Everybody loves a good story, especially if it’s a true one. Hearing about other people’s highs and lows is the fastest way to connect with strangers and strengthen bonds with loved ones, plus there’s the undeniable entertainment value. And back in the early 2000s, nobody had a better story than James Frey.
As a matter of fact, his memoir earned him fame and fortune, making him a household name overnight. Frey poised himself to be the next big thing. But as the author’s stature ballooned, more and more readers pieced together the story that James wasn’t telling.
James Frey never claimed to be an angel, but that was exactly why everyone loved him. In 2003, the little-known author bared his innermost struggles and heart-wrenching transformation — a tale conveniently available in hardcover for $23.95.
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A Million Little Pieces retold James’ life story in dramatic fashion, leaving out no details about his fall into addiction and crime. Though many other unfortunate people shared the author’s plight, there was something about the vivid details of this memoir that made it irresistible.
For many readers, the book was their first real glimpse into the world of substance abuse. Despite his promising talent from a young age, James revealed that he fell into alcoholism in his teens. Soon, booze wasn’t enough to keep his inner demons at bay.
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Frey fell into crack addiction, which worsened to the point where he would lose his memory for long periods of time and sustain injuries without knowing how they got there. The author conveyed that he was in a life-and-death situation.
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Waking up on a plane, a confused James met his parents at the airport and entered into the long and grueling rehabilitation process. As arduous as his journey was, the writer’s willingness to confront his weaknesses inspired his readers.
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A Million Little Pieces also took off thanks to the colorful cast of characters who helped Frey kick his addiction. He detailed that his biggest ally was actually a mafia boss named Leonard, who took the troubled young man under his wing.
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James constantly fought off urges to relapse, often with horrendous consequences. In one chapter, he has to undergo a double root canal. Not able to take anesthesia, he endures the pain by squeezing a tennis ball in each hand. James’ fingernails split under the pressure.
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Even as he recovered, Frey revealed that his past haunted him. Though he was previously incarcerated, multiple states still wanted him for drug possession and violent conduct toward police officers. But he had to stay clean and renounce his old ways.
In the end, James fell in love, found himself, and defeated what he called “The Fury” — the personification of all his destructive tendencies. The author prided himself on the openness of his account, saying, “There is truth, and that is all that matters.”
Celebrated writers like Gus Van Sant and Bret Easton Ellis heralded Frey as a promising new author. One literary critic deemed his memoir the “War and Peace of addiction.” But one titan of media really helped put James on the map.
Oprah Winfrey selected A Million Little Pieces for her book club and lauded Frey for his bravery. That bump made him a sensation and sent his memoir to the top of Amazon’s and The New York Times’ bestseller lists.
This flood of success was especially surprising given James’ earlier career failures. He set out to be a screenwriter in the ’90s, but his produced scripts — including Kissing A Fool starring David Schwimmer — proved to be critical and commercial failures.
But for James’ legions of fans, all that was in the past. Critics named him the hottest new voice in literature. With so much exposure, however, came a ton of scrutiny. And Frey wasn’t the least bit ready for it.
A smaller segment of readers couldn’t stand A Million Little Pieces, as it rang untrue and came off as melodramatic. In 2006, investigative website The Smoking Gun looked into Frey’s more outrageous claims, like when he drunkenly hit a policeman with his car.
When the journalists contacted that police precinct, however, the authorities scratched their heads. James Frey never ran over anyone! All he did was pile up a bunch of traffic tickets. And while he claimed he spent 87 days locked up, the cops reported they released him after five hours.
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The Smoking Gun kept digging and learned that much of James’ memoir was exaggerated or flat-out fiction. After the article set off a firestorm, Frey knew he had to do damage control. On Larry King Live, he appeared with his mom and admitted he embellished certain details.
But Frey’s guise of truthfulness slipped when Oprah yanked him back on her show. The angry host told him, “I feel that you betrayed millions of readers,” and those readers certainly agreed. They filed a lawsuit against the duplicitous author that cost him millions.
