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Traumafessions :: Reader CJ on “Room 217”

July 28th, 2010 by aunt john · 9 Comments

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.

Oh God.

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” ?

Tags: Traumafessions

9 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Chuckles72No Gravatar // Jul 28, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    Well CJ, I feel your pain.  I remember sitting with my back up against my mom’s dryer, head between my knees, asking myself aloud “Why did I have to read that book?”
    I saw the film not long after reading the book and, unlike you, was fully re-horrified by the rotten hag.  I think I was actually naive enough to think, when Jack sees the beautiful woman in the bath, that Kubrick had changed the story and there would be no hag – Oh, how I was deceived….
    Anyway – great post!

  • 2 cmcmcmcmNo Gravatar // Jul 28, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    I loved your post – it’s so good to hear tales of other horror geeks who are still creeped out by good old-fashioned creepyness.  I am actually reading Ghost Story right now (way way after having seen and been freaked out by the movie) and man – it’s creepy!  There’s so much more in it than the movie – as with The Shining.

  • 3 Dylan Donnie-DukeNo Gravatar // Jul 28, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    Oy-to-the-vey!  This reminded me of my own SK repressed memory.  Unk L and Aunt J, be on the look-out…. as soon as I get the cajones to write it.  *shudder*
    Thanks for the fantastic ‘fession!!

  • 4 unkle lanciferNo Gravatar // Jul 28, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    I have to admit while taking those screenshots, the hag’s laugh was really starting to get to me! 

    The Shining is a spectacular read. You really do start to feel trapped in the Overlook and I love the stuff with the hornet’s nest that never made it to the movie.
    I have the TV version on DVD and I really want to get to it soon. I remember being disappointed (especially by the ending) when I saw it on TV but I want to give it another watch.
    cmcmcmcm, Ghost story is incredible! That’s one of my all time favorite books!

  • 5 CJNo Gravatar // Jul 28, 2010 at 10:05 pm

    Wow!  I’m actually on KINDERTRAUMA!  I just had a long and lousy day and all that has been wiped out!  WHOOOHOOOO!!!! Thanks for your comments.  I think the reason for Kubricks version not driving me into an insane aslyum, was it was too unlike the book, didn’t involve Danny enough and she didn’t have any teeth.  The vison in my head has teeth, lots of teeth, and much more horrible eyes and I am going to stop now as I have to get some sleep tonight. Shout out to Ghost Story book and movie!  Love ’em both but for different reasons, just like the Shining.  I really think the Shining has much more to do with child abuse and alchoholism than ghosts.  Danny was suppose to be the “key” that powered up the things in the hotel, making them “real”.   I wonder if it was Wendy who powered the lady in 217.  If her unconscious/repressed rage at a drunk husband and emotionally abusive mother and father that did not defend her and her fear of her son and his gift, and at the situation she found herself inmight have been revealed in the attack of the Lady in the Bathtub.  I could speculate on that stuff forever. Auntie and Unkle, if you are every in Minneapolis, let me know, and we’ll grab a cocktail and I’ll take you on the haunted house tour! Thanks again!

  • 6 CJNo Gravatar // Jul 28, 2010 at 10:17 pm

    PS: Yes I had noticed the chapter started on the same page as the room #.

    PPS: TV Version, not scary. She’s not supposed to talk or look like a supermodel in a rubber suit.  The kid was good though, and I love to look at Steven Weber.  Sigh, he was dreamy back in the day.

  • 7 aunt johnNo Gravatar // Jul 29, 2010 at 11:00 am

    Hey CJ:

    You’re very welcome… don’t know when we’ll be in the Minneapolis area, but we do enjoy cocktails, haunted houses, & STEVEN WEBER!

  • 8 mamamiasweetpeachesNo Gravatar // Jul 30, 2010 at 4:26 pm

    It was on TV today and I got sucvked right into watching it (even though I OWN the DVD and this was AMC that played commercials). My daughter and her friend wanted me to LifeGuard while they were in the pool so – alas- I only got as far as Scatman Crothers talking to the little boy.

    Something Im trying to remember: in the Old School days when they used to play this on regular TV before we all had cable (WPIX Channel 11 in New York!) did they edit out the hag scene? Or just edit it in some way??? Cuz I remember the frist time I saw the movie was on TV and later on a boyfriend talking about the old lady and me having no idea what he was talking about (which is good cuz it got me to RENT it and see the whole thing  uncut).

    I never really had a SHINING-induced fear of hotels until my brother in laws wedding where he put us up in a really NICE hotel (hes classier thanme. Im a HO-JO girl!) and it was so huge and spacious that everytime I was in a hallway I thought Id see those two little girls.

    The two little girls freaked me out more than the  old lady.

  • 9 Deaf EarsNo Gravatar // Aug 1, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    Yep…  I’d say that Danny’s encounter with his waterlogged friend in the book frightened me more than any scene in any other book or movie (including Kubrick’s version, much as I love it) – and I think one big reason for that is that I was hitting puberty right around the time I read it.  And I don’t think any movie could match my mind’s eye-view of her coming at ya – DEAD and PURPLE and GRINNING with BIG  SCARY EYES – shudder…. also agree that she shouldn’t be talky, I even think Kubrick goofed a bit by having her laugh.  The TV movie was crap, but I’d like to see a good director – maybe Brad Anderson – take a crack at it on cable, because there’s a lot of good stuff that Kubrick left out.

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