6 Subliminal Secrets Hidden In “The Shining”


Perhaps you’ve heard Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining is loaded with subliminal messages. If you’ve seen the documentary Room 237, you know how obsessed some people get about the film. A detail in The Shining tugs at your brain a little, piques your curiosity. You spend some time with a digital copy of film taking screenshots. Next thing you know, you’ve been up for days counting lightbulbs and balloons, feverishly cataloging placement of different water-coolers, looking for deep numerological significance in every time-code stamp. The following is only a select few of the thousands of strange details hidden in The Shining. Proceed at your own risk.

You can watch Room 237, now available online.

1. The Not-Quite Identical Twins
At first glance, the Twins seem identical, wearing matching dresses and always holding hands, but there are slight differences. The girl on the left is slightly taller and has a bow slightly higher than that of the girl on the right, whose bow is tied slightly wider. The two bows are tied in different styled knots so the ribbons either hang open or closed, and these bows alternate between shots, so the open bow is on the girl on the right in the first shot, on the girl on the left in the second shot, and back to the girl on the right in the final shot. The girl on the left has her hand over the hand of the girl on the right in all shots until we see the girls murdered, then the girl on the right’s hand covers the girl on the left’s. Why? Don’t ask.

2. The Black Curtain
In the scene in which Jack telephones Wendy to tell her he’s got the job at the Overlook Hotel, at the far right of the screen, a black curtain is seen covering the entrance, tucked behind a radiator. This black curtain is not seen in any other scene of the film, however we will see a curtain tucked behind a radiator later in the film, in the Torrence’s apartment living room. When the Torrences are first introduced to their quarters, the living room curtain is to the left of the archway separating the living room from the bedroom, but in every scene after they have crossed the threshold, the curtain is to the right of the archway. As the black curtain scene is bookended by two scenes showing Danny talking to Tony in the bathroom mirror and immediately precedes Danny’s vision of the bloody elevator, the black curtain functions as an omen, once broken, seals the occupant’s doom.

3. The Clocks Run Backwards
As Wendy takes a tour of the kitchen on her first day at the Overlook she passes by three clocks. The first is above the elevator as she passes through the fire exit, and reads 1:30. The second clock is on the kitchen wall as she passes from the freezer to the store room, and reads 12:50, 40 minutes earlier. The third clock is in the green service hallway and reads 10:55, one hour and 55 minutes earlier. So over the course of under four minutes screen time, the clocks reverse a total of two hours and 35 minutes. It’s mentioned that the Overlook’s season runs until October 30th, which in 1977 is the end of Daylight Savings Time. Fall back…

4. Wendy’s Impossible Watch
On the morning before Wendy’s big confrontation with Jack, we see her with Danny in the apartment with daylight through the windows and her watch reading 6:30. Problem is, in winter, it wouldn’t be light out at 6:30. Unless this scene takes place in March or later, the only day of the year this could be is October 30th, when Daylight Savings ended in 1977, which is also the Torrence’s first day at the Overlook. Did time stop upon their arrival?

5. Dirty Cups And Other Garbage
Kubrick liked to write disarming memos, both in real life and on film. In the service hallway, there are two signs reading “PLEASE PUT CUPS AND OTHER GARBAGE IN THE BINS PROVIDED” and “PLEASE PUT DIRTY CUPS IN RECEPTACLE PROVIDED.” Funny that the Overlook management would think water cups would be “dirty” and considered “garbage,” and funnier still that the second time we see these signs, all the bins or receptacles have been either removed or hidden.

6. Sell Your Soul at 666
At exactly 66 minutes and 6 seconds into the film, we cut from an image of the very devilish Lloyd the bartender to a shot of Jack taking his first drink, a drink he said he’d give his “goddamn soul” for just a few minutes prior. We’ll just leave you with that one…

Be sure to visit John Fell Ryan’s blog for more observations about Kubrick’s work.