Note: In no way do I subscribe to any of these theories but I do find them fascinating.
Stanley Kubrick isn't your typical filmmaker and that is probably why he is one of the more beloved director's among movie lovers. He was known for attention detail on sets and in shots which often included lots of research on an upcoming film subject and as on the case of Barry Lyndon he even approved the costumes one by one. It's this particular order on his sets along with the legend that succeeds the Kubrick name that drives so many to focus intently on his work. And among those works, stands out, The Shining.
The Shining was released in 1980 to generally mixed reviews. Adopted from Stephen King's horror novel many moviegoers were expecting more fright from the film. Eventually, though, the themes and practices displayed by Kubrick would find a warm reception and the film is now generally regarded as a horror classic. Unreliable perspectives from each character could explain the ever changing geography of the hotel. The hotel itself is more of a character than a backdrop for murder and mayhem. But not everyone sees films the same way.
To some there is something darker and more sinister going on underneath this horror classic. Instead what we're being shown is an allegory for human nature, or revealed truth behind the moon landing, or the secrets of the CIA mind control efforts. And these aren't armchair theorists, they have "evidence" to back their claims.
Native American Treatment in America
Hints at Native American culture throughout The Shining aren't very subtle. Taking place in Colorado the film even states that The Overlook Hotel was built on a burial ground. Throughout the hotel you can see various Native American pictures on the walls as well as patterns and symbols from Native American culture in a lot of the hotel's furnishings. Then again obvious things like this don't fuel conspiracy theories, they begin them.
The first and most connection many make are the Calumet baking powder cans seen in a few scenes throughout the movie. Calumet is translated to 'peace pipe' and often as seen as translating to the audience who can and cannot be trusted. As Danny is first watching the hotel's chef Dick Hallorann who then reveals that he and Danny share the shining gift, the gift of ESP. In the background you can see a can of Calumet with the label facing out. Later on in another scene Jack is talking through the food locker door with Grady and more cans can be seen. These, however, are turned in several directions to imply neither Jack nor Grady are honest men. Maybe Kubrick was so meticulous that he would set these shots up, or maybe it was a prop in the background of a few scenes.
The same chef is also the only character killed throughout the whole movie, who just so happens to be the only minority as well. He dies on top of a few Native American designs on the floor of the hotel supposedly implying killing and slaughter for racial reasons.
All this is wrapped up with the final shot of the film. The slow dissolving closeup of a July 4th party showing Jack at the hotel from 1921. That creepy moment had undertones of American patriotism since the party was happening on July 4th, Independence Day. Were we "overlooking" the deaths of so many Indians while celebrating our newly built nation?
It's no secret that the film was an adaptation from the Stephen King novel of the same name and like plenty of movie adaptations every detail wasn't included. In fact, again as is the case with plenty of book adaptations, some things were added at the behest of the director. In The Shining's case one big addition was a hedge maze on the hotel's grounds that even during production required walkie-talkies to successfully navigate. This addition reveals a deeper meaning to the whole film according to some.
Greek mythology tells about the Minotaur that has the head of a bull and the body of a man who was sealed inside a maze, fed tributes and sacrifices, before finally being killed. Supposedly these elements are within The Shining including the added maze, the maze like structure of the hotel, and Jack's constant desire to devour those trapped within his maze's confines.
Theorists points to a skiing poster in the hotel's game room. As Danny is playing darts he turns around to see the iconic twin girls standing in the doorway. To the left of the doorway is a poster which at a glance just looks like a skier. Avid viewers will point out that in the beginning of the film the hotel and it's nearby mountain doesn't any skiing traffic. So the existence of a skiing poster seems more than out of place. Eventually viewers were no longer seeing a skier but a Minotaur. The puffy skiing jacket looked more like the body of a buff half man, half beast. The skiing poles looked more transparent than there and the way the skier's legs were bent implies a lower half of a bull. Throw in a few more clues like another poster in the same scene with a cowboy riding a horse or in another scene an Indian wearing a buffalo headdress and connections can be made.
