This Castle Rock contains tons of spoilers.
Castle Rock is Hulu’s homage to Stephen King’s work, and it’s full of callbacks to the horror classics that have made the writer such a beloved part of our pop culture for the last 40 years. From veteran actors to characters we’ve met in King’s other nightmarish stories to haunted locations, I’ve found quite a few easter eggs and references to Uncle Stevie’s work that should be of interest to Constant Readers.
This is still a work-in-progress, which means that you’re welcome to call out easter eggs and references on the show that I might have missed. Just hit me up on Twitter or in the comments below.
In a metafictional way, several of the show’s cast members act as callbacks to past King movies:
– Sissy Spacek, who plays Ruth Deaver, was the star of the very first movie adapted from the writer’s work: 1976’s Carrie, directed by Brian De Palma. Spacek played the troubled Carrie White, an ostracized teenage girl who develops psychic abilities and uses them to get revenge on those who bullied her.
– Bill Skarsgard, who plays The Kid, recently donned a clown costume to become the big-screen version of Pennywise the Dancing Clown in Andy Muschietti’s IT adaptation.
– Melanie Lynskey, who plays Molly Strand, first appeared in Rose Red as Rachel Wheaton. In case you missed it, Rose Red was an ABC miniseries from 2002 written by King about a group of psychics that investigate a haunted mansion in Washington.
– Ann Cusack, who plays Warden Porter, is a recent King alum. She recently appeared in a few episodes of Mr. Mercedes as a character named Olivia Trelawney.
– Terry O’Quinn, who plays Dale Lacy, showed up as Sheriff Joe Haller in the great werewolf movie from 1985, Silver Bullet.
– The brilliant Frances Conroy, who plays Martha Lacy, recently starred as religious cult leader Nathalie Raven in The Mist TV series.
– Chosen Jacobs, who plays Wendell Deaver, also starred as Mike Hanlon in last year’s IT adaptation.
– Alan Pangborn, played by Scott Glenn, has seen some things during his time in Castle Rock. While we meet him as a retiree on the show, the former sheriff has also appeared in other King stories. Pangborn most famously appeared in the novels The Dark Half and Needful Things, but has also shown up in the novella “The Sun Dog” and been mentioned in the novels Bag of Bones and Gerald’s Game.
Castle Rock isn’t the first time Pangborn has been on screen, either. In fact, he appeared in TWO movies in 1993, played by Michael Rooker in The Dark Half and Ed Harris in Needful Things.
One last fact about Pangborn: in the show’s continuity, the former sheriff leaves Castle Rock, moving to Texas to live out the rest of his days, but returns to the haunted town to be with Ruth Deaver. That’s a retcon of what happened at the end of Needful Things, though. Alan actually remarried after the death of his wife Annie and son Todd, getting an all-too-rare happy ending with Polly Chalmers and their new home in New Hampshire.
– Jackie Torrance carries a very famous name, although it’s revealed that she gave herself the name to spite her parents. Castle Rock’s street historian is related to the crazed Jack Torrance (she’s his niece) but doesn’t seem to have any symptoms herself. Her real name is Diane, apparently.
– While Molly Strand isn’t a callback to any particular character from a past work, she does have a very special ability that Constant Readers can’t miss: the shining. The telepathic ability first exhibited by little Danny Torrance and Overlook Hotel chef Dick Hallorann in the 1977 novel The Shining also haunts Molly, who can see, hear, and feel what others are thinking as well as see at least one ghost, that of the Reverend she murdered.
– Joe Desjardins, played with creepy efficiency by David Shelby, is the brother of Vince Desjardins, one of the bullies in the 1982 novella “The Body.”
– The town of Castle Rock itself has appeared or been mentioned in several Stephen King stories and novels. Castle Rock, along with Derry and Jerusalem’s Lot, make up a big chunk of King’s haunted Maine. It’s a pretty messed up place to live but that hasn’t stopped anyone from living there.
Castle Rock is the main setting of novels The Dead Zone, Cujo, The Dark Half, and Needful Things. It’s appeared in the novellas “The Body,” “The Sun Dog,” “Drunken Fireworks,” “Gwendy’s Button Box,” and “Elevation, as well as the short stories “Uncle Otto’s Truck,” “Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut,” “It Grows on You,” “Premium Harmony.” The town is also mentioned in a few of the writer’s other works.
– Shawshank State Penitentiary is Castle Rock‘s most infamous landmark. The prison first appeared in the 1982 novella “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption” and then in the Oscar-nominated film starring Tim Robbins, 1994’s The Shawshank Redemption.
The prison has also appeared in the novels Dolores Claiborne, It, Blaze, and Bag of Bones, as well as the novella “Apt Pupil.” It’s also been referenced in four other King TV series: The Dead Zone, Under the Dome, Haven, and 11/22/63.
– Juniper Hill is the mental hospital where Henry Deaver plans to take the Kid once he’s out of prison. This asylum has appeared in the novels It (most famously the home of psychotic bully Henry Bowers), Insomnia, Needful Things, Gerald’s Game, The Tommyknockers, Bag of Bones, The Dark Half, and 11/22/63 as well as the novella “The Sun Dog.”
– Henry asks Jackie about Nan’s Luncheonette, a local food joint in town. Jackie informs him that it closed down after it was discovered Nan was operating the place as a brothel. Nan’s Luncheonette has also appeared in Needful Things, The Dark Half, It, and “The Sun Dog.”
