Anyone who grew up in Boulder has probably been to the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park; but not everyone, Corrie and Cameron included, has taken the Haunted Tour of the hotel. Corrie deserves all the credit for this little adventure! She planned and booked the trip, simply informing Cameron after the fact that we had tickets and accommodations. After all, he likes it when she controls him. It lets him know she loves him. As it happens, the tour was completely booked on the days leading up to Halloween, but November 2nd was open, so this worked out to be a perfect November resolution destination. So a couple days after Halloween, we made our way up to Estes Park for a spooky good time and a quick little overnight over-night getaway.
Our first hotel stay together at the start of our relationship happened to be in Estes Park, at a romantic little resort on the Fall River. During that trip we enjoyed some snow shoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park, which was amazing. But for this November trip we wanted to stay low cost, since we weren’t going to be spending much time in the room. Corrie selected The Coyote Mountain Lodge. It was an affordable, cozy and comfortable place to stay. Especially in the off season when we pretty much had it to ourselves.
Things started out a little rocky the Thursday afternoon we headed up there. Cameron had hurt his back a few days earlier and we were both a bit cranky due to the damper the injury threatened put on our little adventure. At one point we even wondered if we should call it and just head back home. But, with Estes Park nearly deserted (which almost never happens) we decided instead to venture into town to wander the storefronts and grab a happy hour drink. Basically trying to kill time and our bad moods before our fabulous dinner plans. After our little walk, a glass of wine, and a short snooze back at the lodge; the crankiness had abated and we were back to our normal chipper selves. Cameron, the compulsive bather, showered and we both dressed for dinner, thrilled be getting our evening of fun started.
The Dunraven Inn is a local dining hot spot just outside of town that was recommended to us during our first stay in Estes. And now we highly recommend it and try to eat there whenever we’re in Estes. And of course, Cameron would recommend that you make a reservation as well! Seriously though, it tends to fill up quickly! On this night we had a reservation that would give us plenty of time to enjoy an excellent meal and make it back to town in time for the tour.
Fun fact: we have awful luck as a couple when it comes to seeing wildlife in Estes and Rocky Mountain National Park. We have traveled to and through Estes Park and RMNP several times since we started dating and the only thing we had ever seen together were deer… boring old deer that we’ve lived our whole lives seeing. But on the way to dinner that evening, much to our excitement, we were finally treated to views of large herds of rutting elk, the whole way to the Dunraven. In fact, two large bulls were resting quietly along the side of the road 50 yards from the restaurant. In the quickly darkening evening, they sometimes startled us quite badly, especially when Corrie shrieked “ELK!” or “HOLY SHIT THAT’S A BIG ONE!” at the top of her lungs from the passenger seat.
With a wonderful dinner complete, we headed over to The Stanley Hotel with plenty of time to spare. Cameron is a military man after all and just can’t seem to get past being way too early for every event we go to – despite Corrie’s best unintentional efforts to constantly make us late. Pausing briefly to snap some spooky selfies in front of the
hotel, we headed inside to grab a glass of wine at the very same bar that Lloyd Christmas waited for his no-show date in the movie “Dumb & Dumber.” Trust us, the Stanley is not shy about advertising their moments of fame such as this. As we sat in the dark bar and sipped our wine, we couldn’t help but notice how creepy the bar staff was. Maybe it was just because of the location and we were expecting to be creeped out a bit, but they all looked and sounded like shady characters from horror movies. We were both fascinated once again with people watching. After finishing our drinks, it was time to head down to the basement to meet the tour guide and the rest of our group.
While we waited for the tour to start we were placed in a room to watch part of The Shining mini-series and then were greeted by an overly-enthusiastic tour guide. In his introduction, our guide did a good job of building a little team cohesion (while making fun of the two of us being from Boulder) and keeping expectations of super-natural activity to a reasonable level, if not tempering everyone’s optimism maybe a little too much. He teased some encounters, and said he had personally seen tons of weird stuff, but was constantly poo-pooing and questioning what other anxious tour-goers claimed to have seen. We were still excited though, because doing a little research ahead of time, we found several “viral” photos from the Stanley Haunted tour that hyped us up.
