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Haunted Hotels

What Did Stephen King See Inside The Stanley Hotel That Inspired Him to Write “The Shining?”

Bob and I spent Halloween weekend enjoying and investigating the famous Stanley Hotel in connection with a chapter for our upcoming book (America’s Most Haunted Hotels: Checking in with Uninvited Guests – slated for a 2016 fall release).

The Stanley Hotel - Estes Park, CO
The Stanley Hotel – Estes Park, CO

The most fascinating question that remains for me is what exactly (if anything) did Stephen King see that fateful night in 1974 that inspired him to write The Shining?

If you haven’t heard the back story, allow me to brief you a bit. King had a hit with Carrie, and had just turned in Salem’s Lot. Both stories were set in Maine, and he wanted a change of scenery, so he moved his family to Boulder, CO to work on his next novel. He had been tinkering with the idea of a boy who had psychic abilities, but the venue was tentatively set in an abandoned amusement park, and he just couldn’t work out the logistics of how the family would remain trapped there. He was stuck.

Back in 1974, The Stanley closed for the winter, and King (along with his wife, Tabitha), just happened to find their way there on the last opening night prior to the winter shut down. They were the only guests in the hotel that night, and were given what was the best room in the house – Room 217.

"Stephen King's Room" - Room 217, Stanley Hotel - Estes Park, CO
Outside “Stephen King’s Room” – Room 217, Stanley Hotel – Estes Park, CO

After their dinner, Tabitha returned to their room and King wandered the hallways of the empty hotel.

The endless hallway, where Stephen King roamed and was inspired to write "The Shining."
The endless hallway, where Stephen King roamed and was inspired to write “The Shining.”

Try as I might, I have not been able to turn up anything on whether or not King had any personal paranormal experiences while staying in the hotel that night. Nevertheless, there is no denying that whatever happened to him during his stay, he was inspired to write The Shining.

On Page 69 of George Beam’s 1992 biography, the inspiration for the story is explained as: “He imagined the fire hoses coming alive, thumping across the carpet. By then, whatever it is that makes you want to make things up, it was turned on. I was scared, but I loved it.” And on Page 215 of Rebecca Pittman’s The History & Haunting of The Stanley Hotel, King is quoted as: “It was like God had put me there to hear that and see those things.

It is a teaser comment, to me. It can make you infer whatever you want to infer, and maybe that is the point. Perhaps the story is simple, and is one that many of us can relate to. Haven’t we all stumbled upon a place that was “magic” somehow? Maybe the place just made us feel good, or maybe it inspired us to create. After all, that is what travel and new experiences unarguably do. That’s the point – to experience and be inspired. Sometimes the freedom of escaping is the only way to trip the wires.

But maybe, just maybe, King was faced with someone or something while roaming the “endless hallways” of the fourth floor of the abandoned Stanley Hotel. I don’t know.

But I think about it.

The Farnsworth House Inn in Haunted Gettysburg, PA

Bob and I stayed at the 1810 Historic Farnsworth House Inn in Gettysburg, PA over Memorial Day weekend in connection with our upcoming book with Llewellyn (“America’s Most Haunted Hotels: Checking in With Uninvited Guests”).

Historic Farnsworth House Inn
Historic Farnsworth House Inn

The history and hauntings will be addressed in the book, but for now, follow me into the house and downstairs into the depths of the basement.

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The Mourning Theatre is held down here (stories told by candlelight).

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There are many original artifacts from the Victorian Mourning Period in the basement, including these hair wreaths, pictured below.

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Traditionally, when a relative died, a surviving family member cut off a piece of the deceased’s hair and sewed it into the family wreath and hung it on the wall like that was a totally normal piece of art. This was a way for the family to remember their loved one, and especially so if they could not afford the expense of photography. The Victorians were also fond of using the hair in jewelry. I have no idea what sort of weird residual attachments might go along with having that amount of strange, dead, human hair stored in one place that has so many deaths and tragedy connected to the sight. It is worth considering though, when you think about the reasons for the hauntings.

