The Shining – King’s and Kubrick’s – each changed Horror forever. But that single nightmare’s influence touches more than just books and film. Passport heads back to The Stanley to see just how sprawling the legacy of one terrifying story can be.
45 years later, the effect of The Shining in pop culture is undeniable. From writers, to musicians to filmmakers, comedy, and every facet of the artistic world. It’s been praised, parodied, sequeled and more. So in this, the concluding episode of our two-part Halloween stay at the Overlook Hotel, we look at just how far it has gone.
The frontmen of Muder By Death and Devotchka tell us about their surprising musical connection to the novel and the hotel. Historian of hauntings, Rebbeca Pittman, returns to tell us about working there, Room 237 director Rodney Ascher tells us a story you wouldn’t believe, and horror legend Mick Garris tells us about the version of The Shining unfairly forgotten by the world…
MORE TO EXPLORE
- Explore the “high strangeness” of Karl Pfeiffer’s work.
- Read Rebecca’s book on The Stanley and its hauntings, and then check out her other work Histories and Hauntings.
- Turn off the lights, put your earbuds in, and turn the volume up on the music of Murder by Death, and Devotchka.
- The movies of Rodney Ascher
5 of the most haunted hotels in America.
- THE STANLEY HOTEL, ESTES PARK, COLORADO
Laughing children, ghost maids, lords and the musical spirit of FO Stanely’s own wife… take your camera and your ghost hunting gear!
- THE HOLLYWOOD ROOSEVELT HOTEL, LOS ANGELES
Over the years, more legendary stars than you can count have checked in, but one has never checked out – they say Marilyn Monroe haunts room 1200.
- THE BOURBON HOTEL, NEW ORLEANS
A Confederate soldier, laughing children, dead nuns, and a ghostly dancer are all paranormal guests of this former convent and theater turned hotel.
- OMNI PARKER HOUSE, BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS
Spend the night in one of the oldest hotels in the U.S. and you just might get to chat with the spirit of Charles Dickens (who used to live there) or tell the hotel’s (very) long-dead founder about your stay.
- LA FONDA ON THE PLAZA, SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO
A judge who was shot in the lobby, a gambling addict who threw himself down a well, and a bride who killed on her wedding night are just a few of the ghosts here… so take care wandering these halls.
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On Twitter: @passportpod
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CONNECT WITH OUR GUESTS!
Karl Pfeiffer: on Twitter
Rebecca Pittman: on Facebook
Mick Garris: on Twitter
Nick Urata and Devotchka: on Twitter
Rodney Ascher: on Twitter
This week’s show was written, produced and edited by Neil Innes.
Big thanks to Rebecca F. Pitman, Mick Garris, Adam Turla, Nick Urata, Rodney Ascher and Karl Pfifer you can find more info about them in the show notes.
Our theme tune is by the incredible Nick Turner with original music for this week’s show coming from my friend and genius Ben Chatwin. Special tracks by Murder by Death and Devotchka too, thanks guys, other bits and bobs by Rochelle Rochelle, Carlton Banksy, The Regal Beagle and Ray Nobel and his Ochestra.
The show is mixed and mastered by Julian Kwasneski
Eliza Engel is our production assistant.
Stacey Book, Dominique Ferrari and Avi Glijansky are all work and no play which is the only way they know how to executive produce the show.
Which is hosted by Neil Innes, and a man who doesn’t want to hurt you, he just wants to bash your brains in, Andres Bartos.
EPISODE 27 – TRANSCRIPT
NEIL: Hey guys, this is the second part of a two-parter for our haunted stories series. So, if you haven’t had part one, go do that first. If you have, welcome back to the Overlook Hotel.
[PASSPORT MAIN TITLE]
ANDRÉS: A destination isn’t always a place.
NEIL: Sometimes it’s a new way of seeing things.
I’m Neil Innes
ANDRÉS: And I’m Andrés Bartos.
NEIL: From Frequency Machine, this is Passport.
ANDRÉS: Your ticket to everywhere.
[END MAIN TITLE]
NEIL: The legacy of King’s classic horror novel and Stanley Kubrick’s iconic film have lived a hell of a life. It’s impossible to read or watch horror movies or books without seeing The Shining’s fingerprints all over everything made since.
What many people just don’t realize is that all of this horror can be traced back to one night in the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado.
A 20 something year old King woke up from a nightmare in room 217, smoked a cigarette and outlined the novel which would change horror.
NEIL: But wait, let’s go back to that same room on a different night, a night more than 100 years ago. June 25th, 1911. At that point, the hotel had been open for two years. That night, the power sparked out for the first time.