We headed off on foot for our first destination, the Concert Hall. The lights were already dim and we spent a few moments as a group hearing stories about the venue and its hauntings. A couple of fellow tour goers were also given some ghost hunting tools to use along the way. Once the talking was done, the group was allowed to split up and roam around snapping photos. We were snapping plenty of bursts on our phones so we could go back and look for “evidence” later. A little disappointed that we didn’t experience any paranormal activity in the Concert Hall, we moved down into the basement to continue with the rest of the tour. We wandered through most of the hotel that night, including the cowboy room, outside Lord Dunraven’s room and outside room 217, where Stephen King stayed when he was inspired to write “The Shining.”
While the tour group was standing in the hallway outside room 217 we were told that often times guests of the hotel would hear the door rattling and banging when no one was around. And oddly enough, that same door creaked and rattled the whole time the guide was speaking. As the rest of the group moved on, we lingered behind so we could snap some photos in front of the room. While Cameron stood in front of the door it suddenly began to rattle and bang even louder. Corrie shrieked and ran down the hallway with Cameron still standing in front of the room laughing. Corrie came back and approached the door again, this time with another woman on the tour that had noticed the commotion. Cameron, still standing there, could hear growling and heavy breathing behind the door as he explained to the other woman what we had just experienced. Then the door
rattled hard again. And again Corrie shrieked and ran to catch up with the tour. When we caught up to the group and excitedly explained what had just happened, the guide, with a “you’re pretty” look in his eyes kindly explained that there were in fact guests staying in that room. Young men to be exact. So maybe we were had by a couple of pranksters and not ghosts. But still, it was fun to be shocked a little bit for the first and only time on the tour.
Corrie had stayed at the Stanley a few years back for a wedding. The room she stayed in happened to be right next to Lord Dunraven’s room on the 4th floor. So she was familiar with some of the surroundings and therefore, according to Cameron, did her best to ruin that part of the tour for all the other guests. Outside of Lord Dunraven’s room is a set of stairs that leads to a door in the ceiling that gives access to the bell tower. The guide was explaining that if you snap a picture of the ceiling door with your flash on, you can sometimes see “REDRUM” written across the door. To which Corrie scoffed, quite loudly, “yeah, cause it’s written on there!” Cameron was not amused.
The tour lasted about 90 minutes and we had a ton of fun. There were plenty of skeptics on the tour, but we are both believers in the paranormal, so it really grabbed our attention and we didn’t let the nay-sayers (including the guide) ruin any of our ghost hunting fun.
With the tour over, we stopped off in the bar again to enjoy a nightcap and scroll through the hundreds of photos we had taken. We found a few interesting images in there that neither of us could explain. Lots of strange orbs of light and even some facial distortions in a few. A few days later, Cameron even noticed a couple strange figures in the selfies we had taken upon arriving at the hotel. These are the pictures that haunted us the most, as neither of us remember seeing anybody in the entry way to the hotel on that quiet Thursday night in the depths of the off-season in Estes Park. Corrie even remarked to Cameron that night that it was creepy that no one was around. Yet in the pictures there appears to be a white-gloved butler and someone in a three-pointed hat?? We will never be certain of what’s in those marginal cell-phone pictures, but for believers, it’s fun to think about what we may have captured.
We awoke in our cozy room the next morning and leisurely packed and checked-out. Then it was off to a decent breakfast at the Notch Top Bakery and Café just up the road. With our brains caffeinated, our bellies stuffed and our paranormal curiosity satisfied, we steered the Jeep (or Fiat, if you ask Cameron) towards home and our waiting pups.
Destination Rating: 3.0 out of 5.0 (possible higher scoring if we didn’t have such a cranky start!)
What We Learned
- DO: book online well in advance if you want to experience the tour near Halloween.
- DO: make reservations to dine at the Dunraven, you won’t regret it.
- DO: stay at the Coyote Mountain Lodge, its cheap, clean and comfortable.
- DON’T: let a little crankiness get in the way of a planned adventure.
- DON’T: forget your swim suit (Corrie), the hot tub is open year-round at the Coyote Mountain Lodge.
- DON’T: let any non-believers ruin your fun. They’re the ones missing out.