My Haunted Library

All things spooky. Your source for paranormal and supernatural book and movie reviews, strangeography, Halloween crafts and a little cozy fall baking.

Leave a comment

Review: Kill Creek

Kill Creek – Scott Thomas, 2017.

Four wildly different horror writers, each slipping in their popularity, take a lucrative offer to get back in the spotlight: $100,000 for an intimate interview livestreamed from a famously haunted house.

Their destination: the house on Kill Creek. Site of the brutal murder of a mixed-race couple during the Civil War and more recently, the former home of two mysterious, disturbingly reclusive sisters.

Halloween night finds the authors, their interviewer, and one camerawoman alone in the ominous house.  Somewhat to their disappointment, nothing supernatural seems to happen.  No orbs, no rattling chains or wisps of ectoplasm.  But… something does happen. The real horror begins when each author returns home.

Kill Creek is a deliciously creepy tale.  Thomas revitalizes the classic haunted house theme with vividly atmospheric writing and finely-honed tension.  Small, subtle terrors give the reader satisfying shivers and ramp up the suspense.  Top things off with a nail-biting, gory finale and a quiet, sharp little dig at the end, and you’ve got wickedly good novel.

The characters as much as the house make the story great.  Sam, an author of small-town horror struggles with writer’s block.  Moore’s violent, hard-core, sex-laden books are too extreme for mainstream fans. Daniel, who makes his living on Christian teen scare novels, is losing his base.  Sebastian, king of the classic ghost story finds his writing relegated to the older generation.  The house will use each of their weaknesses.

Under all the terror, Thomas conveys a poignancy in each character’s desperate craving for relevance: In the need to balance their drive for self-expression with the desire to maintain personal space outside of their writing. Deep down, Kill Creek is also a story about the bittersweet nature of the creative act of writing.  But mostly, it’s a treat of a horror story. Nicely done, Mr. Thomas.

rating system four crowskill creek.jpg

Leave a comment

Review: In the Still of the Night

In the Still of the Night David L. Golemon, 2017.

The Supernaturals are back.

This time, we find the ragtag group of paranormal investigators facing prison for their unpopular work debunking haunted house reality shows.

Released by the FBI, Professor Kennedy and the team are tasked with saving the president of the United States.  The unpopular leader is in a coma, tormented by an entity – or entities – far more powerful than even the team’s old nemesis, Summer Place.

To rescue the president before an angry power is released on the world, the team must unravel ties to insidious Nazi experiment and investigate a contaminated California town that died in the 60’s but has been showing…unnatural…signs of life. They must also follow the memories of a young blind girl, whose death long ago is part of the puzzle.

Having just read The Supernaturals – fantastic, see last week’s review – I was thrilled to get this book for the holidays. Unfortunately, it left me a little disappointed.

In the Still of the Night feels rushed: it lacks polish, detail, and depth. It would benefit from a tighter editorial review.

The characters that Golemon built so carefully in The Supernaturals – Leonard, the tech whiz, tough cop Damian, and Jenny, the possessed professor to name a few – all return here, but attain no further development. Golemon relies significantly on what we know of the characters from the previous book, and consequently they feel flat.

We don’t get the same level of nail-biting suspense, either, because In the Still of the Night charges largely down a single path: there aren’t as many diverse story threads coming together for an intense finish.

There are some great bits, however. The plot is uniquely imaginative. Gloria, the blind girl, is a beautifully developed character and the most interesting one in the book. The power of dream walking is expanded in the story – largely for flashbacks – and offers an intriguing shift of perspective. We also get a nostalgic look back at ‘50s and early ‘60s rock music classics, that will leave a few oldies stuck in your head at the end of various chapters.

In the Still of the Night is a good book: fast-paced and entertaining, and I am glad I read it. I enjoyed following Professor Kennedy and his team on this adventure. The Supernaturals is simply better-written. I would very much like a third book featuring these characters. Just, one that’s as masterful as the first.

rating system three crows


Review: The Supernaturals

The Supernaturals David L. Golemon, 2016.

