A lot of tangential articles began to appear on social media recently, tying-in with the hype around the latest film adaption of Stephen King’s "It." One article I noticed included a list of his major works, from the early days of his writing career to the present. It included "The Shining," and rightly so, a very successful book (1977) and movie (1980) in its own right. The article mentioned that the Stanley Hotel inspired the setting for The Shining. I guess I knew this very real hotel influenced the fictional setting although I never thought about it much. Then I began to consider other possibly infamous, spooky places.

The Stanley Hotel

The Stanley Hotel - Estes Park
The Stanley Hotel – Estes Park. Photo by Robin Kanouse on Flickr (cc)

Anyone wanting to visit the Stanley Hotel could head over to Estes Park, Colorado (map) where it continues to operate today. The resort began in the early 20th Century, the creation of Freelan Oscar Stanley. He’d made his fortune on the east coast as the inventor of the Stanley Steamer, an early automobile powered by steam. Stanley arrived in this beautiful Rocky Mountain valley suffering from what used to be called Consumption, now commonly called Tuberculosis. Fresh mountain air helped considerably with his condition and he vowed to return as often as he could. Eventually he built a luxury hotel with every amenity his High Society friends from the east would appreciate.

The Stanley lost a lot of its luster by the time Stephen King and his wife visited in the 1970’s. It was about to close for the season and the Kings were the only lodgers in an otherwise empty 140-room hotel. That night, King woke from a nightmare while staying in Room 217, and quickly outlined the plot for The Shining. The Stanley Hotel became the Overlook Hotel in his novel although Room 217 still figured prominently.

The Stanley did not have a haunted reputation during its first seventy years. Oddly, or perhaps suspiciously, self-proclaimed paranormal investigators discovered all sorts of spooky anomalies in the years after the The Shining appeared.

112 Ocean Avenue

Amityville Horror House. Photo by john on Flickr (cc)

All I need to say about 112 Ocean Avenue (map) is the city where it’s located and many readers will recognize the reference immediately: Amityville, New York. The Amityville Horror, published in 1977, told the story of the Lutz family who fled the house only four weeks after they moved in. The book — advertised as a "true story" — became a runaway bestseller and inspired a movie and various sequels.

The DeFeo family lived in this Long Island home for several years before the Lutz family moved there. One night in 1974, the eldest DeFeo child, Ronald Jr., murdered his family in this home. His parents and four siblings all died from gunshot wounds. Ronald went to prison where he still remains more than forty years later.

George and Kathleen Lutz purchased the home soon thereafter, well-aware of its history. They claimed that all sorts of evil, demonic things happened to them while they lived there. They fled, wrote their book, and made a pile of money. A falling out with their attorneys led to a string of lawsuits and accusations of fraud. One of the self-admitted conspirators claimed it was a hoax that they created as they drank several bottles of wine.

Since that time, the home has passed to several new owners, none of whom reported any unusual paranormal activities. One owner finally altered the exterior of the home and changed its address to 108 Ocean Ave. although people continue to visit. It attracted quite a bit of attention during its latest sale in November 2016.

Bran Castle

Bran castle
Bran castle. Photo by Nomad Tales on Flickr (cc)

Where did Dracula live? In Transylvania, of course. The Irish writer Bram Stoker published Dracula, his most famous work in 1897. It spawned the entire Vampire genre of horror fiction that continues to remain popular.

Most people probably knew that the name of the novel’s title character came from Vlad the Impaler, a Prince of Wallachia. That region of Romania fell "between the Carpathians and the Danube River." It did not include Transylvania. Dracula came from his surname, having been born the son of Vlad Dracul. He earned his ghastly Impaler title when he attacked a bunch of Saxon villages, marched the inhabitants back to Wallachia and impaled them on stakes. Later, in 1462, he had no qualms about crossing into Ottoman territory and slaughtering several thousand more people there. Stories of his cruelty and butchery spread throughout Europe. Stoker read accounts centuries later and thought Dracula would be a great name for a bloodthirsty vampire.

