Prolific horror legend Stephen King turns 75 on September 21, 2022. If he’s given to reflecting on his legacy, he should set aside some time. Beginning with 1974’s Carrie, King has written roughly 65 books, not counting nonfiction and short story collections; it’s estimated that more than 1 billion of his books are in circulation, including classics like It, The Shining, The Stand, and his magnum opus, The Dark Tower series.
For more on these works and King himself, check out our compendium of facts and trivia about the 20th century’s biggest literary sensation.
1. Stephen King’s mother told him a real horror story.
Where does King’s darkness spring from? The author has never really bothered to analyze it, as he believes writers are the product of conscious will and not inciting incidents. But one possible explanation may have come when King was just 4 years old. Though he doesn’t remember the incident himself, he was told by his mother later in life that he once went out with a friend to play by some railroad tracks. King returned home alone; his friend had been run over by the train. “Years later,” King wrote, “my mother told me they had picked up the pieces in a wicker basket.”
2. He sold copies of his stories in high school.
King was a movie buff growing up, and was prone to running home to write stories based on the Roger Corman movies he had just seen—effectively, novelizations. Using a mimeograph machine, he sold copies of his work for 25 cents to his classmates, a foreshadowing of the success to come.
3. King’s wife fished Carrie out of the garbage.
After attending the University of Maine, King became an English teacher and wrote in his spare time. One of his first attempts at a novel was Carrie, about a young woman who finds she possesses telekinetic powers—a handy trait when school bullies push her too far. King was disappointed with the first few pages of the manuscript, however, and literally tossed them in the trash. His wife, Tabitha, retrieved them and encouraged him to finish the story. After dozens of rejections, he finally found interest at Doubleday Publishing. Carrie, which arrived in bookstores in 1974, launched King’s career.
4. Carrie wasn’t an immediate hit.
Though King was relieved to find a publisher for Carrie, the hardcover version of the book sold just 13,000 copies—which was a respectable number for a first novel, but not necessarily the beginnings of a major literary sensation. But then King’s agent was able to sell the paperback rights to Signet for a whopping $400,000. The cheaper softcover version caught on, selling 1 million copies in its first year. The novel was adapted into the hit 1976 film of the same name.
5. The ending of Brian De Palma's Carrie scared the hell out of King.
Viewers of Carrie got a serious jump scare at the film’s climax when—spoiler alert—Carrie White’s hand bursts from her grave. The moment gave King a shock, too. “When that hand comes out of the grave in Carrie at the end,” he said in 1986. “Man, I thought I was going to sh*t in my pants.”
6. He couldn’t watch the television debut of Salem’s Lot.
King adaptations have volleyed between film and television for decades. For 1979’s Salem’s Lot, based on his 1975 novel about a small town overrun by vampires, King was unable to view the ABC miniseries as it aired. At the time, his residence in Bangor, Maine, had poor television reception. Instead, he watched videotapes at the local ABC affiliate station and later rented out a pub to screen it for guests. (He had a mixed-to-positive review of it, grousing over the make-up but conceding that “considering the medium, they did a real good job.”)
7. King’s own movie debut wasn’t in a Stephen King movie.
While King has made several cameos in adaptations of his books and even had a sizeable role in 1982’s Creepshow, his feature acting debut wasn’t in a King-inspired work. He appeared in 1981’s Knightriders, George A. Romero’s film about a traveling gang of jousting motorcyclists. King plays “Hoagie Man,” a sandwich-inhaling spectator.
8. He got the idea for The Shining while on vacation.
King has said his inspiration for The Shining came from a vacation he took with his family to the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. “We got up there the day before the season ended,” King said in 1989. “We checked in while everybody else checked out … In the restaurant, all the tables except ours were covered with plastic and there was a forest of upturned chair legs.” That experience led him to Jack Torrance, a writer who loses his mind while snowbound at the Overlook Hotel.
9. His original screenplay for The Shining went unread.
King adapted 1977’s The Shining for the screen for director Stanley Kubrick, who eventually made the movie in 1980 with Jack Nicholson. But Kubrick was apparently no great fan of King’s, and he reportedly refused to read the script. Kubrick instead wrote his own with collaborator and novelist Diane Johnson.
