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Freelan and Flora: The Musical Ghosts of the Stanley Hotel

For the founders of the Stanley hotel, the music hasn't stopped ... even in death.


The Rocky Mountains are home to some of the most spectacular scenery on Earth–a place of magnificent natural wonders, and supernatural wonders as well. Just outside the north entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, the majestic neo-Georgian Stanley Hotel sits “7,500 feet above the ordinary” with stunning views in every direction, including inward.

Stanley Hotel–Haunted History

Freelan O. (F.O.) Stanley was a man of wealth who had everything money could buy except good health. He made his fortune through a series of successful business ventures and inventions, including the legendary “Stanley Steamer” line of steam-powered automobiles, and the Stanley Violin. Like thousands of other American at the turn of the century, Stanley suffered from tuberculosis.

In 1903 his doctor suggested a visit to the Colorado mountains where the dry fresh air would be beneficial to his delicate lungs. After staying in Denver for a month Stanley saw no particular improvement. A friend offered the use of his cabin in Estes Park, northwest of Denver, and F.O. and his wife Flora immediately fell in love with the area, resolving to build a luxury resort as soon as the property could be purchased. Construction began in 1908 and the Stanley Hotel opened on July 4th, 1909.

Stanley conjured up a place for his wealthy friends to relax and enjoy the therapeutic climate and stunning scenery. Among the first-class amenities Stanley offered guests were running water, indoor toilets, electricity, and telephone service–a new concept to travelers at the time. The only thing missing was heat, but that wasn’t an issue as the hotel was designed to be a summer resort.

The long, arduous trip up the mountain in Stanley Steamer buses was well worth the effort to those who could afford it, and notable guests included Titanic survivor “Unsinkable” Molly Brown, Teddy Roosevelt, the Emperor of Japan, J.C. Penney, John Phillip Sousa, Harvey Firestone, and a number of Hollywood notables.

Stanley Hotel F.O Stanley

F.O. Stanley. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Stanleys spent much of their time at the resort, as it did prove to be beneficial to F.O.’s condition. He survived to be an old man of 91, outliving his original bleak prognosis by decades. He took great pride in every detail and was by all accounts a genuinely warm and welcoming host. Music and merriment filled the hotel daily, making the Stanley attractive to musicians and entertainers from every corner of the country. Stanley also built an enormous state-of-the-art hydroelectric power plant nearby, which not only supplied power to his hotel, but helped the surrounding area blossom as well.

Although reports of eerie happenings stretch back to its early days, the hotel’s reputation for spookiness gained momentum when horror author Stephen King was inspired to write his novel The Shining while staying in room 217 of the near-empty Stanley, just before it closed for the winter in 1974. Today that room is said to be one of the most active on the property. The fictional setting of the book, the “Overlook Hotel,” bears an uncanny resemblance to the Stanley, upon which it was likely based.

Employees have reported hearing what sounds like a party, only to find the ballroom or concert hall empty upon inspection. Guests sometimes spot F.O. smiling and tipping his hat to them in the lobby as they check in for the night, and many report hearing small children run through the halls when no children are present. A dutiful housekeeper haunts the halls, still busy with her work, making guests feel welcome or unwelcome, depending on their marital status.

Violin maker F.O. loved music of all kinds and wife Flora, an accomplished pianist, is known to now and then tickle the ivories of her piano, which sits in the ballroom. It’s no wonder the Stanley has captured the attention of paranormal enthusiasts.

Ghost Hunters’ Jason Hawes brought his team to the hotel twice, once for a live televised event, and encountered some astounding paranormal activity. While Hawes was sleeping, a glass sitting on the nightstand shattered for no apparent reason. Grant Wilson witnessed a chair “jumping” almost two feet. The two of them also recorded some noteworthy disembodied voices while investigating the employee tunnels under the hotel.

stanley hotel estes park CO

Estes Park, CO, 1912. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Bill Murphy of SyFy’s Fact or Faked worked with scientists, researchers, and  paranormal  investigators to create a thought-provoking documentary entitled The Stanley Effect: A Piezoelectric Nightmare. Murphy claims that a combination of the minerals found naturally in the mountains and the power plant built nearby contribute to the hauntings and unusual activity at the hotel.

The “piezoelectric effect” revolves around the notion that properties in the environment can act as a sort of amplifier of paranormal activity. Crystals are thought to direct, absorb, and multiply energy, and the mountain is full of crystals. Murphy states that “unusual properties of the ground’s ability to hold and release energy” are at the core of this effect.

Whatever the causes, natural or unnatural, the “hauntingly beautiful” Stanley Hotel is as famous for its spirits as for its spectacular view. The paranormal reports keep pouring in from ghost hunters and guests alike. Several guest rooms are deemed “haunted” but no single area is immune to the supernatural. From the tunnels hidden below the main building, to the bustling hotel lobby, the basement under the concert hall, and the spirited fourth floor, ghostly phenomena lurk in every neat and tidy corner.

Between the scenery, the setting, and the spirits, The Stanley Hotel is one of the most inviting places in America to hunt ghosts.

Stanley Hotel–Concert Hall and Music Room

The Concert Hall is a large open gathering area, set with tables and chairs ready to accommodate all but the largest groups. Sound echoes off the walls and high ceilings. A state-of-the-art sound booth sits high above the hall floor. Large open windows allow full view of the scenery. The stage awaits musicians and performers with its high platform and thick draped curtains.

When empty, the elegance and detailed craftsmanship of the room are clearly visible. It is warm and welcoming, bright and well lit during the day. But the Concert Hall takes on a more ominous feel at night. A ghostly party carries on at all hours of the evening, dissipating when the living open the wide double doors. There is always an event happening in the Concert Hall, even when nothing is scheduled.

The connection between music and the Stanleys hearkens back to days long before the first guests arrived at the Stanley Hotel. Before successful business ventures with photographic dry plates, x-rays, steam-driven vehicles, and the hospitality industry, music was the family business. Freelan Oscar’s father was a world renowned maker of fine concert violins, passing the craft down to his sons. The boys, F.O. and his twin brother, Francis Edgar, created their first miniature instruments at age ten, and their first full-sized at 16. The Stanley Violin was one of the most sought after instruments of its time. Today, fewer than 70 original Stanley violins remain in existence, making them almost as rare, if not as expensive, as Stradivari.

stanley hotel ghosts flora f.o stanley

F.O. and Flora Stanley. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

F.O. and Flora Stanley retained a deep appreciation and love for music and hosted musical events of all kinds. The Concert Hall (then called “Stanley Hall“), and the more intimate Music Room were often filled with the sweet soothing sounds of orchestras, bands, and soloists. For the grand opening of the hotel in 1909, the Stanleys invited marching band superstar John Phillips Sousa to perform. Flora, a gifted pianist, bought a 1904 Steinway piano, which sat proudly in the Concert Hall and remains on display in the Music Room of the hotel today.

Guests and staff report music coming from the Concert Hall of the Stanley Hotel on a daily basis. A spectral Flora Stanley often plays her piano happily, entertaining guests and staff from the afterlife.

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THIS EXCERPT FROM America’s Most Haunted: The Secrets of Famous Paranormal Places WAS PUBLISHED WITH PERMISSION.

Want to read more? Buy the book on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes.

Feature Photo: Wikimedia Commons