Sunday, November 10, 2013

11/9/13 The Stanley Hotel

Our Stay in Pictures

We left Denver around 9:00 and took our time, stopping in Boulder, and getting to Estes Park and the Stanley Hotel at 12:00. 

But first . . a quick Stanley history.

Freeland (F.O.) and Francis were identical twins who made their fortune at an early age, inventing the airbrush and later the dry photo plate process that would be sold to the newly emerging Eastman Kodak company. They had enough money to retire in style, but kept on inventing. Their 1897 steam car turned out to be the genesis of the engine that would power steam train engines. The car was the best-selling automobile between 1902 and 1917, before the cheaper assembly-line concept of the gasoline engine allowed the Ford Model T to become the affordable and popular choice of the less wealthy. 

In 1900 though, F.O. came down with consumption and, as was the medical advice of the day, told to get out west into the cleanest air he could find and get active. F.O. and Flora initially moved to Denver, but his condition continued to worsen. In 1903, with only months to live, his doctor sent them to his cabin in Estes Park for their last days. 

Instead, F.O. miraculously took a turn for the better. He credited it all on the mountain air of Estes Park and built a small mansion before breaking ground on the Stanley Hotel, originally planned as just a large mansion to entertain their large parties who would come from the East to stay with them.

This enterprise brought electricity to the town of Estes Park, as well as a sewer system. He also re-introduced large game (elk) to the area.  Their guests included President Teddy Roosevelt and the unsinkable Molly Brown. They would leave out of Denver in a Stanley Steamer and have entertainment provided them. A man in a bear suit would attack the car, so that the driver could fire blanks and scare him away. 

Flora and F.O. operated the hotel for their friends until his death in 1940, when the hotel was sold and refused to turn a profit for any owner over the next six decades. It burned through 26 owners until the current company, John Cullen and his Grand Heritage Hotel group,  took it over and played off of the Shining's reputation, adding the very profitable ghost tours which offer a look into the history of the place for tourists who don't want to stay the night. (But also for those who do -- at a discounted rate!)

That flag has seen better days, although this may be damage from the recent floods that decimated the area and closed Highway 36, the quickest route from Denver, up to Estes Park. Highway 36 reopened this week. The damage we saw on the way up was devastating. (Blog post to follow.)

The view from the porch

We weren't too sure but thought it worth to see if we could go ahead and check in early.

While D got in line, I popped around the lobby snapping photos.

The Grand Staircase
only guests and tours are allowed beyond the lobby

The wallpaper! 
It's very cool to have just read the book and to see the touches that King worked into the book. 

The original 1909 Otis elevator. It was upgraded to electricity in the 30s to keep it from sliding down below floor levels. (Read the book.)

One of the original pianos. 
The Grand Piano in the music room, Flora's piano, was a gift from F.O. on the hotel's opening day, July 4, 1909.
John Phillip Sousa was on hand that day and played the piano then, and on every return trip.
He etched his initials and the date into the piano lid each time. 
In 2006, when the piano was being refurbished, these were removed by accident.
I can imagine a restoration company that didn't get a good BBB review from the Stanley Hotel.

The Pinon Room, viewable from the door. 
You can get inside only on the tours, which we did after dark.
The men did their manly things in here, while the women spent their time segregated in the Music Room.

The Music Room

F.O. Stanley on the second floor balcony
I felt compelled to take his picture every time I passed it.

Flora Stanley, top of the staircase

And we were given room 215. 
Why is this exciting?

Because we were next door to King's room, #217, home to bloated purple tub lady (in the book)!
217 was the room Teddy Roosevelt stayed in, and had panoramic views of the Rockies, with the suite taking up the entire side of the hotel until the 1980s.

On June 25, 1911, Mrs. Wilson, chamber maid, was blasted down through the floor into the MacGregor Room, breaking both her ankles, when she went to light the acetyline lanterns during a storm after another worker had left the gas burning in the suite before she lit the flame. Stanley covered all of her hospital expenses, promoted her to head chambermaid (no lighting duties included), and paid for all of her children's college educations. She remained, understandably, a loyal employee until her death. 