The backup lights at the time were settling gas lanterns. The hotel’s head chamber maid, Elizabeth Wilson, entered room 217 with a lit candle to turn them on. She walked right into a room filled with leaked gas. The place exploded.
NEIL: A local paper in Estes Park the day after reported the explosion before describing a bathtub hurtling through the night sky. There was no one in it.
Elizabeth Wilson was found one floor below, in the dining hall. She survived and worked at the hotel until 1950 when she passed away.
The ghost in room 217, she’s not from King’s imagination. She has no malice. She has no teeth. She has no knowledge of your deepest fears. Apparently she just likes to tidy your things, make the bed while you’re sleeping in it and pack for you while you’re asleep. Somehow much more terrifying.
ANDRÉS: There’s something about tapping into the deepest fears you have in one hand and, and getting a sense of like what it means to be human from that. And also, just absolute emotion, you know, like a hundred percent just feeling something that you can’t explain, you can’t you don’t know why…
NEIL: being scared it’s just, it’s the greatest thing ever. It’s that being tense
NEIL: Having a release
NEIL: and then immediately laughing about it.
NEIL: For being such an idiot
ANDRÉS: Comedy. Comedy does the same thing, absolutely.
NEIL: Yeah. And there was, there is something, you know, there is something in the things that get on top of you so much that you’re like, I feel like a horror film. You never really say that.
Maybe you feel like a comedy sometimes, but
NEIL: You’re like, I feel like eating really hot food.
NEIL: I feel like
NEIL: I feel like a horror movie.
ANDRÉS: You’re never, like, I just want, I just want some Velveeta, unless you’re five
NEIL: I just want a Sarah Jessica Parker romantic comedy.
ANDRÉS: Exactly. No
NEIL: Or like a mediocre John Kusiak movie. It’s like, I would take the worst horror movie, whatever came up over almost anything.
NEIL: Cause I can always find, I can always find something in it.
ANDRÉS: I mean, there’s nothing like going to, uh, going to a cinema to see a scary movie. And there’s somebody in the cinema that’s a screamer. I love that.
NEIL: A full horror house.
ANDRÉS: That, there’s nothing quite like that.
NEIL: It’s the, it’s the exact opposite of going to a comedy movie and there being someone with a laugh that you hear really early on and it just ruins the whole movie for you.
ANDRÉS: Exactly, it’s like, just shut up.
ANDRÉS: No, it’s true. If you have like a PJ vote in the audience,
NEIL: Hi PJ
ANDRÉS: It’s the best thing that can happen
NEIL: Yeah it is for everybody else because it becomes
ANDRÉS: if somebody is just being like, no, no, oh God.
NEIL: Apart from the lady in room 217, there are more ghosts in the halls of the Stanley. I had been told, so I wanted as much information on them as possible. I was speaking to writer and Stanley Hotel expert, Rebecca Pittman about the sheer number of phantoms in the building.
Someone told me that there’s a, um, there’s a, a ghost. Who was they called the Admiral?
REBECCA: Lord Dunraven?
NEIL: He likes to like slap girls’ bums.
REBECCA: Yes. So he haunts the fourth floor. He pinches fannys, uh, it got so bad that they’d made just male, um, stewards take care of the rooms on the fourth floor. The girls didn’t want to be there anymore.
NEIL: I’d heard about this one story. So I made a call to Adam Turla who’d spent many nights in the Stanley Hotel.
NEIL: Hey Adam, how are you doing?
ADAM: All right. Uh, actually I need to just, can you call me back in like three minutes? I just, uh, my hand is bleeding everywhere.
NEIL: Oh man.
ADAM: I just need like, I just needed to clean it up, just like three minutes.
NEIL: No problem man.
NEIL: No worries
NEIL: I guess you call the lead singer of a band called Murder by Death.
NEIL: Well, while we wait, every year, Adam and his Indiana based banned Murder by Death put on shows in the Stanley Hotel ballroom… beautiful, atmospheric bluesy, folky, murder ballardy, jangling horror guitars, and Adam’s deep voice feels right for a place like the Stanley.
NEIL: For eight years in a row, the band have held a week-long residency there. I called him back ,hoping he wasn’t passed out on the bathroom floor.
NEIL: You still got all your fingers?
ADAM: Yeah, I’m fine. It was just like a minute before I was drilling, the drill just like flipped out of the screw and just went like straight through my hand. It was just like a lot of blood and it’s fine, like I can, but it’s just like, uh.
NEIL: Keeping in mind that the band’s first excellent album is called Like the Exorcist, but with more Breakdancing, I knew having fun with horror films was where Adam lived.
ADAM: So when we started, we were, we were like 18 years old. We basically were in a, we were definitely in a horror movie phase at the time, like going back and watching like all the classic and obscure zombie and horror flicks. That was just sort of like what was in our brains at the time
NEIL: The fans picked up on the band’s love of terror.
