Estes Park Colorado
A devoted spectral employee’s duties includes the upholding of values.
Mr. Stanley keeps a close eye on the work ethics of staff.
Mrs. Stanley expresses her artistry at annoying times.
The wily and inappropriate Lord Dunraven still bothers the living.
Spirits of children still act their age.
The Stanley Hotel , designed by Freelan Stanley himself, includes not only 138 rooms, but is a beautiful four storied Georgian, neoclassical inn, with 16,000 square feet of event space, grounds and support buildings. His holiday mansion was built for the entertainment and comfort of his friends and special guests. Constructed in 1909 using native pine, the Stanley is the product of 300 craftsmen who created a marvelous decor for each public space, most notably the artistic details on the staircases and guest rooms. Each guest room has its own private bath, heat, phone and electricity, thanks to the dedicated power plant and dam that Stanley built. The electricity from that plant not only keeps the lights on at the Inn, but also powers the homes and businesses of the people of Estes Park, for free.
The current owners have spent millions of dollars to restore and renovate this splendid inn, much to the delight of guests and the city of Estes Park. Entering the main lobby, one enters a lovely space of carved pine wood, tiled floors, fireplaces and the airy, relaxing atmosphere of a classic turn-of-the-century holiday inn. In the lobby a Stanley Steamer car is on display.
Along the left side of the first floor of the main inn, one finds the main dining room (now known as the MacGregor Room) with windows that offer a wonderful view. MacGregor was a rancher who stopped the infamous Lord Dunraven from his local wrongdoing, becoming an Estes Park hero in the process.
Along the right side of the main inn, one finds Flora Stanley’s Music Room, where she entertained her lady friends. While she loved to play her piano for guests, such renowned musicians as John Phillip Sousa, a personal friend of the Stanleys, were known to drop by as well and perform. Flora’s piano still sits in its honored place. The Music Room is brilliantly white, and sports large windows for guests to enjoy the view. The woodwork and decor are lovely.
While the women visited in the Music Room, the men gathered in the Lounge next door. Women were not allowed, probably because men wanted to have manly discussions, and perhaps use language not appropriate for the gentler sex at this time in history. The Lounge has a large fireplace, decorated with Indian symbols that eventually had to be covered up because the Indian sign for peace looks like the Nazi insignia. I loved the dark woodwork and details carved into the corner ceiling beams.
The Billiard Room is also on this side of the inn. Originally, women were allowed to watch their men play billiards, and could clap as well, but couldn’t play. A large room, it is made from natural pine with a dark finish. Like the other first-floor rooms, it has a tall ceiling, lovely windows, and the customary carvings and details.
The Music Room, the Lounge, the Billiard Room and MacGregor Room are rented out for a variety of events.
In the basement, the inn medium has an office, there is an exercise room, and the ghost tours desk. A film about the inn and the Stanley brothers is offered in the ghost tour waiting room, and there is another cafe which sells coffee and other items. In the back of the inn is a lovely fountain and a roomy patio area in which to sit and enjoy food and drink.
The second and third floors have suites and rooms for guests, varying in price. The fourth floor was originally where the children and their nannies stayed, but it is rented to guests today. Haunted rooms are located mostly on the second and fourth floors. They are very popular and cost more.
Francis Edgar and Freelan O. Stanley
The children of two school teachers and identical twins, Francis Edgar and Freelan O. Stanley were encouraged at an early age to be creative. During their lives, they were awarded numerous patents. As grown men, they made their fortune first by their invention of the airbrush and then by their transformative idea of the dry photographic plate process, which jump-started the Eastman Kodak Company.
Rolling in money, they retired early, but didn’t stop inventing. In 1897, the brilliant twins came out with their Stanley Steam Car, initially just for personal use and amusement, but the invention became a viable product, which later led to a self-propelled inter-urban railroad coach, powered by Stanley Steam Engines. Between 1902 and 1917, the Stanley Steam Car was the most popular vehicle in America, out-selling all the gasoline-fueled car competition. It also became the premiere steam car to possess, especially for those with no money worries. Other people not so blessed bought the Model T Ford.
Around 1900, Freelan Stanley hit a big bump in the road, when he became sick with the dreaded tuberculosis. As the only known chance of a cure at the time was to eat well and spend time in fresh air, Freelan and Flora were advised to move to Denver, Colorado. By May of 1903, his doctor gave Freelan only three months to live. Freelan and Flora went to Estes Park for the summer, to spend his last months in the doctor’s cabin. Miraculously, Freelan was cured! He and Flora decided to build a small mansion, not far from the Stanley Hotel site, with additional plans to develop and contribute to the Estes Park community. They were grateful, and had fallen in love with this beautiful area.
A few years later, Flora was yearning to entertain her friends as she once did at her former home in Denver. While she enjoyed their mansion, it wasn’t big enough to entertain on the scale to which she’d become accustomed. Freelan bought the hilly land and its surrounding acres from the infamous Lord Dunraven, a slimy ex-Irishman who owned the town brothel. The location offered the best view of the mountains and lake; it was perfect place for their summer holiday mansion, where with their friends they could experience the gracious hospitality and mountain living.
Besides providing electricity and power to the town, Freelan also set up a sewer system, reintroduced elk to the region, and restocked the lake with fish. He donated land for important buildings, and his friends came to town and stimulated the economy.