The last time parapsychology professor Gabriel Kennedy set foot in Summer Place, one of his students disappeared.  Kennedy turned from a cocky skeptic into a believer: Something evil lives in Summer Place.

Badgered by a cutthroat television producer – and his conscience – Kennedy agrees to return to investigate Summer Place for the filming of a live Halloween special.

But Kennedy isn’t going back to investigate, he’s going back to fight. And Summer Place plans to win.

Kennedy assembles a team of friends with unusual talents including a psychic, a young computer maven from the ‘hood, a Native American dream walking sheriff and a possessed paleontology professor – trust me, this all works somehow – and together they prepare to face down Summer Place.

Golemon based his story on a personal encounter: after visiting a beautiful three-story mansion for a total of two minutes he fled with the disturbing sense that the house was aware of him, and not thrilled he was there. Golemon vowed never to return. In The Supernaturals, Golemon neatly creates this lurking sentience in Summer Place and crafts a deep mythos for his fictional house of horrors.

The Supernaturals is flat-out a great haunted house story. The tale starts strong and builds suspense to nail-biting levels by the tense climax. Standard ghostly tropes are taken to the extreme and freshened with unexpected twists.

We also get a fascinating, behind-the-scenes perspective of all those popular paranormal investigator shows. For as the story progresses, we see Summer Place through the eyes of Kennedy and his crew as well as through the eye of the tv camera. This cinematographic aspect adds an immediacy to events – putting the reader front and center in the supernatural mix along with the camera people. It also gives a deeply visual facet to our reading experience.

Kennedy’s crew battles deceit, entertainment industry egos, disbelief, and dark secrets in their fight against the malevolence that imbues Summer Place. Can they win? Can they survive? At what cost? Don’t miss this one.

rating system four crows

Leave a comment

Review: Stalked in the Woods

Stalked in the Woods: True Stories – Stephen (Steph) Young, 2016.

I’m not going to mince words: this book was a sad disappointment.

Having recently moved to a home surrounded by tall, somewhat sinister woods, I was truly looking forward to creeping myself out with this book. Instead it left me irritable.

Stalked in the Woods reads like a leveled book for upper elementary school students. On the plus side (maybe?): There are no hard words for you to worry about.

On the minus side: You are stuck trying to parse your way through so much awkward phrasing and writing mistakes (thanks to crummy – if any – editing), that any potentially spooky content is lost in frustration. This is maddening, because there are a few stories that could have been chilling.

Mistakes abound: eccentric and random capitalization of nouns, wrong choices of homophones (their/they’re), inconsistent use of single and double quotation marks, problems with possessive apostrophes, and a bizarrely hyperbolic use of the ellipsis. You know, those three little periods trailing off to end a sentence in suspense… In this book, they are variably punctuated with sometimes three periods… or four periods…. sometimes there are five periods….. and on one occasion, eight periods…….. Yes, I counted them. It was making me crazy. There are misspellings. One story, for instance, takes place in the “Missouri Oxark’s [sic].” Double whammy, there.

Editing mistakes aside – and trust me, it is hard to put them aside – there is distracting weirdness going on with the typography. Extra spaces between words. Random switches in font size. Line breaks in the middle of sentences. Some text unaccountably appears in italics. Other text is underlined.

The book is divided into categories of stalkings, sort of. They’re not all stalkings. They don’t all take place in the woods. They vary from disappearing hikers, to a story about Oliver Cromwell selling his soul to the devil, to man pursued by a bogart in England. No, not the ghost of Humphrey. I think they meant a traditional “boggart.”

After a section on vanishings, which reads like blandly re-written newspaper articles, Young switches perspective and presents stories from people who have contacted her to share their experiences. This does not – or should not – excuse all the grammar and vocabulary errors. The onus is on Young to produce a professional publication that doesn’t feel cut-and-pasted from her in-box. Additionally, you can’t always easily delineate where Young’s voice comes into the contributor’s retelling. All of this tragically gets in the way of some potentially spooky content.

