Stephen King is synonymous with the Pine Tree State. The best-selling author, 73, has lived in the land of lobsters and lighthouses nearly his entire life, using the chilly surroundings as inspiration to build a literary universe. Several small towns in central Maine serve as the real-life backdrops for such famously inhospitable fictional settings as Castle Rock and Derry, which feature in his most famous novels—from It to Pet Sematary—and their onscreen adaptations. So come, take a tour of Uncle Stevie’s famous New England haunts—if you dare.
King moved with his family to Bangor in 1979—and, giving it the fictional name Derry, he’s used the setting for many of his tales, including It (1986) and the 1994 novel Insomnia. The two locales share many landmarks, such as the giant Paul Bunyan statue possessed by the supernatural clown Pennywise. King still owns a home (pictured) in Bangor—and in 2019 he began converting the neighboring house into a writers’ retreat.
The author spent much of his childhood here, fueling his obsession with small-town America. Durham is located in the same geographical area as Castle Rock, the fictional backdrop of the Hulu show of the same name, as well as the books The Dead Zone, Cujo, Needful Things, and The Body, later adapted into the movie Stand by Me—which, ironically, was filmed mostly in Oregon.
In the Stephen King universe, the Shawshank State Prison is Maine’s largest penitentiary, seen in all its brutal glory in the short story Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. The real-life building (pictured) was demolished in 2002, but fans can visit the nearby Maine State Prison Showroom, which sells souvenirs produced by inmates—including Shawshank-themed hoodies.
Before moving to Bangor, the King family lived next to this town’s pet cemetery—King was inspired to write the terrifying 1983 book Pet Sematary after the death of his daughter’s cat Smucky. “That night, after we buried [Smucky], we heard [my daughter] out in the garage…shouting, ‘God can’t have my cat, that cat is my cat!’” King told EW in 2019. “And I put all that in the book. Everything in the book, up to the point of the supernatural stuff, is true.”
Orono is home to the picturesque University of Maine, where King studied English in the late ’60s and served as writer in residence in 1978. (He also wrote a weekly column for the school newspaper and even met his future wife, Tabitha, in the library.) In Sematary, doctor Louis Creed (played by Jason Clarke in the 2019 film) is appointed director of the university’s campus health service, but moves his doomed family from Chicago to a house near Ludlow, a tiny town 100 miles north.
Reprinted from Entertainment Weekly