If you’re a fan of the horror genre, then you’ve probably heard of the iconic film ‘The Shining’. One of the most memorable aspects of the film is its setting – the Overlook Hotel. But did you know that the hotel featured in the movie was actually based on a real-life hotel?

In this article, we’ll explore the history of the hotel that inspired ‘The Shining’, as well as its connection to the film. Whether you’re a fan of the movie or just interested in the history of iconic horror settings, this article is for you.

The Real-Life Hotel that Inspired ‘The Shining’

Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of Stephen King’s 1977 novel, The Shining, is a horror classic that has stood the test of time. One of the most iconic aspects of the film is the Overlook Hotel, the remote mountain resort where the story is set. Although the hotel is fictional, it is based on a real-life location that King visited in the 1970s.

The Stanley Hotel: A Brief History

The hotel that served as the inspiration for the Overlook Hotel is the Stanley Hotel, located in Estes Park, Colorado. The Stanley was built in 1909 by Freelan Oscar Stanley, a wealthy inventor who made his fortune by co-founding the Stanley Motor Carriage Company. The hotel was designed to be a luxurious retreat for wealthy East Coast tourists who wanted to escape the summer heat.

Over the years, the Stanley has hosted many famous guests, including Theodore Roosevelt, John Philip Sousa, and the Emperor and Empress of Japan. The hotel’s grandeur and history make it a popular tourist destination to this day.

Stephen King’s Visit to the Stanley Hotel

In 1974, Stephen King and his wife Tabitha stayed at the Stanley Hotel while King was working on the novel that would become The Shining. King was apparently unimpressed with the hotel at first, but when he and his wife were the only guests staying there due to its off-season, King began to imagine what it would be like to be stranded there during a snowstorm.

King was particularly inspired by the hotel’s Room 217, which is rumored to be haunted. In the novel, the room is changed to Room 237 for reasons that are unclear. Despite the change, the Stanley’s Room 217 remains a popular destination for fans of The Shining.

The Overlook Hotel: Fictionalizing the Stanley

Although the Stanley Hotel served as the inspiration for the Overlook Hotel in The Shining, Kubrick and his team made a number of changes to the hotel’s appearance and layout for the film. The hedge maze that features prominently in the film, for example, was not part of the original hotel’s design.

It is worth mentioning that, despite its association with The Shining, the Stanley Hotel is a real-life destination that has much to offer visitors. The hotel offers daily tours that highlight its history and its connection to the film, and guests can stay in the same rooms that inspired King’s novel.

Comparison Table of the Stanley Hotel and the Overlook Hotel

Feature The Stanley Hotel The Overlook Hotel (Fictional)
Location Estes Park, Colorado Remote mountain location (fictional)
Design Luxurious retreat for wealthy East Coast tourists Large, imposing structure with a hedge maze (fictional)
History Opened in 1909, hosted many famous guests Not applicable (fictional)
Popularity Popular tourist destination to this day Not applicable (fictional)

Keep in mind that, while the Stanley Hotel is not the same as the Overlook Hotel from The Shining, it remains an important part of the film’s legacy. Fans of the movie and Stephen King’s work will likely find a visit to the Stanley to be a memorable and worthwhile experience. Unfortunately, it is worth noting that the hotel’s popularity has led to some overcrowding and long wait times for tours and other activities.

The Overlook Hotel in ‘The Shining’

One of the most iconic elements of the film ‘The Shining’ is the Overlook Hotel, the setting where most of the plot takes place. The hotel is as much a character of the story as any of the human actors, and its ominous presence looms large over the narrative.

The Role of the Hotel in the Plot of ‘The Shining’

The Overlook Hotel is a haunted place, with a dark history and supernatural forces lurking within its walls. The hotel’s isolation, combined with the harsh winter weather, creates a sense of claustrophobia and dread that permeates the story.

As the protagonist, Jack Torrance, descends into madness, the hotel seems to come alive, playing on his fears and weaknesses. The ghosts of past guests haunt him, and he becomes increasingly unhinged as the hotel’s influence grows stronger.

The Filming Locations for ‘The Shining’

The exterior shots of the Overlook Hotel were filmed at the Timberline Lodge, located on the slopes of Mount Hood in Oregon. However, the interior scenes were shot on a soundstage in England, as the hotel’s design was based on a combination of various locations, rather than a single real-life building.

Fans of the film can visit the Timberline Lodge today, which has embraced its association with ‘The Shining’ and offers guided tours that highlight the filming locations and trivia about the production.

The Legacy of ‘The Shining’: The Overlook Hotel Today

Although the Overlook Hotel is a fictional creation, its impact on popular culture is undeniable. The hotel has become a symbol of terror and unease, and its design has been imitated and parodied in countless films, TV shows, and other media.

Several real-life hotels have been inspired by the Overlook’s eerie atmosphere, such as the Stanley Hotel in Colorado, which was the location that inspired Stephen King to write ‘The Shining’ in the first place. The Stanley even offers a ‘Shining’ package, which includes a room that is said to be haunted.

Other Famous Horror Movie Settings

While the Overlook Hotel in The Shining is perhaps the most famous horror movie setting, there are several others that have become iconic in their own right.

  • Bates Motel (Psycho): This motel, located in Fairvale, California, was made famous in Alfred Hitchcock’s classic film Psycho. It was the site of several gruesome murders committed by the disturbed Norman Bates, who ran the motel with his mother. The Bates Motel has since become a staple of horror culture and has been referenced in numerous films and TV shows.
  • Amityville House (The Amityville Horror): Located in Amityville, New York, this house was the site of a real-life murder in 1974. The subsequent book and film adaptation, The Amityville Horror, told the story of the Lutz family who moved into the house and experienced a series of terrifying supernatural events. The house has since become a popular tourist attraction and has been the subject of several other films and documentaries.
  • Elm Street (A Nightmare on Elm Street): The Elm Street of this horror classic is located in Springwood, Ohio. It is the home of the infamous Freddy Krueger, a child killer who was burned alive by vengeful parents. Freddy returns as a vengeful spirit who haunts the dreams of local teenagers and kills them in their sleep. The Elm Street franchise has spawned several sequels, a TV series, and a remake.

These horror movie settings have become some of the most recognizable and iconic locations in film history. They have also inspired countless imitations and homages in other horror movies and TV shows.


In conclusion, the Overlook Hotel from ‘The Shining’ is one of the most iconic horror movie settings of all time. Its real-life counterpart, the Stanley Hotel, is just as fascinating in its own right – with a rich history and plenty of ghost stories. Whether you’re a fan of the movie or just interested in the history of horror, the Stanley Hotel and the Overlook Hotel are definitely worth exploring.

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