Grand mountain resorts are magical escapes from the crowds of modern life. But it's that secluded nature that can also make them some of the spookiest spots around, especially if the hotel was the inspiration for one of Stephen King's most haunting novels: "The Shining."
The spine-tingling book, later turned into a Jack Nicholson movie, tells the story of a man and his wife and son who spend the winter as the caretakers of an isolated Colorado hotel and struggle with freaky visions, insanity and fits of violence.
In 1973, King checked into the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colo., for a one-night stay. He and his wife, Tabitha, were the only guests in the hotel that night.
As he wandered the hotel's empty halls, he found sources of inspiration that may sound familiar to his fans. Legend has it that he encountered some ghostly children wandering the halls and was even said to have witnessed a party in the MacGregor ballroom, attended by some otherworldly guests.
The Stanley Hotel was opened in 1909 by F. O. and Flora Stanley. The couple had originally moved from Massachusetts to Colorado after Mr. Stanley was diagnosed with tuberculosis. Despite his doctor's giving him a few months to live, he quickly began to recover his health while living in Estes Park.
The Stanleys are long gone today, but they are still said to wonder the hotel they loved dearly. Mr. Stanley has been seen at the front desk, looking over the shoulder of the desk clerks. Mrs. Stanley still enjoys playing her piano in the music room. Many guests have reported beautiful piano music coming from the room when no one is sitting at the piano.
As for Stephen King, the room he slept in -- Room 217 -- is now the hotel's most-requested. Those who are brave enough to spend the night there just might see the ghostly apparition of Mrs. Wilson, a maid injured in an explosion in 1912, whose spirit still takes care of guests to this day.
The movie version of "The Shining" was not filmed at the hotel but on a sound stage in London with the exterior scenes filmed in Mt. Hood, Ore. King returned to the Stanley in the mid-'90s to film a mini-series version of the novel. Both versions can be seen in the guest rooms at the hotel on a continuous loop on Channel 42.
For those looking for more spooky adventures, the Stanley has a professional paranormal investigator, Callea Seck, on staff, as well as a resident psychic, Madame Vera.
The hotel also offers a 90-minute ghosts-and-history tour several times a day. It costs $15 for adults, $10 for children. Advance reservations are required.
For those looking for a slightly spookier experience, the hotel offers a five-hour nighttime ghost hunt for $50 a person. No one under 18 will be admitted. The paranormal investigator teaches tips and techniques and shows the latest equipment in use out in the field.
All of that occurs while guest do their best to tempt the spirits to come out and play ... in the dark.