Wednesday, July 1, 2009


In Stanley Kubrick’s “Shining” I believe what appear to the audience as “ghosts” are actually something quite different, visions of former guests from The Overlook’s past. Images we see from inside the minds of certain people possessing the supernatural ability to “Shine”. A very special ability that enables them to see these visions. This is not an opinion or a theory; it comes directly from the script of the movie itself where Dick Hallorann says this as he talks to Danny, “Not things that anyone can notice, but things that people who shine can see". He knows all about the boy’s ability and he's making Danny aware of what he might be seeing during his stay at the hotel. Theses images may appear to the audience as ghosts but the fact that they are inanimate visions is, as I will show you, clear from reading the script. The problem is that, visually from the audienc's point of view, there's no difference between an actual ghost haunting a hotel and an inanimate vision created inside of a person's head - to us they both look exactly the same.

If you think about it we have a dilemma here, why doesn’t Dick Hallorann tell Danny any specifics as they discuss "Shining" in the kitchen? Dick has worked in The Overlook for some time and also “Shines”. He must have seen the exact same visions of The Overlook's previous guests. Why doesn’t he tell the boy about this cast of characters they’re all going to meet during their stay? If The Overlook is haunted by certain "ghostly" members of the Grady family, Lloyd the bartender and a crazy old lady in room 237 why doesn’t he tell him about any of them? The answer is simple and obvious; Dick Hallorann doesn’t know anything about them and if he did he would have told Danny so. He can't tell Danny about things he has no firsthand knowledge of or that he has never actually seen himself.

In the story Dick Hallorann has true character. He never lies to anyone and Stanley Kubrick uses him to convey certain facts about "Shining" to the audience (click here). Just like I wrote in that previous link Dick knows Danny's nickname is "Doc" because he heard them say it, yet he doesn't know Winifred's nickname is Wendy because he never heard anyone say it. He doesn't know and doesn't tell Danny about "ghosts" haunting The Overlook because he's simply never seen any himself.

Dick Hallorann is a true American hero and what he says in this story is the gospel truth. If you believe that Grady's "ghost" opens the storeroom door releasing Jack it goes against Stanley Kubrick’s own dialogue directly from the mouth of Dick Hallorann. Again Dick never lies and actually indicates the opposite in this next quote. After Danny sees the twins in the hallway Tony says this to him:

“Remember what Mr. Hallorann said. It's just like pictures in a book, Danny. It isn't real.”

This statement couldn’t be clearer; the Grady twins he’s seeing aren’t real. They can’t hurt him and like the other visions would definitely not be able to unlatch a locked door for Jack or even be able to beat up Danny for that matter. Dick Hallorann has lived in the Overlook for some time, has the same ability to “Shine” as Danny and he can see the exact same visions that Danny can. He’s also an expert on the subject and doesn’t lie when he tells Danny not to worry. Stanley Kubrick is showing us that the two girls, who appear to be ghosts, aren’t "real”. Danny is seeing a vision in his own mind that cannot possibly hurt him, and the dialogue couldn’t be more precise.

There’s also this from the dialogue:

“You're scared of Room 237, ain'tcha?”
“No I ain't.”
“Mr. Hallorann, what is in Room 237?”
“Nothing. There ain't nothing in Room 237”

Stanley Kubrick is telling us that there is absolutely “nothing” in room 237. “Nothing” is in there and if there were something in that room Dick Hallorann would have told Danny so; but he doesn’t. “Nothing” cannot beat you up either. The old woman is a vision that is not real and something else attacks Danny while Jack is sitting at his desk having a nightmare imagining himself killing his family. And again Stanley Kubrick's dialogue through the mouth of Dick Hallorann couldn’t be more precise, “Nothing. There ain't nothing in Room 237”.

Here we have a movie with cast members that all have the same ability to see visions yet the one who’s been there the longest has seen the least. There must be a reason for this? The only thing that changes in The Overlook is Jack Torrance walking through the front door. He brings his special ability along with his mental illness through that door and he’s seen something in The Overlook that Dick Hallorann has never seen. It's something that Stanley Kubrick barley lets us see yet it's one of the most important props in the whole movie. When Jack looks into the scrapbook on his desk, he knows exactly what all the previous guests look like; the party goers, Lloyd, the 2 girls, the old woman who killed herself, and the putative “ghost” - Delbert Grady. It's easy to pass up this important little statement during their discussion in the bathroom when Jack says to Grady, “I saw your picture in the newspapers” he’s referring to that unexplained scrapbook we see open on his desk throughout the movie. Stanley Kubrick is telling us about the scrapebook's importance in the dialogue. It's simple, if Jack had never opened it up he would never know what Grady looked like.