The Stanleys’ friends and special guests, like Teddy Roosevelt and Molly Brown, starting in Denver, boarded the Stanley Steamer, which motored them up the hill. Along the way, guests would be startled by exciting incidents, such as a man dressed in a bear suit, who pretended to attack the driver. On cue, the driver draws out a blank pistol and shoots at the bear, scaring him away. Walt Disney might have borrowed this idea when he created the Jungle Cruise ride at Disneyland.
Freelan and Flora Stanley enjoyed hosting their friends at The Stanley and did so for many years. Their guests had great summer holidays, enjoying not only the company of the Stanleys, but also the location and the amenities offered them.
A loyal employee of Freelan, Mrs. Smith worked as a chambermaid from the very beginning, when The Stanley opened. In 1911, one of her duties was to light the gas line in room 217, when the electricity wasn’t working. Room 217 was a special suite reserved for important guests, like Teddy Roosevelt. One day, someone had tested the gas, but had forgotten to turn it off. So, when Mrs. Smith lit the gas, it exploded, taking out not only room 217, but the rooms on the three upper floors above it. Luckily, Mrs. Smith was thrown through the floor to the main floor and survived with injuries. While she was in the hospital, Freelan visited her, paid for all her hospital care, offered her a promotion as head chambermaid (without the duty of lighting the gas line) and paid for the college educations of her three children. Mrs. Smith was a loyal employee for many years, until she died.
A narcissist at heart, he had some bad habits and wasn’t to be trusted. He stole goods and property anyway he could. He saw Estes Park as his private hunting spot, hunting elk and everything else to extinction, fished using dynamite, and used various forms of fraud to try to get control of all the land.
For his brothel business, he was always on the lookout for young women to come work for him, so he pestered the ladies in town, with the hopes of causing trouble between married couples. Lord Dunraven looked at his land sale to Freelan as an opportunity to gain advantages for his own businesses. It is theorized by some that he used to approach the nannies in their fourth floor break-room at The Stanley, with offers to work for him in his brothel, as some of the nannies might have needed second jobs.
His schemes were stopped by a rancher by the name of MacGregor, who also happened to be a lawyer. When the law became interested in his misadventures, Lord Dunraven had to leave town, abandoning all his cherished spoils and businesses.
The Stanley Inn
When Freelan Stanley died in 1940, The Stanley Hotel was sold, as they had no heirs. The hotel had trouble making a profit to sustain itself through the years. While Freelan and Flora could afford the 30,000 to 50,000 dollar price tag, being a for-profit inn had been challenging, to say the least. The Stanley Hotel had 26 owners before its current corporate owners bought it as a fixer-upper opportunity, bringing it up to the standard where it attracts tourists, making the hotel a profitable property.
HISTORY OF MANIFESTATIONS
When old buildings are restored, the entities who loved them in their lifetimes, sometimes become active spirits.
Past owners often come back to supervise the living, making sure that they provide service and hospitality to the standards they had insisted upon while alive. They don’t quite trust the living with the responsibility of running things.
Dedicated employees sometimes don’t let the fact that they are dead stop them from continuing to do their duties.
Unfortunately, death doesn’t give notorious folks with bad character any redeeming characteristics. Often when these type of people die, they continue in their old ways, tempted as always to gain what they lusted for when alive: riches, revenge, lustful desires.
The Entity of Flo Stanley
During the wee morning hours, she likes to play her piano, much to the annoyance of the people in rooms located over The Music Room.
Pictures have been taken of her on the main staircase, that can be seen on the slide show in the basement.
Her apparition has been seen gazing out of The Music Room windows, waiting for her guests.
The Entity of Freelan Stanley
His apparition has been seen walking through the main lobby.
At closing time in the main floor bar, his apparition has been known to lean against the wall, arms folded, watching the staff do their duties.
The Entity of Mrs. Smith
Her apparition has been observed, walking through room 217 into the wall, where the connecting door to the adjoining room used to be.
She has been known to hang up clothes, put away suitcases for guests, and straighten up the room.
She also has her moral values to uphold. On several occasions, unmarried couples have felt a cold presence come between them in the bed, to prevent premarital activities.
The Entities of Children
The sound of children running and playing in the hallways of the fourth floor has been reported. Their whispering has been heard in the closets of the rooms on the fourth floor.
One entity of a little boy tries to wake up sleeping children on the fourth floor, because he wants to play.
Another such entity goes to great lengths to be noticed by the living in the fourth floor rooms: He turns on the TV really loud, and fools with the lights, among other things.
The entity of a little girl likes to peek at people from the central staircase.
The Entity of Lord Dunraven
He still hangs around room 401, the Nanny’s old break-room. He has stolen guests’ jewelry, though is usually found later. He also likes to stay in the closet. When unsuspecting females enter it, he has been known to breathe down their necks, touch their shoulders and waists, etc.
A BIG YES INDEED!
Not only are there many personal experiences reported, but hard evidence backing up these hauntings/supervisions has been gathered. Such groups as GHOST HUNTERS have experienced and recorded paranormal activity.
333 Wonderview Avenue
Estes Park, Colorado 80517
The stately, magnificent Stanley Hotel can be found on the hill just above the town of Estes Park. Its prime location has a lovely view of the lake and mountains. It is only six miles from Rocky Mountain National Park, and an hour’s drive from Denver.
- HAUNTED PLACES: The National Directory
By Dennis William Hauck
Penguin Books, 2002
- The Stanley Hotel Ghost Tour
Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr