We celebrated my sister Patty’s birthday on Friday the 13th at The Stanley Hotel. Two enthusiastic friends, Connie and Donna, flew out from Madison for the occasion. After meeting at my house in Boulder, we loaded my car with our suitcases and a Ouija Board. It had never been used and I know it’s creepy, but I couldn’t help myself. There was a crisp feel to the air that November afternoon. As the foothills rose up on the side of the highway and the river tumbled by, it began to snow.
Stephen King’s book The Shining made this Estes Park hotel famous. He wrote it after his family experienced paranormal activity when they stayed in room 217. Many remember Jack Nicholson who played the possessed father in the movie and his two famous lines, “All work and no play make Jack a dull boy,” and “Here’s Johnny!”
“I really don’t think anything is going to happen tonight,” I said to the group as we wound north along Highway 36.
My sister rolled her eyes and groaned.
“Ghosts aren’t like dogs that come when you call them.” I said, worried they would be disappointed.
“I know Susie, but it’ll be fun to see what happens,” Patty responded.
As we entered Estes Park, the Rocky Mountains served as a dramatic backdrop with its reflection in the pristine lake. It appeared like a hand-painted movie set. The Stanley Hotel perched above it, exuded an ominous presence with its ghostly white exterior.
After parking the car we walked across the Stanley’s massive veranda and entered the 100-year-old Victorian. Several other groups meandered in the spacious lobby. A few glanced at the Ouija board under my arm and giggled. I felt my cheeks grow hot. The auspicious date hadn’t gone unnoticed by many hotel guests, but several wedding parties arrived as well. I turned around at the commotion caused by a group that entered with all kinds of equipment. We overheard whispers that ghost-busters had come to dispel any paranormal activity.
The man at the front desk checked Connie and Donna into rooms located on a benign wing for ghost activity (much to their relief). However, my sister and I pounced on the very infamous 4th floor wing where hotel guests have often regaled the front desk with reports of children running up and down the hallway in the middle of the night. My sister stayed at the end of the hall in Room 412 and I checked into 406 known as “Billy’s” room. He was a little boy that haunted by moving items in the rooms and closets on our wing. As I put my things away for the evening, I hung my leather coat dead center in the closet so I would notice if it got moved. When I joined my sister and friends, I told them what I did and we all looked at each other and laughed.
Check out the size of those orbs. We could not find any in the same room the next day.
Armed with digital cameras in hopes of catching some orbs on film, we went to the 4:00 Haunted Ghost Tour. Our guide, Kevin, took us on an exploration of the historic Hotel, going to areas that had reported paranormal activity. Connie and I started taking random pictures in the piano room. He took us to Room 217 which is where the King family stayed. He said it was believed to be haunted by a man who swindled and pick-pocketed hotel guests. He was also a lady’s man and has been known to caress female hotel guests. He didn’t seem to be around that afternoon.
Satisfied with extensive historical tour of the building and the number of orb photos we captured on film, we went to our rooms to dress for dinner. I checked to see if my coat had been moved and there it was; dead center where I left it.
During dinner we strained our ears to hear the eerie sounds of the piano that had been reported to play at random intervals, but classical music filtered down from overhead speakers. Since it was November and the off-season, (the same time of year Stephen King had visited) half the cavernous dining room was left in darkness and I couldn’t escape a pervasive draft.
After dinner we walked the hallways and came upon the group there to dismiss any ghostly activity. Ironically, they were using the same EMF detectors the paranormal experts use.
“We took pictures of orbs down that hallway a few hours ago.” I said. Their meters shot way up, but they explained that electrical wiring enclosed in the walls caused the high readings and dust caused the orb effects.
“If I am not seeing ghosts in the middle of the night then what am I seeing?” I asked.
“We call that sleep paralysis. In other words, you are still dreaming when you wake up.”
“I am clearly awake when I see apparitions walk through my bedroom, but they are the experts,” I thought.
As the group went off to investigate another part of the hotel, a blonde-haired woman stayed behind. “Come over here and feel this,” she said. We walked over the bottom of the stairwell. “This is the vortex of the hotel,” she said. I walked up to the wall and stood with my back to it. A tingling sensation began on the soles of my feet and then moved through me to the top of my head where my hair stood on end. We each took a turn. “How would they explain this?” I asked.
The four of us returned to the 4th floor wing. I retrieved the Ouija board and we found a spot in the middle of the long hallway. We sat down on the tapestried carpeting, I pulled out the board and we put our fingers on the “planchette.” After a couple of minutes, I jerked it and everyone screamed. “I did it,” I admitted. We all laughed. I was getting very tired and was ready to go to bed.
Suddenly, we were struck by a cold breeze. We turned and gazed down the empty hallway. The door at the end of the hall stood wide open.
“Oh my God!” we said in unison.
“Do you think someone down there could have poked their head in?” I asked.
As Patty stood up, the door slammed shut. She ran down the hall and checked, but no one was on the landing or anywhere on the outdoor stairwell.
Patty’s friends were pretty freaked out. “I’ve had enough,” said Donna.
We said our good nights and after washing up, I tumbled into bed. Banging on the floor above me kept me awake for hours. I thought, “Why don’t those stupid ghost-busters set their equipment down instead of dropping it on the floor?” I covered my head with my pillow.
As I nodded off, screams of children and the pounding of feet resounded down the hallway. “Seriously?,” I thought rolling my burning eyes, “What if someone sees the hotel guests or staff running and laughing? Someone will catch them.”
It ended as abruptly as it started and I drifted off to sleep. An hour later, I was startled by a sound in my room. A pale-faced man with black hair parted down the middle and a goatee wearing a white shirt, black bow tie, and jacket, floated from the tapestry floor, rose over me and out the window. “Great. Now I am having sleep paralysis on top of all noise!” I turned over and fell back to sleep.
I woke up a few hours later to a shaft of gray morning light. I dressed and called my sister. She came right over. “Did you hear them?” Patty asked, “The children ran down the hall at a really fast pace, but instead of slowing at the end of the hall, their steps just ended in mid-stride.”
“Well, I had sleep paralysis and saw some guy float over my head. What was up with all the equipment being banged over our heads all night?” I got up to check my coat and gasped. The sleeve had been pulled and it was almost off the hanger.
“Can you believe it Patty? I never expected anything, but they really put on a show!”
“Maybe because it was Friday the 13th,” she said. I gave her a big eye-roll.
We met Connie and Donna who said they had a great night’s sleep.
The blonde lady from the night before walked towards us. “Did you hear them?” she asked.
“They weren’t hotel guests or staff?” I asked.
“No,” she laughed, “those were the ghostly children the Stanley Hotel is famous for. Last night was the first time I’ve heard them since arriving a few days ago.”
“Well I had sleep paralysis last night,” I said and described my apparition.
“Sounds like you got a visit from F.O. Stanley himself!” she said, “That isn’t sleep paralysis. Immediately upon waking is the easiest time to see ghosts. That’s why they fade.”
While we checked out, the man at the desk asked how our night was. I said, “I wish those ghost-busters would have set down their equipment more gently. They banged in the attic above me all night long.”
“Ma’am, The Stanley doesn’t have an attic.” He pointed out the window. “You were on the 4th floor wing in a dormer room. There was nothing above you.”
Do you believe in ghosts?
1st photo by hotelsinsider.travelhero.com - The rest by S. Lindau