The modern horror master, Stephen King, calls Maine home. His books were scary as much for their inventiveness as their exploration of the rhythms and ruins of civilization, as staged in Maine’s small towns. Modern travelers through this landscape will discover small towns with old memories; revitalized cities, and echoes of their favorite moments in King’s books. From It to Salem’s Lot, we take you through Maine from the eyes of its best-known writer.
Let’s kick off in Orrington, Maine, the inspiration for the book King considers his scariest, Pet Sematary. Just outside the northern college town Bangor, Orrington (pop. 4,000) was home to an actual cemetery near to his rented family home where, over the years, families came to bury their dead pets. The house used for the film, however, is hours away in Hancock, but both look alike. After his daughter’s cat was hit by a car, King discovered a cemetery where the neighborhood children buried animals killed on the road, and the rest is history. Interestingly, King believed the book too dark to be published, and was surprised by the resonance it had with readers.
Nearby Bangor, King’s home, is the inspiration for a town that needs no introduction to his legions of fans: Derry. Visitors can view his home (which looks haunted, and is complete with gargoyles and a metal gate with bats) and see the many local landmarks which inspired his tales: the Barrens, where the Losers Club plotted to defeat Pennywise in It; Thomas Hill Standpipe, where we first meet the antagonist of It; Mount Hope cemetery, a short drive from Bangor, where Pet Sematary was filmed; and R.M Flagg, the name for King’s incarnate of evil who appears in several of his books, Randall Flagg. North and east to Flaggstaff lake finds you at the nearest thing to the fictional Dark Score Lake, the setting of the novel and TV series Bag of Bones.
Further south in Cumberland County, Bridgton is descended upon by blanketing mist in—you guessed it—The Mist, and again serves as inspiration for King in Under the Dome, a story about life when a giant, indestructible dome falls on your town, cutting it off from the world. Bridgton (that’s Chester Mill to King fans) has a year-round population of 5,200 and is often visited by the author.
King’s Maine is constantly growing with his books (Salem’s Lot took place in a town near Durham, where King grew up), folding towns into new stories. Want to really know King’s Maine? The best thing to do is hit the road and see it.