What was once an exercise in editing is now one of a few things that actually frightened Stephen King. In his insightful book regarding the craft, On Writing, Stephen started writing the tale of 1408 with no intention of finishing it. It was merely supposed to serve the purpose of illustrating the evolution of a first draft. That is, until it took on a life of its own, as so many of King’s best work has.
In its finished form, 1408 became part of an audio collection entitled Blood and Smoke. If you get a chance to listen to this version, I highly recommend doing so in a populated and well-lit area mid-day if you have a heart condition. If not, don’t be such a bore.
The genesis of 1408, from the author’s introduction in the collection Everything’s Eventual:
“I think that what scares us varies widely from one individual to the next (I’ve never been able to understand why Peruvian boomslangs give some people the creeps, for example), but this story scared me while I was working on it. But hotel rooms are just naturally creepy places, don’t you think? I mean, how many people have slept in that bed before you? How many of them were sick? How many were losing their minds? How many were perhaps thinking about reading a few final verses from the Bible in the drawer of the nightstand beside them and then hanging themselves in the closet beside the TV? Brrrr. In any case, let’s check in, shall we? Here’s your key…and you might take time to notice what those four innocent numbers add up to.Mike Enslin is a writer known for chasing the supernatural. What his books don’t reveal is the fact that the man behind them does not believe a word of it. An admirable trait, I suppose, and one that allows him comfort in the most uncomfortable places. That is, until he enters room 1408 of the Dolphin Hotel. Having opened in 1910, the hotel is rich in history. The history of room 1408, however, has been kept under tight enough wraps that it took a truly persistent researcher to unearth it. Mike Enslin is that man.
It’s just down the hall.” -Stephen King, Everything’s Eventual
The most intriguing part of the story, written or on the silver screen, is the futile attempt of Olin, the sophisticated hotelier and manager of the Dolphin, to dissuade Enslin from setting foot in the room which he has kept under lock and key since 1979 in an attempt to put an end to the inexplicable string of deaths, natural and otherwise. Would you, yourself, be persuaded not to stay in the room with a speech and plea as convincing as Olin’s that it almost feels as if Hitchcock himself is entertaining you with fiction? I wouldn’t. But I don't rattle. Enslin has his own suspicions regarding Olin’s motives and stands his ground… He will be spending the night in 1408.
Here is where Stephen King’s short story and Mikael Håfström’s film take off in separate directions down the same road to madness.
King’s story is a relentless razzing of your senses, hitting even before Enslin opens the door to room 1408. As you read, your body will tense, your eyes will dry out, vertigo sets in, the temperature will rise and fall, you will no doubt find yourself reading aloud or at the very least mouthing the evil taunt of the room, “This is nine! Nine! This is nine! Nine! This is ten! Ten! We have killed your friends! Every friend is now dead! This is six! Six!” And you will lose sleep, inevitably haunted by the sound of a man unraveling through erratic, fractured entries on a tape recorder.
The film, however, is a slow burn. No less effective, and a hundred times more personal. In it, we are privy to a smattering of insights into Mike Enslin’s past and the root of his disbelief in the supernatural, or any force unseen capable of determining one’s fate. Most notable is the death of his daughter at a very young age and the demise of his happy marriage. Secondary is a vague, but obvious strained relationship between Mike and his dead father. No one has lasted longer than an hour in room 1408, as it pokes and prods at you, unearthing all the worst in you; the people and events you would rather forget. Escape becomes your number one goal. However, your options are limited.
Is there an evil force within the walls of 1408? Or does the only evil come from within?
These are questions even King cannot and will not answer.
You will never feel the same in a hotel room ever again.
Let’s test this theory, shall we? I invite you to stay a night in one of my favorite haunting grounds.
The Brown Palace Hotel and Spa sits in the heart of Denver, Colorado where it has operated daily since it opened in 1892. I spent some time there as the friendly voice on the other end of that phone.
The luxury hotel is a favorite of celebrities, politicians, socialites, royals, and tortured souls seeking a place in it’s deeply rooted history. Take the tour… the nicely done, if slightly abridged tours are held Wednesdays and Saturdays. Check the website for dates and times. I say slightly abridged because there is one guest you will never hear of on a tour of the hotel.
Mrs. Louise Crawford Hill was once the queen of Denver’s social scene. Married, but rumored to be seeing a man ten years her junior, she lived on the 9th floor. Her husband died and the expectation was that she would remarry her true love, the younger man. But he ran off with a girl ten years his junior and Mrs. Louise Crawford Hill became a recluse in the Brown until her death in 1955. But that wasn’t the last we heard from Mrs. Hill. We received calls from her room, but all that could be heard was static. Renovations in her room would have rendered the line unusable in the first place. The calls continued until the tale of Mrs. Hill was dropped from the tour itinerary. I guess this was one socialite tired of hearing her name on the lips of gossips.
Her room was 904.
“…and you might take time to notice what those four innocent numbers add up to.”
This is only one of the many stories I learned of; and the many phenomena I experienced first hand in my time at this historic hotel. I simply loved listening to countless numbers of guests on the other end of that phone pleading with me for explanations as they tried to make heads or tails of the sound of children playing in the empty hallways just beyond their hotel room door in the wee hours of the morning.
Think you can handle it?
This is Horrorland. We don’t rattle.
Love & Screams,