Friday, October 15, 2010

Do Not Enter Room 1408

I went to the Southern Independent Bookseller’s Association conference in Daytona last month. Growing up, I remember Daytona as an iconic party destination, a place I’d go when I was old enough for Spring Break and underwent a personality transplant. Today it’s like the city time forgot. If you want to film an 80s period piece, you could do it in Daytona by moving the cars.

Thankfully, Daytona’s time-capsule surreality is virtually undetectable at night, when we checked in. I’m thankful, because The Plaza gave us room 1408.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Stephen King short story or the John Cusack movie, 1408 is really on the thirteenth floor, but relabeled the 14th for superstitious guests. Both stories are about a man who spends his nights in haunted hotels and writes about them. The hotel manager loses a lengthy court battle and is forced to rent the room to the haunted writer. In both versions, 1408 adds up to 13.

If you’re unfamiliar with Becky and I, we drove four hours and paid (well, she paid) top dollar for a one-night-only Q & A with Stephen King in Sarasota for a book we already owned, read, and loved.

When the clerk handed us the room keys, 1408 rang a vague bell. I’ve read the story twice and I own the movie, but thinking about the Reading Group Panel I would be on first thing in the morning distracted me.

On the elevator, I got a kick out the fact that the floor numbers skipped from twelve to fourteen.

In the hallway, walking toward our room, I finally made the connection.

I stopped and turned to Becky with realization.

“Room 1408,” I said, “1408.”

“I know, right? Ocean view!”

“No, don’t you see? It’s from that Stephen King story.”

By her terrified expression and the sudden tears in her eyes, I saw that Becky did indeed see.

“What? Why, why would you- What do we- No, no-”

Imagining the headlines had me spooked; SIBA Booksellers Check In to 1408 But Never Check Out. Real-Life Stephen King Story in the Town that Time Forgot. Booksellers Gone Wild at Daytona. But seeing how freaked out she was, I immediately backtracked.

“It’s fine, I’m sure we’ll be fine.”

“That’s what stupid people in horror movies always say before they get it.”

We stood there for a while like 6’3” halfbreed Hansel and 5'1" Cuban Gretel, lost on horrific carpeting instead of in the woods. Ultimately, the lure of an ocean view was too strong. She realized that in the stories, electronic card keys don’t work in room 1408. If the card worked, we’d be fine. It did, and we were.

It's The Dolphin Hotel in both versions, and this was the sign outside our door.  Yeesh.

What horrors lurk inside room 1408? Itchy towels, a dearth of glassware, and too much trashy reality TV.

Sorry to spoil the ending.


  1. And the sea view????

    Anyway the main charactes never die first. It's always the pretty but dumb girl or the geeky guy........or the guy in the lift, or.....

  2. I think a case for myself as the geeky guy could be made.

    Top floor, ocean view, on the house. Sometimes, it's good to be a bookseller.