King and his wife reportedly asked at the front desk, after checking in and then leaving the room for a few hours before returning, who had put their things away. That'd be Mrs. Wilson, who apparently doesn't mind not getting a paycheck these days and keeps on doing her chamber duties. 

The view from our room

The view of our room (once a part of #217)

Cool copper touches in the bathroom

The framed photographs of the early days of the hotel are hanging on the walls.
After I watched the movie, I wasn't sure this was terribly comforting. 
Look to closely and you might see yourself.

This one in our room explained what the front porch once looked like, and why there are two sections of staircase that just end into the railings now.

The hallways, which aren't nearly as labyrinthine as the book's.

This is the stairway outside our door, looking up. 
This space is included on the Ghost Tour. More on why later.

Flora and F.O. are side by side thanks to the mirror. 

At the sitting area near the Cascades restaurant and the Whiskey Bar

The MacGregor Room, once the main dining hall of the hotel

In the basement is the children's playhouse replica of the Stanley Hotel
In the book it was outside in the haunted playground (non-existent now)

One of Stanley's inventions

The Pet Cemetary, which the hotel is planning to move from its current and original area to make way for a wedding pavilion. 

Exploring the rock formations near the cemetary

Standing on the boarded up pool 

Back of the hotel, in the sculpture garden

Our side of the hotel. 
Our bathroom and room windows are the two between the pine trees on the second floor. 

More vortexing, as we head back to the room

While Deana's phone was charging, we watched The Shining.

Once charged, we headed back to the Whiskey Bar

The woman in the white shirt follows you up and down the hallway with her eyes. 

Second floor balcony, looking out toward the waterfall and sculpture garden.

Naturally, we had to take the elevator

The 1906 Stanley Steamer Car, which would have run you $850, or just over $22K in today's dollars. 
Since the cars were made of wood and ran on steam power, should you catch on fire while driving, the advice was to speed up to put out the flames. 

In 2012, the Cascades Bar was re-made, and an original 1909 Rothchild's Bar, made of wood and marble, with lights added underneath to showcase its beauty, was unveiled. 

The Whiskey Walls boast more than 600 different bottles on display (and in use)

The tintype roof and retro-bulbs are spot-on in recreating the feel of the hotel in it's earliest days.

And the new drink menu boasts all kinds of interesting options. 
D with her Candied Bacon Bloody Mary. 
It's a drink AND an appetizer!

Since we were waiting for darkness to fall and the start of our ghost tour, I decided it was only right to try the F.O. Stanley Cocktail. 

Our second round, we both went for the Corpse Reviver #2

And after both those drinks? The ceiling was flipping dancing.

We could see the light beginning to fade, so we checked in and got our tour stickers, and then stepped out to enjoy dusk for a few minutes before the tour was slated to begin.

And by this time, in our awe, and slightly floaty state, we realized it was now 5:03, so we hurried back inside and joined the tour that had just started.

Behind the front desk, an antique key for every room.

The Billiard Room. Under each of these Tiffany fixtures, sat a billiard table. 
The bench along the way was the only place ladies were allowed, but they could only clap for their men and not speak. Our guide pointed out the rather uncomfortable railing set into the back of the bench at head height. This was to encourage the ladies to move along to the more comfortable and womanly Music Room. 

Past the Lodge, a newly opened portion of the hotel, done in Boutique style, and past that, the Concert Hall, where a group of paranormal investigators were actually working this evening.

Fittingly, some of the original billiard balls on display

One of the original tables has been reclaimed by the hotel and is currently locked in the Archival Section of the hotel, a room in the basement that is not currently open to any one, except peeking through windows. The hope is to soon have a museum space that showcases items recovered from sell-offs through the hotel's past. 

