Horror author Stephen King has penned 57 novels and 10 short story collections, which have been adapted into more than 100 movies and TV series over the last four decades -- and now his beloved body of work has led to one of the most exciting, enthralling new TV shows in recent memory.
Hulu's new series, Castle Rock, however, is not adapted from any individual story that King has written, but instead is set in the shared fictional universe featured in many of King's works.
Creators Sam Shaw and Dustin Thomason have delved into King's fictional realm to create a twisted and endlessly captivating story that lives within the confines of the world he has created, and thus explores it in a new, exciting way we've never seen in a TV show.
However, since Castle Rock -- the name of the fictional Maine town that the show and the books that inspire it are set in -- is so intrinsically tied into the 70-year-old author's writings, it only makes sense that the show's creators, including executive producer J.J. Abrams, have filled it with countless references to the horror maestro's vast oeuvre.
As Hulu released the first three episodes of the haunting new series on Wednesday, here's a look at some of the best and most intriguing King Easter eggs and references peppered throughout the show.
The Town of Castle Rock
Castle Rock, Maine, has been the epicenter of some of the weirdest and most horrifying events King has ever written about. The town serves as the setting for the novels Bag of Bones, Cujo, The Dead Zone, Needful Things, The Dark Half and Lisey's Story, not to mention the novella The Body (adapted into the 1986 film Stand by Me), among many others.
Best known for its looming presence in the acclaimed 1994 drama The Shawshank Redemption (adapted from King's 1982 novella, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption), this New England prison is the nexus of the strange mystery that's at the heart of Castle Rock's enthralling plot.
The shocking suicide of retired Shawshank warden Dale Lacy (Terry O'Quinn) during the first minutes of the series premiere harkens back to the suicide of Shawkshank's warden, Samuel Norton, in the 1960s, as seen in the film.
Castle Rock also shows the sadistic side of many of Shawshank's prison guards -- another trait of the imposing prison that played such a large part of its previous depictions. And, like the town itself, Shawshank has been mentioned in many of King's writings.
While it appears that nearly all of the characters who appear in Castle Rock were, thus far, created for the show, the town's former sheriff, Alan Pangborn (Scott Glenn), is the exception.
While Pangborn is now retired during the events of the show, he was the main character in King's 1991 novel, Needful Things, and his 1989 novel, The Dark Half, where he defended the town against sinister threats. As seen in the first few episodes, it looks as if Pangborn is still doing what he can to protect his little city from the possibility of looming evil.
As seen in an old newspaper clipping, and referenced by a few of the characters on the show, a rabid dog once tore through the town of Castle Rock leaving chaos and destruction in its wake. This is a direct reference to the rabid Saint Bernard who instilled years of nightmares and dog phobias in those who read King's 1981 novel, Cujo, or saw the 1983 movie adaptation.
The Torrance Family
While none of the characters from The Shining play a role in the project, Jane Levy stars as a young woman named Jackie Torrance -- which seems to be a clear reference to the normal-mad-driven-mad Jack Torrance (famously played by Jack Nicholson in the 1980 adaptation).
It's unclear at this point what connection, if any, Jackie has with the Torrance family of The Shining, but nothing in Castle Rock seems to exist without a reason or a connection to the larger picture.
The Casting Choices
The show turned to some of the countless actresses who have starred in many of the films made out of King's novels to populate Castle Rock, and the loving tributes have not gone unappreciated.
Sissy Spacek -- who famously starred as the eponymous telepathic teenager in the 1976 horror film Carrie (adapted from King's debut 1974 novel of the same name) -- was cast to play Ruth Deaver, the adoptive mother of the show's main character, Henry Deaver (Andre Holland).
Meanwhile, Bill Skarsgård -- fresh off of playing Pennywise the Clown in the recent remake of It, arguably King's most disturbing monster -- was tapped to bring a terrifying yet often fragile presence to his nameless character in Castle Rock, who may be an innocent man, or the literal personification of evil.
Additionally, Ann Cusack plays Warden Porter, the new administrator of Shawshank Penitentiary. Cusack also has a recurring role on the Audience Network thriller Mr. Mercedes, a screen adaptation of King's novel of the same name. Also, although it's admittedly a more tenuous connection, she's the sister of John Cusack, who starred in 1408, one of the scariest films yet made out of the author's works.
Melanie Lynskey's drug-addicted, unstable real-estate agent Molly Strand take pills to muffle the voices she hears in her head. While everyone else thinks she's crazy, it's pretty apparent that she actually has what's known in King's universe as "the shine." Most notably seen in The Shining (obviously), people with the ability have been known to communicate telepathically, read other people's thoughts and display a wide range of other impressive and often uncontrollable mental powers.
However, Molly's psychic abilities aren't the only possible connection to The Shining that we've seen. In one flashback showing Molly as a teenage girl, she's clearly infatuated with Henry Deaver, who lives next door to her. We even see her creepily writing his name over and over again in a notebook, which felt like a pretty unsettling nod to Jack Torrance's "All work and no play" manuscript from The Shining movie.
In the second episode, "Habeas Corpus," Henry finds Alan Pangborn (who's been shacking up with his mom for several years) digging a hole in his backyard at night. When asked what he's doing, Alan says Ruth has it in her head that their pet German Shepherd has been digging through the trash, despite having been killed months ago, and she asked Alan to dig it up and "make sure it's still dead."
While Pet Sematary -- King's novel about a mystical burial ground that can bring the dead back to life, but with a dark and deadly twist -- doesn't take place in Castle Rock, it's still set in Maine, and this odd scene -- which is ostensibly used to reveal to Henry that his mother is suffering from Sundowners Syndrome and early dementia -- feels like a perfect and well-used tip of the hat to King's nightmarish novel.
The Dead Zone
The start of the second episode features a haunting narration from the dead Warden Lacy, who laments the evil nature of the town. During the voice-over, Lacy recalls two of the best-known tragedies to strike the town, asking, "Remember the dog? The Strangler? Sure you do."
Well, "the dog" is obviously a reference to Cujo, but "the strangler" is a bit of a deeper cut. Lacy is likely referring to serial killer Frank Dodd, who attacked and strangled a number of women in Castle Rock in King's novel, The Dead Zone. In the story, Dodd simultaneous served as a deputy sheriff under George Bannerman (Alan Pangborn's predecessor), and was able to "help" the investigation into his own murders. Before he was caught, Dodd ended up dying by suicide.
Yet another Easter Egg contained in Warden Lacy's monologue can be found in the line, "1961. It was the fall after they found that boy's body out by the train tracks." This is a clear reference to King's novella, The Body, later adapted into the acclaimed film Stand by Me.