After all that darkness, we headed for the light of the battlefield. It was a haunting place, but peaceful just the same.

Gettysburg Battlefield
Gettysburg battlefield, near the Devil’s Den area.

As always, we log our adventures inside our “Play” Journal, by Stealth Journals. “Play,” is an indexed book journal by Stealth Journals that should be used to record all of your good times.

Why is the RMS Queen Mary Considered to be One of the Most Haunted Hotels in the World?

The Queen Mary has been called one of the most haunted places in the world, and perhaps there is a great deal of truth to that label. Bob and I investigated the ship in March of 2015 for our upcoming book with Llewellyn “America’s Most Haunted Hotels: Checking in With Uninvited Guests.” Brian Clune and Bob Davis wrote about the ghostly legends surrounding the ship in their 2014 book entitled Ghosts of the Queen Mary. The late Peter James (former resident ship psychic and probably most famous for the television show “Sightings”) thought that he had been in contact with about 600 spirits during the course of his employment on board the ship.  What are some of the most popular stories that are discussed in the Clune/Davis book that could explain some of the hauntings?

  • Allegedly, when the ship was being built in 1934, two men died and their corpses were later discovered close together, with a welding torch nearby. Peter James thought that the spirit called “John Henry” was one of these men.
  • A spirit of a ghost girl, thought to have broken her neck from a slide down the forward third-class banister.
  • During the war years, many people died onboard of heat stroke and exhaustion.
  • People have heard sounds of screaming and rushing water in the area of ship where the propellers used to be. Perhaps this is a residual effect from the Curacao accident of 1942, which killed 338 men.
  • There is a little girl spirit called “Jackie” that could be from the late 1940’s.
  • An officer ingested poison and died on the ship.
  • John Pedder was crushed in a watertight door (Number 13) in 1966 when he was working in the engine room.

Burials at Sea

I have another possible theory for all of these hauntings that I have not seen discussed in print or even heard anyone mention in passing thus far. Sometimes, passengers and crew members were buried at sea. I find this tradition to be particularly haunting for some reason.  It just seems so lonely and unsettled. You can never really know what happens to the body, and no one can ever visit a grave. But, there is a purity in it too. After all, if you are a transient (and aren’t we all if we are brutally honest about it), you are just passing through, wherever you are, and no matter if you have been in the same place for the last twenty years, you are still just a transient here on Earth.   Exhibits in the ship state that traditionally, a sailor would be sewn in his own hammock, but first, a stitch would be made through his nose first to make sure he was actually dead.  In modern times, the burials at sea would be completed by wrapping the body in about three yards of canvas, and the last stitch was omitted from the customary historic ritual.

I consulted a research paper (“Interment without Earth:  A Study of Sea Burials during the Age of Sail) by a student at Duke University by the name of Johnathan Pryor to learn more about the customs of sailors in handling the dead while at sea. Historically, there exists much superstition among sailors from every culture about having a corpse on the ship. There were important rituals that must be done in order to avoid invoking the anger of the dead. The body had to be washed, dressed and enshrouded, a service had to be held, and then the body would be committed to the deep.  Often, the body would be weighted by a cannon ball, shackles, or chains to make sure it would not surface. Taking into consideration that there do not seem to be any records of burials at sea while the Queen Mary was serving as a war ship during World War II (from about 1939 – 1946), it really makes you wonder just how many men were thrown over, and if there is something to all that superstition after all.

There is a very famous (and haunting) image on file with the National Archives that is of a burial at sea on board the USS Intrepid after an attack during World War II.