10. King really disliked Kubrick’s adaptation of The Shining.
While Kubrick’s film received widespread acclaim, King disliked it for a number of reasons. The biggest? He felt Jack Nicholson was miscast as Jack Torrance, the man who becomes increasingly unhinged while stuck at the remote Overlook Hotel. Nicholson, King said, seemed nuts from the beginning.
11. So King made his own version of The Shining.
Long disappointed by the Kubrick version, in 1997 King wrote his own version of The Shining for ABC. The limited series starred Steven Weber (Wings) as Jack Torrance and Rebecca De Mornay (Risky Business) as his wife, Wendy.
12. The Shining was adapted into an opera.
After two film adaptations, The Shining was turned into an opera. In 2016, the Minnesota Opera presented their version of Jack Torrance’s saga in vocal form with the full permission of King. (It was composed by Paul Moravec and librettist Mark Campbell.) The opera was performed for just one week.
13. The Lord of the Rings inspired King to write The Stand.
First published in 1978, The Stand is one impressive tome. Detailing the aftermath of a deadly virus and a devil-like entity known as Randall Flagg, it spans the country and features a sprawling cast of characters. King has said he took inspiration from J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings saga. “Only instead of a hobbit, my hero was a Texan named Stu Redman, and instead of a Dark Lord, my villain was a ruthless drifter and supernatural madman named Randall Flagg,” he said. “The land of Mordor (‘where the shadows lie,’ according to Tolkien) was played by Las Vegas.”
14. The Stand was originally much, much longer.
The Stand originally saw print as a mammoth 823-page novel, but that was actually the condensed version. King’s publisher forced him to cut some 400 pages (150,000 words) because they worried the glue binding for the book wouldn’t hold up.
15. The Stand was eventually restored.
King managed to get a complete version of The Stand out in 1990, with all excised pages restored. He also took the opportunity to change pop culture references in the book. Someone in the updated edition makes a Freddy Krueger reference, a character that hadn’t existed in 1978.
16. Cujo was inspired by a very real—and very scary—dog.
King’s 1981 novel about a rabid Saint Bernard terrorizing a mother and her son was inspired by an experience the author had while retrieving his motorcycle from a repair shop in Maine in the summer of 1977. On the lot was a giant, angry dog who seemed to take an immediate disliking to King, who described the canine as “the biggest Saint Bernard I ever saw in my life.” Inspired, King started working on Cujo. When it was later adapted into a film, the dog trainer tried to convince producers to change the breed to a Doberman—Saint Bernards, the trainer argued, weren’t easily trained. He lost the argument.
17. Cujo has just one chapter.
King’s book about a rabid dog is just one long chapter. In 2001, King told The Paris Review he opted for this approach to make the reader feel aggrieved. “Cujo was a standard novel in chapters when it was created,” he said. “But I can remember thinking that I wanted the book to feel like a brick that was heaved through your window at you. I’ve always thought that the sort of book that I do—and I’ve got enough ego to think that every novelist should do this—should be a kind of personal assault. It ought to be somebody lunging right across the table and grabbing you and messing you up. It should get in your face. It should upset you, disturb you. And not just because you get grossed out. I mean, if I get a letter from somebody saying, ‘I couldn’t eat my dinner,’ my attitude is: Terrific!”
18. He doesn’t really remember writing Cujo.
Long after Cujo was released in 1981, King disclosed that he didn’t remember writing much of the book owing to his struggles with alcohol and drugs in the 1980s. “[There’s] one novel, Cujo, that I barely remember writing at all,” he wrote. “I don’t say that with pride or shame, only with a vague sense of sorrow and loss. I like that book. I wish I could remember enjoying the good parts as I put them down on the page.”
19. A poem inspired The Dark Tower series.
The Dark Tower is King’s defining work, a sprawling tale of a gunslinger in a supernatural world who pursues the titular building. King has said he was inspired to write the story after reading Robert Browning’s 1855 poem “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came” while still in college. “Browning never says what that tower is, but it’s based on an even older tradition about Childe Roland that’s lost in antiquity,” King said in 1989. “Nobody knows who wrote it, and nobody knows what the Dark Tower is. So I started off wondering: What is this tower? What does it mean? And I decided that everybody keeps a Dark Tower in their heart that they want to find.”