James never regained his status as a hotshot lit star after that reveal, but perhaps surprisingly, he has never lacked work since. He published a few novels — with the assurance they were not factual — and took on a huge project under a pen name.
Under the pseudonym Pittacus Lore, Frey wrote the young adult book I Am Number Four, plus a stack of sequels. DreamWorks even adapted it into a film.
James reflected that his only regret was “writing about the person I created in my mind to help me cope, and not the person who went through the experience.” But he undoubtedly should’ve known better. Books are such an intimate medium that readers can sniff out any hint of dishonesty.
Decades before Frey’s fall from grace, voracious reader Steve Brown got a job at his local bookstore so he could immerse himself in his passion. Unfortunately, he spent most of the day ringing up orders and re-shelving books. But his heart raced when he opened a new shipment.
On that 1985 morning, Olsson’s Books in Washington, D.C. was abuzz over display of fresh hardcovers. Steve grabbed a copy and tore through a chapter whenever he got a chance. Its author was making ripples in literary circles, after all.
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Steve’s fingers trembled as he turned each page of Thinner, written by Richard Bachman. It concerned a sleazy lawyer who, after killing an old Gypsy woman, is cursed to lose a staggering amount of weight each day. The story was yet another hit!
Thinner marked the fifth entry in Bachman’s bibliography — after Rage, The Long Walk, Roadwork, and The Running Man — but it stood out from the rest. For one thing, this novel involved a supernatural entity. Then there was also the matter of its prose.
It seemed like a ripoff of the leading horror writer of the past decade. Steve recalled, “When I read an advance copy of Thinner, I was no more than two pages into it when I said, ‘This is either Stephen King or the world’s best imitator.'”
However, Bachman came off as a completely different personality than King. In contrast to the colorful Maine-based author, the Thinner author was older and more reclusive. Steve heard some unusual rumors about his past, too.
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Apparently, Bachman worked as a chicken farmer for most of his life before he ever sat in front of a typewriter. He was also severely disfigured, according to some other accounts, though Steve thought his author photo looked extremely normal.
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Still, just like Wendy Torrance in The Shining, Steve was petrified by what he saw on the pages of King’s and Bachman’s books. The similarities ran too deep, and the book clerk swore he would get to the bottom of the matter.
Being highly resourceful when it came to archived materials, Steve visited the Library of Congress and requested all of Bachman’s copyright documents. He scanned through the paperwork and found a startling pattern almost immediately.
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Nearly every title was under the name of Kirby McCauley — a man best known as King’s literary agent! Moreover, Steve noticed that Richard Bachman’s author photo bore a striking resemblance to Kirby. The plot around Thinner thickened.
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Clearly, Richard Bachman had close ties to Stephen King, or was perhaps working with him. Steve decided to direct his questions to the horror maestro himself. He penned a letter to King, outlining his findings. Maybe Steve could write an article about the mystery.
However, the bookstore worker never got the chance. A couple of weeks later, he was hard at work when he heard his boss call out his name on the intercom. There was a phone call waiting for him, and it was urgent.
Steve could hardly breathe as the voice on the other end launched into a rapid-fire conversation. It asked, “Steve Brown? This is Steve King. All right. You know I’m Bachman. I know I’m Bachman. What are we going to do about it?”
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King invented the entire persona of Bachman, meaning that Steve’s wildest theory came true. The author was surprisingly friendly about the big discovery and offered him an inclusive interview. But the question remained: why would a best-selling author use a pen name?
Steve learned King’s stunning productivity was responsible. He restlessly churned out multiple tomes each year, but his publishers feared saturating the market. Rather than hold off on his latest work — the in-progress classic Misery was the current example — he attributed them to his alter-ego.
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In addition, King was curious if his newer works, particularly those that were a less horror-centric, could find their own audience. His first attempted pseudonym was Guy Pillsbury. He immediately dropped it, however, once publishing insiders discovered that was the name of King’s grandfather.
By that point, King needed to invent a name in a hurry. He noticed a paperback on his desk by Richard Stark — a moniker used by mystery author Donald E. Westlake. That was half of the answer King needed.