What is the lynch pin for a lot who believe in this interpretation is the Kubrick look, a well known stare of madness from a lot of his films. When Jack gives this look while watching Wendy and Danny play in the snow he tilts his head forward, much like a bull about to charge would, and his eyebrows form what could be construed as horns. Then of course there is the final scenes with Jack trying to hunt down Danny within the hedge maze and Danny even retraces his steps to fool Jack. Something Theseus did with string to escape the Minotaur's maze.
CIA Mind Control
This one may have the least evidence of the bunch but that doesn't make it any less crazy. CIA secrets are always intriguing since they are the United States espionage arm, they're designed to have secrets. Among these secrets many conspiracy theorists believe that they have been experimenting with mind control for years and the clues are hidden within The Shining.
Towards the beginning of the film Jack sits down with the hotel manager and the summer caretaker to discuss his duties over the winter. To some this meeting isn't all it seems. The manager himself has a large wig, similar to Pres. Kennedy's hair style, and sits behind a desk with an American flag and an eagle sitting behind on the windowsill. While he represents the presentable part of the American government, in comes the mostly silent Bill Watson, introduced as the hotel's summer caretaker. Watson says very little, trails behind the Torrance's while they're on the tour of the hotel, and when the manager suggests he helps with the Torrance's luggage he gives a curt "Fine." in response. It's almost as if Bill is used to giving the orders, not taking them. And as if he's used to watching everything instead of being a part of his own plans.
Throw in several eagle imagery in the film, one of Jack's typewriter and one on his shirt, and the word 'monarch' on that infamous ski poster which may reference MKUltra, a rumored CIA program that controls minds with LSD. You could say Jack's eventual insanity, the constant changing hotel, and the strange patterns and ghosts that appear throughout the movie are really LSD induced insanity perpetrated by the CIA.
The Truth Behind the Moon Landings
Possibly one of the best theories about this film in my opinion. Theories that the 1969 moon landing footage were faked aren't new and they've even included Kubrick in those theories before. 2001: A Space Odyssey revived science fiction and some thought shortly after it's 1968 release the US government talked Kubrick into doing them a favor. To shoot a moon landing that could trick the world into thinking the United States had beaten the Soviet Union to the moon and within the timeline first set forward by Pres. Kennedy. Kubrick supposedly agreed to do it and used the special effects knowledge from 2001 to do so. And then over a decade later he shot the Shining.
In the Shining there are a lot of more obvious links. Danny at one point is wearing a sweater with a large rocket on it which reads "Apollo 11". In the same food locker with the Calumet are quite a few boxes of Tang, the drink the astronauts like. But that's the obvious stuff anyone could find, where are the real clues?
Room 237 was changed from the novel, originally room 217, because the hotel didn't want patrons to think one of their rooms was haunted. Theorists say there isn't a room 217 in the hotel either and the 237 really was Kubrick hinting that was the sound stage number he shot the fake moon landings on. And it just so happen to be the estimated distance between the Earth and the moon at the time, 237,000, we now know it's just a bit more. Even as we zoom into the room towards the end of the film theorists think the words "Room No. 237" could also spell 'Moon', thus another hint. Even the carpet that Danny is playing on is a hint. The hexagonal shape with one line coming out the bottom looks somewhat close to the launch pad Apollo 11 took off from.
Those hints combined with Jack's meeting with the hotel manager, a meeting supposedly paralleling Kubrick's meeting with the US government, and the film is all about Kubrick's journey making the fake footage. At one point Wendy finds out what Jack has been working on, "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy", is really the moment when Kubrick's wife discovered his involvement with the moon landings. Some even believe the "All" in the typewritten text looks a lot like A11, or Apollo 11. Clearly it was all a cover up and Kubrick was desperately trying to tell us.
The Shining is certainly a creepy and odd movie. The backdrop of the film changes constantly providing an uneasy feeling that something more is really happening here. Every good piece of art should make you grasp for more than what you're being shown. As if the hidden meaning is really patterned around the edges rather than staring right at you. Kubrick was a master at those incredible details and it's no different in this movie, furthering the madness of interpretation.
I find passion, especially about movies, fascinating. These theories and those who constantly promote and look for them are the deep, sometimes dark, side of those passions, border-lining on obsession. They show the power of the audience to shape and form art in a natural and unnatural way.