“Extra” experiences at Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado

Ghost souvenir, The Stanley Hotel

Souvenir ghost from The Stanley Hotel

If it’s “extras” you want when you visit Rocky Mountain National Park, set your GPS for The Stanley Hotel.  A fabulous hotel in its own right, the stately Stanley (on the National Register of Historic Places) may give you the creeps or just the relaxing time of your life. And if you’re checking off the Top 10 Haunted Hotels in America on your must-see bucket list, The Stanley ranks right up there with the spookiest by Travel Channel, Travel and Leisure, USA Today, and  TripAdvisor.  Any way you look at it, a visit to The Stanley has “extra” written all over it.

After suffering from tuberculosis and being advised by his doctor to come the Estes Park area to rest during summer of 1903, Freelan Oscar Stanley, co-inventor of the Stanley automobile,  and his wife Flora fell in love with the area and invested in land on which they built The Stanley Hotel.

The Stanley Hotel

The Stanley Hotel, Estes Park, Colorado

But today, the 140-room historic hotel is thought to be haunted.  Kitchen staff have reported hearing voices in various ballrooms, only to enter and find them empty.  Some claim they hear Flora, F. O.’s wife, playing the piano, but find no one when they enter the room.  Others claim they’ve heard children running up and down the halls, giggling and laughing.  (An example of children being heard but not seen, we guess!)  And how would you like to return to your room with this “extra” experience — your clothes have been unpacked and put into drawers or your jewelry has been “misplaced”? (Both reported, but not verified.  It’s “extra,” you see.)

Some of the creepiness stems from this story: the chief housekeeper, Ms. Elizabeth Wilson, on the night of June 25, 1911, was “shot down” while lighting the acetylene lanterns during a power outage.  After a terrible explosion, she fell from what is now Room 217 to one story below, the floor of the MacGregor Room.  Some accounts relate that those who stay in Room 217 often have “extra” experiences in the form of additional housekeeping services — wanted or unwanted, we suppose. (See above!)

The Stanley Hotel

The Stanley Hotel, noted for its many listings of haunted hotels in America

Tours abound at The Stanley — from The Stanley Tour (formerly Ghost & History Tour) to the Night Ghost Tour with a special “lights-out” ghost adventure!

Doll house featured in ABC miniseries The Shining (1997) filmed at The Stanley Hotel.

Doll house featured in ABC miniseries The Shining (1997) filmed at The Stanley Hotel.

But just a casual roaming of this historic property is a delight. From the lobby with its original wood trim and casual, intimate seating areas . . .

to the displays of vintage Stanley automobiles in pristine condition.  All exude luxury, history, nostalgia.

Beautifully preserved Stanley automobile, Lobby of The Stanley Hotel

Beautifully preserved Stanley automobile, Lobby of The Stanley Hotel

Stephen King found time to partake of the charms of The Stanley — a visit that inspired the writing of his novel, The Shining in which The Stanley became the “Overlook Hotel.” Later, the ABC mini-series, The Shining, was filmed on location.

Photos from the filming of The Shining at The Stanley Hotel

Photos from the filming of The Shining at The Stanley Hotel

But other ventures have used The Stanley as a backdrop, too.  Featured on Ghost Adventures and Ghost Hunters,  The Stanley has been showcased often as one of the most haunted hotels in America.  But it also became the site of lighter and funnier fare– like the movie Dumb and Dumber (1994) — when the hotel was known as “Hotel Danbury.”

Pictures of The Stanley as a background for Hollywood films

Pictures of The Stanley as a background for Hollywood films

It’s the “hauntedness” that draws people in.  They want to see the rooms, imagine the piano playing unattended, and walk through shadowy halls where housekeepers roam delivering little “extras” folks have heard about. And why not?  Real or otherwise, the “hauntedness” is what we travel to see.

However, if you’re looking for an “extra” experience in any form — creepy tours or luxury relaxation —  check out The Stanley Hotel.  What’s creepy for some might be “just another special vacation” in Colorado for you! And us?  Why, of course, we could stay there.  Of course we could.  All night, possibly.  Just not in Room 217!