For well-written books of creepy true accounts, I highly recommend any of Jim Harold’s Campfire series which compiles tales from his podcast contributors. Or try True Ghosts, which contains stories originally published in issues of Fate Magazine. Leslie Rule’s Coast to Coast Ghosts or any of her other well-researched and haunting titles are wonderful. These are all chillingly satisfying reads. None of them will leave you cranky. Hmmpf.

rating system one crow

Leave a comment

Review: The Haunted House Diaries

The Haunted House Diaries: The True Story of a Quiet Connecticut Town in the Center of a Paranormal Mystery. William J. Hall, 2015.

The first 173 pages of this book are absolutely riveting.  We are treated to perhaps the most well-documented, pervasive haunting across time of a 1793 New England home: The Fillie home in Litchfield, CT.

Starting in 1966 when she was sixteen years old, Donna Fillie recorded her observations of strange and paranormal events in her home on any scrap of paper she could find: from the backs of envelopes, to her kids’ school papers.  She continued her documentation all the way through the winter of 2015.

Fillie’s verbatim notes are straightforward, honest and intelligent.  She and her family take experiences in stride that would send others scrambling for a new home.

For instance, the Fillies have witnessed strange, elongated figures; jewelry gone missing and returned in different places; orbs; toys moving on their own; clocks that shouldn’t work ticking away; weirdly shaped creatures; voices laughing, groaning, and even talking; footsteps following family members throughout the house; even UFOs.  Fillie emphasizes that the family is not afraid, but desperately looking for answers.

Fillie’s integrity shines through her writing, as does her frustration with all the bizarre events taking place around her family.  She simply wants to know.  What does it all mean?  If spirits or entities can do all these things – from levitating glassware to raining money – why can’t they communicate more clearly?

It is the latter part of the book that is a letdown.  It struggles with organization and almost undermines Fillie’s heartfelt and carefully documented account.

Author William J. Hall, a performing magician and paranormal investigator, begins by cautioning us to be aware of our preconceived beliefs regarding paranormal.  How we interpret things is dependent on our life context and our own belief systems.  Yet Hall himself offers some potentially controversial beliefs from his own perspective as givens for us.  The existence of a multiverse. Possessions, and extending that, evil, are in the eye of the human-centered beholder and “can always dispelled without the use of any religion.”

We are then offered opinions on select elements of the hauntings in Fillie’s diary by two experts in the field, Paul Eno and Shane Sirios.  If you have not heard of them before reading this book, you are not given much of a background introduction to their work here.  Eno is known for his radio show, Behind the Paranormal, and Sirois is the founder of  According to Hall, Sirios’ near-death experience has made him sensitive to otherworldly things and he has a 100% success rate “resolving” paranormal problems and parasites for people without using religion.

The investigation section covers a scant sixteen pages and is mostly impressions of things that Sirios senses in and around the home, such as someone running outside, a sensation of non-human entities, the perception of a protecting entity Native American spirit in backyard, and the feeling that the land is a portal to the multiverse.

It seems this investigation has taken place across multiple visits to the home, but the reader doesn’t get a good sense of its chronology or how it took place.  What methods were followed, what experiments were tried, what evidence was accumulated?  There are a few photographs, and references to EVP recording data that seems to validate the presence of a “Harry” who might have originally helped build the house.  But after reading Fillie’s methodical documentation, the investigation and analysis part of the book seems like a hodgepodge.

What begins as a fascinating account of one family’s dissolves into a mixed bag of opinions and snippets of investigation.  The Haunted House Diaries is definitely worth reading for the first half, and is frustratingly interesting for the second.

Leave a comment

Review: The House Where Evil Lurks

The House Where Evil Lurks: A Paranormal Investigator’s Most Frightening Encounter.  Brandon Callahan.  2014.

In the House Where Evil Lurks, Brandon Callahan and his team investigate the case of a hearing-impaired man who has been attacked in his own home by an unseen force. Callahan beings his narrative by rooting the reader in his uniquely personal vision of what paranormal investigation should be.

