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The Shining Jack Nicholson Stanley Kubrick

Stir Crazy

The 10 Strangest Conspiracy Theories About The Shining

Go deep into The Shining this month on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Warner Bros./Everett Collection

Stanley Kubrick was easily one of the most visually arresting, ambitious filmmakers of all time. Careful study of Kubrick’s work reveals that the obsessive, methodically-researched nature of his filmmaking trickles all the way down to the smallest details, making his filmography ripe for endless debate and analysis by fans and critics alike. And if there’s one thing the Internet loves, it’s endless debate.

None of Kubrick’s films have inspired more fervent hypothesizing than The Shining, a subject that was even the focus of the entertaining 2012 documentary Room 237. We combed the farthest, darkest corners of the Internet to shine a light on the weirdest, most out there conspiracy theories about The Shining, airing this month on IFC. Which theory do you believe? Read on and decide for yourself. Heeeere comes the crazy…

1. It’s about the Apollo 11 moon landing.

The Shining Apollo 11
Warner Bros.

Let’s start with the most popular theory: The Shining is Kubrick’s apology for supposedly working with the government to fake the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing…despite the fact he was busy with 2001: A Space Odyssey at the time. Supporting evidence includes cans of astronaut favorite Tang on the Overlook Hotel’s pantry shelves, Danny’s not-so-subtle Apollo 11 sweater, and the theory that the dead twins symbolize the failed Gemini space missions.

A deeper dive into the theory asserts the word “All” in Jack’s typed mantra looks more like A11, or Apollo 11. As for room 237, moon landing theorist Jay Weidner claims the director changed it from 217 to 237 because the Moon is “237,000 miles from Earth,” but it’s more like 238,855 miles on average, according to NASA’s website. This Shining theory is pretty far out of reality’s orbit.


2. It’s about the treatment of Native Americans.

The Shining Native Americans
Warner Bros.

An ever-so-slightly more plausible theory than the “faked moon landing,” many Shining conspiracy theorists believe the film symbolizes Kubrick’s condemnation of America’s treatment of Native Americans. The film is full of Native American imagery, from the rugs to the Calumet (which means “peace pipe”) baking soda cans in the pantry to paintings on the walls. Even the elevator of blood supposedly symbolizes all the blood shed over the seizing of Native American land.

Of course, it’s also mentioned the hotel is built on old Native American burial grounds; a piece of information Kubrick added that was not in Stephen King’s original novel. And you know what they say about staying anywhere that is built on Native American burial grounds…


3. It’s about the Greek Myth of Theseus and the Minotaur.

The Shining maze

Though the Outlook Hotel of King’s novel never had a hedge maze, Kubrick chose to add one as a deliberate visual reference to the Greek myth about the Minotaur slain by hero Theseus. The hotel itself is purposely labyrinthine with hallways, doors, and staircases leading either nowhere or to more hallways, doors, and staircases. And don’t forget the infamous “impossible window” in the hotel manager’s office that logically doesn’t make sense with the rest of the building’s maze-like architecture!

One other piece of supporting evidence is Jack’s bullish behavior, bulging eyes, prominent forehead, and slumped posture, all of which make a strong case for him being the “Minotaur” in question. Though we’d argue that ’70s Jack Nicholson always kind of looks like a bull.


4. It’s about the Holocaust.

The Shining 42
Warner Bros.

This one depends on how much you believe in the significance of numbers, as the number 42 — for the year the Nazis initiated the “Final Solution,” aka 1942 — figures very prominently in the film. The number shows up in various ways: on the sleeve of one of Danny’s shirts, the number of cars in the parking lot, the film The Summer of ’42 that Wendy and Danny watch, and the fact that if you multiply Room 237 (2x3x7) it equals 42.

Fans also point to Jack’s German-made typewriter and the image of a yellow eagle, the other Nazi emblem, emblazoned on one of his t-shirts. Though Kubrick, a Bronx-born non-practicing Jew, had actually written his own Holocaust-centered film called The Aryan Papers, he ultimately abandoned the project when, according to his widow Christiane, he realized putting the whole brutal truth on film would be “un-survivable.”


5. It’s actually supposed to be viewed backward…and forward!

As if the film wasn’t disorienting enough, one theory by a group called MSTRMND alleges it’s meant to be watched backwards and forwards concurrently in order to unlock the “Kubrick Code.” When viewed this way with the images superimposed on top of one another, it brings out eerie subtextual congruencies between the beginning and end events with the two versions meeting right in the middle at the scene where Dick Halloran is lying in bed watching TV. (We can only imagine what happens if you watch it this way while stoned.)

Because of Kubrick’s visual acumen, it actually makes for an interesting meta experiment if nothing else, as it shows his perfectionism at work in both narrative and visual symmetry. After all, “redrum” backwards IS “murder”!


6. It’s about Hell and Jack Torrance is the Devil/Baphomet.

The Shining Forever

Jack Nicholson played the Devil in 1987’s The Witches of Eastwick, but some conspiracy theorists would have you believe he played a slightly different version of Old Scratch seven years prior in The Shining.

The concept is simple: the Overlook Hotel is hell and a manifestation of Jack’s deepest fears. But theorists are split on whether Jack merely made a pact with the Devil in order to get a drink at the bar or if the demented writer is actually the Devil himself. Evidence for the latter: the old black-and-white photo of Jack from the end of the film where he is seemingly trapped in 1921 shows him in the exact same pose as the Baphomet (aka Devil) Tarot card.


7. It’s all a dream/nightmare.

The Shining Jack
Warner Bros.

A hotel layout that makes no sense. Ghosts that pop up where they shouldn’t but look corporeal. Supernatural abilities. Elevators of blood. The only thing that makes sense is that none of it makes any sense except in a dream or nightmare where logic doesn’t matter, leading some conspiracy theorists to suggest all of the events of The Shining are just an alcohol-fueled dream/nightmare in the mind of Jack Torrance. Wake us up from THIS one.


8. It’s about CIA mind control.

The Shining CIA
Warner Bros.

The CIA ran a classified, controversial behavioral program called MKUltra from the early 1950s through 1973 which subjected its human test subjects to a number of illegal techniques –- LSD, sensory deprivation, etc. –- without their consent in order to ascertain the best methods of interrogation and mind control. Some fans claim Jack Torrance is one such human test subject for MKUltra with the Overlook representing the CIA slowly but surely eating away at his mind.

Fans point to a Monarch ski poster in the lounge behind the twin girls as proof, claiming “Monarch” was the code name used by the CIA for MKUltra. Or, you know, it could just be the name of a ski mountain or something.


9. It’s about the Illuminati.

The Shining Hallway

It wouldn’t be a proper conspiracy theory list without at least ONE reference to the supposedly power-hungry secret society hell-bent on establishing a New World Order. Fans of this theory claim Kubrick deliberately used symbols associated with the Illuminati throughout The Shining like triangles, ladders, the all-seeing Eye, etc. as a way of admitting his involvement with the group.

Furthering the crazy presented here is the claim Kubrick was killed by the group shortly before releasing Eyes Wide Shut not only because of the symbols depicted in The Shining, but also because he revealed some of their rituals in the 1999 Tom Cruise/Nicole Kidman erotic thriller. Kubrick DID die in 1999 just a few months before Eyes Wide Shut premiered but it was due to a massive heart attack as he slept. Or WAS it?????


10. It inspired Frozen.

The Shining Frozen
Disney/Warner Bros./MKhammer.squarespace.com

The latest and possibly craziest theory (and that is saying something) claims that Disney’s endlessly popular animated film Frozen is actually the same movie as The Shining. Blogger Mary Katharine Ham hypothesizes ice queen Elsa and Jack are “a danger to family members, whose volatility increases after a long isolation inside a giant, ornate, high-ceilinged building in a cold desolate landscape.”

Ham goes on to compare screenshots from both films that do, in fact, look visually similar, including the ending shots of both characters frozen in the winter wilderness. It’s actually a really fun theory, but since Kubrick is no longer around to explain his motivations, Ham and all the other Shining conspiracy theorists might need to –- as Elsa sings — let it gooooooo…

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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.