Contemporary Fantasy Fiction


                                               By David L. Elkind

Bill Peterson had heard stories of paranormal activity and thought that they were “a bunch of malarkey.” Not only did he believe in requiring scientific proof of events to verify their validity, the idea of paranormal actions clashed with his sense of religion. When he thought about believers in paranormal activity, he felt that they were descendants of the pre-Abraham idol worshippers from 4,000 years ago. That all changed in 2010.

Bill, his wife, Peggy, and their daughter Emma took a short vacation to Colorado. They spent their first two days in Boulder visiting Bill’s best friend and his wife, then they drove to Estes Park. Estes Park is a beautiful town in Northern Colorado with an entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, where they enjoyed snowshoeing. But that was the second most memorable event that they had there. It paled in comparison with their experience with the occult.

They stayed at the Stanley Hotel. When they checked in, the registration clerk said, “I hope that you find your stay interesting.” In retrospect, that was one of the greatest understatements since the travel agent said to Moses, “I hope you can find a way to get across the Red Sea.”

The Stanley Hotel is a beautiful hotel which was opened in 1909 by Freelan Oscar Stanley, who loved Estes Park when it cured him of tuberculous, and who invented the Stanley automobile. In 1911, a chambermaid named Elizabeth Wilson was lighting a gas lamp in room 217 when a gas leak caused a massive explosion. Ms. Wilson landed in the dining room and somehow survived with only two broken ankles.

Room 217 is the most famous room in the hotel. Steven King and his wife were the only guests in 1974 when they stayed there just before the hotel closed for the season. King said he had a nightmare that his three year-old son was running down a corridor being chased by a fire hose. After he woke up in a sweat, King had a cigarette. When he was done, he had the outline for The Shining, although in the story it was called the Overlook Hotel.

Ms. Wilson haunts Room 217. Some guests have heard her voice. Others had come back from checking in and have found their suitcases unpacked. Unmarried couples have returned to the room to find their clothes strewn on the floor. Jim Carrey asked to stay in the room while Dumb and Dumber, some parts of which take place in the hotel, was being filmed. After three hours, he demanded to be moved to another hotel. The reason for his departure has not been disclosed.

The Petersons’ noteworthy experiences at the hotel began on the ground floor. During their first dinner there, Emma saw an older man standing by himself. She recognized him as Mr. Stanley from a brochure she had gotten when they checked in, and she confirmed it when she saw a painting of him. Since he died in 1940 that was quite unexpected. Then they walked to another room, which had a piano and flowers. Even though the door in the room and the windows were shut, all of a sudden the flowers on the piano, which was not being played, started swaying back and forth. They next walked through a room that had been used for meetings and parties decades before. Despite the fact that it hadn’t been used for a function for ages, they distinctly smelled cigars.

All of this was a prelude to the fourth floor, where they stayed. The fourth floor was where the women who worked at the hotel stayed along with their nannies. Young children ran around the floor. They apparently still ran around there, making noise and playing games.

 The fourth floor was legendary for paranormal activity. The Petersons experienced their share. The first afternoon, Bill was doing sit-ups next to the door. All of a sudden, he heard a loud knocking at the door. He quickly opened it, but no one was there.

It only got better. Peggy and others put down inanimate objects on the floor, one of which was an orange. A few minutes later they returned to see that all of the objects had moved, and that a bite had been taken out of the orange. A while later, the Petersons were invited into another room, where the people staying there were watching a light flicker. They were having a conversation with the light. The flickering wasn’t consistent. The frequency and duration of the flickering depended on the length of the light’s response to the question that a person was asking.     

That night, Peggy was lying down, preparing to sleep. She felt that she was being lifted up. She rolled over, expecting to see Bill lying next to her. Instead, he was on his side, facing away from her, asleep.

They learned about the best haunted experience the next morning. A couple were staying next door to the Petersons, in Room 407. Around the turn of the century, a lothario in town would steal women’s wedding rings, then convert them into prostitution. He was probably Windham Thomas Wyndham-Quinn, known as Lord Dunraven, who haunts Room 407. While they were nearly asleep, the woman saw a shadowy man standing next to her, saying, “Farewell, my lovely.” It undoubtedly was Lord Dunraven. The couple left within moments, and checked into another hotel.

The Petersons thoroughly enjoyed their experiences at the hotel. More importantly, Bill became a convert to all things paranormal. Within 48 hours, he had gone from being dismissive of paranormal activities into a fervent believer. Whenever the issue came up after the trip, Bill used his experiences at the hotel as conclusive proof that the paranormal exists. He didn’t believe that this was inconsistent with his religious beliefs. God had just created another diversion for everyone, just like when he created Monday night football in 1970. 

There is a good postscript to this story. A few months later, the Petersons were back home in Arlington, VA, when Bill crashed a party at the neighborhood next to theirs. He started talking with a man, and they were chatting about their recent travel experiences. Bill discussed his trip to Colorado, and mentioned the Stanley Hotel. “My brother’s a bartender there,” the man said.

“He must know about the fourth floor,” Bill said.

“Ah, the fourth floor,” the man said, with a knowing nod. Bill knew that he had just met a fellow traveler.

If the Petersons ever go back to the Stanley Hotel, they would be happy to stay on the fourth floor, as long as they had one night in room 217. Bill would make sure Peggy was with him. He wouldn’t want to have to pick up his clothes from the floor.                    

July 17, 2021 01:22

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