What is The Overlook, better known as The Shining Hotel? On paper, it seems like an easy question to answer, but when you start digging into it, there’s a lot to uncover under The Overlook’s hardwood floors. You see, ghosts and ghouls don’t just haunt the hotel. The building itself is a devious and malevolent entity in its own right.
So we thought it’d be fun to look into the history of The Overlook in both the horror movies it appears in and the books that inspired those films. We’ll also touch on what inspired Stephen King to create this hellish hotel and where Stanley Kubrick filmed The Shining, one of the best movies ever made.
So with no further adieu, here’s everything you need to know about the Overlook, the hotel at the heart of The Shining.
The Overlook in The Shining movie
Stanley Kubrick made the decision not to elaborate too much on The Overlook’s history in his ghost movie. We know that the hotel is haunted by evil spirits who have driven previous guests and staff members to commit horrible crimes.
When Jack Torrance arrives to apply for the role of winter caretaker, he’s told by Stuart Ullman that winter caretaker Delbert Grady killed his family and then himself. However, we see plenty of other ghosts throughout the film implying the hotel’s history of violence goes far beyond Grady’s violent breakdown.
On the day Jack and his family, Wendy and Danny, arrive, the hotel’s chef Dick Halloran notices that the youngest Torrance possesses a powerful psychic ability that he calls the shining. Knowing this gift will attract the ghosts of the hotel, Halloran warns Danny not to go into Room 237.
While Danny does as he’s told, he still has terrifying visions of the hotel’s previous inhabitants, most notably the blood-splattered Grady Twins. As winter draws in and the Torrance’s are cut off from civilisation, the ghosts of the hotel wear down Jack’s defences.
The spirits exploit his writer’s block and alcoholism until Jack’s at his lowest ebb. After the spirit in Room 237, a rotting woman called Lorraine Massey, who lives in a bath, attacks Danny. Wendy, not knowing about the ghosts, blames Jack for the attack.
Hurt by his wife’s accusations, Jack wanders into The Overlook’s bar, where the ghost of Grady appears to him. The ghost serves Jack a drink which he accepts. As Jack knocks back his whiskey, the ghosts of the hotel creep inside his head, driving him mad.
Jack attempts to kill Danny and Wendy with an axe, even attacking Halloran – who’d been summoned by Danny’s Shining – when he attempts to rescue the family. Eventually, Danny gets the upper hand when he lures his father into the hotel’s hedge maze, where the drunk Jack gets lost.
Unable to find his way back to the hotel, Jack freezes to death outside, allowing Wendy and Danny to escape to freedom.
The Overlook in the Doctor Sleep movie
In Doctor Sleep, Danny returns to The Overlook Hotel with the psychic kid Abra Stone to save her from the child-eating True Knot and their leader, Rose the Hat. Danny believed that The Overlook and the ghosts who lived there would be attracted to Rose because she, like him, was a powerful psychic.
Danny was correct, and The Overlook does, for lack of a better word, ‘eat’ Rose, but this gives the hotel the power it needs to possess Danny. Now possessed like his father, Danny tries to kill Abra, but the hotel is once again outsmarted by the younger Torrance.
Before he battled, Rose Danny rigged the hotel’s furnace to explode. The possessed Danny desperately tries to stop the impending explosion, but the Overlook is too late, and the boiler detonates. As the Overlook burns down, Danny is reunited with the spirit of his mother, and Abra escapes the hotel.
The Overlook in The Shining book
In Stephen King’s book, The Overlook Hotel is a far more active and malevolent presence than in the movie. We learn that the hotel has a horrific history of violence and bloodshed. In the basement of the hotel, where Jack tends to the boiler, he discovers a folder full of The Overlook’s dark history.
Criminals, murderers, and other unsavoury characters have all visited the hotel over the years, awakening a strange evil in The Overlook. This evil, now empowered by Danny’s Shining, starts to actively threaten the family, hoping to add the child’s power to its own permanently.
The hotel brings topiary bushes to life to attack Danny, spirits taunt the boy, and the horrifying Grady twins, of course, make an appearance. In the end, like in the film, the hotel possesses Jack and forces him to attack the family. Unlike in the film, however, there’s little ambiguity over whether Jack was driven mad by cabin fever or if the ghosts were real. We see Jack briefly shake off their possession, and he tells Danny to run.
In the end, the possessed Jack is defeated when Danny reminds the creature wearing his dad’s body that the pressure in the boiler is building up. Like in the Doctor Sleep movie, the hotel tries to save itself from destruction, but it’s too late, and the hotel burns down.
The Overlook in the Doctor Sleep book
While the shell of The Overlook burns down in the book’s continuity, Danny returns to the spot where the hotel once stood in Doctor Sleep which is now occupied by the True Knot, who were brought there by the powerful psychic energy in the area. While there, the ghost of Jack Torrance manifests and helps his son defeat Rose the Hat.
What inspired The Shining Hotel?
King was inspired to write The Shining after spending a rather surreal evening at the Stanley Hotel in Boulder, Colorado. According to King, he and his wife Tabitha chose to get away from Maine after the success of Carrie and Salem’s Lot and chose a location at random.
When they arrived, the Kings found out they were the only guests staying at the hotel that night. They ate in the grand dining room all alone while an orchestra played to an almost empty room. When his wife went to bed, King wandered the hotel, eventually stumbling across a bar where he was served drinks by a friendly bartender called Grady.
“That night, I dreamed of my three-year-old son running through the corridors, looking back over his shoulder, eyes wide, screaming,” King wrote on his website. “He was being chased by a fire-hose. I 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.”
Where was The Shining filmed?
Although King was inspired by the Stanley Hotel, Kubrick made the decision not to film there. Apparently, the rather exacting director didn’t like the lack of snow. Instead of exterior locations, The Shining was filmed at the Timberline Lodge in Mt Hood, Oregon. For the interior locations, Kubrick had a colossal hotel set constructed at EMI Elstree Studios in England.