“1408” is a short story by Stephen King. It is the third tale in the audiobook collection titled Blood and Smoke, released in 1999. In 2002, it was collected in written form as the 12th story in King’s collection Everything’s Eventual.
In the introduction to the story, King says that “1408” is his version of what he calls the “Ghostly Room at the Inn”, his term for the theme of haunted hotel or motel rooms in horror fiction. He originally wrote the first few pages as part of an appendix for his non-fiction book, On Writing (2000), to be used as an example of how a story changes from one draft document to the next. King also noted how the numbers of the title add up to the supposedly unlucky number 13.
The protagonist is writer Mike Enslin, who writes non-fiction works based on the theme of haunted places. His book series, Ten Nights in Ten Haunted Houses, Ten Nights in Ten Haunted Graveyards and Ten Nights in Ten Haunted Castles, prove to be best-sellers, but Enslin internally reveals some guilt and regret at their success, privately acknowledging that he is a believer in neither the paranormal nor the supernatural elements he espouses in these books.
Nonetheless, he arrives at the Hotel Dolphin on 61st Street in New York City intent on spending the night in the hotel’s infamous room 1408, as part of his research for his next book, Ten Nights in Ten Haunted Hotel Rooms. At first Enslin is unfazed by 1408’s morbid history. According to the hotel’s manager, Mr. Olin, room 1408 has been responsible for at least 42 deaths, 12 of them suicides and at least 30 “natural” deaths, all over a span of 68 years. While remarking that he doesn’t believe there are ghosts in 1408, Olin insists there is “something” that resides inside, something that causes terrible things to happen to people who stay within its walls for anything but the briefest periods of time, something that affects various electronic devices, causing digital wristwatches, pocket calculators, and cell phones to stop functioning or to operate unpredictably. Mr. Olin also reveals that due to the superstitious practice of never recognizing the 13th floor (the room is listed on the 14th), it is a room cursed by existing on the 13th floor, the room numbers adding up to 13 making it all the worse.
Mr. Olin pleads with Enslin to reconsider, believing that a skeptic such as he is even more susceptible to the room’s curse. Enslin is shaken, but his determination to follow through with his research. Olin reluctantly leads him to the 14th floor, unwilling to accompany him farther than the elevator.
Enslin’s problems with Room 1408 begin before he even sets foot through the door; in fact, the door itself initially appears to be crooked to the left. He looks again and the door appears to be straight – then he looks again, and it appears to be crooked, now to the right.
As Enslin enters and examines the room, and begins dictating into a hand-held tape recorder, his train of thought immediately takes unwelcome and chaotic turns – he compares it to “being stoned on bad, cheap dope”. He begins experiencing what may or may not be hallucinations; the breakfast menu on the night-stand changes languages; first it’s in French, then Russian and then Italian. After that, it simply turns into a picture of a wolf eating the leg of a screaming little boy. That picture then shifts into the menu again, this time in English. When this ends, Enslin sees that the pictures on the walls have shifted into frightening visions (a still life of an orange becomes Enslin’s severed head, Enslin sees pictures disappearing and reappearing, Enslin’s feet sink into the carpet like quicksand, paintings come alive, etc.), and Enslin’s thoughts become bizarre and incoherent. He tries to make a phone call, but only hears a nightmarish voice on the end of the line chanting bizarre phrases, for example, “This is nine! Nine! This is nine! Nine! This is Ten! Ten! We have killed your friends! Every friend is now dead! This is six! Six!”
Enslin sets his old “lucky” Hawaiian shirt on fire while still wearing it which breaks the spell of the room long enough for him to escape. As he collapses, on fire, outside the room, another hotel guest who is getting ice from the ice machine sees him and is able to put out the flames. The other guest looks inside the room and something about it is tempting him to enter, but Enslin warns him not to. When Enslin mentions that the room is “haunted,” the door to 1408 slams shut.
In the aftermath, Enslin gives up writing. He has various problems stemming from his night in the room. These include sleeping with the lights on “so I always know where I am when I wake up from the bad dreams”, removing the house’s phones and closing the curtains at sunset, because he cannot stand the shade of yellow-orange that reminds him of 1408 before he saved himself.
1408 is a 2007 American psychological horror film based on Stephen King’s 1999 short story of the same name. It is directed by Swedish director Mikael Håfström and stars John Cusack, Samuel L. Jackson, and Mary McCormack. The film was released in the United States on June 22, 2007, although July 13 is mentioned as the release date on the website.
Mike Enslin (John Cusack) is a cynical, skeptical author who, after the death of his daughter Katie (Jasmine Jessica Anthony), writes books appraising supernatural events in which he has no belief. After his latest book, he receives an anonymous postcard depicting The Dolphin, a hotel on Lexington Avenue in New York City bearing the message, “Don’t enter 1408.” Viewing this as a challenge, Mike forces the hotel to allow him to book the room, referencing a law that any hotel room in New York can be requested as long as it meets safety standards. The hotel manager, Gerald Olin (Samuel L. Jackson) tries to dissuade Mike from checking into the room, explaining that 56 people have died in the room over the past 95 years, and that no one has lasted more than an hour inside it. Mike, who does not believe in the paranormal, insists on staying in the room, and asks Olin if he thinks it is haunted; Olin replies that it is “evil” rather than haunted.
