Haunted Estes Park

Estes Park, Colorado seemingly has a penchant for haunted hotels.  Here are two of them.

Baldpate Inn-1917

Baldpate Inn-1917, courtesy Denver Public Library.

Stanley Hotel Postcard, 1917

Stanley Hotel Postcard, 1917. Courtesy Estes Park Historical Museum

The Baldpate Inn

Gordon and Ethel Mace, who were newlyweds at the time, homesteaded the property in Estes Park and built a classic log cabin in 1911. To supplement their income, they built several small tourist cabins, which proved to be a huge success. They began to make plans to build and Inn and in 1917 they opened the Baldpate Inn.

They named the inn after a fictional inn in a mystery novel where regular guests were given their own keys to the building. The Maces practiced this tradition until World War I when the cost of metal rose so steeply, they could no longer afford to give away keys. When this happened, their loyal guests started a custom of bringing a key with them to leave at the inn, which started the famous “Key Room”, which holds over 20,000 keys. Keys from Westminster Abby, Mozart’s wine cellar, the Pentagon and even Frankenstein’s castle adorn the room.

Reportedly both Ethel and Gordon continue to stay at their old Inn in a spiritual fashion. Staff and guests say that Ethel has haunted her old room for years and particularly likes spending time in the Key Room. She also likes to sit in a wing-backed rocker before a fireplace that is now located in a storage room. Her feet up, she is said to sit in the rocker reading the bible.

Evidently, Ethel supported the prohibitionists because she also likes to spill mix drinks, while others have a tendency to fly off of tables. Gordon’s pet peeve, on the other hand, is evidently smoking. Though the lodge does not allow smoking, if a guest does in fact light up a cigarette, something smashes it or their cigarette packs come up missing.

Baldpate Inn is now run by the Smith family, who purchased the inn in 1986. Only the second family to ever own the inn, the Smiths continue to welcome guests in the same fashion as the Maces. The 12-room lodge is open from Memorial Day to October 1 each year and is located at 4900 South Highway 7 in Estes Park.

The Stanley Hotel

F.O. Stanley, courtesy Estes Park Historical Museum

F.O. Stanley, courtesy Estes Park Historical Museum

This old hotel was built in the early 1900’s by F.O. Stanley, who created the Stanley Steam Engine — a steam powered horseless carriage. The majestic Georgian style hotel opened in 1909, catering to the rich and famous.

Arriving in Colorado in 1903, Freelan Oscar Stanley (F.O.) and his wife Flora had been sent West by F.O. Stanley’s doctor to seek the fresh mountain air.

Stanley, who suffered tuberculosis, had been advised to not make plans beyond six months. The doctor arranged for the couple to stay in a friend’s cabin in Estes Park for the summer. Immediately, they fell in love with the area and F.O.’s health began to dramatically improve.

After spending the summer in the cabin, Flora wanted a home like the one she had left in Maine. Their home was built about one-half mile west of where the Stanley Hotel would later be built. Today the house is a private residence.

Stanley Hotel

Stanley Hotel, 2009

F.O. Stanley built the hotel on land that he purchased from the Irish Earl Lord Dunraven. Dunraven came to the area in 1872 while on a hunting trip. He built a hunting lodge, cabin and hotel for his guests and illegally homesteaded up to 6,000 acres in an unsuccessful attempt to create a private hunting preserve. Dunraven was finally run out of the area after trying to swindle folks out of their land and money.

In 1906, construction started on the Stanley Hotel. Wood and rock were obtained from the nearby mountains and the hotel was built in the Georgian architectural style, which experienced a revival in the early twentieth century. In 1909, the luxury hotel was complete, with no expense spared. Equipped with running water, electricity and telephones, the only amenity the hotel lacked was heat, as the hotel was designed as a summer resort.

The Stanley Hotel has hosted many “famous” guests including The Unsinkable Molly Brown, John Philip Sousa, Theodore Roosevelt, the Emperor and Empress of Japan, and a variety of Hollywood personalities. And, of course, the Stanley Hotel hosted Stephen King, whose experience inspired his book, “The Shining.”

Stanley Hotel Lobby in 1920, courtesy Estes Park Historical Museum

In addition to its regular guests, the hotel is also said to play host to a number of other worldly visitors. The most notable is F.O. Stanley himself who is most often seen in the lobby and the Billiard Room, which was his favorite room when he was still alive. On one such occasion, he was said to have appeared during a tour group’s visit to the Billiard Room, materializing behind a member of the tour. Bartenders at the old hotel also report having seen F.O. stroll through the bar, disappearing when they try to cut him off at the kitchen.

Not to be left out, Flora Stanley also haunts the hotel, continuing to entertain guests with her piano playing in the ballroom.

Employees and guests have reported hearing music coming from the room, and when they take a peek in there, they can see the piano keys moving. However, as soon as someone walks across the thresh-hold to investigate further, the music stops and no more movement can be seen upon the keys of the piano.

There are several rooms in the hotel that seem to be particularly haunted. One is Room 407, which is said to sometimes be occupied by Lord Dunraven, who owned the land prior to F.O. Stanley. Reportedly, he likes to stand in the corner of the room near the bathroom door. On one such account, witnesses reported that a light in that corner kept turning on and off. While the light was off, they told the ghost that they knew that he was there, they would only be staying two nights, and would he please turn the light back on. The light turned back on. However, later when the lights were turned off and they were trying to sleep, noises were constantly heard from the nearby elevator during a time when the elevator was not in use. At other times, a ghostly face has been reported to be looking out the window of Room 407, when the room is not booked.

Room 418 gets the most reports of haunting activity apparently from children’s spirits. Cleaning crews report having heard many strange noises from the room, as well as seeing impressions on the bed when the room has been empty. When guests stay in the room, they often report that they hear children playing in the hallway at night. One couple reportedly checked out of the hotel very early in the morning, complaining that the children in the hallway kept them up all night. However, there were no children booked in the hotel at the time.

There have also been many reports by guests of haunting activities in Rooms 217 and 401.

Tour guides tell a story of the ghost of a small child who has been seen by many of the staff in various areas of the old hotel. Reportedly, Stephen King also saw the child, who was calling out to his nanny on the second floor. Other past employees report footsteps and apparitions seen throughout the building.

The Stanley Hotel is open year-round and is located at 333 Wonderview in Estes Park, Colorado.  In October 2015, the hotel released plans to raise $24 million to build a 43,000 square-foot Stanley Film Center, which would be the world’s first horror themed museum, film archive and film production studio.

© Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated October, 2017

Additional Reading: 

The Ghost Tour at the Stanley via Legend’s Blog

Two Heads Are Better Than One – The Stanley Brothers

Ghost Stories


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