A Stephen King Tour: Visit the Real Life Derry
Bangor, Maine is the third largest city in the state of Maine, but if it weren’t for Stephen King, the city would be relatively unknown. Made famous as the real life version of Derry featured in King’s novel IT, Bangor has plenty to offer King fans! Take a guided tour with SK Tours of Maine or take a self-guided Stephen King tour.
I would highly recommend taking the guided tour and then following up with a self guided tour to give you more time to explore the locations. The tour company is a family fun business that has received permission from Stephen King himself to run the tours. The owners are very well qualified, friendly with the Kings and have exclusive information that could only be learned through many years of conversations with the Kings. You will get many insider tips and information while on this tour!
I’m not a fan of horror films and was attending this tour while traveling with my sister (who is in fact a huge fan), but even I found the tour to be extremely interesting and of course I have seen IT, so it was cool to see the locations that inspired that story.
It was also very fascinating hearing about King’s contribution to the Bangor area and his decision to lead a fairly normal life in his hometown. The King foundation donates millions of dollars every year to the area for improvements and in the past has contributed to improvements of the public library (featured below), the public pool, playgrounds, and a baseball stadium.
Now, on to all the cool stops on the Stephen King tour in Bangor that will transport you right into the films:
The first stop on the tour was the R.M. Flagg shop. R.M. Flagg is an ordinary wholesale and retail kitchen shop. The store is located along Route 2, which King frequently drove by while he was attending the University of Maine.
This shop is believed to be the inspiration for the name of the character Randall Flagg, originally appearing in the poem “The Dark Man” and later in The Stand, The Eyes of the Dragon, and the Dark Tower books.
The Mount Hope Cemetery
The Mount Hope Cemetery is where King got the names for many of the characters featured in King’s novels, including Georgie in IT, Carrie, and many more! The cemetery was also the site of filming for the graveyard scenes in Pet Sematary.
Mount Hope is a garden cemetery and locals are encouraged to use it more of a park. People are frequently seen picnicking or taking a stroll through the cemetery. King spent a great deal of time walking and writing in the cemetery.
Side Note: The Dorothia Dix Psychiatric Center is worth mentioning, but the guided tour no longer includes this stop at the request of the center. This center was the inspiration for Juniper Hill, which plays a role in IT, as the place where Henry Bowers was locked up, and is also in many other Stephen King novels. You can drive around the parking lot and get a view of the psychiatric center, but photography is prohibited.
The Bangor Waterworks once served as the water filtration center for the city of Bangor. The building is now used as apartments. It was mentioned in It briefly, but played a big role in Dreamcatcher. Parts of the movie Dreamcatcher were filmed in the building along with scenes from Graveyard Shift.
Stephen King’s Radio Stations
While these stations aren’t technically related to any of King’s novels, they are interesting to see and hear about. The Kings own 3 radio stations. WZON is named after The Dead Zone and plays 60’s and 70’s music. WKIT is named after IT and plays rock music. The last station is WZLO and plays a mixture of music, including country, heavy metal, blues, and jazz. The WKIT station is mentioned in one of King’s novels, 11/22/63.
The Barrens are a must visit on any Stephen King tour. The Barrens are an overgrown grassy area along the Kenduskeag Stream in Bangor. They play a big role in the novel IT. The Barrens is a meet up area for the Losers Club. A walk along the trail next to the stream also makes for a relaxing afternoon. Our tour did not take us to this area, but pointed out where it was. I would recommend exploring this area on your own, there is a small parking area with an overlook on Valley Avenue.
The Bangor Public Library
The Bangor Public Library is one of the largest libraries in Maine and is featured in IT. In the novel, Mike Hanlon is a librarian, Ben spent a lot of time in the library, and Henry Bowers broke into the library and stabbed Mike. The library was also the source of inspiration for another one of King’s writings, “The Library Policeman.”
Another interesting fact-the library is still standing today because of donations made by the King Foundation along with funds raised by the city and library.
The Canals in Bangor, other than their beauty, are known for the first encounter that Ben Hanscomb had with Pennywise. Ben spots Pennywise while standing on one of the canal bridges when he sends a red balloon Ben’s way.
The Canals are located near the city’s main shopping area and you will also find some great restaurant options.
The State Street Bridge
The State Street Bridge was the site of a real life tragedy that would become the inspiration for one of the characters in King’s IT. In 1984, Charlie Howard was murdered by three teenagers who threw him over the State Street Bridge even though he pled and told them he can’t swim. He had an asthma attack and drowned in the canal.
In the book, Adrian Mellon is a young homosexual male who lives in the small town of Derry with his partner Don. Adrian is attacked by a group of teens who throw him over a bridge and into a canal. He is then attacked and killed by Pennywise.
Beverly Marsh House
The Beverly Marsh house is just an average house located on First Street in Bangor, but is referred to multiple times in King’s novel IT and was the inspiration for Beverly Marsh’s house.
The Paul Bunyan Statue
Bangor, Maine’s lumber history is well known and is represented by the giant statue of Paul Bunyan standing in the city. The Paul Bunyan statue also plays a role in King’s IT. In the story, the statue comes to life and chases Richie towards downtown Derry (Bangor).
Thomas Hill Standpipe & Memorial Park
The Thomas Hill Standpipe is holds 1,750,000 gallons of water. It also served is one of the most memorable scenes in of IT. Directly across from the Thomas Hill Standpipe you will find Memorial Park. This park is referenced in 3 of King’s novels: IT, Dreamcatcher, and 11/22/63.
In IT, Memorial Park is where Stanley sits every morning to watch the birds playing in the birdbath. One morning he looks over and notices the door to the standpipe is open. He hears circus music and starts to head up the stairs when two dead children start coming down the stairs. Stanley takes off running.
The Drain on Jackson and Union
The drain on the corner of Jackson and Union, known at Witcham Street in the novel, was the site where King first got his inspiration for IT. It is just an average drain that you could expect to find anywhere, but it was the beginning of one of the greatest horror stories.
The King Home
The last stop on the Stephen King tour was none other than the King’s home. The location of the home is what first gave me the impression that King was seeking a normal life. The home is located on a “normal” street, nothing that would give you the idea that someone as famous as Stephen King would live there.
Fitting for him, the home has a spider web front gate with bat and dragon figures. William Arnold built the house in 1855 and the Kings purchased it in 1980. The guest house is located next door and has housed famous authors such as JK Rowling.
King lives a relatively normal life at the home. At times he comes out to greet fans who have stopped to take photos. He has also been spotted walking his dog “Molly” down the street.