One difference between movies and real life is that in a movie, having a haunted house is a bad thing. In real life, a haunted house (or hotel, or boat) is a quick and easy source of income. Tourists will come from all over in hopes of maybe getting possessed during their stay. So maybe it’s no surprise that when you run through a list of the most haunted places in the world, behind each you find a very careful and deliberate attempt to craft the right cursed backstory. For example …
The Overlook Hotel in The Shining is fictional, but based on a real place: the Stanley Hotel in Estes, Colorado. The most famous onetime guest of the hotel is noted Maximum Overdrive director and horror scribbler Stephen King, whose stay with his wife during September of 1974 inspired him to write the quintessential haunted house novel of our time. We don’t know what his wife’s reaction was upon learning that staying in a hotel with her inspired a story about a guy in a hotel trying to smash his wife’s head in, but never mind that. It was their room at the hotel — 217, for those playing the home game — where the madness was born.
“217” was changed to “237” for the movie at the request of the hotel they filmed in (the Timberline Lodge, not the actual Stanley Hotel), which had a real room 217, but not a 237, and didn’t want the movie to scare guests from renting a real room. Which shows how little they knew about tourism, because the Stanley Hotel gets all kinds of visitors specifically because people think it’s haunted. It now boasts any number of haunted rooms, and routinely features on lists of the most haunted locations in the world. It has the iconic hedge maze seen in the movie. Ghost tours do bigger business than renting rooms does, and the Stanley’s been featured on ghost hunting shows trying to see if any of King’s creepy crawlies will pop out and put their undead mugs on camera.
So what ghostly experience did King endure that triggered the novel? Presumably the exact stuff we know from the book or movie didn’t happen (no salami-skinned Susan soaking in the tub, no Kool-Aid Man’s burst hemorrhoid on the elevator, no BJ and the Bear Suit), but the place had to have some history that inspired the story, right? Nope! King just liked it as a setting because the corridors were spooky and he had a nightmare while sleeping there. Then, once the book and film became big hits, the Stanley took full advantage. They even ran a horror film festival for a while, which would host an immersive game, putting participants through the paces of hunting kidnappers and occultists and solving mysteries around the grounds.
Then there are the ghost tours, of course. They even had that hedge maze installed (yep, they built it after the movie; the hedge maze isn’t even in the book). Soon, staff and guests started insisting they’d had real ghostly encounters. See how that works? The hotel inspired King, who inspired guests, who inspired the hotel to start crafting their own legends. At some point it just becomes more profitable to pretend that the fiction is true, and has always been so.