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from The Phantom's Postcard collection
The Colorado Rockies!

Mountain Ghosts!

by Tom Beall

The Shining. Do you remember this movie? Even if you don’t, most folks are aware of it and where it supposedly took place. When Stephen King stayed in the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, he was motivated to write this macabre story. Perhaps it was because of the reputation that the Stanley Hotel enjoys. He might have been influenced, you know...by wandering spirits that have occupied this beautiful hotel for many years. Let me tell you of the ghostly encounters we had in that very hotel!

Lanna, my wife, and I were actually blissfully unaware of the hotel's reputation, other than its association with the movie. And knowing the fact that the movie was actually filmed at Mt. Hood Lodge in Oregon,would have contributed to that ignorance. It was only the television movie that was filmed at the Stanley.

December, 2000, was our 35th anniversary. So we married young! ☻We had not yet been to Estes Park, after living in Colorado for the previous 5 years, so we decided it would be a wonderful place to spend this special time. We even invited along our good friends Frank and Dee, who were delighted to share this adventure with us.

We drove from Colorado Springs, north through Denver, then we took exit 243 off highway 25 westward toward Estes Park. This drive, once you get through Lyons, is lovely as you travel up the road through Pinewood Springs. It’s not a long trip from Colorado Springs, so we even had time to do some shopping in Denver.

When you drive into Estes Park, even the view can make you short of breath! Well, the altitude can for sure, and the sight of the mountains will too. We drove to the hotel, and since it was near Christmas, it’s fortunate I had made the reservations well in advance. The Stanley is booked up most of the time, so you can’t usually just walk in and get a room. 

Our rooms were in the Carriage house, just adjacent to the main hotel. That was fine with us since the hotel itself was awfully busy and noisy, at least in the lobby which was beautifully decorated for Christmas. The weather was perfect with temperatures in the 50s, blue skies, and yet the mountains had their mantle of snow to soften the landscape. We had plans to drive into the park and watch the wildlife, particularly the elk, and of course the ladies had to do some shopping in town.

It was late afternoon, so we decided to go to our rooms, relax awhile, and then dress for dinner. We had reservations for the McGregor room in the hotel, so we parted company with our friends and agreed to meet them at 7PM. Lanna and I went to our room on the 3rd floor in the carriage house, and found it to be very spacious, and well lit, and even a bottle of champagne in ice waiting for us! Well, I had told them it was our anniversary so there was nothing spooky about that.

We relaxed a while, shared some champagne, and then began the process of preparing for dinner. Lanna was arranging her hair in the bathroom with the door open, while I was sitting on the end of the bed putting on my shoes. Now the bed sits with the foot facing a window in the opposite wall. To the right of the window is a side table where the champagne rested in the ice bucket, and to the left is the closet, and to the left of that is the door to the hallway. 

I had just straightened up from tying my shoes when I heard a low growl to my left and down. The hair stood straight up on my neck, and Lanna said, “What’s that?” Have you ever noticed how you can tell the difference when a dog growls at you, as opposed to when a dog growls in warning to let you know something, or someone is near? This growl was the later kind. I wasn’t frightened, only startled. 

We of course didn’t have our dog with us! This sound was what I would expect if our dog Willow (Don’t let the name fool you. She’s a Rhodesian Ridgeback!) was reclining at my left, and growled because she heard a stranger at the door. I looked down and saw the carpet, but not even a shadow, darn it. (But then ghosts don't have shadows, do they...) I’ve always wanted to see a ghost. We talked about it a bit, laughed nervously, then we finished preparing for dinner.

We met Frank and Dee later, as planned, and made a fairly late time of it too. The food was very good, and so was the wine, which flowed rather freely. We told our story, which made Dee a little nervous, but Frank, ex-fighter pilot, didn’t seem a bit concerned. Well, neither were we actually. Remembering back, I decided it was a friendly growl.

We left before midnight to go to bed. I locked the door to hallway, making sure to set the dead bolt. I recall distinctly that I seated it well, because it was a difficult task. I had to fiddle with the door to position it so the dead bolt would lock. It traveled a good inch and a half into the doorframe. 

Sometime much later, I believe about 2:30 or so, I awoke as many folks do that are 50 something or over, to use the facilities. I looked to my left because it seemed a bit light in the room, only to discover our door open about 2 feet! I cautiously looked around for intruders, and finding none, I climbed out of bed and went to the door. The dead bolt was still fully extended as if the door was closed and locked!

Lanna is one of the lightest sleepers I know. I swear she’ll hear a cat whisker hit the ground, yet…she did not awaken at what, under normal circumstances, would have had her awake and pounding on me. I sleep rather soundly, but I know I would have awakened if someone had put a key in the lock, unlocked the deadbolt, opened the door, and then extended the deadbolt again. I didn’t even wake Lanna up to tell her, because I knew she wouldn’t sleep the rest of the night, and of course neither would I. “Clever” of me, eh?

The next morning, after telling our friends of our night adventure over breakfast, we mentioned it to the desk clerk. She was not a bit surprised at hearing our tale, and told us that there is a dog ghost in the carriage house that never means any harm. 

She was at a bit of a loss about the door, but she did say that a lady ghost in the carriage house was known to go into the guests rooms and move stuff around. Usually though, no one was in the room. There are other ghostly presences at the hotel, like the sound of lilting notes from the ballroom piano, when no one is there! 

So if you are up for a vacation to one of the world’s beautiful places, and you’d like a little ghostly adventure, I highly recommend the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. Click here to go to their official website.

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