Stanley Film Festival ’14: Haunted History and Happenings of The Stanley
As far as brilliant and appropriate settings go, it’s almost hard to believe The Stanley Film Festival—a horror film festival of screenings and particularly haunting happenings—is only in its second year. This being the first that FANGORIA is attending in an official capacity, both as press and bringing our monthly LA-based Dead Right Horror Trivia Night (co-hosted with Shock Till You Drop), there’s a particular thrill in the air for this writer. A lodge with a storied past, not least of which inspiring one of the most seminal horror stories of our time (THE SHINING), hosting a celebration of the types of tales we admire and pledge allegiance to, feels church-like. It also feels particularly inviting of the Stanley’s ghostly reputation, as if we’re all silently daring ourselves and its deep, historic halls to confront each other. Is this where we go beyond the pale?
In an effort to understand what the attendants of the Stanley Film Festival just may be getting themselves into, I find myself on the phone with the hotel’s Ryan Gaterman, who’s quick and frank with his assessment. “The hotel now is still very much so haunted,” he tells FANGORIA, before launching into how it’s haunted, who it’s haunted by and what his own experiences on hand have entailed. Eyes open, ears perk and spine tingles.
“People have their own stories and some of those stories are what we tell today,” Gaterman says. “We do 85,000 tours a year. Each tour is an hour and a half long. We do our day tour and a night tour, and then we also have a resident paranormal investigative team who does ghost hunts, which are 30-person ghost hunts—two groups of 15—that we do Fridays and Saturdays. I was a tour guide for about eight or nine months, and our hotel is mostly known for two types of hauntings. There is what is called the Residual Haunting and an Intelligent Haunting. A Residual Haunting is probably most common at the hotel and that is, what I like to describe as that saying of ‘walls talking.’ ‘If these walls could speak.’ Well, ours do.’”
Gaterman uses the term, “recording minerals,” in discussing Residual Hauntings. He explains, “Paranormal societies will oftentimes visit the hotel and the belief is the hotel is built on a large quartz deposit and that quartz deposit has trapped these moments in time, playing over and over and over again.”
The most haunted section of the hotel, built in 1909 by F.O. Stanley and his wife, Flora Jane Record Tileston, can be found on the fourth floor. It’s one described as an oddity, and where the Residual Hauntings of the Stanley are most prevalent. “When the hotel was originally built in the early 1900s, the hotel was for guests that would come stay for upwards of three months, and for that reasons they had to cater to the children of the hotel and their parents. They would put the children on the fourth floor kind of as their own floor,” Gaterman says. “It’s physically smaller than the other floors; lower ceilings, tighter hallways. A physically smaller floor for smaller people.”
“What we’ll oftentimes get a testimonial about are those fourth floor rooms and people hearing children playing. They’ll sit up at night. They’ll hear children outside of the room, running up and down the hallways, as if there are still children playing from the early 1900s. That’s a perfect example of a residual haunting. It’s not necessarily one specific person or being.”
When asked how many of the 140 rooms within the Stanley Gaterman has slept in personally, he estimates something near 25. With everything he’s detailed though, it’s unsurprising the most memorable nights were on that fated fourth floor. “I’ve stayed on the fourth floor a number of times. One room, I believe it was 418. I woke up and my cell phone, keys and wallet were underneath the bed.”
He adds, “I don’t generally put those there.”
Quickly after, he’s inspired to tell a less lonely tale, one that saw a tour group crowd around for an ethereal experience. “It’s not necessarily one room, but again the fourth floor. We have this love seat and what we do on tours, is we have people put candy in their hands and we snap a bunch of photos and sometimes we get orbs in people’s hands. Nothing was really happening too crazy, until one day this woman said something is pulling on her finger. It kind of looks like she’s moving her arm a little bit, so I thought she was putting on a show for the tour. Then, on the next tour: the same seat, the same side of the seat, a different woman and she says, ‘Oh my gosh, something’s pulling on my hand.’ You can kind of see her finger bend a little bit.”
“Then, it starts bending unnaturally. She had a root beer candy in her hand, like a candy of the era, and her finger starts bending. The candy starts rolling off the front of her hand and it goes off the side. I go to pick it up, and I hear some footwork on the ground next to me. I hear a little girl laugh. I pick up the candy, I put it back in the woman’s hand and I don’t say anything.”
“I didn’t know if maybe I had just played into my mind,” he explains. “But surely enough, a person on my left goes, ‘Wait, did you hear that?’ A person in front of me goes, ‘Yeah, a little girl just ran by our group.’ And the third person says, ‘She laughed at us.’ So, 20 people on my tour, skeptics or not, all heard this little girl run by us and laugh. That is on the east side of the fourth floor and it’s just this long hallway. Just the fourth floor in general, you kind of get some heebie jeebies when you walk up there.”
Beyond the fourth floor, it might be comforting (or not) to know the Stanley’s proprietors are still with us. Manifesting as intelligent hauntings, it’s believed F.O. and Flora Jane still reside in their favorite rooms, with the former’s silhouette found in photos in the Billiards Room and the latter playing brief notes on a piano. It’s the second that leaves Gaterman with the creeps. “I’ve actually heard it myself play a few notes,” he says. “I wouldn’t say exactly an orchestra erupting from the music room, but I have been sitting there and heard three notes go off, as if someone was kind of answering me… it’s not your typical ghost story. You imagine someone floating down the hallway after you, but in actuality, it may be a little creepier to just hear something.”
Having listened to legend and personal account alike, I’m still pondering if the festival itself and those of us making our way there are tempting these specters, in a way. Does the Stanley Film Festival approach with a growing possibility of otherworldly encounter? “I would say so,” Gaterman teases. “Again, going back to the metaphysical qualities of the hotel—when there’s that energetic pull, it increases the energy of the hotel. I believe the hotel is just an energetic place, in general. I would absolutely believe the ghosts of our guests of the past are also welcome. One thing we always say on tours is that the spirits that are at the hotel are still vacationing.”
The Stanley Film Festival takes place April 24-27 at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. For information on its stellar lineup of films and events, see here. For ticket and hotel information, see the festival’s official site. We’ll see you there.