20. King wrote a children’s book that appeared in The Dark Tower.
In 2016, King released Charlie the Choo-Choo, ostensibly a children’s book about a chatty transportation vehicle. Charlie is a book character in King’s Dark Tower series. The (real) book was presented under the alias of Beryl Evans, with King copping to being the real author in a roundabout way. “If I were to ever write a children’s book, it would be just like this!” King said.
21. King is a character in The Dark Tower.
Beginning with The Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla (2003), King appears as a character—novelist Stephen King—in the books’ continuity. When The Dark Tower was planned as an Amazon television series, would-be showrunner Glen Mazzara said they intended to feature the King character, ideally with King playing himself.
22. King paid for the rights to quote song lyrics in Christine.
Each chapter of 1983’s Christine opens with song lyrics, the better to set the mood for King’s tale of a cursed 1958 Plymouth Fury that befriends bullied teenager Arnie Cunningham. To make sure he was legally protected, King utilized a researcher and paid a reported $15,000 out of his own pocket to secure the rights to repurpose the lyrics.
23. He wrote The Eyes of the Dragon for his daughter.
King took a rare foray into sword-and-sorcery fantasy with The Eyes of the Dragon (1984), a book he said he wrote for his daughter Naomi, who once expressed an interest in dragons. It’s one of the few King works never to be adapted for the screen, though attempts have been ongoing since the 1990s.
24. King’s son has a cameo in Creepshow.
The 1982 horror anthology Creepshow came about after King and director George A. Romero (Night of the Living Dead) decided to collaborate on a homage to the EC horror comics of their youth. King himself appears as Jordy Verrill, a rural farmer who has a fateful encounter with a meteorite. In the wraparound segments, the child seen reading the grisly Creepshow comics is Joe King, King’s son, who later took the pen name Joe Hill.
25. King wanted Bruce Springsteen to star in Maximum Overdrive.
Maximum Overdrive was an original King script about malevolent technology run amok that King was given a chance to direct. The 1986 film starred Emilio Estevez, but King was eyeing Bruce Springsteen for the lead role. Producer Dino De Laurentiis had no idea who Springsteen was and vetoed the idea.
26. He didn’t want to publish Pet Sematary.
Sometimes, dead isn’t better. Pet Sematary, about a graveyard that can resurrect both animals and humans alike, saw print in 1983. But King was so dismayed by what he had written—a tragic accident in the book prompts the resurrection of a young child, among other horrors—that he didn’t really want to publish it. He relented only to finish out a book contract with Doubleday and opted out of doing any publicity for it.
27. King developed an alias so he could publish more books.
After the success of Carrie, King went on to produce a number of novels at a pace faster than the publishing world could handle. King was told that by writing too many novels, he was at risk of diluting his brand and causing audience fatigue, so his publishers restricted him to one book per year. To evade that limit, King developed the Richard Bachman alias—Richard after Richard Stark, the pseudonym of author Donald E. Westlake, and Bachman after the band Bachman-Turner Overdrive. “Bachman” published works like Rage, The Long Walk, Roadwork, and The Running Man. To explain not having an author’s photo, King decided Bachman should have a facial deformity, which was also the reason he gave for declining interviews.
28. King’s alias was discovered by a bookstore clerk.
King might have continued with the Bachman scheme indefinitely if not for Stephen Brown, a bookstore clerk in Washington, D.C. who found Bachman’s 1984 novel Thinner to be suspiciously King-esque in its prose. A curious Brown found that another Bachman title, Rage, had a copyright registered to King. He phoned King’s agent, who contacted King. The author decided to come clean and grant his confessional interview to Brown. Publisher New American Library re-issued the Bachman titles using King’s name, where they garnered significantly more attention.
Perhaps King wanted to be discovered. In Thinner, one character muses to another that “You were starting to sound like a Stephen King novel for a while there.”
29. He once published four books in a little over a year’s time.
After the Bachman episode, King apparently convinced the publishing world the market could handle more than one book per year. Between September 1986 and November 1987, he had four titles printed: It, The Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three, Misery, and The Tommyknockers. (Or five, if you count the reissued The Eyes of the Dragon, which was originally published as a limited edition in 1984 but released for the mass market in 1987.)
