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  • Tayden Bundy

Staying Overnight at the Stanley Hotel

The Stanley Hotel takes you back in time. Nestled between the mountains and high up on a hill, the grand structure lends to a sense of profound adulation. Marvelous amongst the backdrop of the natural world, it’s no wonder that such a magnificent historical building attracts the attention of history buffs, film aficionados, and paranormal researchers.

Staying at the Stanley Hotel can only be described as an experience. You don’t go for the mini-bar or the large flatscreen. You go for the original brass Otis elevator, the grand staircase, the view, the mini outdoor maze, the room that inspired The Shining, and the haunted fourth floor. You go for the sights and sounds. You go for the stories.

After spending a weekend in room 417, I realized that the Stanley Hotel has become a legend. My time spent within the walls of the old hotel along with the overall experience was unbelievable.

Let me take you on a journey through a brief history, the ghost stories, and a glimpse into the hotel through my eyes.


Construction of the Stanley Hotel began in the fall of 1907. Two years later, the hotel opened to its first guests in June of 1909. The grounds originally had six buildings including the main hotel, the Manor House (a smaller replica of the hotel), an entertainment center called Stanley Hall (originally called the Casino), the Carriage House, the Manager’s House, and the Dormitory for the hotel employees. The Stanley Hotel was innovative and one of a kind as the first fully electric hotel in the world. The lighting system was also backed up with a gas system for power outages. It also featured a private bath in each room and a telephone capable of calling the front desk. The exterior of the main hotel exhibits Georgian Revival architecture characterized by a balanced design. Originally painted yellow, the building is now a crisp snow white with a prominent red roof. At 14,000 square feet, the main hotel has four floors and 140 rooms.

Ghost Stories

Room 217

Room 217 became famous after Stephen King stayed there in the fall of 1974. Three years later, he would publish The Shining, which was inspired by his stay. Although he never wrote a single word while at the Stanley, the novel and his experience ignited the curiosity of fans of the macabre and the paranormal. But, there is an actual ghost story associated with the room. The ghost of a chambermaid is said to linger within the four walls of the suite.

During a power outage caused by a storm in 1911, Elizabeth Wilson a hotel housekeeper entered room 217 to light the gas lanterns. When she entered the room, she did not smell gas leaking into the enclosed space. When she lit a match, there was an explosion. Badly injured with burns all over her body, Wilson still managed to crawl out of the room. Miraculously, she survived. Although she did not die in the room, she is credited as the spirit who haunts 217. Her spirit is said to turn lights on and off, slam doors, and lay between unmarried couples on the bed, producing a cold spot, as if to force distance between them. She is also known to move objects, especially clothing. Guests will return to the room to find their clothes moved from their luggage to the dresser.

The Fourth Floor – Most Haunted Floor

The fourth floor was originally an attic. For many years, the area was used as overnight accommodations for maids brought along with wealthier guests of the hotel. The maids oversaw watching their employers’ children. These women had to sleep in the cramped, hot space while everyone else vacationed in luxury on the floors below.

The fourth floor was later renovated and updated to accommodate guests. But the spirits of those once made to spend their nights there are said to still roam the halls and haunt several of the rooms. Guests and staff have reported hearing children running and laughing in the hallways in the middle of the night. On one of the couches in the hallway directly across from room 428, the ghosts of two little girls were seen.

Room 401 – The Dunraven Room

Windham Thomas Wyndham-Quin the Fourth Earl of Dunraven originally owned the land purchased by F.O. Stanley for the site of his hotel. Although Lord Dunraven never stepped foot inside the hotel, his spirit is said to haunt room 401.

Various unexplained events occur inside the room. Guests report smelling cherry tobacco. Objects, especially eyeglasses are known to fly off the table and onto the floor. Closet doors slam and the sound of footsteps can be heard echoing through the room. Female guests report having their hair touched and most notably, guests have reported seeing Lord Dunraven. How do they know it is him? Well, a large, framed photograph of the man who originally owned the land where the hotel now sits is affixed to the wall in the hallway right outside the door.

Room 418

Room 418 is reported to be the most haunted room in the building because of the number of people who report paranormal activity. Guests frequently report strange, unexplained noises. The television turns on and off on its own and a housekeeper, who was changing the linens, saw an impression in the shape of a body form on the bed. Room 418 is also haunted by the ghost of a little boy.

