MovieChat Forums > The Shining (1980) Discussion > Supernatural or just people going insane...

Supernatural or just people going insane?

Kubrick was a atheist, so he made this movie to be ambiguous in regard to the supernatural.

I suggest people to view this movie more than once. One time believing in ghosts and the supernatural and another using reason and logic, that the scenes with 👻 were just a product of insanity. That the boys 'gifts' were just an overactive imagination of a boy with few playfriends.

Which do you think is more likely and why?


tough call on what the intent was; I think an argument could be made that both Jack and his son Danny were schizophrenic (which can be hereditary) and the isolated setting caused their Hallucinations to manifest resulting in full Psychoses in Jack. This would explain why Wendy never saw any ghosts.

But then there is the end scene where it shows Jack had 'joined' the haunted hotel in the picture sort of ruins the ambiguity to it. No one else saw the picture, it was for the audience; I am not sure what the twist was for other than to show there was something supernatural that happened

I am not an atheist but I typically prefer stories that don't rely on the supernatural (outside of fantasy of course); though I do think that things outside of scientific (human reason) exist; I am not sure what I believe about how much (if any) supernatural events occur or has any quantifiable impact on our 'day to day lives'. So for me "The Shinning" is more interesting if there is no supernatural element and it is products of the human mind.


I have watched this movie numerous times. The ending shot 1921 photo baffled me the most, until I realized that it just could be a man who had a very high resemblance to Jack Torrance.

It is also very possible that Jack Torrance viewed this photograph sometime early in his psychosis and it further pushed him down that path.

Or....I kind of like this better... the picture was the 'seed' that after Jack viewed it sent him into slow developing psychosis.


Hmm that is interesting; maybe that is what it was. Just a coincidence that they looked so familiar and this sparked a psychotic narrative in Jack's head. And because he was a writer it ended up being a very elaborate narrative. Good point. I like it.


Wendy saw ghosts during the final chase scene. So we now have to consider all four characters schizophrenic, because Dick Hallorann also said he could read thoughts and knew something about 237 and the ghosts in the hotel. We have four crazy people who happen to be at the same hotel and have visions of the same exact things. And Halloranns grandmother was also crazy because she would make believe she had conversations with Dick without speaking.

In my opinion Hallorann puts a kibosh on the whole cabin fever angle. Because his character shows that telepathy exists in the film, and if that is real why is it such a stretch to believe the ghosts are real as well? Plus he obviously knows about the room 237 hag and we are shown he gets signals from Danny in Florida.

I find the film interesting because it does not explain the supernatural or give it an understandable objective. It also muddies the line between supernatural and insanity.


Been a few years since I seen it; but I do not remember Wendy ever seeing ghosts. With Hallorann you can make the argument the stuff with the "shinning" was the product of Danny's mind. but yeah that might be stretching a bit.

That is true; it does muddle lines between supernatural and insanity; maybe that is one of the things great about it.


There was a brief scene where Wendy either was hallucinating or viewed a ghost (Blowbear scene)

The pressures on Wendy were immense, he son acting weirder than ever, Jack was having a psychotic break from reality and trying to kill her. A short snap with the real world is not out of the question for anyone in her shoes.


Maybe I am remembering incorrectly but the bear bj and then the great party guy, and also the room of skeletons were from Wendy's perspective. Is stress manifests instant hallucinations a real mental phenomenon? I know there is ptsd but that is after a long time of extreme mental distress.


That is a great question, I don't know the answer. I do know that the brain is not a perfect machine, it can crash or glitch just like a computer.

Wendy was near the point of hysteria. A slight 'glitch' in her computing machine could be expected.


"also the room of skeletons"

Then there's the shorter (and superior, IMHO) European cut, which doesn't have any skeletons.


Halloran doesn't really show anything. Viewers tend to believe his account because he is a kindly old man. He might have thought he had conversations with his grandmother, but it could be a touch of mental illness.

Hallorhan could just be a highly intuitive person, a great reader of people. His intuition gave him the hunch that things weren't right at the Overlook. That look he gave the camera might not have been 'Danny calling', but just his creative mind on overdrive.

The 237 conversation could just be like two highly creative people talking and playing with each other imaginations, like a ad-lib scene that actors do.


I think you are stretching things really far to fit into the everyone is a schizo scenario. The film is ambiguous in many ways but it is called the shining and the director shows us things in a specific sequence to imply a relationship between the events. Danny shining while Jack was in 237 and Hallorann receiving the message is a good example. Sure the scenes could be unrelated and simply Hallorann's intuition but then why have them shown back to back?

"The 237 conversation could just be like two highly creative people talking and playing with each other imaginations, like a ad-lib scene that actors do."

But then Jack also has a weird experience in room 237. What evidence do we have that Hallorann is suffering from cabin fever or mental illness?