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As part of researching for my second book, I stayed overnight on board the Queen Mary and attended a ghost hunt late Friday night, March 20, 2015. I submit to you a personal report of my haunted experience with the famous ship:

Evening Ghost Hunt with Matthew Schulz, Project Founder / Investigator – ParaXplorer Project

Matthew Schulz is the RMS Queen Mary Paranormal Investigation Tour Host. The evening began at 11:00 p.m. and lasted until well over 3:00 a.m. Our first stop was in the engine room and we were briefed on the legend of John Pedder (a worker who was crushed by a watertight door on July 10, 1966 on Voyage 483 West) and introduced to dowsing rods and some other tools. We were allowed to wonder for a good deal of time in the area alone, or with a small group, and I ventured off by myself to explore and take photos. The lights were kept on (I would imagine it is for insurance reasons), so it was a little difficult to “get in the mood,” so to speak. Nevertheless, the photo opportunities were incredible, and it was a good experience to be down there without a large crowd or to feel rushed through at all.

The famous door where John Pedder was crushed:

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Engine room shot:

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Matthew played some of the Class “A” EVPs that have been captured down here and what is so amazing to me is that you can hear what sounds like the same male voice responding to different people over the years. I checked back with Matthew, and he clarified that the EVPs appear to come from an older gentleman, possibly an officer, saying “Get out!,” and “It restarts me.” The EVP possibly attributable to John Pedder was a “Yes” response to the question “Are you here, John?”

Our next stop took us to the boiler room and to the green room, where there was an impressive set-up of experiments.  There were laser grids set-up for us to sit quietly and watch for shadows to break the light displays. There were also headsets in the green room that were connected to a recorder with a ten second delay to listen to any EVPS captured in real-time! While I did not personally experience anything while partaking in this part of the hunt, I did note how progressive and thoughtful this outfit was. I have yet to be anywhere where this type of technology is being used during public events.  Typically, they just walk us through with a flashlight and that’s it. Matthew had quite the set-up going on!

The last area on our hunt was the first class swimming pool and dressing room. We walked (or scaled) across a dark  catwalk to get there. I am struggling with how to write about my feeling and impression of this area without sounding like a melodramatic sap.  The best way that I can think of to convey how it felt was that it looked as though I had stumbled upon one of those old Hollywood synchronized swimming movies. The area is extremely dimly lit, and it is hard to make out the colors in the old tile, although they appeared to be a mint green and yellow. While the pool has been drained for structural reasons, and is in a state of disrepair, it is evident that the room used to be quite the beauty.

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It feels otherworldly, to say the least, and almost electrically charged. The strangest thing that happened here was that our entire small group was gathered closely together by the stairs and were listening intently while our guide spoke to “Jackie,” the famous spirit believed to be a little girl. Suddenly, we heard what sounded like the disembodied giggle of a little girl over our heads! The Ghosts & Legends tour that uses special effects was actually closed down for maintenance on my March 20, 2015 visit. It seems unlikely that given the approximate 2:45 a.m. time, that there would have been an actual child outside the room somewhere making the noise. Additionally, everyone in the group was legitimately shocked to hear this sound. There was no one above us, and I don’t believe anyone in the group made this sound. I saw everyone’s face and no one looked like they were guilty or having a laugh at everyone else’s expense. Is it possible that we were experiencing one of those DVP’s (Direct Voice Phenomenon) that Peter James used to report and that Brian Clune and Bob Davis have written about?

Things got weirder when we moved the party to the dressing room. It could have been a combination of the pitch darkness, the late hour, how tired I was, and the fear effect, but as we all divided ourselves up and claimed individual changing stalls for our own, I started to get a little bit uneasy. The uneasiness grew to a feeling of outright uncomfortableness, and then spiked to absolute terror. I was alone in the pitch dark, but ultimately in close range to a group of people, including our group leader, who had been very nice and accommodating to me coming alone on his tour without a small group of my own. I have no idea why I started to panic. After all, we were in the dark earlier in the green room and in the boiler room. I really had to talk myself down in my head. I started getting control of my breathing, and I had to keep repeating to myself that I was okay.  There was a moment where I felt frozen, and I was afraid to turn around in my stall, because I had an image in my mind of a bad lady who had stringy long hair, black eye sockets, and rotting flesh. I rationalized that as long as I refused to acknowledge her existence, she couldn’t get me. This is a case of your mind running away from you, because there are no documents of anyone drowning in this pool, and Matthew had not been telling us scary stories in the dark. In fact, he had not even said anything about a woman haunting this area at all, our focus was completely on trying to make contact with Jackie, the child spirit. I was just standing alone in the dark, replaying every horror movie I had ever seen on a loop in my own head, like a crazy person. I felt my knees buckle, and I had to steady myself by bracing both arms against the walls.