Once inside the room, Mike describes on his mini-cassette recorder the room’s dull appearance and its unimpressive lack of supernatural phenomena. During his examination, the clock radio starts playing “We’ve Only Just Begun”. Mike assumes that Olin is playing a trick to scare him. At 8:07, the song plays again and the clock’s digital display changes to a countdown starting from “60:00”. Mike experiences a series of supernatural events. A window sash slams down on his hand, the hotel operator calls about food he didn’t order, and spectral manifestations of the room’s past victims and members of his family, particularly his daughter, appear on the TV set. Mike’s attempts to leave the room are in vain; the doorknob breaks off, climbing through the air ducts prompts an attack from the corpse of a former room victim, and climbing onto the window ledge reveals the windows of the other rooms have disappeared.
Mike uses his laptop to contact his estranged wife, Lily (Mary McCormack), but the sprinkler system short circuits his laptop. The room temperature drops to subzero when the laptop suddenly begins to work again, and Lily tells him the police have entered 1408, but the room is empty. A doppelgänger of Mike appears in a video chat window and urges Lily to come to the hotel herself; it gives Mike a diabolical smile. The room shakes violently and Mike breaks a picture of a ship in a storm. Water pours from the broken picture, flooding the room. He surfaces on a beach and relives a surfing accident seen earlier in the film. His life continues from this point, and he reconciles with Lily.
Eventually he assumes his experience in 1408 was just a dream. Lily persuades him to write a book about it. When visiting the post office to send the manuscript to his publisher, he recognizes members of a construction crew as the Dolphin Hotel staff. They destroy the post office walls, revealing Mike is still trapped in 1408. A vision of his deceased daughter Katie appears to Mike, and after some reluctance he embraces her; she crumbles to dust. The clock radio begins playing “We’ve Only Just Begun” again, and Mike looks for it in the rubble. It counts down the final seconds. When the countdown ends, the room is suddenly restored to normal, and the clock radio resets itself to 60:00.
The “hotel operator” calls Mike again. When Mike begs to be released, she informs him that he can relive the hour over and over again, or use their “express checkout system”; A hangman’s noose appears and Mike has a vision of himself hanged, but he refuses to kill himself. Mike improvises a Molotov cocktail from a bottle of cognac given to him by Olin, and sets the room on fire. The fire alarm sounds, the hotel is evacuated, and Lily is prevented from entering. Mike breaks a window, causing a backdraft. Mike lies down upon the floor and covers his ears. A group of firefighters enter the room and drag Mike out before the room collapses on them. Mike tells the firefighters, “Don’t go in that room… It’s evil.”
Mike and Lily move to Los Angeles, California. They are unpacking as Lily moves about the house. Mike begins to think again that his experiences were just a bad dream. He finds his tape recorder in a box and plays it. The sound of Mike’s encounter with Katie is on the tape. Lily and Mike realize that the ordeal was real.
In addition to the ending that appears in the theatrical release version, three other endings were shot. None of the four endings match the ending of King’s original short story.
Test audience ending #1
Director Mikael Håfström said that the ending for 1408 was reshot because test audiences felt that the original ending was too much of a “downer”. This first alternate ending was used in the theatrical release. The original discarded ending had Mike dying in the fire, but happy to see the room destroyed. During Mike’s funeral, Olin approaches Lily and Sam. He unsuccessfully attempts to give her a box of Mike’s possessions, including the tape recorder. Olin claims that the room was successfully destroyed and that it will no longer hurt anyone else. He later listens to the recording in his car, and becomes visibly upset when he hears Katie’s voice on the tape. He looks in the car mirror and sees a vision of Enslin’s burnt corpse in the back seat. Olin places the tape recorder back in the box and drives off. The final scene is of the gutted room, where an apparition of Mike looks out the window while smoking a cigarette. He hears his daughter calling his name, and disappears as he walks toward her. A door is heard closing and the scene fades to black.
This ending is the default ending on the Blu-ray release and two-disc collector’s edition. Canadian networks Space and The Movie Network, and U.S. network FX broadcast this version of the film, but Space broadcast the theatrical ending on July 23, 2012. This ending is also used on the U.K. and Australian DVDs, and the U.S. iTunes and Netflix versions of the film. The incentive for filming three alternate endings was based on the director’s belief that King’s intention, in his original novel, was to leave the conclusion of his novel ambiguous.
Test audience ending #2
Another ending uses elements from both the theatrical ending and the discarded original ending. Mike dies in the fire; afterwards Olin remarks, “Well done, Enslin. Well done.” Instead of the funeral scene, the sounds of a funeral are dubbed over establishing shots of Los Angeles. Lily and Sam sort through Mike’s effects in Lily’s new home. Sam says, “Well, at least he went out in a blaze.” Lily gives him a look of disapproval. Sam returns to his New York office, sorts through his mail, and discovers the manuscript that Mike wrote about Room 1408, written after Mike thought he had awakened from a dream. As Sam reads the story, audio from Mike’s experiences in the room is heard. In a final scene, Sam’s office doors slam shut and Mike’s father’s voice says, “As I was, you are. As I am, you will be.”
Test audience ending #3
In a third alternate ending, Mike survives and moves to Los Angeles with Lily. When he plays the tape of Katie’s voice from 1408, Lily does not hear it. Mike closes his eyes and clutches the tape recorder preciously to his chest, not telling Lily about what he heard.