Life experiences in the Air Force, struggles with organized religion, and disturbing recurring nightmares all helped drive Callahan to follow a calling as a paranormal investigator. But not just any investigator: Callahan deeply believes in the goal of helping others who are troubled by evil and fear in their homes, unlike other groups that use distressed families to further their own recognition or fame.  Additionally, he is passionate about the broader picture of paranormal investigation.

With his vision firmly in place, Callahan starts his investigative journey. We are introduced to Callahan’s tight-knit team: his brother and his sister-in-law, his good friend who is also a sensitive, and several other trusted teammates.

When Brandon and his team investigate the Missouri home, they discover that it is a hotbed of paranormal activity.  Using EVPs, flashlight communication, and a ghost box the team receives astounding results: contact with multiple entities in the house including one or more that are openly hostile.  Perhaps foolishly, Callahan performs a Ganzfeld sensory-deprivation experiment, thereby opening himself to the spirits.  This turns out to be a choice that has dangerous ramifications when something follows him and his team members home.

In The House Where Evil Lurks, Callahan bares his soul: sharing his own inner conflicts with organized religion and its lack of willingness to help those in need.  His writing is blunt and immediate.  Despite the narrative being rough around the edges and feeling a bit like a cross between memoir-meets-screenplay, it is a fascinating and disturbing read. One appreciates the author’s forthright approach and commitment to his philosophy.

1 Comment

The Haunted Stanley Hotel: A Ghostly Tour and a Night in Room 418

The Stanley Hotel.  Majestic.  Historic.  Haunted.  We got to spend the night there.  Here’s what happened, some history, and lots of photos.


The Stanley Hotel

We could not check in to the Stanley until 4:00 pm, so we started our day in Estes Park early with a great morning hike following the Black Canyon Trail to its connection with the Cow Creek and MacGregor trails.  The route is picturesque, winding through beautiful meadows with towering rock formations to the right and a stunning view of the back range to the left, before entering tree cover and starting a long and strenuous uphill.  We covered eight miles out and back and were ready to go into town for a little while.


View from the Black Canyon Trail

In downtown Estes we played tourist, popping into gift shops and picking up some delicious taffy and a sea salt caramel ice cream cone and then finally drove up to the Stanley Hotel.


Downtown Estes Park: The historic Park Theater

It is hard to imagine a more imposing sight than the grand old Stanley, high on a hill above town, stark white and red against the sepia brown and pine green backdrop of the Lumpy Ridge Mountains.  Although the Colonial Revival style is uncommon here in the west, the Stanley strangely fits in, crowning a glorious view.

2017-04-16 07.22.18

Front entrance of the Stanley

Inventor Freelan Oscar Stanley (F.O.) built the hotel in 1909.  With his brother, F.O. co-founded the Stanley Motor Company and co-invented the Stanley Steamer auto.  He suffered from consumption (tuberculosis) and in 1903, doctors only gave him a short time to live.  F.O. had heard about the restorative properties of the western mountain air and he traveled to Estes Park in 1903 where he actually regained his health.  Estes was too rustic for F.O. and his wife Flora, however, so they created the hotel as a destination spot where they could visit each summer.  Work began on the Stanley in 1907 and the hotel opened on the Fourth of July, 1909.  The Stanley was high class: there were bathrooms in the guest rooms, electric lights, telephones, and uniformed workers.


View of the Stanley with the recently-built (2015) hedge maze

Stanley wanted Estes Park to become a resort town, and he invested a lot to make that happen.  He built a hydro plant on the Fall River, generating electricity for the city.  He built the road from Lyons up to Estes Park which enabled people to drive to the Stanley, instead of having to take an excursion train.  He also helped create Rocky Mountain National Park.


We ascended the front stairs to the main hotel promptly at the 4:00 check in time and entered to a spacious lobby graced with polished wooden floors and accents.



No, not a ghost: a fellow tourist who walked by just as I took the picture. You can see him coming from the left in the picture above.

A gleaming Stanley Steamer auto stood by the front picture windows in honor of F.O.  In a glass case behind the reception desk, shining gold door keys hung in rows, reminiscent of an older time.


Front reception desk


A genuine Stanley Steamer automobile!

