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I am a Denver-based writer, travel lover, and author of The Drive North: A Swing Down Memory Lane. I have several other pieces, including fiction, in the works.

A Scaring Experience at the Stanley Hotel

I looked out the peephole one last time. Disappointed, I sighed. No one was outside. I had hoped to have one more good laugh, jumping out at someone stopping by for a souvenir photo, but it was time to check out. So my fun would have to wait until a return visit to the Stanley Hotel’s infamous Room 217.

My brother and I hit the paranormal jackpot. We booked a weekend stay at the Stanley Hotel, located near the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, in one of the spookiest rooms anywhere. Room 217 is supposedly so scary that actor Jim Carey ran out three hours after checking in, refusing to return. Instead it is said he stayed at a room at the nearby Holiday Inn while he was in Estes Park, Colorado filming Dumb and Dumber. Other notable characters – Bob Dylan, Bette Midler, and a host of other celebrities – have sucked it up, though, and managed to spend the night. So did we, for two nights even.

Based on Jim Carey’s actions and Stephen King’s imagination by writing The Shining after spending a single night in the room, I had expected the bed to levitate, items to fly out of the bathroom, and full-blow apparitions to clean up after us. Instead what my brother and I got was a fun experience of our own creation. It came to life through suggestions given to me over a recent work lunch: play a prank on your brother while at the Stanley Hotel, they said.

I considered the idea, even going so far as to come up with a few options. But as we drove to Estes Park from Denver, I realized he would likely be more devious than me with any retribution. So instead of playing jokes on each other, why not have some fun with the poor, unsuspecting tourists who stop by the room for a photo?

Tours are offered at the Stanley Hotel throughout the day and guests stop by all night taking photos of and in front of the door. The way the sound filters, they can be heard approaching around the corner and down the hall. The flashes can even be seen under the door. So when fresh bait approached, we jumped out of bed – happy to trade a few minutes of The Shining, which runs on a continual 24 hour loop, for our own fun – and scramble to the peephole.

Alright, more often than not it was me who did the scrambling while my brother sat back and chuckled.

As my prey approached, I readied myself at the door. Looking out, I could see them round a corner by the stairs with camera in hand. Focusing their shot, I would whip open the door and bark. It was too good, but also obviously too startling after my first couple of victims. So instead of continuing on, I opted for an even more amusing approach.

At least it was for me. And at this point, even my brother got involved.

After checking in I booked us on one of the historic tours of the hotel. I had been on it twice before, even enjoying the opportunity to step into an unoccupied Room 217. But I was happy to do it again with my brother. He had yet to visit the Stanley Hotel. So it was a good way to catch him up on the history I had forgotten. He disappeared from the tour, though, as we approached our room.

Hiding behind the door, he waited for the rest of the group to catch up. Some were straggling behind taking photos of the stairway. Listening to our guide from Room 217, he stood silently, waiting, stalking his prey. Unfortunately no one would bite. No one would approach the door for our practical joke. They all instead just shrugged and walked off, continuing on up the stairs with the tour, after our guide was done with her explanation of the area.

At the top of the stairs on the fourth floor she stopped, asking if anyone realized a member of our group was missing. My brother and I giggled, explaining our attempt at a good laugh. The group let out a groan at our feeble idea. It wasn’t so pathetic, though, since we found it worked on future groups.

The woman was fifteen feet down the hall, back hugging her boyfriend, before I was even able to open the door. I was laughing, tears streaming down my face, after having shook the door with the palm of my hand from the inside. She had approached to take a photo, falling right into my trap. It was the perfect opportunity, striking while a whole group of people holding their breath after hearing the stories of Room 217 were there watching.

It was mean, yes, I’ll admit it. But we weren’t all bad. At least not in the end. Every group that came by the room got the opportunity I was only offered when the room was unoccupied; they were all able to look into Room 217 and snap some photos. So in the end, we were gracious pranksters.

Room 217 is the Stanley Hotel’s best room. It is the room everyone wants and doesn’t want to stay. And in a way that’s a shame. It’s booked up well in advance, thus making it next to impossible for any tour group to get a peek inside. I was lucky enough once, but I knew it was a rare occasion that this happened. So while we were pranksters on one hand, we gladly opened the door to anyone interested in getting a look see at one of the most famous rooms anywhere, hopefully offering them – even our own tour group – a little more spice to what would already be a great memory, a visit to the fantastic Stanley Hotel.

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