Fans of best-selling author Stephen King know that Maine — where the author was born, raised, and continues to live — is more than just a setting in his works. Often, the state’s cities and landmarks play silent, foreboding characters. The most striking example is King’s sinister fictional town of Derry, based on Bangor, which serves as the hunting ground and enabler of the monster in It and appears in several other novels and short stories.
Further, the state is rife with important places in King’s life, from his home to his former university, and many of the movie adaptations of his works were filmed in Maine, too.
Thus, King’s life, work, and home state are inextricably linked. So, for fans who want to learn more about the author and his inspirations first-hand, these seven Maine attractions, primarily in Bangor, are worth a visit. If you need some relevant reading material for your journey, we have suggestions for that, too.
"Wishing you long days, and pleasant nights" on your journey.
Thomas Hill Standpipe, Bangor
In one of the most claustrophobically terrifying scenes in It, Stan Uris is drawn into The Standpipe water tower. He gets locked in and hears creatures descending the stairs toward him in the dark. The setting for that scene was inspired by the Thomas Hill Standpipe in Bangor, which was built in 1897 and holds 1.75 million gallons of water. Guests can take tours to the top for far-reaching vistas of the area. Further, legend has it that King wrote the majority of It while seated at a park bench near the tower.
Suggested reading: It (1986)
Mount Hope Cemetery, Bangor
The movie Pet Sematary, based on King’s thriller of the same name, was filmed in part in Bangor’s Mount Hope Cemetery. In fact, King makes a cameo as a priest presiding over a burial in a scene shot at this location. The cemetery itself is worth visiting as it’s one of the oldest garden cemeteries in the country (at 184 years old) and is extremely well maintained, featuring lush foliage, fresh-cut grass, and fragrant florals.
Suggested reading: Pet Sematary (1983)
Bangor International Airport
The 1995 miniseries The Langoliers, based on King’s novella of the same name, was filmed in part at this small airport. The story follows a group of passengers who, after a troubling flight, land at the airport to find it eerily empty. Bangor International provides many direct flights into the heart of King country, and it also displays King memorabilia on the walls to while away the time before your flight.
Suggested reading: The Langoliers (1990)
Paul Bunyan Statue, Bangor
Bangor claims to be the birthplace of the lumber industry and legendary lumberjack Paul Bunyan, and a 31-foot-high likeness of the man stands in front of the Bangor Civic Center in Bass Park. Derry’s version of the statue comes to life to terrorize Richie Tozier in It, and Joe Wyzer drives by it in Insomnia. Bangor’s statue, donated to Bangor in 1959 on the town’s 125th anniversary, is reputed to be the largest likeness of Bunyan in the world. It makes for a good photo op, complete with the giant’s double-sided ax and peavey in the background.
Suggested reading: It (1986); Insomnia (1994)
Dysart’s Restaurant & Truck Stop, Bangor
Dysart’s Restaurant & Truck Stop, a self-described “small community” truck stop, reportedly inspired the setting for King’s short story “Trucks.” It was renamed the Dixie Boy Truck Stop in the King-directed 1986 movie Maximum Overdrive. At Dysart’s, patrons indulge in pastries made in the onsite bakery, including pies, biscuits, cookies, whoopie pies, and the famous chicken pot pie. The bakery even offers a cookbook so you can replicate their treats at home.
Suggested reading: “Trucks” (1973)
King's House, Bangor
Just one look at this building, and there’s no mistaking it belongs to the King of Horror. (He also owns homes in Florida and western Maine.) Outside downtown Bangor, the towering, gothic 1858 mansion is surrounded by a black iron fence depicting gargoyles and spiderwebs. Fans flock here for selfies and a chance to spot the author himself, who bought it in 1980. Once, guests spotted a red balloon – recalling the portentous omen in It — floating in a front window.
Suggested reading: On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (1999)
University of Maine, Orono
While studying here, King wrote for the school newspaper and met his future wife, Tabitha, in the Raymond H. Fogler Library, where they worked. King also has said that when Catch-22 author Joseph Heller came to the school, it instilled him in a belief that he, too, could become a writer some day. Established in 1865, the university is a charming place to visit, full of historic buildings and situated on an island between two rivers. The aforementioned library, the state’s largest research library, is a bibliophile’s dream.
Suggested reading: Danse Macabre (1981), in which King examines the influences on his writing