The elevator was also a throwback to a different age.  Its old-fashioned key hung on display next to the door.  We watched the little gold arrow move silently from floor number to floor number as the elevator descended to the lobby.  With a capacity of six, the elevator was like a gilt cage.  A window set in the elevator door let you get an unsettling glimpse of your journey in darkness between floors.


The original 1909 elevator.  Soon to be our nemesis.


Awe of the antique elevator quickly turned to fear.  Pushing the up and down buttons gave off a static charge the likes of which I have never experienced before.  Static electricity generally makes you think of mild things like rubbing your hair with a balloon and having it stand on end.  This was a whole different version of static electricity.  We got popped with ½-inch visible sparks arcing between our fingers and the buttons. I am completely serious.  It was not just us: everyone who touched the buttons recoiled in literal shock and alarm.  Maybe the carpet was a factor, who knows?  The Stanley had a makeover of new carpet, wallpaper, and lots of mirrors when The Shining miniseries was filmed there in 1997.  (King did not like the original Stanley Kubrick version of his book.) Was the carpet a wool blend that generated this massive electrical charge?  Who knows?  We do know those elevator buttons packed a punch.

2017-04-16 08.07.31

Old-fashioned elevator operating mechanism

At any rate, we arrived at the 4th floor, the most haunted floor in the hotel.  Our room, 418, was located down the “children’s hallway.”  Supposedly, the spirits of children play in this hallway at night.  Guests complain about the noise, only to find that no children are staying in that wing at the time.  Historically, the fourth floor is where the children of wealthier families and their nannies stayed.  Our room also has the reputation of being haunted by a little boy ghost.  Sometimes there are impressions of a body left on the bed.  Hotel staff have reported strange noises coming from inside the room when it is empty.


The never-ending hallway…


Later on our Ghost Tour, we learned that our hall is also the “never-ending hallway.”  When the exit door at the far end is closed, the lighting creates an optical illusion that the hallway goes on forever.  Midway down our hallway are two couches.  These are where the ghosts of two little girls appear: ghosts Stephen King saw – maybe – when he and his wife made their fateful visit in 1974: more on that later.


Couches where the spirits of children may hang out

Our room was small: the king bed and a chair and dresser just barely fit, but everything was scrupulously clean, and the view past a pine tree to northeast was stunning.  We opened the windows immediately because even though it was cool outside, the room was stuffy, and there is no air conditioning in the Stanley because of its protected historic status (it is on the National Register of Historic Places).


Room 418


The tiny bathroom of room 418


View from 418: you can see other hotel buildings and Lake Estes in the distance

We went back down the grand staircase taking some pictures along the way and found the lobby full of beautifully dressed teenagers.  It is a long-standing tradition for local high school students to take their prom photos in the Stanley and on the grounds of the magnificent old hotel.  It seemed a perfect tribute to F.O. and Flora Stanley, as it turned out this day was the anniversary of their wedding.


The grand staircase looking up from the lobby


Mirrors, mirrors, everywhere

After a fabulous dinner at the Rock Inn Tavern (off the beaten path, but worth the short drive), following some photogenic elk around at a safe distance, and people-watching by the fireplace in the lobby, it was at last time for our nighttime ghost tour.


An unafraid elk


Lobby of the Stanley after dark

Our tour guide, Travis, prefaced the tour by saying he was a skeptic when he first started at the Stanley as a night guard, but quickly became a believer in the paranormal after working there only a short time.  He recommended downloading the Ghost Radar app which can use your smartphone as an EMF detector.  It seems to be a little debatable whether cell phones can pick up electromagnetic fields (Only specific frequencies?  Using the magnetometers?), but he was excited about it.


Night is coming on

He passed out a handful of lollipops for some of us to use as lures for the children’s spirits on the fourth floor.  I was a lollipop holder!

Our group of twenty or so trooped up to the first floor and started in the Music Room where we gathered around Flora Stanley’s piano.  Flora loved to play the piano, and apparently still does, as piano music is occasionally heard coming from the music room.  One story relates how Flora was angered at someone audacious enough to play her piano and retaliated by slamming the keyboard cover down on him.

