Stephen King's Maine Places of Inspiration
Time to take a spooky trip to Bangor.
They say write what you know, and for Stephen King—who has been churning out spine-tingling best-sellers for over four decades—his fleshed out characters are usually informed by their memorable surroundings. Environment is everything, really. From his breakout horror debut Carrie, to Salem’s Lot, Cujo, Pet Semetary, Needful Things, IT, and more, everyone’s favorite Master of Horror has returned again and again to the state of Maine (where he has lived off and on since 1979) for inspiration.
The fictional towns of Derry, Castle Rock, and Jerusalem’s Lot—where demonic bookstore owners, rabid Saint Bernards, and terrifying vampires have been known to wreak havoc—are all inspired by the New England state. Most famously, is Derry (where the Losers Club battled Pennywise the Dancing Clown in It) which is loosely inspired by the city of Bangor.
Creating memorable characters is just one part of King’s formula in concocting his terrifying tales (which have all sold well over 350 million copies to date). The signature, lived-in, small town Americana vibe that is consistently in his work, lends that extra innocent-seeming panache, allowing his stories to unleash the monsters—and the monstrous underbelly—hiding just beneath the surface. Without it, the Stephen King universe wouldn’t be as successful, or immersive.
So, you’re a King fan and have found yourself in Maine? What if we told you that you could visit the real-life graveyard that inspired Pet Semetary and peek into the sewer where Pennywise lives? Well, “Beep beep, Richie,” you absolutely can.
Stephen King’s Home
Any Stephen King tour of Maine wouldn’t be complete without a stop by the author’s famous home, where he and his wife Tabitha raised their three children. Located at 47 West Broadway in the city of Bangor, the old Victorian mansion looks like it’s straight out of one of his books. The gothic wrought iron gate is the closest any visitor can come to taking a gander at the house, which brings some great photo opportunities.
Don’t expect to be welcomed into the home with open arms. King no longer lives in the building. That said, it now exists as a Stephen King archive for visitors to learn more about the man, the myth, the legend. Good luck, gaining access, though. Getting inside is reserved for writing scholars and comes by appointment, only.
King spent his formative years in the small town of Durham, Maine. And one of the locales where he and his pals played is the cozy-looking body of water known as Runaround Pond. This locale would serve as inspiration for the lake scenes in King’s novella “The Body,” which was first published in the 1982 anthology, Different Seasons. Rob Reiner adapted the story into the movie Stand By Me—which follows one summer adventure of a boy and his friends as they investigate a local murder and attempt to find the victim’s missing body themselves—a few years later in 1986.
Runaround Pond was also the locale for the opening scene of his book The Dead Zone, which was turned into a movie starring Christopher Walken and Martin Sheen in 1983. In it, Walken plays a man who, after awakening from a years-long coma, has grown the psychic ability to read a person’s future just by touching them. After shaking the hand of an up-and-coming politician (played by Sheen), he sees a destructive future and decides to murder the presidential hopeful.
King’s 2014 book Revival, which explores the disturbing intersection of addiction, religion, and zealotry, took place on Runaround Pond Road, the street he lived on as a child.
R.M. Flagg Kitchen Store
You may be wondering what a simple kitchen supply store would be doing on this list, but the answer to that question is in the shop’s name. Randall Flag is one of King’s more notorious baddies, appearing in tales like The Stand, the author’s expansive Dark Tower book series, TheEyes of the Dragon, and Gwendy’s Button Box.
Flagg can be described as a demon, as a sorcerer, as an evolved man who has achieved immortality through dark magic. Flagg is the ultimate embodiment of pure evil and has appeared the most in King’s work. Remember how the Captain Trips virus in The Stand decimated most of the global population? He caused that.
The character, who first came to King as “The Dark Man” in college, has been with him since his writing career began. His villain’s name, though, went through a transformation. In his University days, King would drive past The R.M. Flagg Kitchen Store, which is located at 1212 State Street, on his daily commute. Inspiration can come from the most unexpected places and this, right here, is where Randall Flagg got his name. Add this stop to your list, and pick up a spatula and some mixing spoons while you’re there.
Dysart’s Restaurant and Truck Stop
At 539 Coldbrook Rd in Hermon, Maine resides Dysart’s Restaurant and Truck Stop. After stopping in for a cup of coffee and a nice hot breakfast, take a look at the semi-trucks and trailers parked outside … and imagine them coming to life and murdering everyone in their path. That, in short, is the concept behind King’s short story, “Trucks,” which was first published in Cavalier magazine in 1973, before being published in King’s 1978 anthology, Night Shift.
In 1986, King made his directorial debut in the big screen adaptation of the story, now titled Maximum Overdrive. Starring Emilio Estevez as the would-be hero of the bonkers tale, the movie followed a group of survivors holed up in a North Carolina truck stop after a radiation storm brought all the semi trucks (as well as a slew of other inanimate objects) to life and turned them homicidal.