Think of Hallorhan and Dannys converstation as a ad-lib game, the kind good actors play. A game that they are so good at, that they both semi-believe the things coming out of their mouths. As a viewer we never hear a back and forth telepathic conversation between the two, we cannot concretely confirm ESP.

Also Jack had investigated the room on Wendy's behest, he did not pick the room on his own.

Jack's visions in 237 were a result of his psychosis from seeing the 1921 July 4th picture. Which rattled around in Jack's head for months, his highly creative mind build the architectural story that the viewer sees and joins in his madness.


One supernatural aspect that cannot be explained away is how did Jack escape from the locked pantry unless the spirits let him out? Also, would Wendy and Halloran have been insane too? Wendy saw the ghosts, and Halloran communicated telepathically with Danny. I don't think there is much doubt that the movie presented a supernatural phenomenon and not a mental breakdown.


There are a few theories on Jack's escape.

The long handle he was holding while trapped is a safety handle so people wouldn't get trapped inside. The ice box shown also had one. Watch the scene again, it looks like Jack knows this is a emergency release but is hesitant to use it.

Another theory is there was a small second door hidden somewhere in the storage room.

Yet another is that Danny's sleepwalking let him out.

Just because Jack got out of a storage room doesn't mean spirit's were involved.


Also the scene with Danny and Halloran they are NOT using telepathy, the entire conversation it is not used once. Before they sit down it is IMPLIED that Danny hears Halloran offer him ice cream, this could be in Hallorans head, but the viewer does not know if Danny hears it.

Viewed again, it could just be a conversation by a adult and a child with very active imaginations.


How about the scene where Danny communicates telepathically with Halloran all the way across the country to Florida? We see Danny drooling and having some kind of seizure, then we see Halloran wake up in his swinging bachelor pad with a look of shock and horror on his face and he immediately hops on a plane to Colorado.


You are assuming telepathy occurred.

The viewer NEVER HEARS words or thoughts transmitted between the two.

Danny having a seziure around the same time as Halloran waking up from a bad dream could reasonably be a coincidence.

Halloran was also old enough to be employed when the last murders occurred at the Overlook and knows subconsciously the timeframe when madness can take hold. This subconscious knowledge could have woke him up in terror.


I think Kubrick just didn't want to use the corny and cliched echoey "inner voice" effect that we hear in some movies when telepathy occurs. "Come quick, Mister Halloran! We need you!" Would have sounded like something from a cheap B-movie.


I agree that it is not Kurbrick's style, but the scene merely SUGGESTS to the viewer that telepathy occurred, it combination in an of itself is not proof that it did.

You could also subscribe to a hybrid theory (which is mine) that the telepathy part is real (ESP) but the ghosts in the movie are just part of Jack's madness.


He tells Danny that he talked with his own grandmother telepathically in the next scene and also explains how he knows Danny's nickname is Doc, so I doubt Danny is just making the ice cream line up. The film is called The Shining in reference to the supernatural ability Danny uses throughout it.

There are too many hoops to jump through in order to write everything off as crazy.


I don't think there is much doubt that the movie presented a supernatural phenomenon and not a mental breakdown.

Kubrick, being the true artist that he is and the greatest director of all time IMO, makes his films subjective and open to varying interpretations depending on who watches it, in this case, blurring the line between the supernatural and psychosis. Mike Flanagan, who directed Doctor Sleep, which is also based on a Stephen King novel and is the sequel to The Shining, did direct a film with supernatural elements, which in hindsight is making me wonder if Kubrick directed a supernatural thriller, disguised as a psychological thriller.

For example, the Dick Holland character who was clearly killed in Kubrick's masterpiece, reappeared as a ghost in Flanagan's sequel. The characters in the sequel also had supernatural powers and were immortal just so long as they continue to consume steam that children with the shining produce. Stephen King was disappointed that Kubrick heavily omitted the final events at the Overlook Hotel, so I'm now wondering if he omitted supernatural events from his adaptation, causing Flanagan to feel compelled to include these supernatural elements in his adaptation, in order to seamlessly blend the two Stephen King novels together in the film adaptations.


"Kubrick was a atheist, so he made this movie to be ambiguous in regard to the supernatural."
Not necessarily incompatible world-views it would seem: Kubrick himself was reportedly fascinated by the occult, and a quasi-believer in ESP and ghosts, as manifest from the following interview

He was also apparently fascinated by the possibilities of a supernatural reality, and could be quite critical of dogmatic atheism as this quote demonstrates (regarding '2001: A Space Odyssey's lack of critical success): "Perhaps there is a certain element of the lumpen literati that is so dogmatically atheist and materialist and Earth-bound that it finds the grandeur of space and the myriad mysteries of cosmic intelligence anathema."