But when did the Stanley shows become a reality?
ADAM: At some point, I, I, like, I heard that there was a hotel in Colorado that was like The Shining hotel and the one that Stephen King stayed that had the dream and then wrote the book.
NEIL: The band knew their music was thematically dark, and that sound lent itself to playing in unconventional historically full venues.
After selling out in Denver and Boulder, they thought they could push their idea and ask for a gig up at the old haunted hotel.
ADAM: And so we put it on sale and it sold out like instantly. We did the show and people like lost it. They loved it. And so we’re like, I guess we’ll do this next year too.
And, you know, we, we didn’t realize it was a tradition until after the third year where we were just like, holy shit,
NEIL: Eight years and nearly 80 nights in the hotel later, it would seem like the fans of The Shining and the fans of Murder by Death’s darkly humorous and rousing music are one and the same.
ADAM: Basically it’s, it’s sort of like a slumber party in a haunted old hotel.
NEIL: Oh, it’s also a fancy dress party, leading to a huge group photo, which echoes that baffling final shot from Kubrick’s film. A long, slow push into a framed picture from a 1921 ball.
ADAM: It’s a celebration of the macabre, in a sense that like there’s a lot of appeal and the zeitgeists quality of this, you know, great book, great movie associated with it. Um, it’s just, it’s a great mix of pop culture, honestly. And, um, it’s fun.
NEIL: It sounds like an amazing show, but I wanted the dark, I wanted the hauntings.
ADAM: Like every person has had something happen that was like, well, holy shit. You know, um, uh, you know, you wanna hear some stories?
NEIL: Yes. Yes I do.
ADAM: We were sitting at dinner with our friend and she had just come up that day and, um, I was sitting across from her. I’m just talking with her and all of a sudden she jumped and like looked over her shoulder. Like did the waiter touch me or something? And I was like, no, there’s nobody behind you. And, um, the next day she went home and she went to the airport and, and she texted me.
She was going through the metal detector, it went off. And so they did the, you know, the shot of her body to show like where the metal was detected. And it was exactly where she’d been touched. There was just a, like a lit up mark on her shoulder. It was the exact spot. That’s like the best story.
NEIL: Oh jeez.
I was talking to Adam in a building built 140 years ago, alone at midnight.
And I started to get a little creeped out. But before I let him go to the hospital, I had to ask him the eternal question: which is better, the book or the movie?
ADAM: I like them all. Even the TV movie has things about it that I like.
NEIL: Ah, yes, the TV movie. There may be a few of you out there scratching your heads, but just trust me for a minute.
NEIL: At the end of April in 1997, over three nights on ABC, Stephen King’s The Shining aired. A three-part mini series written by King and directed by frequent collaborator and horror film sensei Mick Garris. King had wanted to write his own novel for the screen, to set something personal straight, that he was convinced Kubrick had destroyed.
King had even written a script for Kubrick. Nobody is convinced he ever read it. King’s anger about Kubrick’s film is still very real. You can hear it in his voice. Just listen.
KING: When we work on The Shining, which was a very important project for me, that was a mini series that everybody told me, well, you can’t do that.
Uh, the movie is classic and all that. And I’m like, fuck Kubrick. We’re going to do my book.
NEIL: First things first. King and Garris wanted to put the location which inspired King to the fore.
See The Overlook Hotel in Kubrick’s film is actually an amalgamation of two others. The exteriors were the Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood in Oregon. And some of the interiors were based on the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park.
Kubrick, however, crippled by his fear of flying and his need for absolute control built the whole set on a soundstage at Elstree in England. The mini series, however, was to be filmed on location inside and out at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado.
If I couldn’t get to King, I had to get to one of his best friends. I had to talk to Mick Garris. He cut his directing teeth in behind the scenes featurettes. His credits as writer, director, or producer run from Batteries Not Included, Critters 2, many, many Stephen King projects, including Sleepwalkers, The Stand, Quicksilver Highway, Riding the Bullet and The Shining.
MICK: The first night we scouted locations, I stayed the night in room 217, of course. And, you know, the sense of place and of atmosphere, you really feel like you’re living in Jack Torrance’s sequestered world.
NEIL: I liked Mick immediately. Long gray hair, laid back, eloquent, earthy
MICK: Went to bed early, like 10 o’clock or something.
But at exactly the stroke of midnight, I woke up not for any particular reason, but it was like I had the midnight wake up.
NEIL: I rewatched the mini series and decided that it had perhaps been unfairly forgotten. It reminded me of a time before TV broke open.
