How “The Shining” opened My Eyes to Information Literacy

“Remember what Mr. Hallorann said: It’s just like pictures in a book, it isn’t real.”

Danny as Tony, The Shining, 1980

This week was my anniversary. As a gift, my in-laws sent us to The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park. My husband had wanted to stay there for some time and I must admit, I was curious as well.

The Stanley Hotel is an historic hotel located in Estes Park, Colorado, just outside of Rocky Mountain National Park.  Opening in 1909, the hotel has been refurbished and maintained to walk its guests back to that time.  Hardwood floors, original molding in some of the ballrooms, wrapping staircases, a Stanley Steamer car, old-fashioned Otis elevator, and even the original grand piano played by Joh Phillip Sousa at the grand opening.  Over time it has seen it’s share of famous visitors, but its reputation for being haunted and also being the home for 1980’s class horror film, The Shining makes it stand out.  I must admit, I was curious and that bit of information just wanted me to stay there even more.

The Hotel has seen to market that reputation. There are autographed photos on the walls from Jack Nicholson and Shelly DuVall amongst others. There are ghost tours available. The gift shop contains copies of the movie, the book and even coffee mugs with “Redrum” printed on them.  The Hotel even has a TV channel that plays The Shining 24/7 without commercials or interruptions. Well, you can’t stay at that kind of hotel without actually taking the ghost tour, can you? Of course, we did.

It was on the tour that I learned the history of the Stanley family, the Stanley Steamer, the Hotel, and the link to Stephen King’s, The Shining. Here’s where the importance of information literacy in the everyday world became important. After sifting through the storytelling embellishments, I found the information on the Stanley family was really fascinating. If you don’t know about that family and their contributions to America during their time, look them up! I was really impressed. What I learned about the movie, however, was a bit disappointing.

Had we been staying at the hotel strictly for the movie reference, we would have felt robbed (thank goodness the Hotel has a good deal more to offer). As it turns out, The Shining was NOT filmed at The Stanley Hotel at all! Despite all marketing and visual references throughout the hotel, this was not the location of any part of the filming of the movie.  The outdoor scenes were filmed outside a hotel in Oregon and the inside scenes were filmed on a set in London.  So where, actually, is the connection? It turns out that Stephen King, on a weekend trip stayed at the hotel. He was teaching creative writing in Colorado and needed to get away for the weekend. He and his wife had planned on staying on the other side of the mountain, but the road was closed due to weather. They ended up at The Stanley. The hotel was supposed to have just closed for the winter season (it wasn’t open year-round then). Mr. King explained who he was, and the clerk let him stay that night. He and his wife were the only ones in the hotel. Remember, the hotel DOES have a history of hauntings.  The night wasn’t a smooth one for Mr. King.  Whatever he experienced, led him to start and finish the initial copy of The Shining within the 7 days following this stay. There’s the link, but it doesn’t end there.  It is said that Mr. King didn’t like the choice of main character or what Stanley Kubrick (director) did with the film. Stephen King late bought back the rights to the movie and helped produce a mini-series that actually was filmed at The Stanley Hotel. The DVD for this can also be purchased in the hotel gift shop, but it is not the one played 24/7 for the hotel guests.

Did you pick up the information literacy connection? I was not alone in believing the marketing. The marketing, however, wasn’t true. Had the cult horror 1980s classic film version been the foundation for our stay, we would have been disappointed.  There are many people and sources that promote this piece of information, but it is incorrect. If you look at pictures of the hotel itself and those of the one in the film, there is a stark difference and it makes you wonder. It made me wonder, so I started looking into it.  Many sources didn’t make the distinction clear, but they did provide me with questions for the tour guide.

Information Literacy is thought mostly to regard students using information in classroom projects correctly, appropriately. It’s about finding reliable sources, not just the ones with the most “hits.”  It also has everyday applications that may vary in levels of importance, but are nonetheless valuable. The history behind a famous hotel and a famous movie is just one everyday example.

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