For the past five years Murder by Death—a roots rock five piece known for their atmospheric tunes and narrative lyricism—have played an annual residency at The Stanley Hotel. Located an hour outside of Denver the hotel, which famously inspired Stephen King’s iconic horror novel The Shining, provides the perfect backdrop for the band’s moody brand of Americana.
“As a band we’ve played over 2,000 dates. It’s great but it can get repetitive. At some point I got to thinking: how can we take this beyond just a concert experience?” said Murder by Death frontman/guitarist Adam Turla. “For the Stanley we’ve tried to create a certain vibe, playing on the history of the location.”
From the onset of their residency the band set out to create a spooky ambiance, but The Stanley came with something Murder by Death were not expecting: actual ghosts.
While the hotel won’t officially comment on anything otherworldly, the location is famous among the paranormal community for being really, really, haunted. Below we talked to Murder by Death and some of their fans about their supernatural encounters in the hotel.
Adam Turla, guitars/vocals Murder by Death
I was having dinner at the Stanley with Sarah (Murder by Death cello player) and our friend Jen. We were talking and Jen suddenly stopped mid-sentence. She went white and then exclaimed: who just touched my shoulder? We were staring right at her. There was nobody else in the room. The next day Jen left to fly back home. While going through airport security something went off. Jen looked at the x-ray image of herself. It showed a dark mark on her shoulder. Exactly where she had felt being touched.
That was last year. This year, our bass player Tyler was having a weird dream where he was fighting a man. The man was grappling him, wrapping his fingers around Tyler. He tried to throw him to the ground. This woke Tyler up but he could still see the man. He was being pinned down. He could still feel the man's arms around him, squeezing him. Tyler tried to get up out of bed and couldn't move. Finally he shook free, looked around, and...nothing. He was lying awake terrified for the rest of the night.
Laura Hill, Murder by Death fan
Seeing Murder By Death at The Stanley was incredible. They’re my favourite band and the atmosphere was surreal. I wanted to take photos but I forgot my phone in the room. Looking for my room I got lost. The Stanley is big and beautiful but when you’re full of whiskey everything starts looking the same. I’d wander down halls that would lead to other halls. I got completely turned around. That’s when I saw an old woman.
I didn’t have my glasses on, but she looked sort of fuzzy around the edges. Her fingers were longer than anyone’s fingers should be. Absurdly long. I went to ask her a question. She just looked at me and pointed at the staircase with her long, long, fingers. Then she made a low creaking noise with her mouth. I walked down the hall where, miraculously, my room was. I went inside to get my camera and when I got out the old lady was gone. Back at the concert I told my girlfriend about this and for the rest of the night she made me drink water.
Daniel Lets, Murder by Death fan
I was in my room at the Stanley getting ready for the show. I’m in the shower when I start to hear this murmur, like a tone. At first I just ignored it. I figure maybe it’s something to do with the pipes. I turn the shower off and it gets louder. But whatever. I wipe off the mirror and start to shave. The sound keeps growing. I get freaked out. Is it the fire alarm? Warning siren? I go look in the hall. No one there. I’m about to call the front desk when the tone gets lower and shifts. It sounds like whispering. A lot of people whispering. I can’t make out what’s being said but there are all these voices. Then things just stop. Weirdest shit I’ve ever encountered in my life.
Sarah Balliet, cello Murder by Death
There is a rumour that a ghost protects the concert hall. He used to be the janitor at The Stanley. Apparently he gets pretty grumpy, especially if you're there too late at night. Our third year of the residency we decided to do a ghost hunt with some specialists. The majority of the hunt consisted of sitting in a quiet circle. It was dark and we huddled around this neat ghost detection device. We watched the meters go up and down and strained our ears and eyes for any possibility of spirit activity.
By the third or fourth hour of the ghost tour, I was ready to call it. Nothing was happening. Time to go to bed. Just as I started heading to my room there is this huge SLAM. We all ran to see what had made the noise. We didn’t find anything. Someone noticed that the fire door was closed. It had been open before, propped with a large heavy stone. The stone was moved to the side.
We were all kind of laughing, nervously. We tested theories, replaced the stone and kicked it out of the way. Would the door ever slam on its own? Make a noise like the one we heard? We concluded that someone would have had to push it HARD to make that sound. And, yeah, someone could've been messing with us. But there were no footsteps after the slam. The Janitor? Maybe.
These interviews have been edited for length. Some names have been changed.
Graham Isador is on twitter: @presgang