08.20 The Stanley Hotel

If I remember back to my earlier days as a paranormal investigator – no, farther than that, when I was still just fascinated with the field, the ideas of spooks and ghosts, aliens even, eating up as much as I possibly could, devouring books, scouring the web for anything I could find, (Usually through some white-text-on-black website with a .gif ghost or flaming skull at the bottom of the page), I can remember the feeling of excitement to come across pieces of evidence teams had uncovered and posted to their site. What was happening on that video clip? What was that clear voice coming through underneath a team member’s? I remember when TAPS used to post clips to their website, before the show got so big. I remember eagerly presenting the clips to my friends with a smile and a shrug, in much the same way I present my own pieces of evidence to my friends today.

And so I figure, when I’m on these investigations now, the ones that aren’t private for families locally (in short supply now that my local team has disbanded), and the ones that aren’t for the show (also in short supply, being without GHI still), I’d love to share my evidence with you, my readers. I’d love to hear your input, get your feedback. Hell, they’re here for fun. Without having been there or comparing the sounds to hours of other audio, most small sounds you can’t even fully trust unless they knock your socks off. But why not?

I’d love to make this fairly regular on visits, even though they’re a bit rare lately. And what better way then to start with my investigation at the Stanley Hotel on August 20th.

Despite having lived it Colorado for the last sixteen years, it took me until Chris McCune, my close friend from Ghost Hunters Academy, and his girlfriend Andria visited to finally get me up there, and thank god I did. We first visited Estes Park and toured the Stanley on a rainy, chilly Thursday afternoon that just hinted, almost teasingly at fall weather – at ghost hunting weather, before heading back to Fort Collins for the evening. Friday morning I awake to a tweet from the Stanley Hotel on the web saying that had they known we were visiting and in town, we could have investigated.

We’d already laid plans to hit New West Fest and see Colorado-based band the Flobots that evening, but upon hearing this news Chris, Andria and I looked at each other, shrugged, a glow beneath our faces, excited at the prospect, but afraid to get our hopes up. “Estes is barely an hour away.” “You guys do leave tomorrow, what better way to end the trip?”

And so we tweeted back, “Well, what’re you doing tonight?”

The rest was history.

Loaded up with my few supplies (EMF, K2, SLR, flashlights, and H2 for audio), we reached Estes by nightfall and slipped into the Carriage House with our guide, staff paranormal investigator Callea, her friend Vinny, and our close friend Kelly, making six in total.

The Carriage House is rapidly becoming one of the more notable haunted areas of the hotel. The small building by the parking lot entrance stands largely forgotten against the prouder main building, the Manor house, and the Concert Hall. The inside is practically condemned, one wing slightly more picked up before reaching further back in an L-shape, getting messier as it goes. The walls are naked with breaks scattered all around, allowing a funny kind of lightplay from the passing cars. The floors are lined with old framed prints from when the building used to be a motel. The floor is rotted in many places, stacks of paint cans and boards scattered all around.

This wasn’t what we expected when we imagined investigating the Stanley Hotel. But it was everything we love as ghost hunters.

*

Sitting together in a circle, all lights off save the glow across the room, in the corner, from Vin’s voice recorder, we quickly adapted to the room. We stayed put for a good two hours, first letting the room settle, learning the sounds from the outside, voices of the wedding reception in the Concert Hall echoing down to us, distinctly outside, distinctly beyond the tattered walls of our room.

We realized fast that we weren’t alone.

Any investigator who’s stayed in one place for more than an hour knows how fast you adapt to the sounds of the room. That night was Kelly’s first ghost hunt. A skeptic by heart, but open to possibility, after being critical of the reactions to distant sounds heard on the television, she realized right away the difference between sounds outside, sounds of the building settling and popping, and sounds that weren’t natural.

My first piece of audio is the first of two sounds we heard over a half hour period from the back of the farther wing. It’s very clear and you hear us react to it.

Hear that crash in the back? We never did find out what that was. But it was followed by another, of a bit different sound some twenty minutes later. The best we could do to recreate it was to rattle a roll of sheet metal.

