Hulu’s Castle Rock is now available to stream. As expected, the show, which is set in the Stephen King universe, is loaded with Stephen King references. To honor Stephen King nerds everywhere, we’re compiling a list of every King reference in each episode. We’ll be updating the list every week with new references from new episodes as they become available to stream.
The first three episodes are available to stream right now, so let’s take a look.
Episode 1: Severance
- Shawshank is, of course, the prison from Stephen King’s short story Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, later turned into the the film The Shawshank Redemption. When the new warden checks into the prison, a guard begins to talk about a bullet hole in the wall of the warden’s office. This is the hole from when the Shawshank warden (played by Bob Gunton in The Shawshank Redemption) killed himself.
- When Warden Lacy drives through Castle Rock before his suicide, he listens to the same section of The Marriage of Figaro that Tim Robbins’ character played in The Shawshank Redemption in this scene.
- Alan Pangborn is the only character here explicitly from King’s work. The character appeared in King’s novels The Dark Half and Needful Things. In the respective film adaptations of those books, Pangborn was played by Michael Rooker and Ed Harris. The Pangborn of the books is haunted by the death of his wife and son in a car crash, but that doesn’t seem to be carried over into Castle Rock‘s interpretation of the character.
- It’s not an direct reference, but at one point, the Kid sees a mouse scurrying through the prison. King’s The Green Mile prominently features a mouse in a prison, but the rodent here meets an untimely demise, while the Green Mile mouse, Mr. Jingles, lived for a very, very long time.
Read our full “Severance” review here.
Episode 2: Habeas Corpus
- “It’s not luck, it’s plan. And not God’s either. Remember the dog? The Strangler? Sure you do.” This narration from Warden Lacy mentions both Cujo and The Dead Zone. It also mentions “finding a boy’s body by the train tracks,” which is a reference to The Body, the short story that would become the film Stand By Me.
- While visiting Lacy’s house, Henry finds several newspaper clippings referencing events from Cujo, The Dead Zone and Needful Things.
- I’m not so sure what I think about this whole “Jackie Torrance” thing. Jane Levy’s character is obviously a Shining reference, but the name is just too similar to Jack Torrance for my liking. And it’s unclear on if she’s supposed to be related to that character, or if this is all a coincidence.
- “Nan’s Luncheonette” is brought up by Henry. This eatery is mentioned as a location in both It and King’s short story The Sun Dog. The Sun Dog is set in Castle Rock, but It is set in Derry, Maine. Which means Nan’s Luncheonette is either a chain restaurant in two different towns, or King forgot that he used it twice. Either way, Jackie tells Henry the luncheonette has long since burned down.
Read our full “Habeas Corpus” review here.
Episode 3: Local Color
- Young Molly has a Ramones poster on her wall. Stephen King is a big Ramones fan, and references several of their lyrics in his novel Pet Sematary. When Pet Sematary was turned into a film in 1989, the Ramones recorded a theme song for it. You can listen to it here (it rocks).
- It may not be a direct reference, but Molly’s dream of the church full of damned, accusing parishioners is very similar to a scene in King’s novella Cycle of the Werewolf, later adapted into the movie Silver Bullet. There, a priest (who just happens to be a werewolf) has a nightmare that all his parishioners are turning into werewolves as he delivers a sermon.
- Molly mentions building a gazebo at the center of town as part of her revitalization project. Castle Rock actually had a gazebo in the past, but the structure exploded at the end of Needful Things.
- I don’t believe his full name is said out loud, but the teen who sells Molly her drugs is named Dean Merrill. “Merrill” is a surname King has used before. Ace Merill was the name of a teen hoodlum in King’s short story The Body, which became Stand By Me. And Pop Merrill, Ace’s uncle, was a character in King’s short story The Sun Dog.
Read our full “Local Color” review here.
Episode 4: The Box
- Henry and Molly grab a drink at The Mellow Tiger, which is a bar mentioned in King’s Castle Rock-set novel Needful Things.
- In looking into his own disappearance, Henry comes upon the name “Vincent Desjardin” in the newspaper. Vince Desjardins (spelled with an s at the end) is a character in King’s The Body, which inspired the movie Stand By Me. He’s one of the members of the greaser gang run by Ace Merrill (Kiefer Sutherland in the movie). In King’s first novel Carrie, there’s a character named Miss Desjardin – she’s the school’s P.E. teacher, and she’s one of the few people to survive when Carrie goes nuclear at the prom. (A side-note: the newspaper headline Henry first sees spells the name as “DESJARDIN”, but later, we see it written as “DESJARDINS”, which might be the show’s clever way of acknowledging King himself spelled the surname two different ways in The Body and Carrie. Or it might just be a goof.)