MICK: It definitely was different from most television, but the good news was we had a lot of leeway because of the success of The Stand, the highest rated mini series in history.
NEIL: King and Garris had received high praise for one of King’s most epic and forever precient novels.
So when King was asked, what’s next, he did what he did when he first got big. He went small. He went with The Shining
MICK: At first I wasn’t sure because it was television and I had just had a hit movie in the theaters and there’s a certain snobbishness about filmmaking on television back then that there isn’t today.
NEIL: Kubrick’s fans at that time could smell blood.
MICK: Oh, they’re going to make a TV version, but the Kubrick film is perfect. You know, it’s perfect if you haven’t read the book before.
NEIL: At that time, in the 17 years since its release, the film had gained a rabid fan base, it had become the cult horror film. The sour reviews were long forgotten. It was then, and is to this day considered a masterpiece of horror.
An awkwardly off kilter, iconically visceral, jittery, marvelous, hellishly weird, and ever changing work of precise terror. Stephen King in his book on writing tells us that the road to hell is paved with adverbs. So apologies Steve, for that last sentence. But how did Mick feel about attempting the book again with Kubrick’s obsessive beardy shadow looming?
MICK: I had loved that book and I saw the movie a couple of days before it came out in theaters at a screening at Warner Brothers. The great Stanley Kubrick, the best horror novel ever written and then I was just crashingly disappointed by the result of it.
NEIL: Mick told me he’s learned to appreciate it since.
MICK: The naivete of going into it helped me a lot. I didn’t realize how naive until I called Gary Sinise, who was the star of The Stand and said, hey, would you be interested in playing Jack Torrance? And he said, you know, I’d be kind of wary of stepping into Jack Nicholson shoes. And I suddenly realized, oh, there’s a giant shadow cast by the Kubrick Nicholson collaboration.
NEIL: The rest of the acting world felt the same. They couldn’t cast the main part. Kubrick’s film was a pedantic ghost that Garrison King just didn’t need
MICK: Until literally three days before shooting was to begin. And that morning, Stephen King said to us all in a room, in the casting office, if we don’t get him today, I’m pulling the plug.
NEIL: The production would go on to cast Steven Weber in the nick of time as Jack. Rebecca de Mornay is Wendy and Courtland Mead is Danny. And back in the day, when television was a dirty word, The Shining mini-series went into production.
Horror would be both a blessing and a curse in the cinema of the late nineties.
But this, this was television
MICK: Horror on television historically was pretty shitty. It’s really not the best friend to horror and suspense. And then when you’ve got something so character oriented and so personal and emotional as this project was to King, then you really do need to take that time because it’s not your standard stock and slash movie.
It’s really about the disintegration of a psyche and of a family.
NEIL: So Garris’s whole family, his film crew took over The Stanley Hotel for the spring and winter months of 1996.
MICK: It was quite an amazing experience. A lot of people had pretty spooky experiences. We were in that beautiful, ornate lobby and we’re rehearsing the scene to shoot and right above us above the chandelier was a big pounding… pound, pound, pound… and we were ready to shoot and it kept happening whenever we were ready to roll camera. So we sent a production assistant up there and he checked and nobody was in that room. Nobody was in any room or hallway or anywhere around there. So it was just this banging and nobody could figure out what it was.
NEIL: Mick doesn’t count this as his own experience. As someone who makes his living off ghosts and horror stories, I asked him how he felt personally about things that go bump in the night.
MICK: It’s an incredibly healing idea, the idea that someone you’ve lost, you can still connect to in the afterlife. And it’s something I would love to feel and I would love to experience. So far I haven’t, but I’ll leave the door open.
NEIL: Over three parts and four and a half hours, this Shining, told with heart, warmth, time and character went out into the world.
I have to say, the series is actually pretty cool to rewatch. The show was well received too. Well watched, and then it disappeared.
NEIL: In the eyes of the world and in the wash of time, Kubrick is still at the top.
ANDRÉS: I like that you’ve completely, you completely sidelined Kubrick. Kubrick is the villain of this story. It’s fantastic, but it’s fantastic because these two things, this book and this Kubrick movie had the same title. But they’re not the same thing.
ANDRÉS: because of that, there’s this like battle playing out in terms of the people that love the book, the people that love the movie,
ANDRÉS: It creates this kind of weird parallel dimensions. We can all agree The Shining is an amazing movie but if you put that to the side for a bit and you think about what King was going through
ANDRÉS: This fucking movie is like the bane of his existence. It’s like
NEIL: Everytime it’s referenced anywhere, it’s like, for him in his head
ANDRÉS: Of course, he’s like, he, yeah, he did something else and he used my title.