– Several characters frequent the Mellow Tiger Bar. This watering hole has also appeared in Needful Things.
– Thomas Newman, the composer responsible for Castle Rock‘s score, also composed the music for The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile.
– The opening credits reference a few things from the King universe, including the towns of Derry and Haven, Maine. Derry is most famously the setting of It, while Haven is the setting for the TV series Haven.
“Storm of the Century” is also written on the map in the opening credits. That’s a reference to the King-penned TV miniseries of the same name from 1999.
– In “Severance,” there are a couple things going on with Leanne Chambers, the woman on death row in Texas when we first meet Henry. The last name Chambers could be a callback to two different characters in the King universe: Jake Chambers from The Dark Tower series and Chris Chambers in “The Body.”
Leanne’s botched execution is also reminiscent of Eduard Delacroix’s gruesome electric chair execution in the 1996 serial novel The Green Mile. Delacroix’s body catches fire on the electric chair, dying in agonizing pain. Fortunately, Leanne doesn’t burn but she is subjected to another snap before Henry can save her.
– In “Habeas Corpus,” Henry finds a newspaper clipping about a “shopkeeper missing” with the name “Leland Gaunt” circled in red. This is a callback to Needful Things, which is about a mysterious shopkeeper named Leland Gaunt (really the Devil) who offers Castle Rock patrons the things they most desire in exchange for their souls.
– The show references a particular rabid dog several times. This is, of course, a callback to the murderous St. Bernard Cujo who terrorized Castle Rock after he was bitten by a rabid bat in the 1981 novel Cujo. Donna and Tad Trenton were attacked by Cujo and forced to hide from the dog inside of a Ford Pinto for three days.
– Warden Dale Lacy mentions “the strangler” when talking about the past horrors that have occurred in the town. This is a reference to Frank Dodd, a former sheriff’s deputy in Castle Rock who raped and murdered several women in the 1979 novel The Dead Zone.
– Lacy also references “the boy’s body out by the train tracks.” That’s a callback to the 1982 novella “The Body,” which was later made into the movie Stand by Me in 1986.
– On his way to commit suicide, Lacy listens to a section of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro called “Sull’aria…Che Soave Zeffiretto.” Andy Dufresne also listens to this section in The Shawshank Redemption. Shout out to AV Club for catching this one!
– Hanging in the warden’s office at Shawshank is a picture of former warden Samuel Norton, as portrayed by Bob Gunton in The Shawshank Redemption. It’s mentioned that Norton committed suicide in the office.
– Ruth Deavers fears that a stray dog Alan buried in the back of their house is still alive. She later sees the dog in a vision in their bedroom. This is a nod to 1983 novel Pet Sematary.
– Alan has the Reverend’s body moved to Bangor, Maine, which also happens to be where King lives in his awesome haunted-looking house. Seriously, I visited it in 2017. It is so good.
– The creepy kids with the masks from the episode “Local Color” are reminiscent of the killer children in the 1977 short story “Children of the Corn.”
– The smiley faces Dennis Zalewski draws on the surveillance screens at the prison before going on his murder spree is almost certainly a reference to at least two King villains. The smiley face is the symbol of serial killer Brady Hartsfield in 2014 novel Mr. Mercedes. Randall Flagg, King’s most iconic bad guy, is depicted as wearing a smiley face button on his denim jacket in the 1994 TV miniseries The Stand, which is based on the 1978 novel of the same name.
– In “The Box,” the Kid delivers a couple of lines from the Book of Revelation: “He has a name written on Him that only He Himself knows,” the Kid says to Reeves as he stands and leads the douchey deputy warden out of his cell. “He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and His name is The Word of God.”
The lines are from Revelation 19:13 and they describe the Rider of the White Horse, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Depending on the interpretation, the first horse of the apocalypse is said to represent conquest, pestilence and disease, war, and/or…the Antichrist. I’m not going to go into Bible study here, so read up on the subject if you want to have trouble sleeping tonight.
“He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood” will undoubtedly set Constant Readers on the search for similar lines in King’s The Dark Tower series and his massive tome of a novel Insomnia. As first pointed out to me by my friend Maya Prohovnik, host of the excellent King podcast The Derry Connection (listen to her Castle Rock episode here), those lines might be in reference to the Crimson King, the most demonic of King villain and the true force of evil within the writer’s universe.
– In “Past Perfect,” Jackie Torrance explains to the murderous owners of the Castle Rock Historic Bed and Breakfast that they used the wrong ax to reproduce a gruesome murder that occurred in former warden Lacy’s house. Her uncle, Jack Torrance from The Shining, tried to butcher his wife and son with an ax.
– The episode “Henry Deaver” has two fun references to past King works. While Henry Deaver 2 is walking through the alternate Castle Rock, you can see two stores in the background: Sheldon Stationery and Claiborne Creamery. The first is a reference to Paul Sheldon, the kidnapped novelist in the 1987 novel Misery, while the latter refers to 1992’s Dolores Claiborne.
– One of the best nods to The Shining comes in the season finale. When young Henry reaches the cliff that overlooks the frozen lake, he decides to retrace his steps in the snow in order to throw his dad off his trail. That’s the same tactic little Danny Torrance used to trap his dad in the Overlook maze in the movie.
These two books have something else in common. Both of their film adaptations star the great Kathy Bates! In very different roles, of course…