2017-04-15 21.14.46

Flora’s piano in the Music Room

The Music Room is also home to a large mirror.  Travis explained that the Victorians were fascinated with the occult and spiritualism, and that mirrors played a large role in those beliefs.  Mirrors set up to reflect each other might offer a glimpse of the spirit world.  Or show you a spirit.


Mirror in the music room.  Again, no ghosts: fellow tour members, and me taking a picture of myself in the mirror.

Worked into the woodwork above the mirror, one can see the letter “S” for Stanley. This is a recurring motif throughout the hotel.  Travis advised us to take lots of photos of the many mirrors we would come across, and to remember who was in our group so we would know if we captured a spirit on film, or one of our fellow tourists!


Odd old photograph capturing reflections in room 418

Our next stop was on the grand staircase.  Mirrors and framed pictures of former owners of the Stanley cover the walls on either side.  A portrait of F.O. Stanley hangs at an angle next to a mirror of almost the same size so that F.O.’s picture is reflected perfectly, creating two images.  This is a little creepy because F.O. had an exact twin brother, Francis Edgar.  Together the brothers are both represented on the wall; one in portraiture, the other in a reflection.


F.O. Stanley’s portrait on the left, reflected in the mirror on the right.


An angle change eliminates F.O.’s reflection.

Worked into the balustrade is another example of Victorian symbolism.  The four posts represent the four seasons: winter, spring, summer, and fall.  The corkscrew design of one post is supposed to mimic a Victorian ghost-catcher.


Winter, spring, summer, and fall represented in the white posts.

We continued up the stairs and stopped in front of the infamous room 217.  Stephen King stayed in this room with his wife Tabitha at the end of September in 1974.  The two had been on a tour of the Rocky Mountains, headed to Grand Lake.  A blizzard shut down Trail Ridge Road and they had to turn back.  They came to the Stanley, which was closing for the season the following day.   The Stanley did not have heat until 1983, so it closed every winter.  Somehow, the Kings convinced the two remaining staff – housekeeper and bartender – to let them stay the night. The four of them were the only people in the echoing, empty hotel.


Infamous room 217

Travis theorized that the Kings might have had to sign a caretaker’s waiver, allowing them to be there as temporary caretakers of the hotel, possibly removing the hotel from liability if they had stayed as guests.  Together Stephen King and his wife Tabitha ate alone in the cavernous dining room.  All the other tables already had their chairs put up for the winter.  A number of strange things then happened to King over the course of the evening.


Another view of the mirrors on the grand staircase

According to Travis, while exploring on the fourth floor, King saw twin girls who seemed so well behaved the author later complimented the housekeeper on them, thinking they were her children, only to be told that she had no children.  Other versions state that King was on the second floor and saw a single boy.  Either way, the author saw some child that really wasn’t there!


Beautifully ominous in the evening

Later that night, King went down to the bar by himself and met the barkeep Lloyd, who became a key character in The Shining.  King was not even sure if the man was real, because the whole situation was so eerily surreal.  Travis assured us that there had been a bartender named Lloyd at the hotel who possibly gave King the famous line from the book “Your money’s no good here.”


Looking from the back entrance to the fourth floor down the dark never-ending hallway

King was in the process of writing a book about a berserk roller coaster that jumped off its tracks and attacked people…but apparently, it wasn’t going so great.  His stay at the Stanley certainly fixed his writer’s block.  According to King:

“That night I dreamed of my three-year-old son running through the corridors, looking back over his shoulder, eyes wide, screaming. He was being chased by a fire-hose. I woke up with a tremendous jerk, sweating all over, within an inch of falling out of bed. I got up, lit a cigarette, sat in the chair looking out the window at the Rockies, and by the time the cigarette was done, I had the bones of the book firmly set in my mind.”

He abandoned the rabid roller coaster tale and his dream vision became the horror classic The Shining, published in 1977.


“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”   Great tribute to The Shining on this old-fashioned typewriter downstairs in the hotel.