That doesn’t mean he wrote them in short order. The Tommyknockers, for example, was completed in 1981. King really just wanted the books out of his drawer and then planned to take a two-year sabbatical, which he effectively did. His next book, The Dark Half, wasn’t released until October 1989.
30. He based It on "The Three Billy Goats Gruff."
It, King’s 1986 novel and one on the short list of his best work to date, is about an evil entity who returns to the fictional town of Derry, Maine, every 27 years to terrorize children. King has said he based the story on “The Three Billy Goats Gruff,” a Norwegian fairytale about a trio of billy goats who negotiate with a bridge troll. Derry would be the bridge; under it would be sewers where Pennywise the clown lurks.
31. King regularly sells the rights to his short stories for $1.
If you’re a budding filmmaker and want to adapt a King short story without trying to make a commercial profit, the author might make a deal with you for just $1. That’s how much King charges for what he dubbed his “dollar babies” in an effort to give a break to young talent. Among those who have taken King up on his offer is Frank Darabont, who adapted King’s story “The Woman in the Room” in 1983. Darabont later wrote and directed 1994’s The Shawshank Redemption, based on a King novella.
32. Some of King’s rare works were destroyed in a flood.
In 2018, bookstore owner Gerald Winters of Bangor, Maine, lost some of his inventory after it was destroyed by a burst pipe. Among the items damaged were several rare books and manuscripts by King. The author said he would reach out to Winters to see if he could help replace the titles.
33. King still wears a $7.50 wedding band.
Despite earning a fortune from his work, King was in no particular rush to replace the wedding band purchased when he married Tabitha. The band cost $7.50. King was still wearing it as of 2003, some 30 years after the wedding. (His wife, he said, lost hers.)
34. He made a guest appearance on Sons of Anarchy.
King was a major fan of the FX motorcycle series Sons of Anarchy, and agreed to make a guest appearance in a 2010 episode playing a biker named—what else—Bachman. King was in Los Angeles, where the show was being shot, at the time he got the call. “I like to act—not that I’m much good at it, but I suspect most writers do—and a number of factors came together,” King wrote on his website. “I was in Los Angeles, where SOA films, to accept a library award; creator Kurt Sutter assured me that he’d write me a suitably nasty part (in various films I’ve been stuck playing a series of mentally challenged country bumpkins); most important of all, he said he’d put me on a bitchin Harley. How could I say no?”
35. He once created a G.I. Joe character.
King’s influence on pop culture has gone places you might not expect. In the 1980s, King’s son, Owen, was a big fan of the G.I. Joe cartoon and toy franchise. King thought a fun father-son project would be creating a Joe character. Together, the two devised of Crystal Ball, a villain who could read minds. King sent the idea to Hasbro, which produced the figure in 1987. The company later named another character, Sneak Peak, “Owen King” after the author’s son.
36. King considered writing a novel about Jason Voorhees.
King, a major Friday the 13th fan, said he once contemplated writing a book about the infamous hockey-masked killer, which would be told from Jason’s point of view. “The best novel idea I never wrote (and probably never will) is I Jason, the first-person narrative of Jason Voo[r]hees, and his hellish fate: killed over and over again at Camp Crystal Lake,” King tweeted. “What a hellish, existential fate!” King subsequently declared it a “legal thicket,” which is most likely the reason he never pursued the idea in earnest.
37. He is a huge fan of Breaking Bad.
Writing for Entertainment Weekly in 2009, King sung the praises of Breaking Bad, the 2008-2013 AMC drama about unlikely drug kingpin Walter White and his Albuquerque meth empire. “God bless those guys!” King wrote, referring to AMC. “As a result, this modest basic-cable network is now broadcasting the best scripted show on TV. Your Uncle Stevie may not care much for Mad Men, but he has never seen anything like [Breaking Bad] on the tube. The only thing that comes close is Twin Peaks.”
38. He (almost) collaborated with Steven Spielberg.
The list of prominent Steves in entertainment is varied. (Never forget Steve Guttenberg.) In the 1980s, two of the biggest nearly worked together. King and director Steven Spielberg were originally going to work on Poltergeist, the eerie 1982 movie Spielberg executive-produced about a family terrorized by spirits. Spielberg invited King to help with the story; King was traveling and couldn’t respond, so Spielberg had to move on. The duo also talked about adapting King’s 1984 collaboration with Peter Straub, The Talisman, but it hasn’t yet come to fruition.
