- This page is about the story. For other pages, see the disambiguation page.
"1408" is a short story written by Stephen King. It was first read by King for his 1999 audiobook collection Blood and Smoke; the first few pages were later included in King's 2000 non-fiction book On Writing as an example of how a story changes from draft to draft, and the story was again included in his 2002 collection Everything's Eventual.
Mike Enslin 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 (who has purposely left it vacant for over 20 years), 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 and to not appear frightened before Mr. Olin wins out.
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. He looks again and the door appears to be straight - then again, and it appears to be crooked again (though this time leaning to the right instead of the left).
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 finds a book of matches and sets himself on fire, which breaks the spell of the room long enough so that he can 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 fire. 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.
The Hotel Dolphin, on 61st Street in New York City, is down the street from the Dixie Pig.