Another example of some of the odd sounds we continued to hear. At one point in the first hour of the investigation, I heard a rattling sound right next to my chair. We turned a light on to see that there was a pile of thin boards that had obviously been the source of the sound barely two feet to my left. What moved them? Nothing indicative. But take a listen to the audio. You can hear the boards shake two separate times.

There are a number of other clips of bangs and sounds that we were startled by and couldn’t explain, but I won’t share them all here. This next however, strikes me as very odd. All six of us had by then moved deeper into the back wing, and were sitting amongst the beams in another circle. In this clip (best with headphones) you can hear a bleeping almost like a walkie talkie being turned on, followed by a clatter. There was no one else with us in the building and no one knew what the beep was.

And yes, I still stand by my assertion. Spiritual back massages would not be relaxing.

Here’s two more examples of loud taps right amongst our circle of people that went unexplained.

I’ll note that if you do hear any voices in the background on these sounds, they were only the sounds of the wedding reception of the hill, and they’ve already been ruled out.

But enough of these taps, however startling.

We’d also set up the standard flashlight experiment on a chair at the edge of our circle, asking for the spirit to turn the light on for us. While in the near wing, in the first two hours of the investigation, the light only turned on once, as if to say hello, before it faded away again. Callea and Vin said this was common, and to expect more later. They were right. As we moved back into the deeper wing, the responses began to come in time with feelings of claustrophobia, pressing blacknesses that moved about the group, and an abundance of shadow movement. The events came in an almost perfect sequence each time; the room got darker, we’d begin to hear sounds, the feeling would press in, we’d see motion sometimes behind the group, sometimes within, and finally the light would turn on. Almost as soon as the light blinked out again, we’d have an easier time. The room felt brighter, our chests lighter.

At one point, Chris said, “You know, it feels like one of those lead vests they put on your chest at the dentist’s office before an X-Ray.” We were all shocked at the accuracy of the analogy. That was exactly what it felt like.

The audio evidence was a bit more subtle during the case, and there are only a few instances of voices I’m interested in enough to share. The first comes halfway through the audio track. Almost as soon as our laughter dies off, there comes a whispered voice, almost of the kind a person makes should they be mouthing words to someone else, with some sound slipping through. But we were in the dark and no one in our group made such sounds. You’ll have to listen very closely with good headphones.

I’m not sold on this one, but I find it very interesting.

While I did catch some other clips I’m not very impressed with, this final one that I’ll present is my favorite. It’s one I want to throw out because it’s so clear I feel it has to be something explainable, a voice from one of our investigators inside the room. But I can’t.

But the clip comes at the very end of the night, so I won’t give it to you just yet.

*

After finishing up our four hours at the Carriage House, we moved into the Concert Hall, which had just been tossed after the wedding receptions of the Friday in preparation for the two more on the following Saturday. The building was empty save for us.

We began in the downstairs hallway, where Callea pointed out rooms with activity and reminded us the best stories of the ghosts there, Lucy and Paul.

I didn’t run audio in Lucy’s room, where we started, because we wanted pitch black and we were each searching for personal experiences. It’s not always necessary to run your equipment on these kinds of investigations. We weren’t there for a client or for a television show. Our only audience was ourselves. I was there because I was looking for the experience that defines an investigator, the kind that solidifies their belief, that every investigator searches for to make each night after quiet night worth it. We joked about it through the night even, that it was a shame “nothing much was happening,” amusing in light of the near-constant sounds and knocks and flashlights flickering on.

In Lucy’s room, almost immediately everyone began to get a feeling of relaxation, of cheer, a giddiness or lightness. I, on the other hand, began to feel exhausted. A weight pressed on my chest, far worse than our earlier experiences in the Carriage House. I had trouble breathing, my voice often broke, and my hands and teeth were chattering as if with cold. I’d by lying if I said I wasn’t a bit frightened. But I’d be lying still if I said I wasn’t also excited.

It felt like there was someone there with us.