39. The author isn’t bothered by bad adaptations of his movies ...
For every Shawshank Redemption, there’s a Dreamcatcher (2003). But King isn’t hung up on the quality of his adaptations. “When I was in college, I read something that stuck in my mind from James M. Cain, who did The Postman Always Rings Twice and Double Indemnity and Mildred Pierce,” King told Vulture in 2017. “He did an interview near the end of his life where the reporter said, ‘They ruined your books for the movies,’ and Cain snapped his head around and pointed at the bookshelf and said, ‘No they didn’t, they’re all right there.’ In a way, the book is untouchable.”
40. … Unless that movie is The Lawnmower Man.
New Line’s Lawnmower Man, starring Jeff Fahey as a low-IQ individual who gains intelligence via virtual reality, was released in 1992 but bore hardly any resemblance to King’s short story of the same title. (The tale was about man hired to cut grass who begins eating it.) King sued the studio so his name would be taken off the marketing materials, which New Line agreed to do—then it was discovered they had left his name on videotape cases, leading to a contempt of court charge.
Despite his objections, King thought the movie was OK by itself. “I think it’s pretty good,” he said. “[But] my name shouldn’t be on it.”
41. King has only ever walked out of one movie in his entire life.
An ardent film fan, King appears to have a love for all genres—except transforming robots. In 2022, King wrote on Twitter that he has only “walked out of only one movie as an adult.” The film was 2007’s Transformers, the Michael Bay-directed adaptation of the toy and cartoon series.
42. He is part of a writer rock band.
In 1992, King debuted as a guitarist for the Rock Bottom Remainders, a troupe of writers that was part musical act, part promotional exercise. Over the years, various members of the Remainders have included Matt Groening, Amy Tan, and Dave Barry.
43. King (briefly) retired in 2002.
In 2002, King told press he was “done writing books” once he finished work on the five that were in various stages of completion. “You get to a point where you get to the edges of a room, and you can go back and go where you’ve been and basically recycle stuff,” he said. “I’ve seen it in my own work. People when they read From a Buick 8 are going to think Christine. It’s about a car that’s not normal, OK? You can either continue to go on, or say, ‘I left when I was still on top of my game.’ I left when I was still holding the ball, instead of it holding me.” The author, of course, went on to write dozens more titles.
44. He was an early e-book adopter.
In 1998, King offered a short story, “Riding the Bullet,” for $2.50 online. Emboldened by its success, he later published an online horror story titled “The Plant” about an insidious botanical gift to an ailing publishing house that trades success for human flesh. King considered it an experiment in the nascent e-publishing world. Rather than charge for a download, King asked readers to voluntarily cough up $1 to $2 for each entry. Though King eventually offered six parts total, he never finished the work, citing that not enough people (about half) paid for his efforts.
45. His scariest fan encounter involved a bomb.
In 1998, King told Entertainment Weekly that a fan once broke into his home toting what looked like a very suspicious package. “I guess the scariest thing a reader ever did was that he broke into our house and said he had a bomb,” King said. “It was a bunch of paper clips wired up to pencils….”
46. He has a favorite opening sentence.
King considers the introductory sentence of a book crucial to its overall atmosphere, connection with a reader, and success, which is why he said he often labors over them for months or years until they’re exactly right. In 2013, he told The Atlantic that the best first line he ever wrote was for the 1991 book Needful Things, about a man who can seemingly acquire special items for everyone in town.
“You’ve been here before,” it read.
“All there by itself on one page, inviting the reader to keep reading,” King said. “It suggests a familiar story; at the same time, the unusual presentation brings us outside the realm of the ordinary. And this, in a way, is a promise of the book that’s going to come.”
47. A Colorado newspaper turned down King’s offer to become a movie critic.
After Carrie was released in 1974, King was on his way to a professional writing career but not yet a household name. He decided to pitch a Boulder, Colorado, newspaper, The Daily Camera, on becoming their resident film critic. (King was living in the area at the time.) “I work cheap,” he wrote. (By the 1990s, King’s per-book advance was roughly $15 million.) The paper turned him down. “We didn’t have a job for him,” editor Laurence Paddock said in 2016.