In the front room of the Billiard space is the Pinon Room. Women were not allowed to linger here. The centerpiece of the room is a  large fireplace, over which hands a flag that flew in Afghanistan and was gifted to the hotel in 2010 by Sgt. Michael Bergman. Over the past three years, a white discoloration has been getting more obvious in the top three stripes, top right quadrant, of the flag. They have looked to try and see if any angles of sunlight might be causing the damage, but nothing can be pinpointed. The more imaginative onlookers report seeing the image of, first, eyes, and more recently, a face taking shape. 

Opposite the fireplace is an original piece, not sold off to pay for debts because it is quite firmly planted in the wall.

I tried to be the last out of each room, just to get the shots I wanted. D played along gamely. 

Our next stop (not sure why we didn't go into the Music room) was out onto the front lawn. 
I was so entranced by the hotel in the dark, I'm afraid I really didn't catch a lot of the tour guide's information out here. 

I love the oval windows of the bathrooms on the third floor.

A shadowy figure in one of the fourth floor dormer rooms. 
This was where the children and their nannies stayed.

We then trekked over to an out-building known as the Ice House, now converted into a spot for a restored 1906 Steamer and memorabilia of the Stanleys.

Also housed here are the remnants of a Stanley that wasn't cared for or protected from the elements. 

In the car on display, you can see F.O. in his white beard, third car from the left.

We walked back to the main building and entered the MacGregor room, whose stage that held performers during dinner hour, is original to the 1909 hotel.  The space is now used for events, but the kitchen is still in full swing to service the restaurant on the other side of the wall. 

We made our way up to the second floor balcony where our guide introduced us to all of the portraits on the wall and their history. 

Flora is often reported being seen descending from this staircase in her ballgown.
She reportedly designed it to have four supporting pillars representing the four beautiful seasons of the area.  

We then trooped over to, you guessed it, our room and the hallway leading to Room 217. This is when we found out that our room was once part of 217 and that the spot right in front of our door, looking up through the staircase, was the vortex of the hotel's hauntings. I didn't ask for a source on that, however. At this point, more than an hour into the tour, after those two cocktails, D had to sneak into our room to use the facilities. I was amused, since I was at the back of the group watching, that she slipped in while he was talking and shut the door without him facing her, so that he jumped and stared around and had to ask, "did someone just go in there?"

Between this kind of nervous-energy-feed stuff, the awareness that the lighting in the hotel creates some great reflections and orbs, as well as the creakiness and thin walls throughout the place, I will admit to being a skeptic. Now, if I'd gone back into my room and discovered my bag unpacked? Maybe not so much. But I'm a peon and Mrs. Wilson only deals with the best guests.

The attic stairs from the fourth floor lead to the bell tower visible from outside. 
We didn't get to go up, darnit.

Besides the oft-reported complaints of noisy children in the hallways from guests, the main paranormal activities center around this corner room, #428. 
The Cowboy, man in a stetson, has been reported by multiple guests, crossing the room and sitting on the end of the bed, quite uninvited. He has also bent down to kiss sleepers on their foreheads. 

#401 was reportedly also active, which was Lord Dunraven's room. Dunraven was the slimy character from whom Stanley bought the land and who ran the town's brothel. MacGregor was the lawyer who finally put an end to his work, but not before years of staying on in the hotel and propositioning the ladies who were working as nannies to come over and see him about available positions as his establishment. Whether I was off shooting photos or not listening (remember the Stanley and Corpse Reviver?) I did not hear our guide tell us about Dunraven. I read about him after the fact. Which become important in just a minute. Just know he's the one credited with pinching some of the ladies over the years. 

Down the vortex

and into the basement. 

Here is the aforementioned and forthcoming museum area:

Across from that is the Stanley Ice Box

And in the back corner, a locked door for the last portion of the tour. This is the un-renovated section of the employee tunnels. I touched the walls and felt them crumble under my hands. The tree roots are also petrified. Our guide led everyone in and, as usual, I brought up the rear. Deana was just ahead of me and I snapped this picture before joining her at the back of the group. 

