There are landmarks in the work of Stephen King that become part of the pop culture lexicon for different reasons. Places like the haunted house on Neibolt Street from the horror epic IT has found new appreciation thanks to the recent highly-successful film adaptations. Other locations are so scary, like the Overlook Hotel from The Shining, they don’t require revisitation to remain relevant to the zeitgeist. Now, Hulu’s Castle Rock has brought King’s very first creepy location to life once again in an episode aptly titled “New Jerusalem.”
The Marsten House was the first real nightmare manor in Stephen King’s published works. Appearing in his second novel, ‘Salems’ Lot, the Marsten House acted as an obelisk of the unknown terror lurking in the dark corners of the small New England town of Jerusalem’s Lot. The long-abandoned property is as much a character in King’s 1975 vampire novel as Ben Mears, the protagonist of the story.
To quote the novel, “the Marsten House brooded over [‘Salem’s Lot] like a ruined king." The sordid history of the dilapidated property centers around a Depression-era gangster named Hubie Marsten, who committed suicide in his own home after murdering his wife, which made the house a prime candidate for local folklore. The lore deepened when, decades later, an Austrian businessman named Kurt Barlow and his associate/familiar Richard Straker moved in and people in the town started to disappear, or worse, they returned as undead creatures of the night.
It’s uncertain if the version of the Marsten House we see in Castle Rock shares its history with the version in King's novel, but the murmurings of human sacrifices and secret satanists swirl around both narratives. What is certain, however, is that whatever lore around the property exists in the show might be more terrifying than what occurred on the page.
After killing Ace Merrill with an ice cream scoop (yeah, we know), Annie Wilkes scrambles to cover her tracks. She dumps Ace’s body at the construction site of Jerusalem’s Lot’s future Somali Community Center. Unfortunately for Annie, the ground beneath her feet (and Ace’s body) is not quite sound and gives way to a cavernous tomb, hidden below the site. A swarm of cicadas break free as Ace’s body tumbles down into the dark abyss below in what can only be seen as a heavy-handed visual cue for the unleashing of evil.
The area beneath the construction site leads to catacombs with winding halls and free standing stone tombs, some of which are inscribed with an insectoid sigil. Annie traverses the subterranean area, searching for an exit. When she finally comes upon one, it leads up into – you guessed it – the Marsten House, which is currently being used to house squatters and drug addicts.
Annie runs like hell the moment she’s out of the house, and who can blame her? We visit the Marsten House one more time before the episode’s end to discover there is something more than just fornicating vagrants haunting the place. When one of the men working on the development of the community center project is sent to run any potential squatters out of Marsten House, he discovers a pair of charred corpses and an assailant with a knack for blunt force trauma.
Season 2 of Castle Rock stars Lizzy Caplan, Tim Robbins, Elsie Fisher, Paul Sparks, Barkhad Abdi, Yusra Warsama and Matthew Alan. Now streaming on Hulu.