Stephen King is one of the most prolific fiction writers in history. Since his first novel, Carrie, was published in 1974, King has written 59 novels, 10 short story collections, and five non-fiction books. At the age of 71, King is still working just as hard, having published two more novels in 2018: The Outsider and Elevation. One commonality that an through King’s earlier work was the setting, a town in Maine called Castle Rock. It was in the town of Castle Rock that most of King’s stories took place, and all of them occurred in the same fictional universe. Stephen King basically formulated the idea of the shared universe before anyone had even thought about doing the same thing with films and TV shows. It only made sense then for a show like Castle rock to come into being.
While the story of the series itself is not based on any singular Stephen King story, it is an amalgamation of many of his works. Castle Rock contains plot elements, characters, settings, and themes that are consistent throughout the Stephen King canon, and the writers of the show utilize King’s considerable bibliography to tell a brand new story. Throughout the series, there are hints, name drops, and various visual references to King’s works, indicating that the events of Castle Rock are happening within the larger Stephen King universe. If you’re a huge fan of Stephen King and watched the series, you might have already picked up on any of these 20 Castle Rock easter eggs (spoilers ahead).
20. SHERIFF ALAN PANGBORN (NEEDFUL THINGS)
Ably played by Scott Glenn, Alan Pangborn is the sheriff who first finds Henry Deaver in the very opening scene of Castle Rock. However, Alan Pangborn is not a new character created for the show. He originally appeared in what King considered to be the final Castle Rock story, the novel Needful Things.
In Needful Things, a shop opens up in the town of Castle Rock that seems to have something for everyone in the town. However, the rare items come at a great cost, and Sheriff Pangborn must do everything he can to keep his town from descending into chaos. The premise of the book was also the basis for a Rick and Morty episode.
19. WARDEN NORTON’S STORY (THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION)
Also featured at the very beginning of Castle Rock is the infamous Shawshank prison, located not far outside of the titular town. When we first arrive there, the new warden is being welcomed into the building after the untimely exit of the last Warden. One of the guards showing her around mentions that she could “still see the bullet hole where Warden Norton –” before he is cut off.
This is, of course, a reference to Samual Norton, the villainous warden portrayed by Bob Gunton in The Shawshank Redemption. Norton counted on wrongly imprisoned Andy Dufresne to take care of his less than legal financials. However, Dufresne exposes Norton and the rest of the Shawshank staff. Rather than being arrested, Norton makes a different choice.
18. THE TRAIN TRACKS (THE BODY)
The second episode of Castle Rock features narration from Dale Lacy, the former warden of Shawshank prison. Lacy’s narration is full of easter eggs, but one of the most memorable ones goes by in a single line. At one point, Lacy is recounting the tragedy of a high school mascot when he says “It was the fall after they found that boy’s body out by the train tracks.”
This is of course a reference to one of King’s early novellas, entitled The Body, which also took place in Castle Rock. The story follows a group of four boys in the summer of 1960 who set out to find the body of a boy who disappeared from town. The novella was adapted into the movie Stand By Me.
17. JACKIE TORRANCE (THE SHINING)
Even the most casual Stephen King fan might have picked up on the big name drop with Jane Levy’s character, introduced in the second episode of Castle Rock. The name “Jackie Torrance” is thinly veiled reference to the character of Jack Torrance, who was driven to madness and ended up terrorizing his son and wife in The Shining.
It is also revealed later on that the name is not just fan service. Jackie is actually related to the Torrance family, and her real name is Diane. However, she changed it to Jackie, after her infamous uncle, mostly to make her parents mad. She is also seen writing a book at the end of the season entitled “Overlooked,” which is also a nod to the Overlook Hotel, where the Torrance family stayed.
16. DIGGING UP THE DOG (PET SEMETARY)
In the second episode of Castle Rock, Henry Deaver catches Alan Pangborn digging up a neighborhood dog that he had buried earlier. This was due to a claim by Ruth Deaver that she had seen the dog, even after it was already gone. This comes pretty close to being the exact premise of Pet Semetary.
In that story, a family discovers that after animals (or pets) are buried in a nearby pet cemetary (misspelled ‘semetary’ on the sign outside of it), they come back to life. However, after tragedy befalls the family, they discover that when things come back from the pet semetary, they are not the same as they once were.
15. MASKED CHILD TRIAL (CHILDREN OF THE CORN)
In Castle Rock‘s third episode, the character of Molly, played by Melanie Lynskey, stumbles upon a rudimentary courtroom, presided over by children in crudely drawn and colored masks. One of the children tells Molly “Our moms are out drunk, but our dads are in Shawshank.”
