Subscribe to our newsletter

(Credit: Alamy)


The five most insane fan theories from 'The Shining'


Stanley Kubrick is known as one of the greatest filmmakers of all time for a reason. During the course of his 48-year career, the director covered almost each and every base of genre filmmaking, mastering several different forms of storytelling. From the comedy of Dr. Strangelove to the science fiction epic, 2001: A Space Odyssey, to his war drama, Full Metal Jacket, Kubrick has made an impact on almost each and every corner of popular cinema. 

The release of The Shining in 1980 fulfilled the need for horror in his filmography too, with the Stephen King adaptation recruiting the likes of Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall to bring the terrifying story to life. Famously opposed to Kubrick’s vision, King told Deadline in 2016, “I think The Shining is a beautiful film and it looks terrific and as I’ve said before, it’s like a big, beautiful Cadillac with no engine inside it…I kept my mouth shut at the time, but I didn’t care for it much”.

Shrouded in strange mystery, The Shining, set in the towering, fictional Overlook Hotel, follows Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) and his family who opt to look after the hotel over the winter. Dwarfed by the towering presence of the building, however, Jack soon becomes engulfed by an evil, violent presence, influencing his temper toward his wife and psychic son. 

Having puzzled cinephiles for decades, the true mystery of The Shining is still thought to be unsolved by many, leading to wild conspiracy theories that have long-spiralled the classic. Let’s take a look at five of the most insane.

The five most insane fan theories from The Shining

It’s all a metaphor for a mind-control programme

What would a conspiracy theory be if it didn’t link back to the CIA and an insidious mind control programme? Based on scant evidence, this theory is still thoroughly enjoyable, with all the clues pointing to one skiing poster that appears alongside the terrifying Grady twins in Stanley Kubrick’s classic. Displaying the word ‘Monarch’ in large letters, this word supposedly refers to a code name for the CIA behavioural engineering programme MKUltra.

Using sleep deprivation and LSD to try and understand mind control, this real-life illegal human experimentation program could certainly provide a reason for Jack’s insanity.

It’s about Kubrick faking the 1969 moon landing

The most famous fan theory, and perhaps one of the most famous movie conspiracy theories of all time, is that the 1980 horror movie is Stanley Kubrick’s apology for faking the moon landings. Given that the moon landings themselves were not fake (or were they?) this theory asks you to stretch your imagination quite a bit, but there are plenty of clues to suggest the director had the Apollo mission in mind. 

From Danny Torrance’s knitted Apollo sweater to the iconic carpet of the Overlook hotel remarkably mimicking the layout of the NASA launch pad, this theory has plenty of evidence with the aforementioned facts merely scratching the surface.

It’s a commentary on the Native American genocide

Explored in the celebrating documentary centred around Kubrick’s horror, Room 237 analyses every possible clue hidden in the 1980 movie, leaving no stone unturned. One of the theories explored in the film is the possibility that The Shining is a commentary on the Native American genocide, with evidence pointing to the repeated nods to the Calumet Baking Powder Company. 

This reference to a Native American peace pipe along with the scene in which a tsumani of blood exits the elevator of the Overlook Hotel points towards a commentary on the brutal genocide of millions of natives. 

It’s about the Holocaust

This one needs a bit of context to be entertained. So, back when Kubrick was at the very top of his game, he was working on a WWII movie about the Holocaust, adapted from Louis Begley’s semi-autobiographical novel Wartime Lies, named Aryan Papers. Unfortunately, due to several reasons including the project giving him deep depression, the film never came to light. 

Many believe that The Shining was Kubrick’s way of talking about the Holocaust without actually making a movie about it. Several references to the number 42, a supposed reference to the Final Solution, support this theory, as well as the fact that Jack’s typewriter is German.

It tells the story of the Minotaur

Ending our list is an interesting and thoroughly entertaining prospect, The Shining tells the story of the Minotaur. The Greek Myth of the Minotaur follows Theseus, the mythical king who ventures into the beast’s labyrinth to destroy him, bears several comparisons to Kubrick’s tale that sees Danny Torrance enter the perplexing Overlook Hotel to destroy the madness of his father. 

Not only does the finale of the film take place in a large hedge maze in the grounds of the hotel, but the architectural space of the building itself makes no sense at all, with little continuity from scene to scene as to why the space is put together.