 I had stepped off to take a picture of the old wooden door and the tunnel

And then stood next to Deana while he talked. It was right then that both of us turned to see who'd come up behind us. I swear, I felt someone there and couldn't figure out how anyone had circled back around toward the closed door. I realized Deana had turned at exactly the same time and when I looked at her she said, "Someone just grabbed my ass!"

I stepped over and snapped this one, but, obviously, must've made him shy. 

Lord Dunraven must've scuttled back off through the tunnel here and back up to the fourth floor. 

Once the tour was concluded, we wandered about and realized it was 6:45 and we still hadn't found dinner. Since we'd enjoyed our bite of lunch we'd had right after check-in, we decided to try again for supper. 

Turns out, we needed a reservation for a table, but we could order from the bar. Even better! Deana spotted an open chair with some room to spare and I begged another barstool off a nearby table, and we were set. 

At lunch I'd had the special, which was a chicken breast in a mango chutney that was delicious and D had chosen the Street Tacos. I'd read the reviews on Yelp and hadn't held out a lot of hope, but the food was really spectacular. Pricey? Yes. But very well done. 

We split the House-Smoked Colorado Trout Dip with Shishito pepper appetizers before sharing the Colorado Meatloaf, which I did manage to snap a picture of before devouring. It's organic elk/buffalo/kurabuta pork in a wild mushroom sauce with a creamy potato puree, carrots, and green beans. Good lord, this stuff was amazing. 

 Before heading up to our room for the evening, we decided we needed a night shot of us in the creepy twins cutout. 



The hotel at night is just ten times more authentic.

Goodnight F.O.

Oh! since my shot on the tour didn't turn out, I retook it before retiring. This is what's left of the fire hose that hangs outside our door that was the inspiration for that awful, spine-tingling scene with Danny in the dark hallway, when the hose moves while he's not looking, as he stares into Room 217.
Apparently too many guests were trying to reenact the scene an the hose had to be permanently removed. 

Goodnight, 217. 

I stayed up late editing pictures trying to make my eyelids so heavy I would actually fall asleep, but no luck. I gave up around midnight, despite being able to explain every sound (and there were a ton!) as the people above us walking, the people on one side of the wall turning on the shower, the people in #217 opening drawers, the people walking through the hallway, or up the stairs. Still, every new sound roused me. Deana had opened the window before she fell asleep at 10:00. I made sure the thermostat was off (there's no AC in the hotel, only heat) and turned on the ceiling fan. But the room stayed very warm. I kept waking up in a sweat. I don't know how people stay here in the summer. 

At 7:30 I got up to hop into the bathroom and realized two of my toes were throbbing. I don't remember banging them on anything and I remember walking fine to the bathroom a few hours before, but at that point it felt like I'd jammed them into the wall somehow. I was curled up fetal style with the four heavenly pillows, no covers, and nowhere near the bed frame all night.  I've been limping around on them all day, still not sure how that happened.

By the time we were both up and moving, I was starving and we quickly gave up the idea of walking down to the diner in Estes Park that I'd wanted to try because the wind was fierce. Good thing we abandoned that idea since our address was wrong and the .3 miles we thought we needed to cover only got us to 401 E. Elkhorn, not WEST Elkhorn on the other side of town. 

Despite Deana saying she wasn't hungry, and me turning into Betty White Snickers Bar commercial I was so cranky, we managed to fill up the table with more food than either of us could finish. 

We had to check out of the hotel by 11:00, so other than snapping some photos to and from and a few more inside, we said farewell to the Stanley Hotel for this trip. 

I'd searched and then asked if any of the topiaries were on the grounds. They'd put in new ones for the 1997 miniseries of The Shining, because I'd seen pictures of guests on them. But apparently the elk thought them quite too delicious to stick around and turn into malevolent haunted things. I settled for the one of the two lions at the front of The Lodge. 

The pool has been closed all year, so I'm assuming some renovations are on the schedule for 2014. In previous years, it was open in the summer, but unheated. I'll have to come back to see next summer.


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