The SK Tours van is easily recognizable as it drives through Bangor — Photo courtesy of Maine Office of Tourism
Bangor, Maine may seem like a quaint little New England town, yet every year thousands of horror fans make a pilgrimage there. Why? Because it's also home to author Stephen King, whose thrillers have sold more than 350 million copies and have been adapted into scary movies that have seeped into our collective consciousness.
Many of King's books are set in the fictional town of Derry, which King admits is really Bangor. The town has inspired some of his best-known characters (Carrie) and settings (the storm drain), and you can visit dozens of them with Stu Tinker, another Maine legend.
A lifelong Bangor resident and King expert, Tinker runs the popular SK Tours, offering three hours of all things Stephen King. He’ll take you to places where the author has lived and worked, places that inspired his stories and places you’ll recognize from the movies. And you’ll ride around in a van emblazoned with a picture of Pennywise.
"We’ve had fans come from all over the world, and there’s nothing like watching them interact with each other and take photos," said Tinker, who’s known for his enthusiasm and personal stories about King. "We needed to buy a second, larger van after the first year, and now we’re looking at an even bigger one."
Here are 10 of the tour’s top stops. If you want a behind-the-scenes look at King’s work, this is the way to see it. And "It."
Mount Hope Cemetery
You'll remember Mount Hope Cemetery from Pet Sematary — Photo courtesy of Maine Office of Tourism
The second oldest garden cemetery in the country, Mount Hope is where King used to take long walks during his college years at the University of Maine. The cemetery plays an integral part in his work.
In Pet Sematary, Gage Creed is buried there, and in the movie version, King himself appears in a cameo as the minister presiding over Missy’s funeral. Scenes from the movie were filmed at Mount Hope, although you won’t find Gage’s headstone there.
Thomas Hill Standpipe
Thomas Hill Standpipe, where Stan first meets Pennywise in It — Photo courtesy of Maine Office of Tourism
Sure, this is just a storage facility for the Bangor Water District – unless you’ve read It, in which case it’s terrifying. In the book, Stan sits on a bench in Memorial Park, overlooking the standpipe and watching the birds in a bird bath. One day he ventures into the standpipe, where he meets Pennywise, the evil clown, for the first time. The rest is horror history.
Supposedly King wrote much of the novel on that bench, and he also mentions Memorial Park in Dreamcatcher and 11/22/63.
The Paul Bunyan statue
Hopefully Paul Bunyan will not come alive when you visit — Photo courtesy of Maine Office of Tourism
Paul Bunyan is an American legend and, in Maine, he’s also a Stephen King legend. In one of the most iconic scenes in It, this statue of the mythical lumberjack comes to life and attacks Richie.
The 31-foot-tall statue, which stands in front of Bangor’s Cross Insurance Center, dates back to 1959, when it was gifted to the city. It claims to be the tallest Paul Bunyan statue in the world, and Joe Wyzer also drives past it in Insomnia.
The canals play a pivotal role in It — Photo courtesy of Maine Office of Tourism
Scenic canals bisect downtown Bangor as the Kenduskeag Stream flows into the Penobscot River.
Although the canals aren’t a frequent setting in King’s books, they are important because they’re where a young Ben Hanscom first encounters It, walking on the frozen water.
The Losers Club meets at "The Barrens" in It — Photo courtesy of Maine Office of Tourism
In It, "The Barrens" is where the Losers Club meets and, in the movie, it’s where the boys swim in the stream and sunbathe with Beverly Marsh.
In real life, the isolated Barrens is an overgrown jungle of an area on the banks of the Kenduskeag Stream. There’s an imposing rock formation known as Lover’s Leap and a large drain which King has made the stuff of nightmares.
WKIT radio sign
WKIT is Stephen King's own radio station — Photo courtesy of Maine Office of Tourism
Although he’s one of Maine’s favorite sons and a well-respected philanthropist, this is the only sign in Bangor featuring King’s name.
WKIT is King’s own radio station, with the “K” standing for his last name and the "IT"...well, that speaks for itself. Originally a low-powered AM-only station, 100.3 FM has grown to be one of the most popular stations in the area. The LED sign, "We All Rock Down Here," is a source of local pride.
Bangor Waterworks on State Street
Bangor Waterworks was the setting for Graveyard Shift — Photo courtesy of Maine Office of Tourism
This set of buildings, dating back to 1875, was featured in in the film, Graveyard Shift, based on King’s 1970 short story which later appeared in his Night Shift collection.
The story is about an old textile mill, whose underground tunnels are infested with rats. The facility, once abandoned for 40 years, has been cleared of its former occupants and turned into efficiency apartments.
This headstone inspired the title character from Carrie — Photo courtesy of Maine Office of Tourism
King still likes to walk through Mount Hope Cemetery, where he often nabs names he finds on headstones.
One of his most well-known character names came from this headstone of Carrie M., who died in 1856. It’s unlikely she ever attended a prom. He also named one of the kids in It after coming across the headstone of a Georgie in Mount Hope.
Shawn T. Mansfield Stadium
Stephen and Tabitha King donated Shawn T. Mansfield Stadium in memory of a local boy — Photo courtesy of Maine Office of Tourism
Affectionately referred to as "Field of Screams," this Little League baseball field in Bangor was donated by the Kings to honor a local boy who lost his battle with cerebral palsy at age 14.
Shawn T. Mansfield was the son of one of King’s fellow coaches when he coached his own son's Little League team in 1989. He features the stadium in "Head Down," an essay about the team’s journey to the Maine State Championships, which was published in the New Yorker. Calling it his best piece of non-fiction writing, he also included it in his short story collection, Nightmares & Dreamscapes.
Stephen King's house
This gothic house is where Stephen King lives — Photo courtesy of Maine Office of Tourism
Looking just like you would expect it to, Stephen King’s actual house in Bangor is blood-red and sits behind a black, wrought-iron fence adorned with bats and spiderwebs.
The Kings bought the 19th-century Victorian mansion on West Broadway in 1976, and it’s the perfect backdrop for a selfie. If you’re lucky, the author himself just might come out and photobomb your shot.