My father and his girlfriend were on their way back to Minnesota when they stopped to see me in Denver, finishing a two week road trip out to San Diego to see my sister and her family. I threw a million and one suggestions at them for things to see on the way and while they were in Colorado. Nothing really seemed to stick, though, except one item. And a ghost tour through the famed Stanely Hotel was honestly the last thing I would have thought they’d choose.
They arrived this past Saturday tired from the long drive, so we waited until Sunday to go up to Estes Park, home of the Stanley and gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. Since we wouldn’t be able to spend much time in the national park, I took them along the Peak-to-Peak Highway (below) into Estes Park, which is a little longer than the two other main easterly routes. It was worth it, though, since the sun was shining bright in the sky, painting it a brilliant blue that stood out on the snow-capped mountains. It was difficult to have any more picturesque of a scene.
We spent a little time strolling the streets of Estes Park, but our reason for going to the town was to do a ghost tour at the hotel. This is something I had been interested in experiencing since moving to Colorado, so I was quite excited to finally have the opportunity. The wait felt like forever, though, since we arrived at the hotel more than forty-five minutes prior to our scheduled tour time.
While we waited, I had plenty of time to think about just how much I was willing to believe in ghosts and the hauntings in the hotel. Sure, I have become a fan of all of the different ghost shows on television, but since I’ve only had one prior experience myself I wasn’t completely sold. I guess you could call me a skeptical optimist; I wanted to believe, but also had a difficult time buying into what I generally saw as a television fad.
Nonetheless, I dressed in my spookiest black shirt and went into the tour with an open mind. After all, I did have a previous experience with a full apparition of an old lady standing in the bedroom doorway of my old apartment. So, there was a chance that ghosts were really real and that I just needed a little more proof to be totally convinced.
Shortly into the tour that proof presented itself.
The nearly two hour-long tour started in the hotel’s basement with a short presentation by our guide, “Scary” Mary. From there we climbed the stairs back up into the main lobby and moved over to the McGregor Room, a large dining room that was empty with the exception of a few tables, chairs and a piano. While we sat, Mary spoke a little about the hotel’s history and how incidents have occasionally happened in that particular room. No one seemed to have any sort of experience this time, but it at least did allow a little time to learn how and why the hotel was built.
I won’t go into those details here, but just to say that the wealthy Mr. Stanley (pictured) had tuberculosis and needed to be in the drier western climates during the summer months, so he built a retreat for he and his wife and then later added on to it with what is now the hotel so she could entertain her friends.
The history lesson was interesting, but everyone seemed to have it in their mind that they wanted to see two things – Room 217 and ghosts. And no sooner did Mary finish giving us our history lesson than we headed upstairs and to the doorway for the famed room. In case you’re ignorant about the room’s fame, I’ll take a moment to explain: a lifelong maid for the hotel haunts the room, and sometimes its neighbors, and it is in here that author Stephen King spent one night and gained the inspiration to write The Shining.
Several other famous guests – Theodore Roosevelt, Molly Brown, and actor Jim Carrey (until he was scared out after a few hours) – also stayed in the room.
With a brief detour, I should stop here to say that The Shining was one of my favorite books growing up. If memory serves me correctly, I read it during my middle school years and it helped propel me into the wonderful world of reading. Other books certainly helped, too, but The Shining definitely played a significant role. And so, while I was looking at the door where author Stephen King spent a night and gained inspiration to knock out the great horror story in a week’s time, I was easily as giddy as a school child.
Mary stopped us outside the door for a short talk before we continued down the long hallway that Room 217 is one end of; the other faces out to the backyard of the hotel. We stopped at the other end and lined up in a single file along the walls with Mary at the head of the group, standing immediately in front of me. Here she spoke of three spirit children that are known to play with guests, and particularly her, while on the tour. She instructed us to take a few deep breaths and open ourselves up to the kids and welcome them.
I held on to a bit of my skepticism, but did as she said. I breathed deeply a few times, turned my palms outwards from my side, and relaxed my mind. And no sooner did I do this than I noticed two whisps of smoke, no higher than my chest, glide in between Mary and myself. It was nothing more than a little white smoke, but each time I saw it, which was in quick succession, it had the appearance of a lock of hair.
This caused my curiosity to immediately grow, but not more than what happened less than a half of a second later: something was grabbing my left hand. I could distinctly feel a pressure on my palm, particularly at the base of my thumb and the middle of my palm. I tried to close my hand, but I couldn’t do so without feeling as though I was squishing something inside of it.
Yes, I felt as though I were holding a small child’s hand.