Shortly after that, we all heard a loud knock, seemingly in response to a question, but that could have been anyone on the tour who was further down the hallway in the changing rooms. I got so exhausted and dizzy, I began to hallucinate. I thought I was seeing different mist type things at the end of the hallway moving about, but I would blink and shake my head and then there would be nothing but darkness again. I briefly considered curling up at the back of my stall and going to sleep. I wondered if they would find me, or if I would wake up by myself at 5:30 a.m. down in the bowels of the ship and have a heart attack down there when I realized I was all alone and lost. All of these events cycled through in the course of just a few minutes. Ultimately, I kept chewing on my tongue and reminding myself that I was a badass and I needed to get it together before somebody had to come and carry me out of there like a little baby. I finished the tour like a champ. When I returned home and began reading about the ship, I found out that many visitors have referred to this area as a vortex or a portal site.  In fact, consider these excerpts from the Clune/Davis book:

Page 68:  “There are many paranormal hot spots throughout the ship, but as we all know, the first-class poolroom is the center of all the activity that goes on in the ship and is located in the heart of the ship. The corridor of dressing rooms located in the poolroom is rumored to harbor a vortex where the spirits enter and exit, and many psychics believe that a vortex is always located in the heart of a building or location.”

 Page 112:  “This portal to the other side is purported to be located in the narrow aisle between the changing closets, three stalls back from the port side.  It is said that if you stand at this spot, you will feel the hair on the back of your neck and on your arms rise, your skin will crawl and eventually you will begin to get dizzy. People have claimed that when they are near this spot, they get the feeling of being watched, their adrenaline will start to pump uncontrollably and they will have a strong urge to flee the cramped changing room area.”

When I came across these passages, I found myself covered in goosebumps from head to toe. Reflecting back upon my ghost adventure while on board the RMS Queen Mary, I am only left to wonder if there is something to those vortex claims about the first class swimming pool after all.

Be sure to keep all of your adventures logged and indexed in your very own copy of “Play,” by Stealth Journals. “Play” is an indexed book journal that should be used to record all of your good times! A sample entry page is pictured below:

Stealth Journals
RMS Queen Mary: Play, by Stealth Journals.

Crescent Hotel and Eureka Springs, AK – Blog for Llewellyn Post

I am longing for a second visit to the 1886 Crescent Hotel this spring for our upcoming book with Llewellyn “America’s Most Haunted Hotels: Checking in With Uninvited Guests.” Bob is out flying tonight, and I was remembering the article I wrote for Llewellyn that is linked below, and just remembering that visit so vividly.

http://www.llewellyn.com/blog/2013/10/the-1866-crescent-hotel-and-spa/

Nobody seemed to know about all of the back patios:
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As always, our travels are indexed within “Play,” by Stealth Journals. A sample entry page can be seen below:

Stealth Journals
Eureka Springs: Indexed within our Play Journal, by Stealth Journals

Inside the Jerome Grand Hotel

Ghost Hunting at Arizona’s Jerome Grand Hotel

A glimpse inside our stay at The Jerome Grand Hotel. We were traveling in January 2015 for our upcoming book with Llewellyn “America’s Most Haunted Hotels: Checking in With Uninvited Guests.”

As always, we log our adventures inside our “Play” Journal, by Stealth Journals. “Play,” is an indexed book journal by Stealth Journals that should be used to record all of your good times.

 

Bisbee, AZ – One Perfect Day

An old mining town in the Mule Mountains, Bisbee is home to The Copper Queen, and we were there on an official investigation for our upcoming book with Llewellyn “America’s Most Haunted Hotels: Checking in With Uninvited Guests.” last week. One cannot live on ghost hunting alone, so off to the streets we went. When possible, I like to soak in the culture of the local town to better understand the atmosphere and history of the place I am writing about. Artsy, quirky, and weird is what I saw during my short time there (although to be fair, it was my second visit). “Weird” is not a derogatory designation, by the way.