While this may be a looser connection, the scene echoes one of King’s early short stories. In Children of the Corn, a couple’s car breaks down in a town that seems to be abandoned, though they quickly discover that only the adults are gone, having been sacrificed to a monster in the cornstalks by the children, who hold a similar tribunal.
14. 27 YEARS (IT)
When Henry Deaver first reappears in the middle of a frozen lake to be rescued by Sheriff Pangborn, he is about 12 years old. It is later mentioned that his current age is 39 and it is also revealed that Sheriff Pangborn found The Kid in Warden Lacy’s trunk 27 years ago. The time period of 27 years is significant as it pertains to how often the monster from IT emerges.
The creature, often disguised as Pennywise the Dancing Clown, is only able to resurface and hunt children every 27 years. Is it possible that The Kid is another manifestation of this evil force? Knowing how many connections there are to other King works, it is possible. The town of Derry, where IT takes place, is also only a few miles outside of Castle Rock.
13. JUNIPER HILL PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITAL (VARIOUS BOOKS)
One of the most consistent settings in Stephen King’s books, outside of the town of Castle Rock itself, is that of the Juniper Hill Psychiatric Hospital. In Castle Rock, The Kid is sent there, but escapes shortly after. He’s just one of many different King characters to spend time at or escape from Juniper Hill.
Henry Bowers, the sadistic bully from IT finds himself an inmate of the hospital in that novel, though he eventually escapes with help from Pennywise. Likewise, the hospital was also home to Nettie Cobb from Needful Things and Charles Pickering in Insomnia. The hospital has also been mentioned in 11/22/63, The Dark Half, and Bag of Bones.
12. BRINGING UP THE STRANGLER (THE DEAD ZONE)
As a real estate agent, it’s important for the character of Molly Strand to be good at what she does, which is selling houses. That might prove to be difficult for most people in a town as creepy as Castle Rock, but Molly is very convincing. At one point she tells a potential buyer of the Lacy house that a strangler with “mommy issues” met his end in her house, and she “sleeps like a baby!”
This is a pretty obvious reference to Frank Dodd, also known as the Bangor Strangler, a character from King’s book The Dead Zone. In that story, Dodd is found out by the main character, who uses his clairvoyance to reveal that Dodd, who works as a Sheriff’s deputy, is the Strangler.
11. THE RABID DOG (CUJO)
Among the references to King’s early work is one that appears a s a newspaper headline which reads “Rabid Dog Tears Through Town.” This is, of course, a winking reference to King’s novel Cujo, in which a rabid dog terrorizes a woman and her young son. Cujo also takes place in the town of Castle Rock.
The difference here, however, is that Cujo does not just run amok through the town, attacking the residents of Castle Rock. Instead, Cujo is more of a claustrophobic thriller, as the mother and her son are trapped inside of a broken down car on a hot day, while Cujo, a rabid St. Bernard, waits for them to come out.
10. OPENING CREDITS EXCERPTS (VARIOUS BOOKS)
Castle Rock is based on books written by Stephen King, so it’s only fitting that the opening credits of the show should include some quick shots of pages form his work. In quick flashes, you can see pages from The Green Mile, Salem’s Lot, Misery, and The Shining. It appears that someone has gone through the books with a pen to take notes.
That begs the question: does Castle Rock somehow exist in a realm where King’s works are real? At one point, whoever is poring over these pages comes across the number 217 and crosses it out, replacing it with 237. Both are references to the most haunted room in the Overlook Hotel of The Shining. The number was changed, however, in Kubrick’s film.
9. MOZART’S “SULL’ARIA” (THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION)
Right before Warden Lacy drives his car over the cliff in the opening moments of Castle Rock, he is listening to a piece of classical music. Anyone who is fond of The Shawshank Redemption will recognize it right away as “Sull’aria” from Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, which Andy Dufresne plays over the prison speakers.
This small act of defiance leads Andy to be put in solitary confinement, however the look of pure satisfaction on his face as he turns up the volume is priceless. That it should be used again right before such a pivotal moment is, like the scene in the film, a reminder that in King’s work, beauty is often undercut by tragedy.
8. THE MELLOW TIGER AND NAN’S LUNCHEONETTE (VARIOUS BOOKS)
One of the main hangouts for the characters in Castle Rock is the Mellow Tiger, a bar that has appeared in several of King’s works set in Castle Rock. However, another location that features as a location in Castle Rock is Nan’s Luncheonette. Like the Mellow Tiger, Nan’s is a prominent location in Castle Rock.