Room 428

The most common report in room 428 is the sound of phantom footsteps pacing the floor. Sometimes guests return to the room to find furniture moved. The most incredible report is that of a ghostly cowboy who appears near the corner of the bed in the middle of the night. Although friendly by all accounts, the dark form looming over the bed caused one couple to request a room change.

The Tunnel

The tunnel was originally a small crawl space. The area was dug out and expanded in the 1980s for staff and deliveries to be easily transported and moved through the hotel on the garden level. The hotel has a natural foundation with beams laying across rocks called a “floating” foundation.

Staff report smelling baked goods in the tunnel. These delicious scents are attributed to a pastry chef who once worked in the hotel. The most common spirit seen is that of a gray cat with glowing green eyes. Several animal apparitions have been seen in various areas of the hotel. Many cats and dogs have lived and stayed in the hotel over the years.

Interestingly, the bedrock beneath the hotel is composed of limestone and quartz. Some paranormal researchers believe these elements absorb and trap spiritual energy.

The Grand Staircase

Upon entering the front doors, the grand staircase is center stage. Situated between the first and second floor, this immaculate ascension to the upper levels is bathed in light from three large windows on the landing. Several portraits and mirrors line the walls as one continues up to the second floor.

According to various accounts, spirits have been spotted on the grand staircase. Ghostly figures have been seen and captured on camera wearing clothing from an earlier time. Some people believe a couple seen on the staircase are none other than the original owners, F.O. and Flora Stanley.

Whisky Bar and Music Room

F.O. and Flora Stanley have been seen throughout the hotel. F.O. is reported to frequently roam the bar area. Some staff members believe his spirit lingers to keep a watchful eye on his hotel. Flora has been seen in the music room. The beautiful Steinway grand piano in this room was a gift given to Flora from her husband on the day the hotel opened.

Pet Semetary

Just past the Ice House, there is a small pet cemetery. It is the final resting place for several of the Stanley Hotel’s pets. Many reports of ghostly animals have surfaced over the years. Guests have claimed to see cats in the hallways and dogs are heard pawing at hotel room doors. The cats seemingly disappear and when the door is opened to the sounds of a dog trying to get inside, there is nothing there.

My Experience Staying in Room 417 at the Stanley Hotel

The Stanley Hotel is an experience. For two nights, we stayed in room 417 situated in the “children’s hallway.” I received this trip as a gift for my birthday. I can't tell you enough how much this trip meant to me. As a self-proclaimed history nerd and paranormal researcher, I was blown away by this opportunity to stay overnight in one of the most infamously haunted hotels in the United States. My partner booked the Spirit Package which includes a guaranteed fourth-floor room and a ghost tour.

Driving up, the hotel took my breath away. Walking through the front entrance is like stepping back in time. The grand staircase grabbed my attention before my eyes wandered toward the brass elevator, the front desk with keys lining the back wall, the music room, the cozy fireplace, and the bustling people moving around the lobby.

After taking the original Otis elevator up to the fourth floor, we made our way down the “children’s hallway” toward our room. We passed room 401 – the Dunraven Room – before reaching our door. Our room was quaint and cozy with a queen bed, a large bathroom, and a window with a mountain view.

We went on the ghost tour on our first night. Our tour guide was fantastic. As she took us through the hotel and out to some of the other buildings on the grounds, she shared the history of the hotel along with a multitude of paranormal experiences.

One of my favorite features is the outdoor maze. Right out front, a miniature maze took us through twists and turns with seemingly no end. It was a fun element that added to the overall experience of the Stanley Hotel. As a Constant Reader, I appreciated the subtle nod to SK throughout our stay.

I personally did not experience any paranormal activity. But, my partner did. Around 3:00 a.m. on our second night, she heard children giggling outside our door in the hallway. She also felt an odd energy coming from the closet inside our bathroom. She said it just didn't feel right. Would I have loved to see or feel something? Sure, but I was over the moon with the overall experience of the hotel. The Stanely Hotel has a feel to it. It's hard to explain. It is just simply incredible.

If you ever have the chance to stay at the Stanley Hotel, take it in. Breath in the history, the stories, and the sights and sounds. Look for the ghosts and listen for the unexplained noises. Stay immersed in it. And at the end of the night, make sure to stop into the bar and get a signature beer like The Shining or Redrum Ale.


Want more ghost stories?

Check out Beyond Lincoln: A History of Nebraska Hauntings at


The author:

Tayden Bundy

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