Bisbee is a winding, hilly town populated with too many sets of stairs for me to count, let alone climb in a few short hours. Officially, the 1,000 step challenge does come with a map at the Visitor’s Center, but I think I found myself climbing up many sets of random stairs before I realized that I was trespassing onto someone’s property instead of staying on the official path. Thank God everyone was cool and this doesn’t seem like the type of place where people are going to call the cops on you (like Charleston, for instance, where they call the cops if your dog pees in the wrong yard). I can dig that.

Random stairs?

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Back on the path:

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The downtown view and street shots:

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The Copper Queen Mine Tour and the Bisbee Mining & Historical Museum were world-class facilities that really impressed us. I know they will never do it, but if they opened up that mine to ghost tours, they would really see a lot more money roll in! You tell me, wouldn’t you pay $100 per person for you and ten friends to shut the mine down on Friday night for a few hours?! The place is AMAZING!

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After a fantastic pizza at the Stock Exchange Saloon and a brief conversation with the Duchess (who was wonderfully charming and fascinating!), we were off to meet Renee, our Ghost Host from the Old Bisbee Ghost Tour (and author), who briefed us on many of Bisbee’s historic haunted hotels. We then settled down for the night in the Julia Lowell Suite inside the famous Copper Queen Hotel.

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And that, my friends, is a tale for another time.

As always, we log our adventures inside our “Play” Journal by Stealth Journals. “Play,” by Stealth Journals, is an indexed book journal that should be used to record all of your good times!

Further Reading:

http://www.discoverbisbee.com/index.htm

http://www.bisbee1000.org/

http://www.queenminetour.com

http://www.bisbeemuseum.org/

http://www.stockexchangesaloon.com/stock-exchange-saloon.aspx

http://www.oldbisbeeghosttour.com/

http://copperqueen.com/

Where Sick Folks Get Well

I have a special place in my heart for The 1886 Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. I have started researching a chapter to be included in America’s Most Haunted Hotels. When Norman Baker (who was NOT a doctor) turned the old hotel into a cancer hospital, he allegedly used the “Where Sick Folks Get Well” pamphlet to lure unsuspecting patients to the hospital so he could “reap one million dollars out of the suckers in the state.” The pamphlet is said to be the key piece of evidence of mail fraud that led to his 1941 – 1944 sentence in Leavenworth.

It is a fascinating piece of marketing literature, and I got hold of a copy. It is attached for your reading pleasure.

 

Where Sick Folks Get Well Pamphlet

Death Valley National Park

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Faced with all that Las Vegas had to offer (insert sarcasm), Bob and I decided we preferred the desert. The morning was spent in the car heading out of Vegas to Death Valley National Park. This is the only park I’ve ever visited where an entire page of the Visitor’s Paper is devoted to a section entitled “Survive!” We were perhaps not exactly equipped for an entire day in Death Valley. We had a nice drive and Bob got some great photos of the park. We walked across Badwater Salt Flat, the lowest place in the western hemisphere, and called it a day.

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I knew the famous Amargosa Opera House and Hotel was in nearby Death Valley Junction, and that they had a café that I was looking forward to patronizing.

Amargosa Opera House and Hotel

The café was about what you would expect it to be out in the middle of nowhere. I wanted to go take a peek back in the kitchen to see if I could spot Odd Thomas (who is both my favorite short order cook and Deen Koontz character). Our waitress was an interesting character herself. For one thing, she had her right arm all slinged up because of carpal tunnel that had manifested itself after much griddle cooking. In addition to being a mother of three small children and working at the café, she is also the town’s Fire Chief.