I love 2001

But the point I was making is that this movie could be completely explained by reason.

Kubrick was that good of a director, that he made efforts in the movie to do so.


"But the point I was making is that this movie could be completely explained by reason."
I think this is accessory to the deeper point your post was making: Kubrick left the possibility of the supernatural explanation ambiguous, because he was an atheist, and atheists necessarily embrace rationalism (and therefore have to let the door open for a 100% rational explanation of the world).

Maybe all elements of the plot can be rationalized, but I think nothing in the direction and mise-en-scene (from the opening "god's POV" sequence to the way the hotel is shot) does not suggest the existence of the supernatural.

Not that it's relevant to the discussion, but I'm an atheist myself and believe that everything that happens happens within nature, ergo I don't believe in the supernatural, but don't rule out miracles either.


The supernatural elements are real - Jack is freed from the locker by them (Kubrick has confirmed this) and Wendy sees Blowbear and the other ghosts.

That said, Kubrick is interested in where psychology ends and the supernatural begins, and so Jack is often facing a mirror when he encounters a ghost. They are psychological projections but the hotel seems to manifest them, and has some projections of its own.

This irrational, mysterious space which can only be perceived via ESP is Kubrick’s focus in The Shining, just as the mysteries of the cosmos preoccupied him in Space Odyssey.


All things in this movie can be explained with the power of reason.

There is no concrete evidence for the viewer that ESP/Telepathy/Ghosts are real.

Which makes this movie so great.


Not quite, by using reason we can deduce that the ghosts are real becuase they free Jack from the locker and Wendy sees them, and we witness Danny and Halloran utilising telepathy.


Remember the upshot scene where Jack is holding onto that weird long handle? That is a safety the scene, it looks like Jack KNOWS that that is a safety handle,and that his wife is unaware that it exists. If he pushes on it he would have to kill his wife...he didn't have the courage.

Only after sleeping, his psychosis rebounds, gives him the talk that he is not up to the task, does he then muster the courage to kill his wife and release himself from the storage room.


Assuming it was a ‘safety handle’ it doesn’t make sense that he wouldn’t immediately use it to escape and attack Wendy before she tries to escape the Overlook, also he’s leaning on it during the up-shot and it does nothing. Secondly, it would be impossible for that handle to unlock the metal threaded through metal lock that Wendy used.

Finally, Kubrick has confirmed that supernatural forces unlock the locker.


Watch the scene again, HE NEVER pushes on the handle...he fondles it...if he pushes hard on the handle the door would open.

If he opened it he would have to kill his wife, which is why in the next scene his psychosis berates him that he is not up to the task. You add to the fact that Jack now has a bum ankle, and Wendy could easily outmaneuver him, so opening it immediately would do him no good, better to let her THINK he is trapped inside, and use stealth to kill her at a later time.

It also stands to reason that the Overlook would have failsafe one installed for liability concerns.

I like to think that the unusual handle was put in deliberately by Kurbrick, which he choose this shot to give people using reason and do not subscribe to the ghost narrative a out.

Jack also knows that Wendy is not going anywhere.


I’ve just told you that Kubrick confirmed that the door is opened by supernatural forces so give up the desperate rationalisations.


Kubrick wanted to do a film about the supernatural. But the way this film rolls you cannot prove that they exist! The 👻 are never confirmed by two people seeing the 👻 at once. Kubrick's genuis IQ let him film it this way.

Prove to me that ghosts let him out! You can't! Just as I cannot conclusively prove that the stange handle was a Fail-Safe device.

Think of this film as a hedge maze!

You call them ghosts, I call them delusions from a madman.

Neither theory can ever be proven.



I’ve just told you that Kubrick confirmed that the door is opened by supernatural forces so give up the desperate rationalisations.


That is a cop out kiddo! A lazy man's out.

Pretend ALL the information you have is this movie, you never heard of Stanley Kurbrick, you never read the novel or heard of Stephen King

It is just you....a DVR player, a TV and this movie. (A recliner and 🍺 are fine also)

No outside information is allowed.

You have two choices, psychosis camp or supernatural camp.

You picked can you provide a theory using information given to you from THIS MOVIE to move me the psychosis camp to the supernatural camp?

I understand if you don't want to reply, it requires some heavy lifting brainpower wise..

Some people just don't want to put the work in and just enjoy the movie.

But I think it is a fun debate, a war between two camps.

If you don't want to play that is fine...some kids can find the maze daunting.


I’ve just told you that Kubrick confirmed that the door is opened by supernatural forces so give up the desperate rationalisations.


Trolling fun

Thinking hard

Tell you what you can prove to me that 👻 exits! Because I am putting you on ignore.



The proof is that Kubrick confirmed it, remember?