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At that same moment, King’s office sound system was spinning a record by Bachman-Turner Overdrive, so the author decided to publish those books as Richard Bachman. Naturally, he dropped the act after Steve’s revelation. But Bachman still played a key role in King’s subsequent career.
King’s dynamic with his alter-ego inspired the 1989 novel The Dark Half, and he cameoed as a biker called Bachman on Sons of Anarchy. King enjoyed telling the story of how he came up with the name too, though it wasn’t the only time real-life events got his creative juices flowing.
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Years earlier, the author was struck by the Stanley Hotel, located deep within the Rockies. At first glance, it was a large and well-maintained inn that housed a variety of guests and events. However, the hotel possessed a rather creepy history.
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The story of the Stanley Hotel began in 1903 when American inventor Freelan Oscar Stanley, founder of the carpet cleaning service company Stanley Steamers, landed on his deathbed with a severe case of tuberculosis. Following medical advice, he and his wife ventured out to Colorado for the therapeutic mountain air.
After a few calm weeks, Freelan became bored of the rural living. So, he and his wife, who had a lot of money, designed a massive 48-room Georgian mansion on 160 acres of land, complete with lavish luxuries to attract guests.
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When their vision was completed and finally opened to the public in 1909, people took interest in it. Snagging a room at the Stanley was a sign of wealth, and everyone who wanted to flaunt their finances showed up.
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Indeed, business at the Stanley Hotel was booming right from the start. Though not too long after its grand opening, guests began reporting unusual things happening.
Patrons of the hotel frequently heard strange noises echoing through the winding halls and empty corridors. Many left with an eerie feeling, but it wasn’t until a popular author stayed overnight in the ’70s that the hotel truly developed its frightening reputation.
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Stephen King, his wife Tabitha, and their son sought refuge in the hotel one wintry evening. They were the only guests in the entire place, which was creepy on its own, but what happened to King while he slept truly chilled him to the bone.
In the dead of night, a nightmare haunted King: a demonic presence was chasing his son all throughout the halls of the hotel. Even after waking, King couldn’t shake the horrible feeling, and he turned his experience into perhaps his most popular novel, The Shining.
The room King and his family stayed in was number 217, which was changed to 237 in the film adaptation of his book. But, there was actually a sinister history to room 217, which may have explained King’s terrifying ordeal.
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In 1911, two years after the hotel opened, there was a severe gas leak in the room unbeknownst to any of the hotel staff. The head housekeeper went in, lit a candle, and was killed instantly when the gas exploded. Her spirit allegedly never left the room.
But Room 217 is not the only area of the hotel said to be haunted. Many visitors claim to have heard the music of a piano coming from the concert hall, even though the room was empty. Some even swore they saw the piano’s keys moving on their own.
There’s also an entity known as “Paul” who apparently haunts the hallways of the hotel. He was once an employee whose job it was to ensure guests followed the 11 p.m. curfew. People claim to hear the words “get out” murmured after dark.
One of the spookiest presences said to roam the hotel corridors is a 13-year-old girl named Lucy. As the story goes, she ran away from home and hid in the basement of the hotel. When employees found her, they tossed her out into the cold, and she froze to death.
Need proof of Lucy? Well, this was a picture taken by a hotel guest named Stephanie Reidl. The photo captures what looks like a small girl dressed in pink standing in front of the wall, but Stephanie adamantly denied there was ever a young girl on her hotel tour that day.
Here’s another unsettling photo taken by a family from Aurora, Colorado, during one of the hotel’s “spirit tours.” You can clearly see the shape of a young girl dressed in white walking down the grand staircase; the family swears the girl wasn’t there when they snapped the picture.
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Of course, all the sightings of apparent ghosts and otherworldly energies do little to deter guests from booking rooms. People from all over flock to the Stanley to hopefully get a dose of the excitement — and the scares — it offers.
The hotel completely embraces the fact it was the basis for The Shining. Decorating the walls of every room are stills from the movie and artwork dedicated to Stanley Kubrick’s terrifying vision.