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We tried to stay overnight, but the young lady working the front desk assured us that there were no vacancies. An older gentleman passed us on the dirt driveway and inquired about our current state of affairs. We assured him we were doing just fine and posed the question back at him. He said he was “Tolerable. Now, tolerable covers a multitude of sins.” We thought this was just about the best response to a “How are you?” that we had ever heard. Before I could ask him just what sins, exactly, he was guilty of, he was gone.

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There has been quite a bit of media attention addressing “Spooky Hollow” over in the old section of the hotel that hasn’t been refurbished. I understand that Pacific Borax built the town for its miners in the early 1920’s, and the hotel housed them. The building also contained a hospital and morgue. Since we weren’t officially investigating or spending the night, I don’t have any paranormal tales of my own to share.

The stop was more interesting to me because of Marta Becket’s story. In 1967, a flat tire brought her here. While the tire was being repaired, she wondered around the complex and peered into the old abandoned theatre. Marta was a dancer from New York City and she was immediately moved by the building and knew she would spend her life here. I am fascinated by her story of being pulled to a place that was so drastically different from the place she knew before as home.

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It was her dream. This place, out in the middle of nowhere. She chose her life and by all accounts loved it. Maybe it doesn’t look like a picture of success for you, and that’s okay. It doesn’t have to. Each individual striving to live their life in their own way is what success is. That’s it. To focus on anything else is to be distracted from the purpose and will keep you from staying on the right path.

That’s my thought from the desert. Oh, and Bob said to mention how quiet it was. He was sitting outside the opera house on one of those benches while I strolled around snapping pictures. He said he could hear the gravel crunch under my feet from a hundred yards away. Sweet sounds of isolation.

As always, we log and index our adventures inside our “Play” Journal, by Stealth Journals. “Play” is an indexed book journal that should be used to record all of your good times.

Further Reading:

http://www.nps.gov/deva/index.htm

http://www.amargosa-opera-house.com/

http://www.legendsofamerica.com/ca-deathvalleyjunction.html

http://www.travelchannel.com/video/recap-amargosa-hotel

http://www.seattlepi.com/news/article/Ghost-towns-of-the-Southwest-5793603.php#photo-6937988

http://www.sacbee.com/2014/10/05/6755647/where-decay-is-fun-ghost-towns.html

Lingering Spirits at The Ellis Hotel in Atlanta, Georgia?

The Ellis Hotel
The Ellis Hotel

The Ellis Hotel on Peachtree Street in Atlanta, Georgia is a luxury boutique hotel. There is nothing creepy inside, nothing whatsoever that would give a guest any inclination of what happened here on December 7, 1946. In fact, the commemorative plaque is actually hidden away behind a Marta entrance on the side of the hotel. A place where few people would happen upon it, in my opinion.

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Winecoff Fire Plaque in Front of The Ellis Hotel

In The Winecoff Fire:  The Untold Story of America’s Deadliest Hotel Fire, Sam Heys and Allen B. Goodwin call the hotel Atlanta’s Titanic. The Winecoff was built in 1913 and had been boasted about as being fireproof (even though it lacked fire alarms, sprinklers, and fire escapes), just as the Titanic was said to be unsinkable. But on December 7, 1946, a mysterious fire broke out on the fifth floor and claimed 119 lives. Technically, the building was fireproof. The people inside the building, however, of course were not.

Within days of the tragedy, building and fire codes were changed all over the country to prevent something like this from ever happening again. So many things went wrong. In addition to the failures mentioned above, the Winecoff only had one central staircase (which essentially turned into a chimney during the fire). The Atlanta Fire Department only had ladders that reached to the eighth floor (of a fifteen story building).

To date, this is the worst hotel fire in North America.

Before visiting, I thought a place that had seen such tragedy would surely have some lingering effects. I felt nothing here. For the first time in a long time (on a ghost hunt that failed to produce evidence of the other side), I was glad. I told myself that these fire victims were not trapped here re-living that horrible night over and over again. They were finally able to escape the Winecoff. I gave them an internal cheer and paused to reflect upon all of our fleeting lives.

Further reading:

http://www.winecoff.org/

http://www.winecoffhotelfire.com/index.html

http://www.ellishotel.com/

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