 9,200 Feet


Their home is very near the end of the Peak to Peak Byway, above Black Hawk by a couple miles, at 9,200 feet (pant, pant!)


Andrew both designed and built the home himself. 















I'm fascinated by the squirrels winter and summer - and the dozens of humming birds each summer.  In addition to those animals, Andrew and Jennifer have seen deer, fox, bears (especially the one who raids Andrew's truck and Jennifer's bird feeders.  A mountain lion lingers in these parts also.  A neighbor has pictures of one on their porch. 



Their living room and fireplace

The awful view from their back porch















A panorama shot from the back porch


The walkway between the second floor bedrooms


My favorite spot - looking at the widows at the mountains - I've been known to drag a chair to the walkway and sit for extended periods just looking to the mountains.

Looking out one of the side windows

Yep - him / her again



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The Ol' Cab


Empire is an old mining town.  Uncle Billy's cabin is the third oldest cabin in the town.  Billy knows the history of the builder, a lawyer, his family and their life here.  Fortunately it is recoded in a book written by the original owner's daughter.  Unfortunately there are few remaining copies - generally offered in the $2,500 to $3,500 range. 



Uncle Billy celebrated his 50th years of ownership several years ago.  

We also celebrate the 100th years the Bronson and Gillespie families have been together.  


It seems all the family has added a sign to the sign-post 

Icicles out the kitchen window. 


The Shepherd House is, of course, a hand-built log cabin.  Yes, improvements have been made - running water, electricity, bathrooms, gas heat.    But the origins of the home have never been hidden.  

Look around.  you still see the log walls and pine ceilings and floors



Everyone calls the Shepherd House our home.  

If you have an hour or so to spare, ask me or Jackie - or anyone in our family -

 about the cabin and what it and Billy mean to us. 


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Yep - It's Memphis

I "promised" not to take any more pictures on the way back home.  However, when we stopped in the visitor's center in Memphis, I had to break my vow.  


Inside the center were bronze statues of two of Memphis' more famous folks -


Mr. B.B. King



A young Elvis Presley



And with that, we walked away - go'n home........



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We have left the building