48. He didn’t like James Patterson’s idea for a book about King being murdered.
In 2016, author James Patterson announced intentions to write The Murder of Stephen King, a tongue-in-cheek mystery about the author’s fictional demise. Patterson later walked it back, saying he was unaware King had endured actual death threats over the years. King was apparently no fan of Patterson’s even before the book materialized, once calling him a “terrible writer.”
49. King once lost an entire manuscript.
In 1982, King completed work on The Cannibals, a novel about some apartment residents trapped in a complex who proceed to eat one another. The 500-page manuscript was subsequently lost. When it turned up with only a handful of pages missing in 2009, King reworked it into Under the Dome.
50. He was once accused of ripping off The Simpsons.
Under the Dome was an evolution of the idea first presented in The Cannibals, this time with a town suddenly under the control of a mysterious clear dome that appears overhead. Though King had been working on the idea for years, some readers observed it bore resemblance to the plot of 2009’s The Simpsons Movie, where Springfield is encapsulated in a similar way. “Several internet writers have speculated on a perceived similarity between Under the Dome and The Simpsons Movie, where, according to Wikipedia, Homer’s town of Springfield is isolated inside a large glass dome (probably because of that pesky nuclear power plant),” King wrote on his website. “I can’t speak personally to this, because I have never seen the movie, and the similarity came as a complete surprise to me … For the doubters, this excerpt should demonstrate that I was thinking dome and isolation long before Homer, Marge, and their amusing brood came on the scene.”
51. King co-wrote an episode of The X-Files.
The inevitable ‘90s mash-up of King and the hit sci-fi series The X-Files drew mixed reviews. In 1998’s “Chinga,” FBI agents Mulder and Scully investigate a little girl in Maine whose doll may be behind some violent encounters. King’s script was reportedly heavily rewritten by The X-Files creator Chris Carter. Some fans enjoyed their spin on the evil doll trope, while others found it wanting.
52. King helped get Evil Dead II made.
King was a huge fan of Sam Raimi’s The Evil Dead, the 1981 cult classic about a group of friends (including Bruce Campbell as the moronic Ash) tormented by demons in a remote cabin. After calling it “the most ferociously original horror film of the year,” King’s endorsement helped garner the film a lot of attention. But King also aided the 1987 sequel, Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn. When King heard the production needed financing, he enlisted producer Dino De Laurentiis, who was funding King’s directorial debut, Maximum Overdrive.
53. He wrote a musical with John Mellencamp.
In the late 1990s, King began collaborating with musicians John Mellencamp and T Bone Burnett on Ghost Brothers of Darkland County, an eerie stage musical that was originally conceived by Mellencamp. It’s loosely based on an apocryphal story Mellencamp heard about two brothers who began fighting over a woman in the 1930s. One brother wound up dead, while the other drove into a lake with his squeeze. Mellencamp believed his cabin was haunted by their spirits. King wrote the story while Mellencamp handled the music, a process that took the two roughly 13 years to complete. The show debuted in Atlanta in 2012 and has seen intermittent productions since.
54. King bought the minivan that hit him.
None of King’s stories can hold a candle to his real near-death experience in 1999, when a Dodge Caravan struck him as he was walking along the side of the road in North Lovell, Maine. King suffered serious injuries, including a chipped spine and a fractured hip; he said physicians debated amputating his injured leg, which had been broken in nine places. (The driver, Bryan Smith, said a dog in the van distracted him; his license was suspended for one year.) King later directed his attorneys to purchase the van and claimed he’d be taking a sledgehammer to it, though his real motive may have been simply to keep the macabre collectible off eBay.
55. The author’s fans made sure his blood needs were covered.
Following the van accident, King underwent several surgeries. Fans were said to have lined up outside the Lewiston, Maine, medical center where he was being treated to donate blood in case King was in need of it.
56. He owns three radio stations.
Rock ‘n’ roll fan King has scooped up three music and talk stations in and around his native Bangor, Maine, via his umbrella company Zone Radio, including classic rock station WKIT, adult alternative station WZLO, and retro music channel WZON. (King actually purchased WZON twice, first in 1983 and again in 1993 after the station came up for sale during bankruptcy proceedings.)