The view of Rocky Mountain National Park from the front porch of The Stanley Hotel

The view of Rocky Mountain National Park from the front porch of The Stanley Hotel

For more information:

The Stanley Hotel: 333 Wonder View Avenue, Estes Park, Colorado; 1-800-976-1377; www.stanleyhotel.com

Tours at The Stanley Hotel: http://www.stanleyhotel.com/tours/night-ghost-tours

Wikipedia: The Stanley Hotel: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Stanley_Hotel


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A dream deferred: Political unrest delays Habitat build in Lesotho

A dream deferred: Political unrest delays Habitat build in Lesotho.

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Art from the grave: Old Gray Cemetery

Angel in Old Gray Cemetery

Close-up of one of the many angels in Old Gray Cemetery, Knoxville, TN

It’s not just at All Hallows’ Eve that thoughts turn to the realm of the underworld and the tributes the living pay to those who have gone before.  Old Gray Cemetery of Knoxville celebrates the “dying” art of carefully crafted tombstones set among majestic trees with a tribute befitting the many forefathers who made names for themselves in the area with the annual Lantern and Carriage Tour.  To some, it may seem a bit eerie to wander the grounds and hear reenactors take on the persona of the deceased.  But to others, it’s historical and artistic preservation.

Each year, Old Gray Cemetery (named in honor of Thomas Gray, author of “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard”) holds an “open house,” if you will, showcasing the beautifully wrought markers of Knoxville’s legends and setting up stations where period-clad actors tell about “themselves” when they were alive.  It’s quite a tour.  Come along, if you dare.

Carriage Ride

Carriage Ride at the Lantern and Carriage Tour, Old Gray Cemetery

The Art of Dramatic Interpretation

At each station, a person, dressed in the attire that they imagine the deceased would have worn when alive, recounts major accomplishments of the person they represent.  They tell of births, travels, marriages, and encounters with war or adversity or illness. And they tell it in first person, bringing to life those who could have been forgotten but never will be as long as the story is told.

The Art of Tombstone Renderings

A source of art in their own right, old tombstones contrast interestingly with their modern counterparts, the almost-sterile blocks of granite emboldened with a single family name and little more.  Old cemeteries like Old Gray form a rich repository of symbols and representative markings indicating links to biblical creatures such as angels or natural elements like flowers or tree trunks.  Some tombstones bear quotes (humorous, religious, or otherwise) that the deceased may have selected, or someone thought they would like in perpetuity. Old Gray has its share of angels, Civil War memorabilia (since both Confederate and Union soldiers are buried there), and graves of children sometimes indicated with simple headstones in a family plot.

The Art of Reenactment

The Lantern and Carriage Tour is not about somber roamings among the tombstones.  Cannons fire, wagons roll, and crowds stroll the grounds in search of famous names.  In fact, it’s not meant to be spooky at all.  Just a tribute to the preservation of Knoxville’s history and the art of this cherished resting place founded in 1850 and part of the Civil War Heritage Trail.

Old Gray Cemetery

543 North Broadway

Knoxville, TN 37917


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Weekly Photo Challenge: Cover Art

It wasn’t until the masses of balloons had ascended on Saturday, October 11th that we noticed a late comer — a truck bearing a basket and balloon.  Out jumped a lady and her entourage who began puffing up a colorful yellow/red/blue balloon with giant fans.  But they were late.  Noticeably late.  After almost all balloons that were going to lift off had already done so.

But, as we found out later,  she never intended to launch a balloon.  Just wanted to inflate it only to take it down a few minutes later.  To give the crowd a chance to watch the workings of a balloon launch — from start to almost-finished, just before take-off.  She even answered questions and chatted with those of us pointing cameras at the crew intent on filling the space with hot air and then checking for whatever they check for prior to launch.

It was then that the idea for a book came to mind:  What would it take to go from ground to air? And then we found two photos that could serve as cover art for this inside look.

Inside Ballooning:  The Art of the Launch

Inside hot air balloon

Checking the interior of a hot air balloon

Holding on!

Holding on as hot air fills a balloon at Balloon Fiesta 2014.

So, what do you think?  Which one do you prefer?  Or do you have another thought about what would be great cover art for a glimpse into the fascinating craft of ballooning?

Be sure to check out the other entries in Weekly Photo Challenge: Cover Art by clicking here.


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Travel theme: Numbers

Flying all the way from Los Angeles to Knoxville, this University of Tennessee Vol reminded us that even with some rocky seasons of late, fans still fill Neyland Stadium. At capacity, UT can seat 102, 455 — an impressive number in a venue voted Best College Football Stadium by The Sporting News.

Big Orange Fans?  Ya gotta love ‘em, ’cause numbers are impressive.  Win or lose, UT Vols can still pack ‘em in!

Vol fan

Seating capacity of Neyland Stadium, home of The Tennessee Vols!

More numbers on Neyland Stadium, home of The Vols:

  • 1919:  W. T. Shields, UT Trustee and bank president provides money for a Knoxville stadium
  • 1921:  Shields-Watkins field opens, named after Shields and his wife Alice Watkins
  • September 24, 1921:  Inaugural game in Shields-Watkins agains Emory and Henry with a seating capacity of 3200
  • 1926:  Grandstand added with additional 3600 seats, and Robert R. Neyland named head of the football program
  • October 20, 1962: Dedication game as Neyland Stadium (Alabama 27, Tennessee 7)
  • September 16, 1972: First night game at Neyland Stadium (Tennessee 28, Penn State 21)
  • 2004:  UT approves $200 million expansion plan to be executed in five phases
  • September 18, 2004:  Largest crowd:  109, 061 (Tennessee 30, Florida 28)
  • Since attendance records were kept in 1946, over 25 million fans have watched Tennessee play football in Neyland Stadium!

Information from 

“Neyland Stadium”: http://www.collegegridirons.com/sec/NeylandStadium.htm

“Neyland Stadium”: http://www.utsports.com/facilities/neyland_stadium.html

For more numbers in Ailsa’s Where’s My Backpack challenge — Travel theme: Numbersclick here.


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Weekly Photo Challenge: Refraction

Rainbow over Balloon Fiesta 2014

Rainbow over Balloon Fiesta 2014

We looked for the flag flying high over Albuquerque’s Balloon Fiesta 2014 even as we left the parking lot for the long trek to the launch field.  It was yellow.  Caution.  A probable go for the October 9th lift-off.  But when the crowd turned in the direction of the refracted light of a rainbow — sometimes single, sometimes double — arching over the vendors hawking everything from corn dogs to souvenir pins, we saw dark skies threatening the night’s Glowdeo event.

Children with light sabers

Children with light sabers play while waiting for balloons to light up the night.

Children, however, continued to play — using their Jedi skills to wield light sabers.  Whoosh-bink, whoosh-bink, sang out the sabers against the dark night.

Dawn Patrol, October 10, 2014

First lift-off, Dawn Patrol, October 10, 2014. Balloon Fiesta 2014

And when the yellow flag yielded to red, curtailing the night’s event, the crowd dispersed only to return before dawn the next day.

Lifting off before dawn .

Breaking dawn — Balloon Fiesta 2014

After all, there’s nothing quite like seeing the first lights of the Dawn Patrol in a dark New Mexico field.

Click here for more entries in the Weekly Photo Challenge: Refraction.

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A Word a Week Photo Challenge: Fly

Probably any hot air balloonist asks the same question:  Will my balloon fly today or not?  Up ’til now, we’ve had little experience with hot air balloon launches, fiestas, flights, etc.  But Balloon Fiesta 2014: Spirit of the Winds changed all that.

Waiting to fly

Waiting to see which ones will fly: Balloon Fiesta 2014, Albuquerque NM

In an enormous field in Albuquerque, New Mexico, from October 4 to 12, balloonists and watchers asked the same question:  Will it fly?  Here are a couple that did . . . and a couple that did not!

Did Fly!

Humpty Dumpty filled right up, sucking in enough hot air necessary to puff up and fly!  Even upside down, he was ready for lift-off, cheered on by a supporting crowd of students out of school on holiday and their parents who were kids for the day!

Filling Humpty Dumpty

Filling Humpty with hot air: Will he fly?

And up Humpty goes.

Humpty takes off

And Humpty takes off — Balloon Fiesta 2014!

Yes, even cows fly as this entry named Airabelle from Creamland joins the skies — up, up, up and away!

Cows fly, too!

Cows fly, too!

