From obvious homages to deep cuts, did you catch them all?
Castle Rock isn’t the first TV series based on a Stephen King story, but it’s certainly the first TV series based on all of them. The new show, which airs Wednesdays on Hulu, takes place in the fictional Maine community of Castle Rock, where many of King’s most horrifying stories took place, and where all of them seem to intersect.
Although Castle Rock tells an original story, the series is full of direct and indirect references to Stephen King’s other stories, films, and even his real life. And while you can certainly enjoy the series without catching all of these Easter Eggs, it’s a heck of a lot more fun to find those shout-outs while you’re also enjoying the new plot and characters.
Join us as we highlight all the references we’ve found (so far) in Castle Rock, and come back every week as we update our list of geeky Stephen King Easter Eggs!
No discussion of the Stephen King references in Castle Rock can begin without addressing Castle Rock itself. The fictional community has been a lynchpin of King’s work, connecting multiple stories and serving as the primary location for the classics Needful Things, Cujo, The Dead Zone, The Dark Half and The Body (better known to movie fans as Stand By Me).
The Castle Rock Cast
Many of the cast members of Castle Rock are Stephen King veterans. Sissy Spacek earned an Oscar nomination for her role as the psychic teenager Carrie White in Brian De Palma’s Carrie. Bill Skarsgard recently terrified audiences as the demonic clown Pennywise in Andy Muschietti’s It. Melanie Lynskey co-starred in the TV mini-series Rose Red, Terry O’Quinn co-starred in the werewolf film Silver Bullet, Frances Conroy co-starred in the TV adaptation of The Mist, and Ann Cusack appeared in Mr. Mercedes.
A vastly corrupt institution that nevertheless employs a sizable amount of the Castle Rock population. Decades ago a wrongly convicted man named Andy Dufresne escaped Shawshank’s clutches in the Oscar-nominated classic The Shawshank Redemption.
Warden Samuel Norton (Episode 1.01 “Severance”)
The corrupt warden of Shawshank Prison, who kept Andy Dufresne wrongfully imprisoned, took his own life in his office. According to the staff, you can still see the bullet hole.
Sheriff Alan Pangborn may be retired now, but that’s after a lifetime of service to Castle Rock, fending off homicidal maniacs in The Dark Half and the devil himself, more or less, in Needful Things.
Bangor, Maine (Episode 1.01 “Severance”)
Alan Pangborn tells Henry Deaver his father’s corpse has been moved outside an airport in Bangor, the town Stephen King calls home in real life. It’s also probably the same airport where a group of chronally-displaced airline passengers escaped the time-eating Langoliers.
Mr. Jingles (Episode 1.01 “Severance”)
When The Kid sees a mouse squeaking along in Shawshank, the mouse doesn’t get resurrected. It dies. Badly. Which sets this story up as the “Anti-Green Mile,” a concept which will be elaborated on later.
The Castle Rock Title Sequence
It’s unclear how many of the references in the Castle Rock title sequence are important to the events of the series, but they seem to reach far and wide, painting a picture of horror that stretches across Maine, and through such Stephen King stories as The Thing, It and The Green Mile.
Remember the Dog? (1.02 – “Habeas Corpus”)
Warden Lacy tells the horrifying history of Castle Rock in short snippets, inviting us all to “remember the dog,” referring to the terrifying and rabid St. Bernard named Cujo, who trapped a woman and her son in a car in one of Stephen King’s most terrifying stories (and who might, according to the book, be possessed by The Bangor Strangler).
The Strangler? (1.02 – “Habeas Corpus”)
Warden Lacy also invites the audience to remember “The Strangler,” referring to the Bangor Strangler, a.k.a. Frank Dodd, who has been dead for many years but who will be important later. (Read on…)
The Body (1.02 – “Habeas Corpus”)
“It was the fall after they found the body by the railroad tracks,” Warden Lacy remembers, referring to the events of Stephen King’s short story The Body, which was later adapted into the Oscar-nominated drama Stand By Me.
