10 Places Every Stephen King Fan Must Stop While in Bangor
Every Stephen King fan knows that Bangor, Maine is the inspiration for the fictional town of Derry, which provides the backdrop for several of King’s novels and short stories.
Thousands upon thousands of King fans visit Bangor every year, and it seems all of them go to his house on West Broadway. (Yes, that’s on the list.) But the city features many landmarks that appear in some shape or form in one or more of King’s stories.
From the possessed Paul Bunyan statue that stands on Main Street to the picturesque Mount Hope Cemetery on the eastern edge of the city, there are plenty of places for King fans to get a look at what inspired one of the world’s most prolific and popular writers.
The descriptions below really don’t do justice to the city’s influence on the writer — and vice versa — and there are tours of city — including SK Tours — that focus on King’s works and feature many more local landmarks.
“Graveyard Shift” first appeared in 1970 as a short story in Cavalier, a Playboy-style men’s magazine. It was later part of King’s “Night Shift” collection and was made into a movie in 1990. In that movie –including the scene below — the tunnels under the old Bangor Waterworks served as the home to the army of giant rats that caused all sorts of trouble. Today, the main structure has been turned into low income housing — minus the rats.
If you’ve seen “Pet Sematary,” you’ve seen Mount Hope Cemetery. Remember the scene in which King, himself, appears in the graveyard as a minister presiding over a funeral? Yup, that’s the place. If you haven’t seen the movie, the trailer — including King’s cameo — is below. The cemetery — one of the nation’s oldest garden cemeteries — turned 181 years old this year. A side note: The farmhouse featured in the film is in about an hour away in the coastal town of Hancock, and looks pretty much the same today as it did then.
The Thomas Hill Standpipe served as the inspiration for the haunted and dangerous water tower in “It,” and it’s said King wrote much of the book, published in 1986, on a park bench in the small park at the base of the tower. The Standpipe was built in 1897 and holds 1.75 million gallons of water for the city. There are tours to the top where you can see for a long, long way on a clear day.
King fans can also see the sewer drain into which the evil clown Pennywise lured young Georgie Denbrough (and ripped off his arm) at the outset of “It.” The drain at the corner of Union and Jackson Streets (just down the street from the Standpipe) that caught King’s imagination looks like any other in the city (and not like the one featured in the 1990 movie.) As for what lies below, well, we can’t really say for sure.
Sure, old Paul is smiling here on a recent sunny day when this photo was taken, but no one was laughing when the giant statue came to life in “It” and attacked Richie Tozier after being possessed by an evil spirit. Not so friendly then, were you Paul? The statue was also mentioned in “Insomnia” when pharmacist Joe Wyzer drives past it.
Dysart’s Restaurant is actually in Hermon, which borders Bangor to the west. The popular truck stop is said to have inspired King’s short story “Trucks.” The story was the basis for his 1986 directorial debut in “Maximum Overdrive,” starring Emilio Esteves. The movie didn’t get great reviews, but I confess, it’s a guilty pleasure of mine. Maybe it’s all the explosions.
Much of the “The Langoliers,” a novella part of King’s “Four Past Midnight” collection, takes place in Bangor. The 1995 film adaption is also filmed in part at the city’s small airport (as you will see below.) King fans flying into Bangor from far away will recognize the runway and the terminal from the movie.
Okay, you can’t really see this building any more. (This is a 2011 photo from Google street view.) It was torn down to make way for new housing in 2012. But before it was, King worked for a stint at New Franklin Laundry, an industrial laundry in the city’s “tree streets” neighborhood. He called it the worst job he ever had, but it did inspire King the writer. “The Mangler,” a 1972 story that was turned into a movie in 1995, features a possessed press (Say that three times fast!) King imagined while working at the laundry.
How cool would it have been to have Stephen King for a teacher? King started teaching English at Hampden Academy in the fall of 1971, but left in 1973 after a publisher picked up the rights to his debut novel, “Carrie.” The old campus is no longer in use. A new Hampden Academy was built in 2012. This photo is from the 1973 Hampden Academy yearbook.
Built in 1858 and surrounded by a black iron fence with gargoyles, the King home is a mecca for his die-hard fans. On any given day, you can see them posing for photos in front of the gate and hoping to get a glimpse of the King of Horror. King bought the Bangor house in 1980 for $135,000. We’re guessing it’s probably paid off. He also owns houses in western Maine and in Florida. We’re guessing those are paid off, too.