I, like most of you, love a good ghost story—especially this time of year. With Halloween just around the corner, the sights and sounds of spooky spirits can be found all around—from the costume-clad sign twirlers advertising on street corners to the eerie screams of frightened haunted house goers, the season of spook is definitely upon us.
Arguably one of the most iconic symbols of horror in Colorado is located just below the entrance to the breathtaking Rocky Mountain National Park in the stunningly scenic mountain town of Estes Park. The Stanley Hotel has been a staple in local folklore for decades, providing stories of residents and hotel guests that check in, but they never check out… Tales of unsettled spirits and gory images popularized by films inspired by Stephen King novels draw thousands of guests to this hundred-year-old haunt every year.
In need of a mini-vacation, and catching the Halloween spirit, I decided that a weekend trip to the Stanley Hotel would be the perfect place to relax, breathe some fresh mountain air and spend the weekend before All Hallows Eve.
Autumn colors blanketed the mountain landscape and sixty degree weather and sunshine greeted us as we reached our final destination. The temperatures began to drop and the afternoon sky began to fade, which signaled the time for my group of ghost adventurers to make our way up to the Stanley Hotel that stands as a ghostly fixture against a rocky mountain backdrop above the town.
Having pre-purchased tickets for two of the Stanley ghost tours, my group met up with other intrigued guests and one brave tour guide and began weaving our way in and around the Hotel, for the Ghost and History portion of the tour. Our guide pointed out the hand-crafted architectural pieces that create the old-timey feel of the hotel, along with popular paranormal hot spots and the history that is captured in the elegant ballrooms and the narrow hallways throughout the hotel.
I finished this tour feeling satisfied about my newfound knowledge of the history and the trivia of the hotel, but only a tiny bit spooked by the actual ghost part of the tour. If you plan on taking a tour at the Stanley, I definitely recommend that you follow the Ghost and History Tour with a tour of the nearby Concert Hall. This is where the tour guides, such as the infamous Scary Mary, will really make the hair on your arms stand up. After entering the Concert Hall, built by the Stanley’s to host upscale parties for their visiting guests, the exterior doors were locked, and the ghost stories began.
Down in the dreary basement, my group, finally feeling a little creeped out, made our way to a tiny, pitch-dark room where we were politely introduced to the spirit of “Lucy”, a Concert Hall regular and good friend of Scary Mary. Although goose bumps crept over my arms, and one of my hands was permanently extended towards the door, (just in case), the lights eventually flickered back on and we finished our tour of the Concert Hall with a friendly childhood game played with some of the spirit kids that still roam the grounds. Our day of ghost hunting was capped off with a glass of wine on the front porch of the hotel and the sharing of some ghost stories of our own.
If you’re interested in visiting the Stanley in search of some ghostly activities, act now. All tours do continue through the month of November, but fill up quickly, just like the guest rooms. And if you’re ready for a really big scare, sign up for an all-night Ghost Hunt, a chilling séance or a Murder Mystery Dinner or request to stay in the most haunted rooms on the property.
If you’re ghost hunting on a budget, reserve your space for the tours through the Stanley, but check out some of the other local hotels to save some money on your accommodations. And be sure to reward yourself for not crying like a little girl by indulging at some of the popular eateries in Downtown Estes– where you just might have some unexpected dinner guests join the party…