ANDRÉS: And there’s like bits, so it’s like a Frankenstein, you know, it takes stuff from the novel. And then his whole life is like, if anybody asks him about it, they’re always, he always has to talk about Kubrick. And he always has to talk about this stuff.
NEIL: The ghost being alcoholism for King.
NEIL: Shortly became Kubrick’s movie with his ghost.
ANDRÉS: Exactly, his monster is this freaking movie. Obviously, the movie that nobody knows, or this miniseries that nobody knows, has its own inner drama because of that
NEIL: You have to watch it because there are parts in the mini series where it’s like a 10, 12 minute conversation straight from the book.
There’s two really brilliant ones. One where Rebecca de Mornay in lingerie trying to seduce her husband, who she fears that she’s lost to something, to try and get him to go to bed with her. And they’re in the lobby of the hotel by a fireplace. And it goes for ages. It’s really good. They’re both really great in that.
But at the time people were like, what the,
ANDRÉS: what is it
NEIL: Why aren’t they cutting to something else?
NEIL: It was kind of fascinating because reading the book at the same time. I was like, damn, they did it. They did it.
ANDRÉS: They really went for the book
NEIL: They really went for it.
ANDRÉS: So if you want like something faithful, you got to go to the mini series.
ANDRÉS: But then it’s so weird because you have this friggin movie between it
NEIL: Yeah. Well, that’s why I love Mick. I was like, who’s that guy? And he’s worked with Stephen King for like 30 years. So King is his friend. He’d seen The Shining once and hated it. Lived his whole life in horror movies. And then was like, I’ll give it a go.
ANDRÉS: I know, that’s the thing you have to, you have to have that craziness.
NEIL: Yeah. Or your best friend is Stephen King.
ANDRÉS: Stephen King, in which case you’re like, okay, then I guess we can make this happen.
NEIL: Yeah, let’s do it.
I kind of got a respect for it. Like it is a shame that it’s so just gone.
NEIL: Like in the whole story,
ANDRÉS: but that’s what makes it almost conceptual art for me, where you try to bring the artwork back to its source, after something kind of cataclysmic.
In this case, Kubrick’s movie happened in between. It’s never going to sink into the consciousness because there’s this other frigging like building blocking out the sun.
You know, you were talking about what Stephen King hated about Kubrick’s Shining and the fact that the family and it’s true, like Shelley Duvall is barely a character, but, um, but I was having this thought I’m like, so is it just because it’s, is it the Jack Nicholson and I think the difference is that in The Shining, the hotel is like the character.
NEIL: And you can’t, like reading that book is like a tumble dryer. It’s it’s like, it’s just the whole time.
NEIL: And Kubrick’s movie, it’s like being prodded, like in a dark room where you don’t know where it’s coming from.
ANDRÉS: But also that slow burn that’s also in that movie.
NEIL: Which obviously influenced the soundtrack to the film and then Kubrick just didn’t want the ending.
And I think that’s the thing that killed, that killed King, you know, but ironically, the set that Kubrick built in Elstree studio exploded and burned down.
ANDRÉS: Did it?
ANDRÉS: The hotel did.
ANDRÉS: Not the maze, the hotel
NEIL: The hotel burned down.
ANDRÉS: Of course.
NEIL: I mean, what the fuck.
Yeah. It’s, it’s just one of those, like playing pass the parcel with yourself, when you’re just like really? I’m not there yet?
ANDRÉS: How many coincidences do I have to get through to get to the end of this?
NEIL: There’s a couple more?
NEIL: After the mini series, the Stanley Hotel called in a painter, a muralist, a specialist in faux painting to copy the adjustments in the hotel lobby. See King and Garris had wanted to dock in the interiors from bright white to dark wood. The hotel had embraced it and wanted it fixed. And that specialist in faux painting, well, that specialist was our friend, Rebecca. Stanley specialist and ghost historian.
REBECCA: I also paint murals and do faux painting. So when I was talking to the owner and wanted to interview everyone for the book, he goes, I’ll make you a deal. If you’ll faux paint, I’ll give you a free room and board for a week and you can interview everybody and paint. And weird stuff kept happening to me while I was doing that.
My watch kept stopping at strange times and would start up again. Um, while I was there interviewing, there were several people walking down the fourth floor hallway with me and suddenly this blast of cherry tobacco smoke hit us all in the face and it was so strong we all stopped talking and gagged and I had long hair and I actually picked up my hair to smell it, to see if, it was just the oddest thing.
And then it just cut off.
NEIL: The ass pinching ghost of Lord Dunraven from earlier. He was infamously partial to many things, but also the finest cherry tobacco.
NEIL: So here’s the thing about The Shining. That one night in room 217, that nightmare, that deeply personal novel, most of the world sees none of that.