Multiple times, the flashlight with us turned on in the middle of the floor, not on command, but with a closeness to the stories that Callea was sharing that seemed beyond coincidence, turning on at the start of the rising action, and blinking off at a moment of a bang, or a good end to each story. Never in between.

Vinny and Callea suggested opening the door, and encouraged Lucy to push it closed. The door floated shut easily enough on its own, but in order to start, needed an effort to push against the carpet at its base.

For the next twenty minutes we heard the kind of quick creaks a door makes when you push against it ever so softly. With each click, we felt that it would be the final needed to give the door the shove it needed to close. With each click we thought we’d see Lucy’s handiwork right before our eyes. But it never came.

“You can take a break if you’d like,” we suggested. “You’ve been putting on a great show for us so far. If you need a moment to gather your energy, go ahead.”

The creaks promptly stopped, and didn’t come again while we were in the room.

But shortly thereafter, a loud bang came from outside, in the hallway.

“If that was you, could you do that again?” The traditional follow up question was followed by a second, more faint clatter.

After one of our first sounds on command all night, we asked once more, that if it would make the sound again, we’d follow into the hallway. Once is interesting. Two could be a coincidence. Three?

The sound that followed was even louder than the first. I was to my feet almost in an instant, wide eyes and a grin across my face. “Well, if it wants us out there…”

The hallway sounds were followed by clatters and a racket inside a small closet storage room a few minutes later, while some of the team were taking breaks to gather more equipment or use the restroom.

The sounds were loud enough for me to swear. I looked at Vinny. “What the hell was that?”

We pushed open the door to see what was inside, what could have made such a sound. Inside was only an ice maker and coffee machines on shelving. Some glasses and lids that sounded close to our noise.

Upon exiting and closing the door, we almost immediately heard the sound again. Vinny and I opened the door and looked around. Again, everything as before, right down to the ice in the machine.

Again, we closed the door, and again we heard the sound barely minutes after. Deciding to see if it would come again, we left the door open, the machines humming into the hallway.

But no sound.

*

As the three o’clock hour approached, we decided to break the rules and try out a fresh method, one that had worked for Callea and Vinny a week earlier that they were excited to try again. A non-traditional method. A parlor game sometimes that worked for us with frightening results. Table tipping.

We started with a tall table, the kind they have at many bars, that partygoers stand next to rather than sit. Covered in a table cloth, each of the participants put their fingers lightly on the table and touched pinkies, forming a circle. You then ask for the spirits to push the table top one way or the other.

There are many loose theories as to the effectiveness of the experiment. Some will say that the spirit uses the collective energies from the group to build the strength to move the table, others suggest that if it is indeed supernatural, that it may only be an example of telekinesis, a byproduct of the group concentrating their energy on making a single object move. Skeptics will say that someone is too easily pushing an unstable table.

For the first few minutes, there was nothing. The lit flashlight on the top of the table did not move, nor indicate even the slightest movement. Standing there, in the dark, staring at a single point on the table, watching carefully for a hint of motion, you quickly find that your knees being locked adds a funny sway to your stare, and you widen your stance to ground yourself, a light feeling overtaking you. It’s easy to get lost in it. We often had to let people out of the circle who were feeling slightly dizzy and needed a break.

But then, beneath our fingers, the table started to move. A few giggles and concerned questions. Had it moved? First clockwise and then counter? In the slightest?

Then it did it again. Back and forth. A gentle, slow motion, barely an inch. We encouraged the spirit on, if that’s what was behind the action.

And move it did. Over the next forty five minutes, the table clicked back and forth, rocked toward us and away, always ever in the slightest, not so far as to impact us, but with enough force that were any one of us doing it with our fingers, the bunching of the table cloth would have given us away.

In fact, the longer it went on, many of us lifted our fingers, already so light to the touch, from the surface of the table entirely, so that maybe one at a time would have contact with the table, and yet the table continued to rock. We even broke the circle, moving our fingers away from one another one at a time. After about three broken connections, the motion stopped.

I came away skeptical, but surprised, mightily surprised.