The Bangor Waterworks building, located at 1 Waterworks Rd., once provided the city of Bangor its electricity. In 1990, it served as the filming location for Stephen King’s Graveyard Shift, which was the big screen adaptation of King’s short story of the same name, originally published in Cavalier magazine in 1970, before being included in his 1978 story collection, Night Shift.
Rats are the big villain in Graveyard Shift. The big reveal in the tale is the behemoth people-eating bat/rat beast living underneath the textile mill. And it was said that the sewer tunnels underneath the Bangor Waterworks building were infested with rats. Sometimes the veil between real life and horror fiction is quite thin.
Much like Stephen King’s home earlier in this list, the Bangor Waterworks building is a location that can only be viewed from outside. It has since been transformed into low-income housing.
Thomas Hill Standpipe
What is it about a water tower that can look just so … creepy? Your guess is as good as ours, but the Thomas Hill Standpipe (located at 41n Thomas Hill Rd in Bangor) holds special meaning on our journey through Stephen King landmarks. It’s said to be an inspiration to the water tower featured in It, both the novel and the original movie.
This thing is large, standing at about 50 feet tall. King is rumored to have written some of the novel while posted up on the bench positioned right below the looming structure. One of the scenes from It, which did not make it into the movie adaptations, found Stan telling the Losers Club about a number of people who had previously drowned in the standpipe. Passing by it after birdwatching, he finds the building unlocked and is lured inside by Pennywise.
The Thomas Hill Standpipe, for the unassuming eye, is just a tower filled with water. But King fans know better, don’t we?
Mount Hope Cemetery
One of the oldest cemeteries in all of America is located in Bangor, Maine and, like the rest in this list, provided a fair share of inspiration to Stephen King’s writing. At 1048 State Street, Mount Hope Cemetery was built in the 1930s and takes up about 300 acres.
It’s rumored that a gravestone for one Carrie M. Hesseltine gave King the notion to name his iconic pig blood-covered prom queen Carrie. King’s debut novel and Brian DePalma’s movie that followed, told the story of a shy, awkward teenager named Carrie White (Sissy Spacek) who was bullied at school and abused by her uber-religious mother at home (Piper Laurie). After being humiliated at prom, she unleashes her growing telekinetic powers on her classmates, and embraces her agency and power as a young woman.
For those familiar with the original Pet Sematary movie adaptation—which posits the notion that a magic graveyard can bring deceased housepets back from the dead—you’ll recognize the graveyard from the funeral scene in the film. King, himself, makes a cameo as the minister guiding the service.
The Creed House
Sticking with the Pet Sematary theme, let’s take a trip to Orrington, Maine where, at 664 River Road, is the house that the Kings lived at during the late ‘70s. Behind the property is the cobbled together graveyard made solely for dead pets that King discovered, thus inspiring one of his most terrifying books to date.
Pet Sematary followed the story of the Creed family. After their youngest child Gage is killed on the street by a passing semi truck, Louis Creed, the patriarch of the family, ventures out to the cursed graveyard behind their house and buries their son with the hopes he will return. He does come back from the dead, but, spoiler alert: he’s not the same cute, innocent boy.
Paul Bunyan Statue
If you’ve read It, or seen the multiple movie adaptations of Stephen King’s infamous novel, you probably haven’t looked at a Paul Bunyan Statue the same way since. The one located at 519 Main Street in Bangor holds huge significance.
Just ask Richie Tozier.
The bespectacled character from It was terrorized by the towering figure, who came to life and attacked him. Paul Bunyan may be revered in folklore regarding his heroic superpowers and inclination to help people, but this one (which stands 31 feet high) just wanted to put Richie in his stomach . And aside from It, the statue gets a brief nod in Insomnia, another of King’s books.
Kenduskeag Stream, better known to the Losers Club as “The Barrens,” is where the young heroes of Stephen King’s It got away from the chaos of Derry—and Pennywise. Regardless, the scenes in the movie where the boys are chilling with Beverly, or planning the takedown of Pennywise, all take place at ol’ Kenduskeag.
Located in downtown Bangor, the Kenduskeag Stream offers a nice place to go for a stroll. The spot that Rob Reiner used in the movie is there, but it’s small. Just walk by the river and keep an eye out until you see a formation of rocks that looks familiar.
Jackson and Union Street Corner
There are many landmarks in Maine connected to Stephen King’s It, and for good reason: it’s one of his most iconic pieces of work. Different from the locations listed above, though, this spot is an intersection. The corner of Jackson and Union Street, specifically the sewer drain at this locale, is where Pennywise the Clown lives.
On that fateful rainy day, young Georgie (sporting that infamous yellow rain slicker) chased after his paper boat. But the water current was too strong and down the sewer it went, leading the young boy to meet the infamous clown and his terrifying deadlights. We all know what happened to Georgie, and it’s this traumatic event that sets the stage for everything that comes next in King’s massive tale.
Head on down to the corner, throw on a yellow raincoat, and play with your own paper boat. Maybe even snap a picture or two. Word of advice, though: if you get too close, a painted face from beneath may offer you a red balloon. Don’t take it … unless you want to float.