The True Story & Real-Life Hotel Behind The Movie


  • The supernatural elements in The Shining are inspired by a real haunting in Colorado, adding a sense of authenticity to the story.
  • The Overlook Hotel in The Shining was inspired by the Stanley Hotel in Colorado, which has a haunted history and provided Stephen King with inspiration for the novel.
  • The Shining‘s adaptation by Stanley Kubrick deviated from Stephen King’s vision of the Overlook Hotel, leading to King’s dissatisfaction and the creation of his own TV miniseries.

The Shining is partially based on a true story, as the supernatural elements of Jack Torrance’s stay at the Overlook Hotel are inspired by a real haunting in Colorado. Stephen King’s The Shining tells the story of Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson), a recovering alcoholic who takes a job as the caretaker of a historic hotel during its off-season. Jack, his wife, Wendy (Shelley Duvall), and their son, Danny (Danny Lloyd), move into the Overlook Hotel deep in the Colorado Rockies. Danny possesses “the shining”, a psychic ability that gives him insight into the hotel’s terrifying past, but they start to learn about the supernatural dangers that reside within.

As time goes on, the evil forces deteriorate Jack’s sanity leading him to turn on his family. The Shining book was the basis for Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 masterpiece film, and the horror movie introduced millions of viewers to the Overlook Hotel. While many aspects of The Shining‘s story are fantastical and far-fetched, the story told by Stephen King and adopted by Stanley Kubrick was partially inspired by real events. While The Overlook Hotel is not an existing location itself, a real hotel in Colorado has an eerie true story that’s behind parts of The Shining.

RELATED: The Shining Ending Explained: Why Jack Is In The Photo

The Shining’s Hotel Is Based On A Haunted Room At The Stanley Hotel, Colorado

The Overlook Hotel Was Inspired By A Real Haunting

Many elements in The Shining, including the hotel itself, were inspired by the Stanley Hotel in Colorado. While The Shining true story doesn’t involve a man like Jack Torrance losing his mind and killing his family, the locale of the book and Stanley Kubrick’s movie do have a real-life counterpart. In 1974, King and his wife spent time at the isolated Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado.

When King stayed at The Shining’s Overlook Hotel’s inspiration, the Stanley Hotel, in the mid-70s, King resided with his wife in room 217. That specific room has a haunted history involving the chief housekeeper, Elizabeth Wilson. In 1911, Wilson was injured in an explosion caused by lighting a lantern. Though she survived the event, it’s said that she still wanders around the room, moving luggage and folding clothes. King claimed to have seen a young boy while going to his room, which wasn’t possible considering he and his wife were the only confirmed guests. There have been several other accounts detailing unexplained noises, figures, and personal objects stolen or broken.

While roaming the real hotel, King felt inspired by the long corridors and the isolation from the world. His experience instantly gave him the idea for the horror novel. The Stanley Hotel was built in 1909 by Freelan Oscar Stanley of the Stanley Steamer fame. The 142-room resort was meant for wealthy vacationers and also served as a health retreat for those suffering from tuberculosis. The Stanley Hotel is still in operation and remains a tourist destination due to its panoramic views of the Rockies. The hotel also has a very haunted history which has helped attract viewers and paranormal investigators.

During the author and his wife’s stay, the couple checked in just before the hotel was shutting down for the winter, and they were the only guests there. King, a natural horror writer, noted the eerie feeling of being in an empty hotel. This, the story of Elizabeth Wilson, and King’s own experience of ghostly apparitions inspired The Shining‘s ominous Overlook Hotel, a location that has become an iconic landmark in pop culture from the Grady twins down the hall to the carpeting on the floor.

Related: What Jack Nicholson Was Really Like Filming The Shining

Stephen King Doesn’t Think The Overlook Hotel Does The Shining’s Real Hotel Justice

The Author Of The Shining Has Notes On Kubrick’s Version Of The Overlook

Split image of Jack Nicholson in The Shining and Stephen King

Kubrick’s version of The Shining‘s Overlook Hotel doesn’t match King’s vision of the resort. Kubrick changed much of the layout and added the hedge maze at the front of the property. The infamous room was also changed from 217 to 237. Due to King’s displeasure with Kubrick’s The Shining adaptation, the author made his own TV miniseries based on the novel in 1997, with the Stanley Hotel being used as the filming location. Due to The Shining‘s popularity, the Stanley Hotel has embraced the connection by hosting tours and events related to the story. In 2015, the so-called real The Shining hotel in Colorado added the hedge maze, which has been a hit with visitors.

Doctor Sleep Ruined The Shining’s Real-Life Mystery

The 2019 Sequel To The Shining Replaced The True Story With Fictional Lore

Split image of Ewan McGregor in Doctor Sleep and Jack Nicholson shivering in The Shining

A key component of Stephen King’s real-life experience at the Stanley Hotel and the rendition of the Overlook Hotel presented in Kubrick’s The Shining movie is the locations’ sense of mystery, but The Shining’s 2019sequel Doctor Sleep compromises this. Throughout The Shining, as in King’s own experience, it’s never clear precisely what’s going on. One of the greatest strengths of The Shining‘s real-life and fictional story (and what makes it so genuinely terrifying) is how it consistently contradicts itself, never revealing whether the Overlook is possessed by ghosts, demons, or simply madness.

In direct opposition to this approach, Doctor Sleep attempts to explain many of its predecessor’s purposeful mysteries; it chalks up The Shining‘s events to ghosts that wanted to extract energy from Danny’s Shining. While it’s an impressive feat to impose so much continuity onto a story propelled by the discomfort of the unknown, Doctor Sleep winds up ruining what made The Shining and Stephen King’s original Stanley Hotel experience so chilling.

Doctor Sleep is available to stream on Max.

How Doctor Sleep’s Box Office Killed The Overlook Hotel Shining Prequel

A Movie Focusing On The Overlook Hotel Was Canceled

An Overlook-Hotel-centric The Shining prequel was in talks at Warner Bros. until Doctor Sleep came out. Despite being a Stephen King adaptation and a sequel to one of the most successful horror movies of all time, Doctor Sleep performed poorly at the box office, grossing only $72 million on a budget of $45 million (via Box Office Mojo). While it was received well by King fans and many critics, it failed to pull in the revenue Warner Bros. expected from such a seemingly bankable project. As the Shining sequel didn’t translate into healthy ticket sales, it was a setback that Warner Bros. couldn’t ignore.

In what’s becoming a typical move for the flighty studio, the Overlook Hotel Shining prequel project was put on hold. This also meant an opportunity was missed to finally do The Overlook Hotel the justice it deserves. Stephen King’s opinion on The Shining‘s location has yet to be given the attention it deserves, and if the original setting for King’s inspiring corridor wanderings was enough to spook even the Master of Horror himself, then the studio should aspire to capture it on-screen in a way that harnesses the truly weird energy of the hotel. Sadly, because of Doctor Sleep‘s poor performance, there might not be another opportunity.

The Shining

Release Date
June 13, 1980

Stanley Kubrick

Danny Lloyd, Shelley Duvall, Jack Nicholson, Scatman Crothers


146 minutes

Horror, Drama

Diane Johnson, Stanley Kubrick

John Alcott

Stanley Kubrick

Production Company
Warner Bros., Peregrine, Hawk Films, Producers Circle

$19 Million

#True #Story #RealLife #Hotel #Movie

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