One Romanian castle on the border between Wallachia and Transylvania gained a reputation for being Dracula’s abode. Bran Castle somehow claimed the title (map). Interestingly, Vlad never resided there. Sure, he passed it various times on his military excursions through the valley, although nothing more significant than that. Additionally, Bram Stoker probably wasn’t thinking of this castle specifically when he wrote Dracula. More likely, he used a composite of ideas. Nonetheless, Bran Castle somehow marketed itself successfully as a place that seemed like it should be Dracula’s castle. Good for them. Keep those tourists coming.


Bigfoot would also meet the definition of this article. However, I mentioned the most famous Bigfoot location, the spot of the infamous Patterson-Gimlin film, in Hairy Man.

I came up with a few other ideas too, enough for another article so stay tuned for Part II. Feel free to put ideas or suggestions in the comments and maybe I’ll continue with even more spooky places after that.

Trail Ridge Road

As covered in the prior post, Trail Ridge Road reaches stratospheric elevations as it becomes the highest continuous highway in the United States, cutting straight through the splendor of Rocky Mountain National Park. Visitors climbing the summit from Estes Park, Colorado encounter another noteworthy feature along this remarkable road after they pass the highpoint and the Alpine Visitor Center, heading downhill. At Milner Pass the highway crosses over the Continental Divide.

Trail Ridge Road, Rocky Mountain National Park
Source of map: United States National Park Service; http://www.nps.gov/romo/planyourvisit/maps.htm

In truth there are several continental divides in North America. Some are specific to the United States and some to Canada, with others shared in common. The best known of these is often called the Great Divide, a physical contour separating east from west. Water on the eastern side will flow either to the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic Ocean. Water on the western side will flow to the Pacific Ocean. When the term "Continental Divide" is used without qualifiers it generally means the Great Divide, and that’s the famous line crossed by Trail Ridge Road at an altitude above 10,000 feet.

Milner Pass Sign

Continental Divide

Milner Pass elev. 10,759

The "Great Divide" separates drainage to the Atlantic from drainage to the Pacific. It traverses America from Alaska almost to Cape Horn.

Atlantic Ocean drainage [arrow pointing left]

Cache La Poudre Creek drains into the Platte River which flows to the Missouri, then to the Mississippi, thus reaching the Gulf of Mexico (part of the Atlantic Ocean).

Pacific Ocean drainage [arrow pointing right]

Beaver Creek drains into the Colorado River, which then flows through Grand Canyon National Park and on to the Gulf of California (A part of the Pacific Ocean).

Thus, there are two remarkable geographic features in a short stretch along Trail Ridge Road: the highest point of contiguous highway in the United States; and the boundary that marks the Great Divide. Along with that comes some of the most incredible Rocky Mountain scenery imaginable, worth a journey all on its own.

Highest Contiguous Road in USA

Mountainous roads climb to great heights in the western United States. But which one climbs the highest? As with many topics on Twelve Mile Circle, the answer depends. Does the road have to cross a mountain on the way between two points or can it stop at a dead end at the top? Does the quality of the road matter? Must it be a highway or can it be a rugged gravel path? Each slice produces a separate answer. I have chosen to highlight the highest contiguous, paved highway.

View Larger Map

Within that definition the answer is Trail Ridge Road, a leg of U.S. Highway 34 running straight through the heart of Rocky Mountain National Park. It doesn’t stop at the top of the ridge. Rather it runs for 48 miles, connecting Estes Park and Grand Lake, Colorado. At its highest point Trail Ridge Road reaches 12,183 feet (3,713 meters), just east of the Alpine Visitor Center between the Gore Range and Lava Cliffs overlooks.

Rocky Mountain National Park Vista

Much of the road climbs well above the treeline, with amazing unobstructed views of Rocky Mountain summits on all sides. It can be somewhat disorienting when one stops at an overlook and begins to walk along the trails. It takes a little while to get acclimated to the altitude and physical exertion only accentuates the problem. When I visited several years ago I soon became lightheaded, dizzy and irritable thanks to oxygen deprivation.

I do have more information and photographs about my travels along Trail Ridge Road on my permanent website, for those of you who may be interested.