The primary pillar of this blog is the telling of a good story, while highlighting fountain pens. There is only the briefest mention of any pens in this post, sorry; however, this tells the genesis of a great story and who doesn’t enjoy a good ghost story. I was recently in Estes Park and toured the Stanley Hotel, thus I couldn’t help but blog about it knowing the connection between Stephen King, the hotel and fountain pens.
Northwest of Boulder, Colorado in the front range of the Rocky Mountains lies Estes Park, home to The Stanley Hotel. The hotel gained notoriety after the famed horror writer spent the night with his wife at the Stanley Hotel back in 1974. That night has forever changed the image and fortune of the Hotel.
Suffering from writer’s block, and alcoholism, King moved his family from Maine to Colorado where he took a teaching position in Boulder. One day, the couple were heading to the Rocky Mountain National Park when they found the road blocked by a landslide so they turned around. On the way back to Boulder they passed through Estes Park, where Stephen noticed the Stanley Hotel on the hill “overlooking” the town. He knew instantly that he was spending the night. At the time, the hotel was suffering from neglect, and heading for bankruptcy. The hotel staff initially turned him away as the season was over and the next day the hotel would be closed for the winter season, but as a winter storm was imminent the staff agreed to let the couple stay (does any of this sound familiar). They were offered the Presidential Suite (room 217) as it being the only room left with clean bedsheets and they would be the only guests in the hotel.
Stephen and his wife Tabitha, took their dinner in the Grand Hall by themselves. Afterwards, Tabitha retired to their room and Stephen wandered the building and property culminating at the hotel bar. The bartender, Lloyd Delbert Grady, is busy packing up from the season when King slides $20 across the bar. Grady told him “your money is no good here” – the season was over and the till closed out for the year. Instead, King is offered a glass of whiskey for a story, hence began an exchange of book ideas and hotel ghost stories.
Stephen spent a great deal of time drinking whiskey that night. Some people postulate that afterwards is when he explored the hotel not after dinner. While others claim that while he roamed the hotel hallways in a drunken state, he ran into two children on the fourth floor. A very odd sight since there are no other guests staying at the hotel. When he made inquires, he is told that there are no children on the premises.
The Stanley Hotel rests on a bed of quartz and limestone, believed to be a conduit for “negative energy.” Under the hotel is a series of tunnels, built to facilitate the movement of the staff without inconveniencing the guests. Room 217 lies a couple floors above and directly atop a massive quartz outcropping.
After retiring to his room and falling asleep, Stephen has the most horrifying nightmare of his life. In the dream, he heard the cries of his 3 year old son in the hallway. He threw open the door to see the fire hose across from his room chasing his son down the hallway, eventually strangling him. Stephen reminisced that he “woke up with a tremendous jerk, sweating all over, within an inch of falling out of bed. I got up, lit a cigarette, sat in the chair looking out the window at the Rockies, and by the time the cigarette was done, I had the bones of the book firmly set in my mind.” It took Stephen 4 months to write The Shining.
“One final note,” King wrote in the back of his novel Dreamcatcher, “This book was written with the world’s finest word processor, a Waterman cartridge fountain pen.” He claimed that it put him “in touch with language” in a way no other way of writing could. King started writing longhand after he found sitting at a computer too painful. He said the act of using a fountain pen forced him to slow down and think about each word. His choice of pens NOW is a Waterman Hemisphere, which was introduced in 1994 a full 20 years after his experiences in the Stanley Hotel. The photo of Stephen King at work was taken in the latter 1970’s. The Wang Word Processor behind him appears to be a 1200 WPS which was released in June 1976, but as we can see he clearly is using a pen. As for the pen, it appears he is not using Bic Cristal disposable pen (LOL), it is impossible to determine what kind of pen he is using. I was unable to find an interview or written material indicating his choice of writing instruments prior to the automobile accident in 1999.
In his book On Writing, King does not mention his experience writing The Shining; however, he does say that the two preceding novels were written on his wife’s portable Olivetti typewriter in the laundry room of their rented double wide trailer. Later, he details how the first chapter of the initial draft of Misery was written longhand out of necessity. Fun fact, Misery also came to King in a dream.
P.S. If by chance you have the good fortune of running into Jim Carrey, don’t ask him about his experiences at the Stanley Hotel in room 217, he only managed a 3 hour stay.
P.S.S. There is adequate source material to blog about King’s return to writing after the accident and why he made the leap to longhand first drafts. If interested feel free to include your interest in the comments.
Suggested Reading and Referenced Material: