Top 10 Fan Theories About The Shining, Explained

With a narrative that’s as puzzling and confusing as the hedge maze found in the terrifying climax, The Shining has led fans to rack their head for it’s various meanings for the past 40 years. Being one of the best 80s horror movies, the flick is so much more than just cheap jump scares.

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The Shining is so layered with hidden meanings that it even spawned a documentary, Room 237, which discusses all of its existing conspiracy theories, from ones that are hidden in plain sight, to ones that are just out right absurd.

10 The Movie Inspired Frozen


They may seem like insanely different movies on the face of it, but their similarities go much deeper than being based in cold, snowy places. Both Frozen and The Shining feature a protagonist that harms a family member, and they both then isolate themselves to try and get over their issues. But it doesn’t end there, as there are a lot of other references between the two strikingly different, but somehow very alike movies.

9 Kubrick Used A Red Beagle To Insult Stephen King

Opening scene of The Shining

There were a lot of differences between the movie and the book, but one of most unusual and seemingly unnecessary differences is that in the movie, the Torrances travel to the Overlook hotel in a yellow Volkswagen Beetle, and in the book, it’s a red beetle.

However, there is a red Beetle later on in the movie, which is found crushed underneath a truck. Fans have taken this as a slight towards King, with Kubrick using it as a power move and proclaiming The Shining as his film. King even gave Kubrick a screenplay for the adaptation that Kubrick never even bothered to read, which is one crazy development fact about The Shining.

8 The Paper Tray

Jack being interviewed for the caretaker role

Early in the film during Jack’s interview, Ullman stands up as Jack walks in to his office to shake his hand. There is a black paper tray sitting on Ullman’s desk, and when he stands up and leans in to Jack, fans have pointed out that it looks like Ullman has an erection. It’s one of the most far fetched theories that exists about The Shining, and if Kubrick thought that deeply about the paper tray on the desk and how far Ullman should lean in, then he really is a genius.

7 It’s About Sexual Abuse

The first give away that the movie could be about sexual abuse is when Danny mentions his imaginary friend Tony, and his doctor explains that having an imaginary friend is a side effect of trauma. Though this theory is a stretch, it’s the only thing that could possibly explain some of the bizarre imagery in the movie.

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Besides the obvious scene in which a bear is performing a sexual act on a man in a tuxedo, Jack is even reading a Playgirl magazine before the job interview, and nobody knows what actually happened to Danny in room 237. And with Danny in peril, he only has Wendy to take care of him, which is one of the reasons why Wendy is the true hero.

6 The Overlook Is Hell

Shelley DuVall in The Shining

Though it might sound too simple of a theory for such a puzzling movie, looking at the Overlook as hell is the only theory that makes sense of the hotel’s warped layout and Jack’s out of context non-sequiturs. The hotel is constantly shifting; when Wendy and Danny enter a cooler, they exit a different cooler on the opposite side of the room, and there are other continuity errors that may have actually been intentional. It also makes some sense out of when Jack says, “When I came up here for my interview, it was as though I had been here before.”

5 The Theseus And The Minotaur

As Jack has his hedge maze, just like how the Minotaur has its labyrinth, many viewers have pointed out the connection between The Shining and The Theseus And The Minotaur. Throughout the movie, Jack stares with his head down and his eyes pointed up, a similar stare to a bull, and he even does it while standing over a miniature of the hedge maze. There are so many visual references to bulls within the Overlook hotel too.

4 The CIA Mind Control Experiment

Ullman in The Shining

A group of fans believe that Jack’s employment of the caretaker is all a front and that the Overlook is a giant CIA science experiment that tests mind control and causes all of Jack’s hallucinations.

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There is almost no evidence to support this theory, but there’s no evidence against it either, and it’s interesting to think this is possible as there have always been whispers amongst conspiracy theorists that the CIA have been exercising these experiments for decades.

3 The Genocide Of Native Americans

The Main Hall Of the Overlook Hotel

Being easily the most plausible of all the theories about the movie, there are tons of hints about the genocide of the native Americans throughout the whole runtime. There are pieces of art and depictions of Native Americans in the Overlook hotel, Jack says, “white man’s burden,” which is a reference to the Rudyard Kipling poem about white imperialists, and Stuart Ullman even goes in to detail about how the hotel was built on an Indian burial ground!

2 The Movie Is A Mirror

There are a lot of mirrors in The Shining, and most of the when time one appears there is usually an epiphany that comes with it, or at least something that propels the plot forwards. When Danny first uses the shining, it’s in front of a mirror, and obviously, “Redrum” can only be read properly in a mirror. There are a lot of other examples but the theory goes that the Overlook is one giant mirror and that the guests are being tortured by exactly what they bring to the hotel.

1 Kubrick Faked The Moon Landing

Whether viewers believe that the moon landing is fake or not, they have to suspend disbelief even further to believe/not believe in this. Fans genuinely believe that the US government hired Kubrick off the heels of 2001: A Space Odyssey, impressed by its effects, to direct the “fake” moon landing. A blue sweater that Danny is wearing features a shuttle that says Apollo 11 on it, and it has led fans to believe it’s Kubrick’s covert confession.

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Updated: November 15, 2020 — 3:00 am

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