On Friday, after our friends left we explored town. Then we came back to the hotel for a nap since neither Gene nor I had slept well the night before. Gene slept. I gave up, grabbed my copy of The Shining by Stephen King that I'd purchased in the gift shop and headed downstairs to read. On either side of the desk there are groupings of large comfy leather chairs in front of blazing fireplaces just begging to be curled up in. I accepted their invitation, tucking my feet under me and relaxing into the book, the coziness, and the view out the windows overlooking the town.
I have never read The Shining. I wasn't a Stephen King fan for a very long time because I kept getting tripped up on the "Horror" designation of his books. I hate "Horror" books and and slasher films, which I assumed his were. Not so. I think there should be an entirely separate genre for King called "Psychologically Unnerving" or "Psychologically Disturbing". His books aren't about death or monsters or the Bogeyman. They're about people and how people deal with the manifestation of their deepest fears as monsters and the Bogeyman. Carrie, Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, and Dolores Claiborne are all King, wonderfully complex psychological stories. The monsters in them are people where in many of the other books there are real monsters, but still, his writing blows me away with its insight and complexity. I'm so glad I finally picked up one of his books a few years ago and have been reading everything of his I can get my hands on since then.
I bought the book after our Wednesday night pre-dinner hospitality room (Barb and John's room) soiree where we all realized that I hadn't seen the movie. I thought I had over the years seen most of it in bits and pieces but as we hung out chatting I realized that I had only seen a few key scenes. We chatted and watched the last 3/4 of the movie on Channel 42 (click for a bigger pic), hilariously, with them doing the lines before they were said on the movie and as we fixed up adult libations there were numerous "Lloyd" references--perfect way to view the movie!
The Jack Nicholson version was filmed in 1980 at the Timberline Lodge in Mount Hood, Oregon, not at The Stanley. Mr. King makes reference in the edition I bought to the fact that he and Kubrick may have not seen eye to eye on Kubrick's adaptation which doesn't follow the book exactly. I'm still only halfway through it and am finding that the book is so much better, much more subtle which makes it much scarier. The book is better able to delve into why Jack is the way he is and goes through the process of his devolution where in the movie it just seems that Jack is possessed and a monster. In the book, Jack is a good guy and he fights his demons in a way that we can all relate to. By the way, there is a second version of the movie that WAS actually filmed at The Stanley Hotel in 1996, a mini-series for ABC. It was also executive produced and the screenplay adapted by Mr King himself. I remember when it aired on TV, but was still in my "I hate Stephen because he's a horror writer" misunderstanding, I didn't watch it at the time. Having just come home from vacation today, I haven't had a chance to see it yet but I did buy a copy in the hotel gift shop of the King/Stanley Hotel version.
Back to Friday afternoon sitting in my comfy chair in front of the fireplace, cracking open my brand new copy of The Shining and secretly giggling to myself, like I'm sure so many others have before me, about the funny it is to read THAT book in THAT hotel. Yeah. Sure. At first it was funny so I'll tell you about that part first.
I read the standard disclaimer after the title page: "Some of the most beautiful resort hotels in the world are located in Colorado, but the hotel in these pages is based on none of them. The Overlook and the people associated with it exist wholly within the author's imagination." "What?!" I screamed in my head. No fair. The Stanley makes a partial living off its association with the book and movies. That can't be right. Disappointed, I started reading anyway.
On page three, Mr. Ullman is going over the hotel blueprints with Jack "Lobby level. Here in the center is the registration desk....The lobby runs for eighty feet in either direction front the desk. Over here in the west wing is the Overlook Dining room and the Colorado Lounge." Hmmm, I thought to myself as I glanced up at the registration desk in center of the lobby which runs for about 80 feet one way and a little less the other way, with Cascades restaurant and lounge on the east side of the lobby right behind my chair and banquet rooms on the opposite side....
On page 75: "Beyond the wide front porch, which ran the length of the hotel, a beautifully manicure lawn....sloped away to a long, rectangular swimming pool." Hmmmm, I thought to myself, looking out at the wide porch that fronts the Stanley Hotel and at the concrete expanse people roamed covering the distance between the front porch and the rectangular swimming pool.....
