The series is set in the fictional town of Castle Rock, Maine which should sound familiar to fans of Stephen King. The location is used in a number of his novels and short stories, which is part of the key to unlocking the new show. Though it’s not an adaptation of nor a direct sequel to any of King’s works, it is set firmly in his universe, and makes reference to characters and places we know and love.
Watching for clues is part of the fun, so for your convenience, we put together a little guide to six of the horror maestro’s works that are referenced in the first three episodes of Castle Rock.
1. “RITA HAYWORTH AND THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION”
Hands down the most-referenced piece of King writing in Castle Rock is “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption,” a novella that appeared in Different Seasons and was later turned into the beloved 1994 film, The Shawshank Redemption. The story is set in Shawshank Prison, which is also the main setting in Castle Rock, and follows two imprisoned men who forge a friendship based on acts of decency in an indecent setting. The show is littered with references to the novella and film, many of them blink-and-you’ll-miss-it. One of the great joys of the first three episodes is hearing names like “Warden Norton” mentioned in passing, and other small Easter Eggs that any Shawshank fan will recognize.
2. NEEDFUL THINGS
After Shawshank, the second most-referenced King work in Castle Rock is Needful Things, his 1991 novel about the shopkeeper of an oddity store that contains items perfectly suited to anyone who enters. One of the book’s main characters, Sheriff Alan Pangborn, is also a main character in Castle Rock (played by Scott Glenn), and both works are set in the eponymous town. The Mellow Tiger, a local bar in the novel, is also a central location in Castle Rock, as is the restaurant Nan’s Luncheonette. Apart from Pangborn, another direct reference comes in the form of a newspaper headline. When Henry Deaver (Andre Holland) searches through a file of Warden Lacy’s, he comes across a series of clippings, one with a headline that reads, “Shopkeeper missing after oddity store fire.”
Deaver also comes across another clipping in that same file that says, “Rabid dog tears through town.” This is a reference to Cujo, another King novel set in Castle Rock, about a rabies-infected dog who terrorizes a small boy and his mother. Large, menacing dogs show up frequently in the first three episodes of the season, as if the town is imbued with the spirit of Cujo.
4. “THE BODY”
The beloved 1986 film Stand By Me was based off of a King short story called “The Body,” which also appeared in Different Seasons. The story is a coming-of-age tale about a group of boys who wander in the woods looking for a dead body. The original story takes place in Castle Rock, Maine, but the film relocates it to Castle Rock, Oregon. Another one of the clippings Deaver comes across in Lacy’s file reads, “Anonymous tip leads to boy’s body,” which is straight from King’s short story. In the pilot of Castle Rock, Deaver–a lawyer who represents death row inmates–is defending his client, Leann Chambers, who is on trial for murdering her husband, Richard. Richard Chambers is one of the main antagonists in Stand By Me.
5. THE DEAD ZONE
In the second episode of Castle Rock, we learn a bit more about Warden Dale Lacy (Terry O’Quinn), who commits suicide in the pilot but remains a key fixture in the series thanks to flashbacks. The episode opens with a montage of bad things that happened in Lacy’s home, with one scene depicting a body in a bathtub with blood on the floor. It would appear that Lacy lives in the Dodd house from The Dead Zone, where a main character kills himself in an upstairs bathroom in much the same way.
The Dead Zone is one of King’s great novels, about a man who wakes from a coma to find he has clairvoyant and precognitive powers. That novel marked the first time King ever used the Castle Rock location in a story.
6. THE SHINING
The Shining has a few curious ties to Castle Rock, although they’re some of the most puzzling to unknot. The novel and its film adaptation are both heavily referenced in the show’s opening credits. We’re not sure what’s that all about, but we’re even more confused by Jane Levy, who plays a character named Jackie Torrance, an obvious play on The Shining‘s lunatic. What’s the connection? It’s hard to say. Unlike the other stories on this list, The Shining isn’t set in Castle Rock or Maine. Time will tell how the series connects to the haunted Overlook Hotel and its human inhabitants.
Have you watched Castle Rock yet? What’s your favorite Stephen King reference so far? Sound off below.