I took a moment to get over the shock of what I was feeling, testing my mind before announcing what was happening to the group. After all, I wasn’t sure what was happening was real. But, since my right hand was having none of the issues of my left hand, I thought what I was feeling was true. I interrupted Mary and told the group what was happening: one of the children was holding my hand.
I wasn’t scared or nervous, I felt empathetic, but the sensation was queer. I had never felt anything like it before and couldn’t workout any other way I’d be feeling it then other than by the power of a ghost. But, almost as soon as it started, it fluttered away; right to the bottom of Mary’s skirt.
The back hem of Mary’s skirt fluttered as though someone was playing with it. She explained that this is a common occurrence with the kids, particularly Matthew, the lone boy, and continued to explain how it happens with the back of her blouse, too. It was witnessed and ooh’d and ahh’d over by everyone in our twenty-person group except me. I was still flexing my left hand, recalling the not-so-distant memory of it being held, and asking my father to feel how clammy it felt compared to my right hand.
“Did you get a name?” Mary asked me while her skirt was moving. “Did you have any feeling as to what their name might be?”
“No, none at all.”
I paused to think about it, though. I had the distinct impression that I was holding a young boy’s hand. And as I thought about it, the name Thomas popped into my head. As it did, my hand was grabbed and squeezed once more. This time, it did not let go for at least ten minutes. The child felt comfortable with me and held my hand through the rest of Mary’s talk in the hallway and our walk back to the end of it near Room 217.
“You know, after you asked me that, I got the impression of the name Thomas in my head,” I told Mary while the rest of the group filed up to the fourth floor.
“We have a boy named Tommy here,” she explained, “but he very rarely comes out. And it’s not usually around here. But it’s possible.”
“I’m not sure that’s who it was, and maybe Thomas was Matthew’s middle name,” I explained, “but I definitely got the impression it was a boy and the name Thomas was connected to him.”
I followed Mary up the large spiral staircase, but only half listened to what she said to the group. I was still preoccupied with my experience and the sensation I was still experiencing of a sore palm, although my hand was definitely no longer being held. I turned it over in my mind several times while she continued to talk about different spirits in the area, vortexes, and the history of the hotel. It wasn’t until we stopped outside a room where the spirit of Lord Dunraven is known to haunt that I got my mind off it. It was also here that I saw the etching of “Redrum” from The Shining on the trapdoor to the top of the bell tower.
We only paused briefly, but it was long enough for me to gain my senses for what was next – another experience.
Mary lead us down another hallway on the fourth floor, the area where the nannies stayed, to a small carpeted spot where the children of the guests were allowed to play during the day in fifteen minute increments. Beyond that, staying at the Stanely was a pretty dismal time for kids by the sounds of it. They were kept from their parents and only allowed meals in the back and limited playtime.
Just like kids probably did so long ago, we held hands and played Ring Around the Rosie. After my experience on the second floor, I was extremely curious so I participated. My father and his girlfriend watched and took photos. And thankfully they did, because she came up with this interesting shot:
From watching the various television ghost hunting shows, and talking with Mary at the end of the tour, I can only come to the conclusion that ghosts were near me at the time the orbs appeared in the photograph, one on my left shoulder and the other in the middle of my back. The skeptic in me would like to brush it off as dust or something similar, but too many other photographs were taken where various things like this were not in the previous frame, but then appeared in the next one and continued to move in a sequence in the following photographs. Take these of our tour guide and the orb moving in sequence toward her while she talked about the ghost that could be found on the stairs from the third to the second floor:
I also had an interesting sensation while playing the game. It occurred after we stopped walking in a circle, released our hands, and placed them in the middle of the cirlce and encouraged the children to run. I almost immediately felt liked wind was blowing on my hands, possibly from the kids running by them so quickly, but I also felt like mine were bumped a couple of times.
“Does anyone feel anything?” asked Mary.
“Yes!” one girl exclaimed, who then proceeded to describe the very same sensation I was experiencing. I didn’t know how she was, but it was happening and the skeptical label was beginning to fall away from preceeding the optimist part I mentioned earlier. The Stanley was making a believer out of me.
We completed the tour back in the basement. I had no additional experiences between the game and there, but we also didn’t stop. It didn’t matter, though, since what I had felt kept me scratching my head the rest of the day in wonderment. Did I really experience those things or was it just suggestive reasoning on Mary’s part? The further I went from the experience the more I believed in the suggestions.
But never completely.
Something happened in the hotel and I’m not sure what exactly it was. All I do know is that it has made me more curious to the possibility of ghosts living among us. And without a doubt I know I want to return to The Stanely, staying a few nights even, to see what else I might experience, particularly in the areas where I felt things like my hand being held.
Until then, I’ll just have to continue questioning and wondering.