Didn’t Fly

But, alas, not all balloons ascended.  A big, brown sailing ship — one of the largest balloons on the field — struggled just to right itself.

Aiming the heat!

Aiming the heat to fill the sailing ship balloon at Balloon Fiesta 2014

And then it just “hung out” with the crowd while its buddies took to the skies.

Not flying at Balloon Fiesta 2014

Just moving with the wind, but not lifting off. No sailing for this ship today.

Even filled with hot air and in the upright liftoff position, Yoda never made it beyond the field.  Didn’t matter.  He owned that field!

Yoda balloon at Balloon Fiesta 2014

May the Force be with you!

May the Force be with you next year, my friend.

Early morning balloon rise

Early morning balloon rise at Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta 2014

For more information on the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta 2014, click here.

Want to help name Balloon Fiesta 2015?  Click here to submit your idea!

For more entries in A Word a Week Photo Challenge: Fly, check out Sue Llewellyn’s blog A Word in Your Ear.  You’ll be flying high!

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Welcome news from Lesotho: Habitat house is complete!

For those of you who read our post A dream deferred:  Political unrest delays Habitat build in Lesotho — you can imagine how excited we were to open an email from Kelle Shultz, Director of Habitat for Humanity Knoxville.  In that email were pictures forwarded from Setoko Hlabathe, the Habitat Host Coordinator in Lesotho — pictures of the now-completed house in a little village near Maseru, Lesotho.

Habitat House Lesotho

The Habitat house in Lesotho is finished! And we’re celebrating halfway around the world!

Many people in Lesotho gave it their all to complete this home, built entirely by hand of concrete block and mud.  The project began with Habitat for Humanity, but was interrupted by an attempted coup to oust the prime minister of Lesotho.

Habitat House Lesotho

The children who will live here — in their newly finished home in Lesotho.

But now, we’ve come full circle.  The house is finished.  The family has a new home. And three deserving children face blue skies and white clouds as they look to the future from their doorstep! It’s a new day!

For more about our travels in Lesotho and South Africa, check out the Page at the top of this blog.  And thanks for stopping by.

Click here for A dream deferred:  Political unrest delays Habitat build in Lesotho.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Signs

Seeing Old North Church at 193 Salem Street in the north end of Boston was on our list of sites to see when we cheered on our friend running the Boston Marathon.  Known as the church where Paul Revere issued his now-famous phrase “One if by land, two if by sea,” this house of worship has become not only a religious icon but a historical one as well.

Old North Church, Boston

Interior of Old North Church, Boston, Massachusetts

Pristine white walls and original wooden pews arranged in box formation represent fine early American architecture and a quiet spot for contemplation even as hundreds of tourists and worshipers move through the sanctuary reading the name plates and examining the arched windows, needlepoint kneeling benches, and plaques bearing names of forefathers.

The Third Lantern

The Third Lantern, Old North Church, Boston.

But in 1975, an addition to the church in the form of a lantern became a sign of hope known as the Third Lantern.  The inscription on the plaque nearby reads as follows:

The Third Lantern

On the two-hundredth anniversary of the hanging of the two signal lanterns, April 18th, 1975, President Gerald Ford dedicated the Third Lantern.  Meant to inspire hope as the United States entered its third century, it remains lit today as a symbol for continued peace and prosperity.  

The Third Lantern hangs in the Newman Window at the end of the right aisle. 

For more signs, go to the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Signs.

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Travel theme: Bountiful

We saw much in abundance during our travels in Lesotho and South Africa, but nothing stood out quite like oranges — big, heavy bags of oranges frequently stacked one on top of the other in roadside stands and vendor stalls.  Enjoyed by young and old, this bountiful fruit was both plentiful and affordable, offering much-needed nutrients and just the right amount of sweet, juicy pleasure! (Tennessee may be the only Big Orange Country!)

Bags of fruit in Soweto

This shot, taken from a moving bus, shows several stalls near the Kliptown Open Air Museum selling oranges.

Lady eating orange in Lesotho

In Lesotho, a lady wearing a colorful blanket pauses to eat her orange.

For more entries in the Ailsa’s Travel theme: Bountiful, head to her blog Where’s My Backpack for this week’s bounty.

And to read more about our travels in Lesotho and South Africa, check out the Page at the top of this blog.  Thanks!

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