IT’s in the Bathtub (1.02 – “Habeas Corpus”)
Warden Lacy’s voice-over describes the scene of various untimely deaths in his own home, one of which looks suspiciously like the tragic suicide from Stephen King’s It.
Newspaper Clippings of the Damned (1.02 – “Habeas Corpus”)
Henry Deaver finds in Warden Lacy’s desk a ream of newspaper clippings, referring to the mad dog attack in Cujo and the mysterious disappearance of curio salesman Leland Gaunt, the satanic villain of Needful Things.
Jackie Torrance (1.02 – “Habeas Corpus”)
Jack Torrance was an alcoholic writer who tried to murder his family at an isolated hotel in The Shining. Jackie Torrance is a Castle Rock local who works for Molly Strand and who, we later learn, changed her name to Jackie to honor the disgraced uncle the rest of her family never talks about.
The Mellow Tiger Bar (1.02 – “Habeas Corpus”)
The tavern, bowling alley and restaurant is a popular hangout for the characters in Castle Rock, and it has an impressive history in King’s stories, most notably as the site of a grisly murder in Needful Things.
Molly’s Shining (1.02 – “Habeas Corpus”)
Molly Strand explains to her sister that she has a mental condition that more-or-less gives her psychic powers, a plot point that Stephen King has used in many stories, most notably in The Shining.
The Anti-Green Mile (1.02 – “Habeas Corpus”)
The mysterious Kid has the power to touch someone and fill their body with malignant, fast-growing cancer. This makes him essentially the opposite of The Green Mile’s saintly prison inmate John Coffey, who would give healing life with his touch instead painful death.
Nan’s Luncheonette (1.02 – “Habeas Corpus”)
The Mellow Tiger Bar is the last place in Castle Rock you can get a hamburger now that Nan’s Luncheonette closed down. Stephen King fans who recognize the restaurant from stories like Needful Things and The Dark Half may be disappointed to learn that the owner was forced to turn the establishment into a “f*** club” when business took a turn for the worse.
Ruth Deaver’s Zombie Dog Anxiety (1.02 – “Habeas Corpus”)
Ruth Deaver’s mind is deteriorating, and she’s begun to feed dogs in the neighborhood which are long dead. To prove they aren’t coming back to life she asks Alan Pangborn to dig up the stray dog she’s been seeing, a distinct parallel to King’s undead animal story Pet Sematary.
Molly’s Nightmare (Episode 1.03 – “Local Color”)
Molly’s guilt-driven nightmare about being in a malevolent mass where everyone looks like her victims is eerily similar to the priest’s nightmare in Silver Bullet, the 1995 adaptation of Stephen King’s Cycle of the Werewolf. Except the priest’s nightmare had werewolves in it.
Molly’s Gazebo (Episode 1.03 – “Local Color”)
The psychic Molly seems particularly keen on building a new gazebo in the renovated Castle Rock. This might have something to do with the fact that she’s a psychic who lives in the house of a serial killer who left his most notorious victim in a gazebo, but then again, it might not.
Schmall’s Woolen Mill, Co. (Episode 1.03 – “Local Color”)
Molly’s place of business is an old textile mill, but she should probably call an exterminator. Stephen King set his rat monster short story Graveyard Shift in a suspiciously similar location.
The Ramones (Episode 1.03 – “Local Color”)
Molly’s childhood bedroom is adorned with a poster of The Ramones, a band Stephen King famously is a fan of, and a band which eventually contributed the rockin’ theme song to the feature film version of Pet Sematary.
Children of the Quasi-Corn (Episode 1.03 – “Local Color”)
Molly’s journey to buy drugs takes an unexpected turn when she encounters cult like, mask-clad children in the midst of a ritualistic (but seemingly playful) trial. Although the scene does not specifically reference Children of the Corn, it does appear to be an intentional homage.