In fact, every Halloween, the hotel hosts a massive costume party that anyone can attend. Everyone dresses up to the nines and parties all night long. It’s a fantastically fun way to honor America’s most haunted hotel!
Both Stephen King and Stanley Kubrick helped the Stanley Hotel become a massive tourist attraction. If the spirit of Freelan Oscar Stanley does, in fact, watch over the premise, it makes you wonder what he thinks of everything…
Are you the kind of person who likes to get spooked? There are plenty of haunted locations throughout the country, like the Shanley Hotel in Napanoch, New York. It’s more than just the subject of some silly ghost stories. What people have seen there is just terrifying.
The Shanley Hotel is widely considered the East Coast’s most haunted hotel, to the point that you actually must sign a waiver if you want to stay there, and they don’t allow any guests under the age of 16.
It’s located in the quiet town of Napanoch, New York, at the heart of the Shawangunk Mountains, and features 35 rooms, as well as a hidden chamber in the basement. Most notably, of course, is the countless paranormal activity reported on the property.
This may have something to do with its tragic history. It was built in 1895, and since then the owner’s three children died as infants and an on-site barber’s daughter died after falling into a well. Several other people have gone missing, suffered accidental deaths, or were murdered.
Though there has been supernatural activity reported in every part of the hotel throughout the day, there is a part of the building that was once a speakeasy and brothel in the Prohibition era which remains the most haunted area.
Investigators have confirmed that there is indeed paranormal activity in the “Bordello,” with guests experiencing problems such as shortness of breath and alternating feelings of joy and sadness when they enter the room.
Other strange events reported in the Shanley Hotel include whistles and footsteps (supposedly from the spirit of former owner James Shanley), laughing children when no children are present, and even the sight of apparitions and mysteriously moving objects!
We can’t imagine how terrifying it would be to spend a night here, but America isn’t the only place to shack up with some ghosts. Near a waterfall in the jungles of Colombia sits a strange sight: A massive stone European-style mansion built right into the side of a hill.
The stunning building overlooking the Bogota River and the Tequendama Falls. Was once one of the premier destinations in the entire country, until it sat abandoned for decades. As nature reclaimed the structure, sinister rumors swirled the countryside.
The building was designed and constructed as a mansion in 1923 by architect Carlos Arturo Tapias, for some of Colombia’s wealthiest citizens. It was known for its great beauty and the magnificent view of the falls.
According to local lore, during the Spanish colonization in the 16th century, native Colombian people in the area would jump off the waterfall and become eagles to fly to their freedom, escaping slavery.
The mansion itself, however, served as a venue for indulgence and excess for over 60 years. Carlos was famous for throwing over-the-top parties for the colombian elites. If you went to a party at this place, you were basically a celebrity.
In 1928, just five years after the mansion was built, an addition was complete and Carlos’s mansion became a hotel. And not just any hotel, but the most luxurious hotel the country had ever seen!
When Hotel del Salto first opened it attracted people from all over the world. The architecture was classic and the views were stunning. Carlos Tapias had truly created a destination in his beloved Colombia.
But in the 1950s there became a demand to expand the hotel. The actual construction, however, was slow to begin due to the precarious integrity of the original structure. In the end, no work was ever done the expand Hotel del Salto.
Increasingly heavy pollution in the Bogota river made the whole area stink mightily. People began to leave the area in droves and soon the hotel was abandoned and completely overtaken by nature.
According to local legends, the spirits of the many people who died on the falls during the Spanish conquest in South America and those that later came and followed in their footsteps, still haunt the mansion.
It wasn’t until just a few years ago that the Institute of Natural Sciences of the National University of Colombia decided to convert the structure into a museum as part of their efforts to rehabilitate the area. Even so, the building is still believed to be cursed.
Who knows if they’re right, but It would still be safer to take your vacations somewhere else. but if you’re looking for the place that inspired a classic horror movie and gave meaning to the term “redrum,” there’s only one Stanley Hotel — check out the video.
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