The Shining: The True Story & Real-Life Hotel Behind The Movie

Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrance in The Shining with The Stanley Hotel

The Shining was a fictional tale but the setting was inspired by the true hauntings within Colorado's Stanley Hotel. Stephen King's The Shining novel novel was the basis for Stanley Kubrick's 1980 masterpiece film. A sequel to the film (and based on the book of the same name), Doctor Sleep, is set to hit theaters in November.

The Shining is considered one of the most significant films in history. It told the story of Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson), a recovering alcoholic who took the job as the caretaker of a historic hotel during their off-season. Jack, his wife, Wendy (Shelley Duvall), and their son, Danny (Danny Lloyd), moved into the Overlook Hotel deep in the Colorado Rockies. Danny possessed "the shining", a psych ability that gave him insight into the hotel's terrifying past. A snowstorm then forced the family to stay indoors and they started to learn the supernatural dangers that reside in the hotel. The evil forces deteriorated Jack's sanity leading him to turn on his family.

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Related: IT Chapter Two's Shining Reference Hints At Stephen King's Shared Universe

Much of The Shining took place inside the ominous Overlook Hotel, a location that has become an iconic landmark in pop culture from the Grady twins down the hall to the carpeting on the floor. Many elements of the story, as well as the hotel itself, was inspired by the Stanley Hotel. In 1974, King and his wife spent time at the isolated resort hotel which was located in Estes Park, Colorado. King and his wife checked in just before the hotel was shutting down for the winter, and they were the only guests there. King noted the eerie feeling of being in an empty hotel. While roaming the building, King felt inspired by the long corridors and the isolation from the world. His experience instantly gave him the idea for the horror novel.

The Shining

The Stanley Hotel was built in 1909 by Freelan Oscar Stanley of the Stanley Steamer fame. The 142-room resort was meant for wealthy vacationers and also served as a health retreat for those suffering from tuberculosis. The Stanley Hotel is still in operation and remains a tourist destination due to its panoramic views of the Rockies. The hotel also has a very haunted history which has helped attract viewers and paranormal investigators.

When King stayed at the Stanley Hotel in the mid-'70s, he resided with his wife in room 217. That specific room has a haunted history involving the chief housekeeper, Elizabeth Wilson. In 1911, Wilson was injured in an explosion caused by lighting a lantern. Though she survived the event, it's said that she still wanders around the room, moving luggage and folding clothes. King has claimed to have seen a young boy while going to his room which wasn't possible considering he and his wife were the only confirmed guests. There have also been a number of other accounts detailing unexplained noises heard, figures seen, and personal objects stolen or broken.

Kubrick's version of the Overlook Hotel doesn't match to King's vision of the resort. Kubrick changed much of the layout and added the hedge maze at the front of the property. The infamous room was also changed from 217 to 237. Due to King's displeasure of Kubrick's adaptation, the author made his own TV miniseries based on the novel in 1997, with the Stanley Hotel being used as the filming location. Due to The Shining's popularity, the Stanley Hotel has embraced the connection by hosting tours and events related to the novel and film. In 2015, the hotel decided to add the iconic hedge maze to the open area in the front of the property, which has been a hit with visitors.

Next: Why A "Dead" Character From The Shining Returns In Doctor Sleep

Key Release Dates
  • Doctor Sleep (2019) release date: Nov 08, 2019
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