Room 217 is also where a massive explosion occurred back in June of 1911.  The generally accepted version goes like this:  A storm knocked out power to the hotel.  Guests were taken down to the lobby, while chambermaids went from room to room lighting the backup acetylene lamps.  Chambermaid Elizabeth Wilson entered 217 with her candle, not realizing that the gas had leaked.  The resulting explosion blew her through the floor into the dining room below.  She suffered two broken ankles but miraculously survived.  F.O. Stanley paid her medical expenses and made her head chambermaid of the hotel.  She continued to work at the Stanley until she passed in the 1950s.  Although her story ended happily, supposedly Elizabeth continues to haunt the hotel, tucking guests into their beds – even getting in the bed between unmarried couples – and folding their shirts.


Bell-tower in the evening

News stories about the explosion differed wildly: There were seven injuries.  Multiple different names of the maid.  No storm.  The acetylene gas lamps were being tested.  One maid died.  Another maid was blown onto porch and put out fire from the explosion with an extinguisher.  Guests in the dining room below suffered injuries.  The victim – or victims – went to Longmont Hospital.  (Colorado Springs Gazette, Rocky Mountain News, Fort Collins Weekly Courier, Denver Post.)


Whatever the exact details, the detonation was real enough and decimated 10% of the hotel – most of the west wing.  Fortunately, it was a “compression explosion” so it put out its own fire or the damage could have been much greater.   I am not exactly sure what a compression explosion is, but it may be similar to the idea of using explosives to stop wildfires: the shock wave of a blast knocks the fire off its fuel source.

Interestingly, in 2014, pieces of wallpapered drywall and carpet from room 217 turned up in the employee tunnel down in the basement.  One-hundred and three years after explosion!  This discovery seems to lend some credence to the backstory of the ghostly chambermaid.


The grand staircase 

Actor Jim Carrey requested room 217 when he was filming Dumb and Dumber at the Stanley in 1994.  He stayed only three hours before fleeing in terror and refusing to come back to the hotel. According to Travis, he also refused to ever speak about what happened to him in that room.

As we stood outside room 217, Travis said we were in the center of a vortex.  We stood still and felt a light breeze.  At this point, Travis extracted a volunteer from our group and attempted some pencil dowsing.  They each held up two pencils with the ends lightly touching each other.  When Travis asked a person’s name, the pencils swerved to point to that person. I was pretty skeptical about this one.


The vortex outside room 217.  This shot is looking up to the fourth floor.

At last!  Up to the 4th floor.  There is a plethora of haunted rooms on this floor, including ours. We stood outside room 401 and learned that it was formerly the maids’ break room, and is now frequented by the ghost of Lord Dunraven.  Dunraven was an Irish Earl who came to Estes Park in 1872, loved the land, and wanted to build his own hunting preserve.  Thanks to some shady business dealings, he acquired thousands of acres of land – much of which is now Rocky Mountain National Park – and eventually ended up selling F.O. Stanley the land for the Stanley Hotel.  Dunraven must have been something of a ladies’ man, if he was still looking for the maids in the afterlife.   Dunraven also reportedly stands around in a corner of room 407.  People have also claimed to see a face in the window of 407 when the room was empty of guests.  A shadowy figure wearing a cowboy hat has startled visitors in room 428.

2017-04-15 20.42.36

Nighttime at the Stanley

We tried our lollipop experiment in the children’s hallway.  Making sure the lollipop wrapper was twisted tightly around the candy; we set the lollipops upright in the center of our palms.  Walking slowly down the hallway, we hoped a spirit child would push the lollipop or yank it out of our hands.  Alas, that did not happen while our group was there.  It was amusing later to watch other tour groups coming through and seeing folks staring intently at the lollipops in their hands as they walked up and down in front of our room.


No spirits wanted my lollipop!

Next, we moved into one of the empty rooms (405) and Travis turned off all of the lights.  He wanted us to sing to build up some energy to invoke any spirits that might be around.   This became easily the most awkward three minutes of my life: cramped in a small, dark room with twenty people I didn’t know and couldn’t see (tho’ that was probably all for the best) all reluctantly singing the chorus of “You Are My Sunshine.”  Needless to say, we did not generate the positive energy needed. Travis clearly sensed this, as he did not suggest a second verse, and we left quickly for the next stop.


Lobby with a view of the front entrance

Which was the Billiard room back down on the first floor, next to the Music Room.  This was F.O.’s favorite room, where he spent a great deal of time.  And possibly still does.  Travis turned out the lights here and urged us to look at an American flag hung over the fireplace.  In the upper corner of the flag, a strange image of a face stood out.  Travis told us this was an image of F.O., which appeared after the flag was given to the hotel.  There was a noticeable image there!  The darkness was too much for my camera, but my husband got a nice shot.


Look for the face in the upper right corner of the photo…it is hard to see in this light, but really was evident when you were in front of it.


The face highlighted.  I almost think you can see it better in the previous photo, but this one shows you where to look.

Finally, tired, we returned to the basement and the employee tunnel.  Travis shared his personal story of seeing a green mist there one evening.  He thought it might have been ectoplasm.  By this time it was getting late and I was fading.  We took lots of pictures of the tunnel where employees and guests have reported seeing orbs: I did not get any in my images.

2017-04-15 22.29.44

A side branch off of the employee tunnel

The night in our room 418 was discouragingly unremarkable.  Maybe we were just too tired from a busy day, but nothing out of the ordinary happened.  The only marginally abnormal thing that occurred was that while lying in bed with my eyes closed but not yet asleep, I noticed a flashing, like a light had passed over them.  We did look out over a parking area at a distance, but then again, our room was up very high, and we hadn’t had any other reflections or lights shine in our window.  Who knows?


Room 418 viewed from outside: the top center red dormer windows

Why is there so much paranormal activity at the Stanley?  Many believe it is because of the unique geology of the location, claiming that the Stanley sits on top of oddly electric or magnetic mineral deposits. Travis had mentioned the abundance of quartz in the land.  The Rocky Mountain Paranormal Research Society investigated the Stanley and included a soil survey as part of their report.  Working with U.S.D.A. soil scientists from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the RMPRS discovered that there are not, in fact, large deposits of quartz or magnetite in the soil under the Stanley.  The soil is primarily schist, a metamorphic rock formed from high temperatures and high strain – and is the same as the soil found all around Estes Park.  The RMPRS also debunked the second floor vortex, noting that there was a power main nearby which may have been causing EMF fluctuations.


View of the Stanley on Easter morning

Despite our lack of ghostly experiences, we had a glorious visit.  The Stanley is a gracious, beautiful old hotel.  The staff was welcoming and we felt like VIPs.  You can look out any window of the Stanley for a magnificent view.  On our walk to breakfast at the Notchtop Bakery (delicious!) we saw elk grazing on the Stanley’s lawn, with the mountains towering in the distance.


Elk grazing on the Stanley’s lawn

Estes Park itself is a great little town with wonderful shops and restaurants.  There are countless outdoor adventures – from gentle to extreme – available all around Estes for people of all physical abilities. Rocky Mountain National Park is just minutes away.  All of these are great reasons to visit.  And of course, there is always the opportunity to see a ghost at the Stanley: maybe you’ll have better luck catching one than we did!


Statue of F.O.


Haunted Places in America – The Stanley Hotel

Thought Catalog: 17 Unsettling Staff and Guest Stories of Hauntings at the Hotel “The Shining” is Based On


Mirrors in Spiritual and Metaphysical Beliefs

Rocky Mountain Paranormal Society Investigation of the Stanley Hotel accessed 4/8/17

Stephen King’s Inspiration for The Shining

Stanley Hotel Ghost Story Supported by Evidence of Room 217 Event – Estes Park Trail Gazette, 3/10/2014

Smartphones as EMF Readers?

Using Explosives to Put Out Wildfires Is Actually a Great Idea

The Stanley Hotel – Haunted History – accessed 4/8/17

The Tale of Lord Dunraven and the Stanley Hotel

Ghost Hunters: The Stanley Hotel Season 2, Episode 22

Rock Inn Tavern

Notchtop Bakery and Café