My skepticism came not from distrust of the investigators, for I trusted them all very much, but more in a lack of a control. I’d like to do the experiment again sometime, but hopefully without result. I’d like to be sure that it couldn’t have been some build of momentum beneath our fingertips, that we weren’t rocking the table to life ourselves.

Yet I continue to be drawn to the lack of effort our light fingers left on the surface, and the way the tabletop jerked back and forth with enough energy to nearly send the flashlight rolling across the surface…

*

We finished the night with a half hour in Paul’s room. I turned my audio back on for the final room. We were all at this point very tired. I was drained. Anyone who’s been on more than a handful of cases, both fruitful or not, knows the sensation. It’s early in the morning and your concentration starts to run. After a particularly exciting case, with your nerves and your guard up for hours and hours at a time, you’re bone weary.

We went into Paul’s room on a feeling after the last room turned quiet. Our spirits remained high, and we entered the room all talking. You can hear in the audio clip, each of our voices save Andria, who was quiet at the moment. You hear each speak in turn. Callea describes the doorknob that often locks itself, Kelly says it smells of food, we all comment on the reception leftovers, Chris talks behind me as I say, “I’m gonna steal me some Easy Street, that’s, that’s my beer.”

Listen after I say the word “beer.”

You ask me? It’s a male voice in the distance, as if in the hallway outside (hear the echo?) that says, “Hey!” As we pushed our way into Paul’s room, began to talk of drinking his alcohol, there’s a voice that exclaims from behind us. Coincidence? Something else? You be the judge.

*

And that was the gist of it.

Of course, I have to apologize for giving you the Reader’s Digest version. I felt, writing this, half like a car salesman, the other half like a hurried summary-writer, but I wanted to give you the best impression of the night without going into too much detail.

Normally I’ll be on a case and I can sit in every room all night and not hear more than two knocks out of place, if that. I’ve sat in Eastern State Penitentiary without an odd sound, two nights running. I could write a blog post in three paragraphs for those two nights, for most nights, for too many cases.

But the Stanley hotel, one evening, one late morning, yielded more evidence and personal experiences than I’ve gotten in a year.

So forgive me if I neglected to mention my more skeptical thinking, if I didn’t bring up all possibilities of what each whisper and bang could have been. Don’t doubt that my mind wasn’t in the right state while there, or while I sat with my hands pressed over my ears studying the evidence, but this isn’t a novel, and it’s already run long as it is.

Please feel free to discuss and give feedback on how you liked the post, the evidence, and the stories. Share your own if you feel so inclined, I’d love to hear.

And please, if you haven’t been to the hotel to visit, I highly encourage it. Sign up for a ghost tour, or a late night investigation with Callea. Tell her I said hello!

And maybe if you’re lucky and you happen to pick the right weekend, you’ll get to investigate with me!

Or luckier still, you’ll meet the ghosts that make the Stanley such a very, very special place.

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5 thoughts on “08.20 The Stanley Hotel

  1. holly says:

    thanks Karl – was up on a rainy night in Texas, checked my twitter and got lucky! amazing times…….holly

  2. Karen Crayk says:

    Hey Karl: That was an awsome night for you, really loved the clips. We can’t wait to go back to the Stanley. We have been on two Ghost Hunter’s Events and never tire of it.
    We couldn’t go to the Carriage House as it wasn’t available on our event, but maybe in the future.

  3. moonscapes says:

    Sorry for the late reply but just had to mention this was great! Unlike some, I’ve never been on a ghost hunt. This summary was as good as being there. AND… to top it off, listening to the audio was fantastic. Way more interactive than simply listening on TV. Gives me an idea of what it’s really like. Wish you could get a group together and do this more.

  4. Evie Warner says:

    it said audio not found but i enjoyed the read! Hope i might get to interview on the radio of these days but until then have a merry christmas and happy new year!

  5. karlpfeiffer says:

    Oh no! Stupid audio files. Guess I’ll have to shoot a vlog in a couple days to keep them immortalized for you guys.

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