Nan’s Luncheonette appears as a setting in The Dark Half, Needful Things, and IT, and also in the King short story The Sun Dog. It’s a popular hangout for the residents of Castle Rock, maybe because it seems like it offers a refuge from the unspeakable things that are going on practically all the time there.
7. JACKIE SWINGS AN AXE (THE SHINING)
As soon as the name “Jackie Torrance” is said in Castle Rock, the audience knows they are in for some serious connections to The Shining. Even the jacket worn by Jane Levy recalls the 70s, which was when The Shining was first written. Viewers finally got what they were waiting for in episode eight of Castle rock when Jackie uses an axe to save Henry from Gordon.
It doesn’t really get more on the nose than that moment, seeing a member of the Torrance family wielding an axe. It recalls Jack Torrance’s rampage through the Overlook Hotel. However, he only used an axe in the film version of The Shining, whereas in the book Jack was using a croquet mallet.
6. BEWARE THE BIRDS (THE DARK HALF)
There are a couple of moments in Castle Rock that feature birds prominently. Whenever Henry or Molly find themselves in the weird space between time periods (which also recalls an element from King’s books), they see a sky filled with birds. In a moment that’s more Hitchcock than King, Henry’s car is attacked by birds.
These moments recall King’s novel The Dark Half, where a violent flock of sparrows play a key role in the conclusion of the story. It’s possible that King’s inspiration was partly Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, but sparrows are also in some cultures considered ‘psychopomps,’ creatures that guide souls to another realm.
5. LEANNE CHAMBERS (THE BODY, THE DARK TOWER)
When we first meet Henry Deaver in the first episode of Castle Rock, he is working as a defense attorney. His client is Leanne Chambers, an elderly woman who is on trial. While she is an original character to the show, her last name could end up ringing a bell for some of Stephen King’s more devoted fans.
‘Chambers’ is a surname shared by two major King characters. The fist is Chris Chambers, the troubled young man who is one of the four boys who set out to find a body in The Body. That story also features Chris’s older brother, Richard. ‘Chambers’ is also the last name of Jake, one of the main characters in King’s The Dark Tower series.
4. THE MULTIVERSE (THE DARK TOWER)
At several points in Castle Rock, while wandering through the woods, characters encounter a wavering, bubble like disturbance in the atmosphere, later referred to as “the schisma.” When wandering through this temporal anamoly, the characters appear to be able to see through time. Then comes the reveal that The Kid is actually (or maybe he’s lying?) Henry Deaver from an alternate universe.
All of this sounds confusing but it recalls one of King’s greatest works in the Dark Tower series. That set of books spans multiple universes that are all similar, but different in small ways (one of which even includes a fictional version of Stephen King). Some people, such as Randall Flagg, who appears as a villain in The Stand, have learned how to travel though universes, and it is possible The Kid has done the same.
3. SISSY SPACEK (CARRIE)
Sissy Spacek is an incredible actress, and her performance as Ruth Deaver in Castle Rock is pitch perfect. Deaver serves as a focal point of the series, with her dementia leading her to reveal some of the more unsavory parts of the town’s history. Spacek seems perfectly comfortable in the role, as she should. This is, after all, her second time working in the world of Stephen King.
Spacek also played the eponymous young girl with telekinetic abilities in Carrie. Back then, Spacek embodied the innocence of Carrie White, while also imbuing her with tragedy and emotion. Carrie was directed by Brian De Palma, and was the first of many Stephen King works to be adapted into film.
2. BILL SKARSGARD (IT)
Another former Stephen King player (although this one much more recent) to return to King’s world is Bill Skarsgard. Skarsgard plays a character known at first as The Kid, however he is later revealed to be an alternate version of Henry Deaver. This is a much more subdued, though equally sinister role Skarsgard’s first foray into King’s world as Pennywise in IT.
Speaking with Variety, Skarsgard said of taking another role in a Stephen King project “Going into it was a bit of a concern, but the material and the project itself just convinced me, and it was very clear it was completely different than what I just did.” Bill Skarsgard will soon be reprising his role as Pennywise in IT: Chapter Two.
1. THE CRIMSON KING (THE DARK TOWER)
Ruth Deaver is more than she appears in Castle Rock. Despite the fact that she appears to have dementia, it actually seems that she has memories of all the alternate realities that exist in the series. This is why she uses chess pieces to tether herself to her current reality. One of those chess pieces, rather deliberately, is a red king.
The main antagonist in King’s Dark Tower series is the Crimson King, a malevolent being who wishes to bring down the Dark Tower, a structure that is the focal point for all universes and holds the m all together in harmony. The chess piece is a very small part of the overall story of Castle Rock, but it could mean bigger things in season two.
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