Jack has seen this scrapbook right from the start of the film and the proof again is in Stanley Kubrick's script taken from the interview in Mr. Ullman's office at the begining of the movie;

“Bill, I'd like you to meet Jack Torrance….”
“Jack is going to take care of the Overlook for this winter. I'd like you to take him around the place soon as we are through….”
“Well, before I turn you over to Bill, there is one other thing I think we should talk about. I don't want to sound melodramatic, but it is something that's....”
“I don't suppose they eh told you anything in Denver about the tragedy we had up here during the winter of 1970? ….”
“(Grady) ran amok and eh.... killed his family with an axe…. stacked them neatly in one of the rooms in the West Wing, and then he um.... then he put eh both barrels of his shotgun in his mouth.”

The script proves that Bill Watson took Jack "around the place" after the initial interview and that Jack knows about the Grady murder suicide. If you missed this little clue in the dialogue you would think that Jack's only tour of The Overlook occurred later with Mr. Ullman and the rest of his family. The reality is that Bill Watson takes Jack on his 1st tour just before Danny has his seizure in the bathroom - before his 1st vision of the bloody elevators – before any “ghosts” appear - before anything supernatural ever happens. In Stephen King’s novel Jack finds The Overlook’s immensely important scrapbook in the basement, but in the movie there's no basement. When we see Wendy run to Jack from the boiler room she never goes up any staircase as the boiler and The Colorado Lounge are on the same floor.
Stanley Kubrick craftily downplays the scrapbook sitting on Jack's desk throughout the movie but it's just as important here, only you might not ever realize it if you didn't read my blog. It's the scrapbook that brings The Overlook's "ghosts" to life in the movie. Dick Hallorann has never seen this scrapbook before and it’s the reason why he never tells Danny any specifics about the previous guests at The Overlook. This cannot be ignored, he obviously doesn’t know what any of these people look like, and he can't tell Danny about something he's never actually seen. He does tell him that his special supernatural ability will enable him to see things though; “Not things that anyone can notice, but things that people who shine can see. Just like they can see things that haven't happened yet. Well, sometimes they can see things that happened a long time ago.”, but he obviously can’t tell him exactly what he will see. Again just like this quote proves,

Danny; “What about Room 237?
Dick Hallorann; “Room 237?”
Danny; “You're scared of Room 237, ain'tcha?
Dick Hallorann; “No I ain't.
Danny; “Mr. Halloran, what is in Room 237?”
Dick Hallorann; “Nothing. There ain't nothing in Room 237….”

Dick, remarkably, doesn’t know a thing about room 237, in fact Danny has to bring it up to him during their discussion. Dick “Shines” and has lived and worked in what most believe to be the most famous "haunted hotel" in history yet he knows nothing about that very special room. It seems unbelievable but again it’s exactly the same as in the beginning of the film when Dick knows Danny’s nickname is “Doc” yet he doesn’t know Wendy is a nickname for Winifred (click here). Stanley Kubrick has hidden this so well by using dialogue instead of visual clues. Dick Halloran can only use his special ability to "Shine" if someone actually says something or actually sees something; he doesn't have the ability to read their minds.

If the two "ghosts" that Stanley Kubrick had Dick Hallorann mention in the dialogue aren't real, the Grady twins and the old woman in room 237, how can you possibly believe that Delbert Grady is not the exact same thing; a vision inside a persons mind that "isn't real" and is "just like pictures in a book"? This comes from the mouth of an expert on the subject of "Shining" not from me. The beating Danny gets, Jack’s yellow ball rolling toward him as he plays on the carpet, and Grady opening the locked storeroom door all have the same explanation; Jack does it himself (click here) because he has the ability to move things through telekinisis. He's also gone completely nuts.
But how could Danny possibly know about room 237 when he brings the room number up during the discussion in the kitchen? Jack learns about the murder suicide in 1970 from Mr. Ullman just before his tour with Bill Watson. He has the ability to "Shine", and after opening that scrapbook he knows exactly what happened in room 237 and with his supernatural ability he's able to "Shine" that image of the room number (and also the Grady twins) into Danny's mind the same way he "Shines" the image of what he's seeing inside room 237 into Dick Hallorann's mind as he sits in sunny Florida, thousands of miles away from The Overlook. It's the same with the Grady girls. How could an inanimate vision that "isn't real" possibly know Danny's name as he imagines them in the hallway saying "Come play with us.... "? Jack knows his name and what the girls look like and "Shines" the vision into his head.

Stanley Kubrick's dialogue proves all this. Delbert Grady "isn't real" and his image is all in Jack's mind, he's "just like pictures in a book".