We see an elevator door opening and spilling gallons and gallons of blood. We see twins in blue and white dresses. We see an axe and Kubrick’s camera swinging wildly at a splintering bathroom door. We see a hedge maze, room 237, the shock death of Dick O’Halloran. We see an icy end for Jack Torrance.
We hear an exhausted Shelley Duvall hyperventilating. We hear here’s Johnny and all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy and come play with us Danny…
NEIL: I’m sure for most of you listening, everything you know about The Shining is that, but that isn’t The Shining. That’s Stanley Kubrick. You see, none of those things are in the novel.
NEIL: In 1977, Stanley Kubrick was coming off a failure. His only failure. Barry Lyndon. But like King at the time, he was searching. Something he did as soon as his last project was finished. And the only way he knew how to do that was to read and read and to read everything. Boxes of books and manuscripts would arrive for the director.
And for days on end, every few minutes, his assistant would hear one of those books or manuscripts hitting the wall of his office. One day, she noticed the banging had stopped. She walked in and saw Kubrick with his feet up reading Stephen King’s, The Shining, grinning from ear to ear.
The incomparable director may have rung all of the human elements out of the novel for his film, but he was really all about humanity… Spartacus, Dr. Strangelove, 2001…but for a reason apart from his own style, Kubrick almost without exception adapted stories from other texts. And in The Shining, he had found a monster, one he could renovate with all of his own perfect parts.
NICK: Stephen King is sort of like Henry Miller. Henry Miller used sex to sort of get you, to suck you in and then teach you about humanity. I feel like Stephen King’s kinda the same way with his horror stories. He has these elaborate plots to suck you in, but really it’s about human nature and humanity.
NEIL: This is Nick Urata. Kubrick fan, film fan, Colorado resident and lead singer of the incredible band DeVotchKa.
NICK: I think I’m 60 miles from the Stanley Hotel right now.
NEIL: Nick came to Colorado for a breath of fresh air, much like the lungers in the 1800s or Stephen King.
NICK: I had spent my entire childhood in New York. And, uh, I think it was just the, uh, you know, the lure of the West after watching a lifetime of John Ford movies,
NEIL: The draw to the place for him is strong.
NICK: That movie came out pretty early in my life and it was, it was a big deal, The Shining, because it scared the shit out of me and for years I thought my dad was going to kill us all.
NEIL: I asked Nick about the reputation of the hotel and he told me something I hadn’t really thought about fully with regards to Kubrick’s film being the quote unquote definitive version.
NICK: Everybody expects it to look like the movie hotel, because the movie hotel is, is pretty spectacular.
The Stanley is beautiful in its own way, but I think people will be initially shocked when they don’t see that when they drive up to it, they’re like, what the hell is this?
NEIL: Nick and his band DeVotchKa play at the Stanley hotel too. Usually every Halloween.
NICK: The concert hall was built by Stanley for his wife. She was a big musician and like her piano is still there, um, which he bought for her. It’s, it’s very, uh, you can kind of feel how much they loved the place that they created. You know, wasn’t just slapped up to make a profit.
REBECCA: The music room, the original Steinway that fO gave to his wife Flora is in there. I mean, that’s incredible to get to see an original Steinway that she sat there and played. And you, you hear music coming out of there. People have seen the keys moving. I have a photo in the book of a ghost that was caught on camera.
It’s a woman in a victorian gown sitting at the piano.
NICK: I’ve certainly felt their presence and I’ve absorbed many ghost stories in my day. That that seemed very, very real.
NEIL: DeVotchKa also have some close ties with the burlesque world. They used to perform with Dita Von Tease, and part of their show involves a lot of hoops and feathers and top hats.
One year they set up for the show, sound checked and went into the dressing room to wait for the gig.
NICK: Our dressing room was above the theater looking down and we had a, uh, an aerial luire, it’s like a hoop. There is no windows open or ventilation or anything. And the thing just starts swinging back and forth like a pendulum.
NEIL: After the show, a couple of the dancers were packing up in the hall’s sprawling kitchen.
NICK: There was like a kitchen, you know, like kind of sort sorta like the one you see Scatman Crothers in. They were in there after the show. It was pretty late at night. And there’s like a, a wheelchair sitting in there which is creepy to begin with.
And, uh, yeah, futsing with their gear on one of those big stainless steel tables. They said that they were talking and got carried away with the conversation and they turned around and that wheel, same wheelchair was on the other side of the room.
NEIL: The band told this story to the staff at the hotel.
NICK: The staff told us that that was actually built on a burial ground, but it was a pet cemetery.