- In one scene, Molly is attempting to sell a house to some out-of-towners who are understandably disturbed by Castle Rock’s dark history. In a feeble attempt to assuage their fears, Molly comments that a “serial strangler” died in her house, and her house is perfectly normal. That strangler is no doubt Frank Dodd, a serial killer character from King’s novel The Dead Zone. After psychic Johnny Smith identifies Dodd as the strangler, Dodd commits suicide. In what is now Molly’s house.
- This is a bit of stretch, but I’ll include it anyway. The disturbing, brilliantly staged conclusion to the episode is set to Roy Orbison’s “Crying.” In King’s short story You Know They Got a Hell of a Band, a couple finds themselves in a town with the curious name of Rock and Roll Heaven. Once there, they find the town is populated with dead musicians, all of whom are inexplicably evil and murderous in their afterlife forms. Orbison is one of the undead musicians the couple spots.
Read our full “The Box” review here.
Episode 5: Harvest
- Before he’s released from Shawshank, The Kid watches an old educational video about leaving prison and going back into society. The video is hosted by a man named Lou Hadley. In The Shawshank Redemption, a violent guard has the name Byron Hadley (played by Clancy Brown in the film). One can assume Lou Hadley is his offspring.
- A doctor tells Henry she might be able to get the Kid a bed at Juniper Hill. Juniper Hill is an asylum that was first mentioned in Stephen King’s It. Henry Bowers, the bully who had it in for the Losers’ Club, ends up there as an adult. The asylum has been mentioned in several other King works, including Needful Things, The Dark Half, The Tommyknockers, and more.
- During Alan’s speech at the bridge naming ceremony, he talks about how he once wanted to be a magician. This is consistant with the character as he appears in King’s books. King mentions several times that Pangborn is an amateur magician who is very good at sleight of hand. In fact, Alan uses his magician skills to help stop the demonic Leland Gaunt at the end of Needful Things.
- The most overt King reference of the episode is from Jackie’s story. As she tells the kid, she had a uncle who “flipped his lid” one winter, and tried to “axe his wife and kid at a fancy ski resort.” This is, of course, a reference to The Shining. Jackie goes on to add that she took her uncle’s name – Jack– to piss people in her family off. It’s a minor thing, but I’m happy the show took the time to explain this. When we first learned this character was named Jackie Torrance, I thought it was a bit lazy. Explaining that this isn’t Jackie’s actual name – her real name is Diane – sets things right.
- At one point, the kid stands on the roof of the shirt factory, and we can hear the barrage of thoughts and sounds he appears to be hearing. One is a barking dog, which may or may not be Cujo. Another is someone clearly asking, “Wanna see a dead body?” This has to be a direct pull from The Body, the story that became Stand By Me.
- Alan mentions that the last time he saw the kid, it was 27 years ago. In King’s It (which, of course, had a film adaptation featuring Bill Skarsgard), Pennywise the Clown resurfaces in Derry every 27 years.
Read our full “Harvest” review here.
Episode 6: Filter
- It’s not a direct reference, but Odin and Willie traveling around in an RV might be call-back to King’s Shining sequel Doctor Sleep. In that book, a group of “psychic vampires” roam the countryside in RVs, feeding on the psychic essence possessed by people who have the shining.
- Juniper Hill was mentioned in a previous episode, but we get to see it in full this time. The mental hospital originated in King’s It. It’s where bully Henry Bowers ends up after the town of Derry assumes he – not Pennywise the Clown – was responsible for killing several children.
- A murder of crows swarm above Juniper Hill when the Kid arrives. The sight of all those birds in the sky could be referencing King’s The Dark Half, which has birds as harbingers of death. That said, the birds in The Dark Half are sparrows, not crows.
- Speaking of crows: as the Kid looks up at all the birds, one of them falls dead. Watching that, I was reminded of the way King described the big bad of his apocalyptic novel The Stand: “He looks like anybody you see on the street. But when he grins, birds fall dead off telephone lines. When he looks at you a certain way, your prostate goes bad and your urine burns. The grass yellows up and dies where he spits. He’s always outside. He came out of time. He doesn’t know himself. He has the name of a thousand demons…He knows magic. He can call the wolves and live in the crows. He’s the king of nowhere.”
Read our full “Filter” review here.
Episode 7: The Queen
- Alan showing Ruth a magic trick is yet another reference to the Alan Pangborn of King’s books, who is an amateur magician.
- Juniper Hill is mentioned yet again. As previously stated, it’s the same mental asylum from King’s It.
- Speaking of It, when Ruth watches a news report about the fire at Juniper Hill, we can hear a reporter saying that firefighters from “as far as Derry” have come to help put out the blaze. Derry is, of course, the town from It
Read our full “The Queen” review here.
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