Why The Hotel Used for ‘The Shining’ Is Not What You Think

Go ahead. Admit it …

You think you know which hotel was used for The Shining, don’t you?

I mean, you know “who” played The Overlook, right?

I suppose it’s possible you do, depending on how deep you’ve dug into the thing.

And on how you define “The Shining” and “used.”

Because you have to get that all lined up to get at the real story of the hotel used for The Shining.

So let’s go ahead and line it up, beginning with …

The Muse?

You probably know this piece of the tale already.

The story goes that Stephen King and his wife, Tabitha, were living for a brief time in Boulder, Colorado, in 1974.

King was writing a novel that was set in an amusement park, but he was having trouble getting it to come together. On the recommendation of some local acquaintances, he took a break from Darkshine (working title), and the couple drove up to a spectacular old hotel in Estes Park.

The place was called the Stanley, and it was just getting ready to close up for the winter.

The Kings basically had the place to themselves, and the eerie solitude of the joint got Stephen’s dark muse all hot and bothered. He even told about how he worked out the whole of The Shining in his head while wandering those deserted halls in subsequent interviews.

So the hotel in the book is the Stanley Hotel, right?

Well …

None of Them

When the book was published in 1977, it contained a note by King himself that states, in part …

Some of the most beautiful resort hotels in the world are located in Colorado, but the hotel in these pages is based on none of them. The Overlook and the people associated with it exist wholly in the author’s imagination.

So, then … pretty clear that the Overlook does not represent the Stanley, even though they’re both in/near Estes Park, and all.


But what about those majestic and ominous shots of the hotel in the movie?

Ah, yes.

Well, that hotel is actually nestled among …

The Timberline

OK, not nestled among the timberline so much as it is the Timberline.

As in the Timberline Lodge right there at the base of Mt. Hood. You know, in Oregon.

Apparently director Stanley Kubrick didn’t think the Overlook was the Stanley, either. Or that the Stanley should be the Overlook.

So he used the Timberline.

But also …

The Ahwahnee

Turns out, the interior of the Overlook could not be properly inspired by either the Timberline or the Stanley (except for maybe room 217/room 237).

So Kubrick turned to the Grand Lounge in the Ahwahnee Hoteel at Yosemite as a model for the Colorado Lounge in the Overlook.

Which means the Overlook ended up as parts Stanley, parts Timberline, and parts Ahwahnee.

And, well, parts …


Kubrick didn’t want to leave England to film The Shining.

Basically refused to, it seems.

So instead, he took over the whole of Elstree Studios in Hertfordshire and built out his Overlook there.

Add one more piece of geography to the Overlook, then, and you have a true melting pot of horror-ble space.

But that’s not all!


Everybody knows that Stephen King wasn’t much of a fan of Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining.

Maybe because Jack Torrance was too crazy from the beginning. Maybe because Wendy was too weak

Mostly, though, it was because both dudes saw the whole thing as pretty much a creative pissing match.

King fought like hell to regain the film rights to his book and finally succeeded to some degree in the mid-1990s.

The result?

The 1997 ABC television miniseries version of The Shining starring Steven Weber and Rebecca De Mornay.

And, can you guess where that three-parter was set.

Right. It was the Stanley.

Even though the Overlook existed only in the author’s imagination.

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