NEIL: It seems at this point that the Stanley Hotel loves getting this ghostly attention,
NICK: They completely embrace it. They know that’s half the reason why people are coming there or maybe 75% why people are coming there now, you know,
NEIL: Nick relates it back to The Shining and the pure rewatch ability of the film.
NICK: One of the reasons why we’re drawn to Kubrick, most of his films have that are based in something horrific. You mentioned it, you know, and that, that draws you in too almost, you know, it’s why you keep coming back to them.
All his films are like that. You just want to watch them over and over again.
NEIL: Movies that have that magic rewatch quality are often quick to go from unanimous panning to infinitely quotable classics. It happens all the time. The legacy of Kubrick’s film and the obsessive nature of its fans was never better observed than in Rodney Ascher’s award-winning 2012 documentary Room 237.
It took some really out there plain insane theories on what The Shining is actually about. His documentary compressed them into a critique on the warping power of film.
RODNEY: Almost anybody making horror these days has seen The Shining and has probably seen it, you know, a dozen times. I’ve seen it a dozen times.
They also get different things out of it. You know, whether it’s the push and the pull and the family dynamic or, you know, the aesthetics of the symmetry, the long takes. People have been drawing from it and drawing from it, you know, and satirizing it and remixing it, it’s hard to overestimate, you know, it’s influenced, you know, in multiple directions.
NEIL: This influence, the remixing, the drawing from, it’s all been used to great effect, even by the hotel, totally absent from The Shining the world knows.
RODNEY: The Overlook festival, they were called the Stanley Fest when they started hosted you know, an annual horror movie film festival in the Stanley Hotel.
NEIL: In 2013, Rodney was invited to the festival to screen Room 237.
RODNEY: You know, when I landed in Colorado, I guess in Boulder, um, you know, I was with a small group of people who were also going to the festival and they included Mick Garris,
NEIL: You know, Mick, the director of The Shining mini-series.
RODNEY: And Leon Vitalli
NEIL: Leon Vitali. Kubrick, notoriously the most demanding film director who ever lived, who would do retake and retake until his actors wanted to kill him.
The film director who made Tom Cruise walk through a doorway 90 times for one shot in Eyes Wide Shut. That film director, his assistant for 30 years was Leon Vitalli.
RODNEY: It was funny to meet him because not long before the New York Times interviewed him about Room 237. And he said, for lack of a better word, it was a bunch of baloney.
NEIL: Suddenly, we’re at an intersection of the director, the writer, and the fan heading to the place that started it all, traveling in a van along steep and winding snowy roads to an old haunted hotel.
RODNEY: The road that leads to the real Stanley Hotel, it’s awfully similar, you know? So at a certain point, you’re like on that road with these people who are, you know, Mick who’s linked to Stephen King and, and Leon, who’s linked to Kubrick.
NEIL: They had their screenings, the film, the mini series and the obsessive documentary. And they hit it off. But the legacy of The Shining or the pesky specters, or maybe just the ghost of Jack Torrence himself, tried to really mess things up.
RODNEY: You know, I was out having a drink. I was hanging out with Leon, Leon Vitalli, restaurant bar, you know, a couple miles in town and it was two, three in the morning.
And so a festival volunteer guy says he’ll drive us back, back up to the hotel and we don’t get two blocks away from, uh, the restaurant, from the bar when red and blue lights of a police car, fill the car from right behind and me and Leon are in the back and we’re like, uh oh, the driver gets out.
[Police sirens and car opening]
You know, they make him touch his nose and walk back and forth on the line. The next thing that happens is they put him in the car and they just drive away and leave us in the back of his car and it was snowing at the base of a hill. And the two of us, you know, kind of walk up the side of the hill, in a snowstorm, barely able to see in front of us.
The idea did occur to me that if we froze to death up there and were discovered in the morning, like at the end of The Shining, there could be worse ways to go out.
NEIL: Stephen King said that good luck is just bad luck with it’s hair combed.
King got lucky that night at The Stanley. A lightning strike of inspiration. And then I thought about the prospectors and the lungser. I thought about the people that went to Colorado to be saved, the poor and the sick, going to strike it rich with silver or with gold, or even just with a life slightly longer than diagnosed.
Did Stephen King go to Colorado to save himself? Well, regardless, Colorado sounds like a lucky place. Here’s Nick,
NICK: They had this thing called grub staking, it was called, where you could walk into, um, a general store and the proprietor would give you a pickaxe and a wheelbarrow, I think. And a bag of supplies and if, the deal was, if you struck anything, you had to split it with the store owner.
These two guys come in and ask about the deal. One of them slips up a bottle of whiskey into his pocket, so they get the stuff and they start hiking off into the wilderness. And, uh, they’re drinking the bottle of whiskey, of course, as soon as they get out of town. And, uh, so one of them was just like, fuck it. I’m not going any further. Let’s just, let’s just do it right here.