57. One of King’s scariest passages may have come from a short story ...
The “scariest” thing King has ever written is certainly open for debate, but many Constant Readers agree that “Survivor Type,” a short story from King’s 1985 Skeleton Crew collection, is a clear-cut contender. In the tale, a man who survives a plane crash and finds himself stranded on an island resorts to auto-cannibalism in order to live, which leads to the following passage:
“I’ve amputated my left foot and have bandaged it with my pants. Strange. All through the operation I was drooling. Drooooling. Just like when I saw the gull. Drooling helplessly. But I made myself wait until after dark. I just counted backward from one hundred … twenty or thirty times! Ha! Ha! Then … I kept telling myself: Cold roast beef. Cold roast beef. Cold roast beef. Cold roast beef.”
58. … Or it might be from Gerald’s Game.
Another horrific King passage comes from Gerald’s Game, a 1992 thriller in which a woman finds herself handcuffed to a bed and desperate to escape after her husband dies abruptly.
“The cuff was moving because the skin it rested on was moving, sliding the way a heavy object on a rug will slide if someone pulls the rug. The ragged, circular cut she had inscribed about her wrist widened, pulling wet strands of tendon across the gap and creating a red bracelet. The skin on the back of her hand began to wrinkle and bunch ahead of the cuff, and now what she thought of was how the coverlet had looked when she had pushed it down to the bottom of the bed with her pedaling feet.”
59. King received the National Medal of Arts from President Obama.
In 2015, King was honored by President Barack Obama with the 2014 National Medal of Arts for his contributions to pop culture. King said he was “amazed and grateful” for the award.
60. He plans to open a writer’s retreat.
The house next to King’s imposing Bangor, Maine, mansion—originally purchased by King in 1980—underwent a zoning change in 2019. That’s when the Bangor City Council granted permission for the property to become a writer’s retreat for up to five authors at a time. In 2019, King’s website said the project was still a few years from completion.
61. Stephen King wrote an issue of X-Men.
In 1985, King contributed a three-page story to Heroes for Hope Starring the X-Men, a Marvel comic produced for charity in the fight against world hunger. King collaborated with illustrator Bernie Wrightson on a story featuring mutant Kitty Pryde and a villain named Hungry who is strengthened by the negative emotions caused by famine. Other writers featured in the issue included Stan Lee and George R.R. Martin. (King later collaborated with Scott Snyder on American Vampire, a Marvel comic series that debuted in 2010.)
62. He hates adverbs.
“I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops,” King wrote in 2000’s memoir On Writing. “To put it another way, they’re like dandelions. If you have one in your lawn, it looks pretty and unique. If you fail to root it out, however, you find five the next day … fifty the day after that … and then, my brothers and sisters, your lawn is totally, completely, and profligately covered with dandelions.”
63. King had to stop giving out Halloween candy.
King’s foreboding Victorian home in Bangor was a popular destination for locals taking their kids trick or treating each Halloween. (The Kings offered kids the options of candy or pencils, the better to encourage young writers.) But by 1994, the King family had to stop participating owing to the number of people who showed up. According to King, one year 1400 revelers appeared. King took out a newspaper ad in the Bangor Daily News advising his home should be passed over. “We’re sorry, but the Kings will not be giving out trick-or-treat candy this year, but wish you all a happy and safe Halloween,” the notice read.
64. There are five novelists in the King family.
Is writing talent genetic? Or is living in a house full of books a nurturing environment for budding authors? Either way, writing has become a family business in the King household. Stephen’s wife Tabitha, is a novelist; so are sons Joe and Owen, as well as Owen’s wife, Kelly Braffet. (His daughter, Naomi, is a Unitarian Universalist minister.) King had all three of his kids read books aloud in the 1980s so he’d have homemade books on tape available for trips.
65. King does not like crows. Or ravens.
According to Joe Hill, who spoke with The New York Times in 2013, his father is not a fan of certain bird species. “Ravens freak him out, crows freak him out a little bit,” Hill said. “They’re harbingers of death.”
66. King’s favorite novelist is Don Robertson.
Robertson, the author of The Ideal, Genuine Man and Paradise Falls, is the novelist King once singled out as his favorite of all time for his “complete bearing of the heart” in his prose. King is such a fan, in fact, that he published The Ideal, Genuine Man under his own Philtrum Press imprint in 1988 and contributed a 14-page introduction.
