Should a 44-year-old man actually ask for a different room when on his last trip out of town he was going to be assigned Room 217 in the hotel he stayed at? I did. I INSISTED on a different room. Here's why:
One day when I was 13 years old, I noticed a book my Dad was reading, with a silver cover and a picture of what looked like a man without a face. I was immediately drawn to it. Good old Dad, knowing how overactive an imagination his son had, and his son's fondness for scary movies and Aurora monster models, just mentioned it was about an old hotel, nothing I would find interesting. I knew then, I must read it. I watched and waited until I knew he was finished. I searched carefully though his closet and dresser until I found the book tucked in the back of his "junk" drawer.
"The Shining" by STEPHEN KING.
The chapter "Inside 217" and what waited there.
I was still enough of a little kid to be there right with Danny Torrance. To be Danny Torrance, to know that what grinned in the bathtub was just as much my problem as his, and if she couldn't get him she was gonna get ME.
I still have a real problem with hotel rooms sometimes. Sometimes I sleep with the light on when I have to stay in a hotel room alone. The shower curtain must be open at all times. She even haunts my house. Once as I was drifting off to sleep, I suddenly bolted upright in sheer terror and panic because I heard the shower curtain rattle loudly and a thud from the bathroom. Did I reach the logical conclusion that the new kitten had leapt up on the shower curtain and fallen down? No. I was suddenly 13 again and SHE WAS FINALLY COMING FOR ME! I hadn't thought of my dead friend in years, but it all came back to me like I had read that damnable book that very evening.
I am a grown man, I am 44 years old, I know there is no dead, grinning, decaying, stinking, reanimated, corpse waiting for me in a hotel room somewhere, waiting to drag me into whatever foul pit she came from I know that it is not real… no no no no no no no no no no no no no no.
I saw the movie. It took me a few years to work up the balls to sit through it. I was strangely unfazed. It was so unlike the book, and while I am a fan of the movie, JACK NICHOLSON's encounter with the resident of room "237" was not what haunted me. What haunts me is infinitely worse. If I could somehow let you into my head to show you what was in that bathroom. . .
Really, I'm O.K., I don't cower in the face of a strange shower, I still love scary movies and monsters and books. I live as normal (whatever that means) a life as anyone else. In a way, my special shower friend has helped me face many other fears; real ones even, because nothing could possibly be more frightening than her. Oh, and for any armchair psychoanalysts out there, I was not abused by my mother or other female relatives and/or teachers/friends/acquaintances. I do not know why that book and that scene in that book had such an enormous impact on me. I have theories, but I won't bore you with them here.
One think I will always know is this:
If there is a hell, it's a bathroom in a resort hotel where I stand facing a tub with the shower curtain drawn and a shadowy shape behind it, about to pull the curtain back.
UNK SEZ: CJ, thanks for the literary traumafession! I pity the horror fan who has never read STEPHEN KING's THE SHINING! Now of course, in KUBRICK's film version we never get to see Danny's encounter with the bloated hag-ghost. He walks into the room and then is later shown in a daze with his shirt torn. His mother assumes he was abused by his dad.
In KUBRICK's movie the room is shown as 237 because the real hotel didn't want people freaking out about staying in room 217 and since they didn't have a room 237 it seemed a better idea. MICK GARRIS' 1997 television adaptation corrected the room number (it's actually filmed in the Stanley Hotel, the inspiration for the book) and gave Danny and the decrepit oldster their face to face meeting. Unfortunetly I don't think it's as scary as KUBRICK's Jack and hag encounter and I know it's not as scary as the version in your head!
By the way, have you ever noticed that in the novel THE SHINING page number 217 occurs within the chapter you mentioned, "Inside 217" ?