And, uh, it takes his axe and starts digging. And these two fuck ups hit the biggest silver mine in the state of Colorado.
[Axe hitting silver and water flowing]
And I always thought that story really just encapsulates that sort of the reason why people head West or anywhere away from their hometown. And, and you never know what, you never know what’s going to happen.
NEIL: That final infamous shot of The Shining. Midnight, the Stars, and You by Ray Nobel and his orchestra adds an eerie sweetness to the whole thing. It’s nostalgic, forgotten, ghostly almost. As we wander down a whole way and settle into an old photograph.
Jack Torrance, Jack Nicholson grinning in a crowd of people, staring out at us, forever reliving a winter of murderous thoughts over and over again. Just another ghost.
The photo on the wall from 1921 is a time capsule in many ways. The whole of Kubrick’s film is. Contemporary but gothic at heart, it’s out of time. In the way King’s book was very of its time. At least, and most importantly, the King.
I can understand his anger, though maybe I don’t agree with it. Like Ray Nobel’s song, the hotel that inspired King, the novel that inspired Kubrick, they all have a strange timeless quality. Together, even with their differences, they’ve both terrorized and inspired artists and filmmakers and writers and musicians for more than 40 years.
All of them are still drawn by a hotel in the winter months in Colorado to get a little closer to the madness, to catch a glimpse of a spook, or to fill their lungs with clean air.
But in all of this, a character that nobody knows has been the beautiful Stanley Hotel, a ghost in its own way, a place rescued from the brink because of a pin in a map, a chance stay, a nightmare, and a young visiting author.
NEIL: I think about myself standing outside those gates of Stephen King’s house. And I remember that this is a man who said there is no such thing as a happy ending. I never met a single one to equal once upon a time. Endings are heartless. But Mr. King I say, sometimes there’s something that has to be done.
ANDRÉS: Neil Innes. You mother [censor beep]
NEIL: If I’m never going to get a reply from Stephen King, I have to write my own.
ANDRÉS: This episode is a seance for the ghost of Stanley Kubrick, haunting the life of Stephen King.
The man finds the idea for this novel in a hotel that has the same name as the director that made the frigging movie that has haunted him to this very day.
NEIL: Thank you man. When Nick Urata told me that story and I just put it to one side about the drunk prospectors, like striking it rich, just,
ANDRÉS: It just fits perfectly.
NEIL: The whole, that whole time of doing that and just like going with the clothes on your back and taking a pickaxe and just, just seeing what kind of comes up.
It just, it just fit in my head. And I was like, you know, I had to jump the nerd gate
ANDRÉS: Yeah. It’s an impossible gate to jump, but it’s also the tension at the base of this kind of like battle of the titans, for Stephen King, this story has this personal component that is really kind of like intimate and deep.
ANDRÉS: And watching somebody else just kind of like, I’m going to make this really nice painting…
It’s got to be really hard to watch
ANDRÉS: He does something that is like, the finest piece of clockwork, but he’s, you know, it’s like for Stephen King, it’s him getting sober.
ANDRÉS: Like learning how to live with this fame.
ANDRÉS: Figuring out how you’re going to keep writing and living.
NEIL: And Kubrick is like,
ANDRÉS: check this out, hold my beer.
NEIL: That’s it for this week, guys, if you check out our social media, we’ll be posting the five most haunted hotels in the USA. So you can scare the hell out of yourself in time for Halloween.
Find us a PassportPodcast on Facebook and Instagram. You can also find these saved pins, at frequencymachine.com.
NEIL: Next week we’re off to the polls for an election day special. Two stories about a couple of the most unlikely candidates possible. We’ll see you then.
This week’s show was written, produced and edited by me, Neil Innes.
Big thanks to Rebecca F. Pitman, Mick Garris, Adam Turla, Nick Urata, Karl Pfifer and Rodney Ascher. You can find more info about them in the show notes.
Our theme tune is by the incredible Nick Turner with original music for this week’s show coming from my friend and genius Ben Chatwin. Definitely go and check him out wherever you get your music. Special tracks by Murder by Death and Devotchka too. Big thanks. Tther bits and bobs by Rochelle Rochelle, Carlton Banksy, The Regal Beagle and Ray Nobel and his Orchestra.
The show is mixed and mastered by Julian Kwasneski
Eliza Engel is our production assistant.
Stacey Book, Dominique Ferrari and Avi Glijansky are all work and no play. They also executive produce the show.
Which is hosted by me, and a man who doesn’t want to hurt you, he just wants to bash your brains in, Andrés Bartos.
We’ll see you in the next place.
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