Moon Pies (Episode 1.03 – “Local Color”)
Warden Lacy’s last meal before his suicide consisted of Moon Pies, an unusual snack for a prison employee to be a fan of in the Stephen King universe, since the snack’s last appearance – in The Green Mile – was part of a disgusting prank.
Molly’s Wendy Torrance Moment (Episode 1.03 – “Local Color”)
When attacked by a malevolent presence in her house, Molly finds herself backing into a bathroom with only a kitchen knife to protect her, a fate which also befell Wendy Torrance in The Shining.
Sissy Spacek Talks Gutting Pigs (Episode 1.04 – “The Box”)
Sissy Spacek’s breakout role was in the first Stephen King adaptation, Carrie, in which she was doused in pig’s blood collected by teenagers who killed pigs. So hearing her give a monologue about the suspicious folks of Castle Rock, including a woman accused of Satanism for gutting her own pigs, is probably an intentional reference.
The Desjardins House (Episode 1.04 – “The Box”)
Henry Deaver’s investigation leads him to the seemingly abandoned home of Vincent Desjardins, who may or may not have had something to do with his childhood disappearance. It doesn’t seem out of character for Desjardins, who was previously introduced as one of the violent bullies in King’s The Body, which was later adapted into the film Stand By Me.
Molly’s House (Episode 1.04 – “The Box”)
Molly Bloom’s house isn’t just any old building. It used to belong to The Bangor Strangler, Frank Dodd, who was brought to justice by a psychic named Johnny Smith in The Dead Zone.
Kennebec Memorial Cemetery (Episode 1.04 – “The Box”)
Henry Deaver’s father’s body wasn’t just moved, it was moved to Kennebec Memorial Cemetery, a reference to the Kennebec Fruit Company (a.k.a. The Moxie Store), which Stephen King frequented as a teen and which eventually ended up in King’s 11/22/63.
Smiley Faces (Episode 1.04 – “The Box”)
Before he shoots up Shawshank Prison, Dennis Zalewski takes a fellow guard’s advice about smiling more, by drawing smiley faces on the security screens. Smiley faces have a history of malevolence in King’s work, and are famously featured on the lapel of the demonic Randall Flagg in The Stand.
Castle View (Episode 1.05 – “Harvest”)
Although we haven’t seen it (yet), the town of Castle View is mentioned by radio hosts as one of the areas affected by the mysterious wildfire on the outskirts of Castle Rock. Stephen King fans may recognize the location from such stories as A Good Marriage, Needful Things, The Body, Lisey’s Story and The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon.
Lou Hadley (Episode 1.05 – “Harvest”)
The Kid is about to be released into Castle Rock, but first he receives helpful advice about re-assimilating into society by a video with a friendly host named Lou Hadley. The last Hadley who worked at Shawshank, Byron Hadley, was a notoriously abusive guard who was arrested for killing a key witness in the Andy Dufresne case, so this new generation seems to be an improvement!
Warden Lacy’s Dreams (Episode 1.05 – “Harvest”)
Warden Lacy tells The Kid that God set his path before him in a series of dreams. Prophetic dreams are familiar territory to Stephen King fans, especially in his apocalyptic classic The Stand, in which the survivors of a plague receive messages in their dreams to guide them.
Juniper Hill (Episode 1.05 – “Harvest”)
If Henry Deaver can’t take care of The Kid, he may have be institutionalized at Juniper Hill, the same asylum where characters from It and Gerald’s Game were committed.
WKIT (Episode 1.05 – “Harvest”)
Jackie and The Kid get high while listening to the rock station 100.3, which hardcore Stephen King fans will recognize as the real-life Maine radio station WKIT, which is owned by King himself!
New episodes of Castle Rock debut Wednesdays on Hulu. Notice any Easter eggs we missed? Share your favorites in the comments below, and come back next week to discover what we found in the most recent episode.