For those who have seen “The Shining,” you probably know the iconic final scene with Jack Nicholson frozen solid. A beautiful, cinematic psycho-cicle. Stephen King’s classic horror novel was brought to life beautifully in a hotel located in the pacific northwest. The actual hotel that inspired his novel, on the other hand, is located in Estes Park Colorado. A few measly miles from Rocky Mountain National Park, an area that showcases Colorado’s true beauty.
This trip was, in a sense, impulsive. One day Pete messaged me with a link to see Indiana band Murder By Death playing a 10th anniversary show commemorating the release of their breakthrough album, “Who Will Survive and What will be Left of Them.” The reason he wanted to fly in from Michigan? They were playing at the Stanley. Formal black tie attire was not required, but highly recommended. I was only mildly familiar with the band, but if there is one thing I love more than getting shitfaced, it’s getting shitfaced in possibly haunted hotels with live music.
Estes Park is a glorious little town tucked away up in the mountains. The drive there was fairly sobering. It had only been four short months since floods ravaged the front range of Colorado. Much of the two lane highway we took was either freshly replaced or still being worked on. The rut of the St. Vrain river was a gigantic gnarly scar in the landscape. Houses were thrashed, logs and debris littered people’s yards and it was clear the community was only just beginning to rebuild their lives. A grim reminder that all the beauty in Colorado can also be terribly destructive.
Our spirits lifted as we continued the drive and started getting into the beautiful mountain scenery. Upon arriving in Estes, we immediately went to Rocky Mountain National Park. We spent several hours driving the giant loop and periodically getting out to walk up some rocks and enjoy the amazing views. A six pack of PBR tall boys and a couple bombers of Dogfish Head beers combined with the scenery cemented the day as a massive success. Pete had to scoop his jaw off the ground several times.
On the way back into town, we made a stop at Estes Park Brewing Company. Maybe it was just for being a Friday afternoon, but the place was a total fucking ghost town. We bellied up to the bar and started right into their beers. A guy I assumed was one of the brewers ended up hanging out and chatting with us and even indulged us in some crazy ideas for blends of the beers.
Our last mission before going to the Stanley to check in was getting booze for the room since we drank pretty much all our beer at RMNP. A six pack of Lucky Buddha, pint of Ancient Age bourbon and two 100ml bottles of Fireball later, we were supplied and ready to check in.
I don’t have the lexicon to describe the hotel. It was clearly a place from a different era. The aura of the hotel was eerily classy, like at any moment you may see the misty outlines of men with handlebar mustaches and bowler hats extending a hand to women in giant dresses and sun hats to request them to dance. Photo’s chronicling the hotel all the way back to when it was first built only added to that ambiance and creepy history.
We got to our room, took a nap and then got ready in our black tie formal wear. All the while sipping on Lucky Buddha pils and taking back shots of ancient age. By the time we got to the ballroom, we were properly tuned up and ready to dance the night away. It’s a little anti climactic, but we did.
After a couple hours of amazing music, we headed back into the main building where we really cut loose. We stopped by the room and grabbed a few remaining tall boys and our bottles of fireball and went exploring in the hotel. We were fairly confident that a spirit of some sort would reveal itself to us. That spirit did in fact reveal itself, albeit in the form of a man charging out of his room early in the morning to tell us to shut the fuck up. We obliged the spirit-man and went down to the whiskey bar where most of the concert go-ers were congregating.
We had some drinks and chatted with other well dressed MBD fans, and suddenly, as if I were taken for a few moments by a spirit, I woke up in our room bed. My head was pounding, my stomach revolting and my ears ringing. I poked Pete,
“Dude, are you up? What the fuck happened?”
“I don’t know, but I feel like death.”
“Me too. Let’s get the fuck out of here.”
We packed up what was left of our lives. Pete discovered that his phone had taken an unfortunate spill into the toilet while he was pissing and was absofuckinglutely dead. The night had been amazing even though the only spirits we saw were the ones we were drinking and I couldn’t have asked for a better trip. I gathered my things, minus a few choice pieces of clothing and started the 3 hour drive back to Denver, a shell of a man and just hating life.
I would go back and do it all again in a heartbeat.