67. He has never read Jane Austen.
Citing a lack of interest in relationship or romance titles, King—at least as of 2015—has never picked up an Austen book. “I do not say this with either pride or shame (or prejudice, for that matter),” he said. “It’s just a fact.”
68. He got a Maine newspaper to reinstate its book reviews.
After the Portland Press Herald in Maine decided to stop publishing local book reviews from and by Maine authors in 2019, King mounted a Twitter protest online. After getting 100 new digital subscriptions off of the resulting attention, the Herald changed course and retained the reviews.
69. Carrie was (briefly) a musical.
Can a teenager’s struggle with bullying and telekinesis make for a rousing stage production? Audiences found out in 1988, when King’s Carrie was staged as a Broadway musical. The show was choreographed by Debbie Allen and starred Linzi Hateley in the title role. Reviews were unkind, with one critic calling it “disgusting” and another dubbing it “shlock.”
70. He thinks Stand by Me might be the best adaptation of his work.
“I thought it was true to the book, and because it had the emotional gradient of the story,” King told Rolling Stone in 2014 of his reasons for enjoying the Rob Reiner movie. “It was moving. I think I scared the shit out of Reiner. He showed it to me in the screening room at the Beverly Hills Hotel. I was out there for something else, and he said, ‘Can I come over and show you this movie?’ And you have to remember that the movie was made on a shoestring. It was supposed to be one of those things that opened in six theaters and then maybe disappeared. And instead it went viral. When the movie was over, I hugged him because I was moved to tears, because it was so autobiographical.”
71. King coached a Little League team to a state championship.
King is an avowed Boston Red Sox fan who knows the game of baseball well. In 1989, he coached his son Owen’s Bangor West team to a state Little League championship in Maine, along with coaches David Mansfield, Neil Waterman, and Ron St. Pierre. King later built a $1.2 million stadium that was donated to the city of Bangor and used for area school sports.
72. King wrote The Running Man in one week.
Though it didn’t see print until 1982 under the Richard Bachman pen name, King wrote The Running Man in the span of a week back in 1971. “February vacation week,” he told The Guardian in 2013. “I was white hot, I was burning. That was quite a week, because Tabby was trying to get back and forth to Dunkin’ Donuts and I had the kids. I wrote when they napped or I would stick them in front of the TV. Joe was in a playpen. It seemed like it snowed the whole week, and I wrote the book. Couldn’t sell it.” The title was later made into a 1987 movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.
73. He once wrote “twin novels.”
In 1996, King released Desperation, a novel about an evil sheriff who abducts the residents of a Nevada town. Around the same time, “Richard Bachman” released The Regulators, a novel featuring many of the same characters but in different circumstances.
“One day I pulled up in my driveway after going to the market and the Voice said, ‘Do The Regulators and do it as a Bachman book and use the characters from Desperation but let them be who they’re going to be in this story,’” King wrote on his website. “These books were an opportunity to test the idea of using characters as a repertory company. There are some passages that are word-for-word the same in both books and there are also little jokes. It’s just like actors who do Hamlet one night and Bus Stop the next.”
74. He once starred in an American Express commercial.
One reason King might belong to that exclusive club of authors with recognizable faces is the commercial he did for American Express back in 1985 as part of a series on people whom viewers might not immediately recognize. (Jim Davis of Garfield fame and voice actor Mel Blanc were also featured in the spots.) King later said he regretted doing it. “If I had my life over again, I’d [have] done everything the same,” he told Neil Gaiman in 1992. “Even the bad bits. But I wouldn’t have done the American Express ‘Do You Know Me?’ TV ad. After that, everyone in America knew what I looked like.”
75. Sometimes readers don’t believe King can write anything but horror.
One of King’s favorite anecdotes about being pigeonholed as a horror writer came by way of a woman he once encountered in a grocery store. The stranger, King said, proceeded to harangue him about his gruesome prose. “I was in a supermarket down here in Florida, and I came around the corner and there was a woman coming the other way,” King told the BBC in 2021. “She pointed at me, she said, ‘I know who you are! You’re Stephen King! You write all of those horrible things. And that’s OK. That’s alright. But I like uplifting things, like that movie The Shawshank Redemption.’ And I said, ‘I wrote that!’ And she said, ‘No you didn’t. No, you didn’t.’”