Nope, not based on any particular hotel I giggled, and snuggled deeper in my chair to happily read. I made it through the first 17 chapters during that lazy afternoon before Gene woke up and we went on with the evening together.
Before I continue, let me explain some things about where we stayed in the hotel:
This is a long shot of the hotel. See how the main front has a long wide porch and the east and west wings jut out a little from each side?
From the front, see the main double doors in the middle? See the set of four windows directly above it on the 2nd floor? That's a banquet room and right behind it is the main staircase of the hotel. See how the west wing juts out towards the front? The building is symmetrical, with the east wing also jutting out on our side. Back to the four center windows on the 2nd floor. Immediately to the left is a set of double windows. That was our room. Immediately to the left of that is a small window. That was our bathroom window where there was no screen, simply two hinged windows that opened inward, where I shot all the pics of the valley and mountains each day:
The hotel's main staircase from the Lobby level to the 2nd floor. Our room was just to the left of this staircase on the front side of the hotel, overlooking the front of the hotel, the pool, and Estes Park.
One other note before I continue my tale...just before leaving town that Friday morning, our friends told us about the strange things they'd experienced in their rooms in the west wing on the back side of the hotel. I loved it!
That evening, after my relaxed afternoon reading in the lobby chair, Gene and I went to a leisurely dinner but didn't stay out late since we were leaving Saturday morning with a thirteen hour drive in our near future. From 8pm-10pm it snowed hard enough to erase all but the lights of the hotel property, and I wondered, as I took pics from our little bathroom window, what it would be like to be snowed in up there. I could easily see how it wouldn't take much to cut Estes Park and The Stanley from the rest of the world for weeks. We packed up our luggage except for what we'd be wearing the next day, watched a little (regular!) TV from bed, and Gene drifted off to sleep.
I cracked open the book again and began reading chapter 18, the chapter where Jack finds The Scrapbook and reads through all the clippings of murders that occurred in the hotel. The next chapter, 19, is titled "Outside 217", and I read "Her saying she'd seen something in one of the rooms where...a bad thing happened. That was in Room 217 and I want you to promise me you won't go in there, Danny..." and then "It was a perfectly ordinary door, no different from any other door on the first two floors of the hotel....down a corridor that ran at right angles to the main second-floor hallway."
I looked up around our room 223, just a couple of rooms down the hall and a left-hand turn to room 217.
And that's when I moved closer to Gene in the bed and looked around the room...and then got out of bed to turn on the bathroom light and leave its door open a crack...and then made sure the wardrobe doors were closed, and peeked through the curtains to make sure those hotel floodlights were still on out front before returning to bed and the book.
Chapter 25 "Inside 217": "A week and a half later two feet of snow lay white and even on the grounds of the Overlook Hotel...(two pages of description)....Danny was outside Room 217 again....(no spoilers here about what Danny saw but, shudder, OMG much scarier than the movie version!)....(Jack) started up the stairs without waiting for her. (Wendy) followed him, half-running, but he was taking the risers two at a time. She almost crashed into his back when he came to dead stop on the first floor landing. He was rooted there, eyes looking up, his eyes wide......Danny still stood there, his eyes blank, sucking his thumb. The marks on his throat were cruelly visible in the light of the hall's electric flambeaux."
And at the moment a family walked up those sane stairs and past our room, talking softly, all I could hear was their whispering, the brass elevator with the diamond window in it rising and falling feet from our room, and the wind howling with snow outside our window. It is also the exact moment when I wussed out, slammed the book shut, and made a deal with myself to finish it but only in the daylight and away from The Stanley Hotel.
It took awhile for me to fall asleep that night, and yes, the bathroom light stayed on all night. You know how some people believe that the spheres of light that show up in photos are ghosts? I took this pic earlier in the evening during the snow. Later that night after reading the Room 217 encounter, I believed. That is the power of a masterful storyteller, my friends.
Saturday morning we said goodbye to The Stanley....
and Estes Park....
I'm still reading The Shining, safely at home in southweswt Missouri, and still only during daylight hours.